In elementary school, Ashley Bella first realized her artistic ability when she had to draw pictures for a test as a part of a program. She was pulled out of class by her art teacher and was taken to the principal’s office, leading her to believe she was in trouble.

In reality, her art teacher told her how great her drawings were and to never let anyone talk her out of pursuing art as a career. 

Years later, Ashley Bella is the owner of Artzy Bella, an art studio in East Point. The studio can be rented out as a creative space or for painting parties. Painting kits based on one’s specific wellness goals can also be shipped out for a virtual painting party experience.

Originally from Washington Road in College Park, Bella started off with drawing and sketching before moving on to painting. She would always find an opportunity to create, even if that meant drawing little cartoons in class.

“I was scared to paint at first, because it seems so complicated,” Bella said. “I know how to draw with a pencil and charcoal- very simple two dimensional line art. But then to figure out how to make color, tell the story and to execute shadows and highlights and creating three dimensional looks on 2D surfaces with paint was an overwhelming idea to me.”

While in an art class at Georgia State University, Bella learned that she wasn’t a bad painter and started to work with color more. She ended up dropping out as an art major at because the people around her told her that art was a waste of time.

Bella then transitioned into digital art and began working at Artifact Design in the Old Fourth Ward. There, she learned animation and digital illustration. Bella credits working at that design studio as an experience that aided in the development of her creative process.

“I think working there helped me to develop a creative process because I’m watching these designers take these ideas, then storyboard that, sketch them out and then turn into real live animation that ends up on primetime television,” Bella said. 

Bella later moved into commissioned work after a friend asked her to paint on a coffee mug so that it could be used as a Christmas present. After posting the mug on Instagram, Bella went on to make $5,000 that holiday season from making mugs for other people.

“I realized that I could make some money with my art while I’m still learning and discovering what type of artist I want to be known for, and what kind of mediums and stories speak to me visually,” Bella said. “So I just started doing commissioned work. And so a lot of how I’m developing as an artist now is through the work that I’m making commercially for other people.”

Her first outdoor mural rests in her old neighborhood in College Park. That mural means a lot to Bella because the area has changed a lot over the years, but a piece of her now remains for years to come. She also has a piece in Buckhead on Path 400 that will eventually connect to the Atlanta Beltline.

Bella also painted a mural at the Delta headquarters training facility honoring survivors of human trafficking and abuse.

“Every employee that gets hired has to go through an orientation,” Bella said. “The mural sits right outside the auditorium. And because trafficking is an issue that they’re very passionate about, it’s important that that mural becomes a conversation piece for the new employees, because they end up having to go through training anyway.”

To Bella, her most significant mural to date is the one that she did for The King Center. 

“To be Black from Atlanta …all they did in school was teach us about civil rights and what our people went through … Martin Luther King might be one of the most important people to ever walk the face of this earth, right. And to have the opportunity to put my paintbrush on his building is incredible.”

Bella credits art as something that has saved her mental health and hopes to show others that it can be powerful for their wellbeing.

In the future, she hopes to get into installation art, Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs) and creating a unique tribal print for Black Americans.

“I really want to establish a kind of motif or pattern that represents Black America,” Bella said. “I feel like you can see tribal patterns from places like India, China, and Africa and you see it and you know where it’s from, you know about the history, but I feel like we’re don’t really have ours yet.” 

Bria Suggs became a General Assignment Reporter for The Atlanta Voice in August 2021. In 2019, she earned 2nd place for Best Entertainment Story at GCPA. In SEJC's 2020 Best of the South Awards, she placed...