Meet the Artist: Ashley Olinger of YEAHYELHSA

YEAHYELHSA studio and Instagram by local, independent illustrator, Ashley Olinger, will lift your spirits and encourage you to create yourself.

by Jessa Gibboney
May 28, 2020

Open Instagram stories, search “YEAHYELHSA” in Giphy and you will experience vibrant, clean gifs sure to give you a hit of serotonin.

Since April 2, YEAHYELHSA gifs have been viewed more than 179 million times.

“I’m slowly building an army of gifs,” said Ashley Olinger, founder of YEAHYELHSA studio and Instagram, but gifs are just the surface of Olinger’s design talent.

Get to Know Ashley Olinger, aka YEAHYELHSA

As an independent illustrator based in Stanton Heights, Olinger works with clients of all scales to produce interactive projects and visual communications. She also operates an online Etsy shop, also named YEAHYELHSA, where she sells illustrated paper goods.

“My love of art, in general, came from my grandpa,” said Olinger. “He was a superintendent at New Kensington-Arnold School District in Lower Burrell who liked making art in his free time. He would paint murals at local businesses and take me to the Carnegie Museum of Art.”

Growing up Immersed in Artwork

As a kid, Olinger was always drawing. She can’t remember a time when she wasn’t drawing or experimenting with art. Her fascination took many forms – fashion design, painting, graphic design – before illustration took hold in college.

“I never planned to go freelance,” said Olinger. “My vision was, after graduation, I would get a job at a local firm, a studio I respected, then work there for five to ten years and see what happens.” But after graduation, Ashley found the job market difficult. She landed a temp job, and then moved onto a tech company only to learn the corporate lifestyle was not a fit. She strapped on a Starbucks apron, became a barista and thought “now is my chance to give freelance a shot.”

As Olinger’s freelance work increased, she was able to put more effort toward personal projects and her online Etsy shop, a shop she takes great pride in. Eventually, her illustration work was able to support her full time.

In April 2020, Olinger’s work was picked up by the New York Times – a selection of her illustrations were commissioned for use in an interactive piece to help (visually) explain the history of climate change.

What are some things YEAHYELHSA loves to draw?

There isn’t a theme to YEAHYELHSA. Olinger draws what she likes.

“I love drawing food,” said Olinger. “It’s the most fun thing to draw because there are so many options. Color, obviously, is a really important part of my work, so it’s fun to experiment with the colors of different types of food.”

Her recent VOTE vinyl magnet is a 2020 popular purchase, as well as the zodiac collection, a challenge because Olinger is not keen to illustrate animals. But, I’d say, she nailed it.

Where does the name YEAHYELHSA come from?

Not many small business owners can claim their shop names are a Twitter handle from eleventh grade, but Olinger beams at this fact.

“One of my friends in high school kept making a joke saying, ‘yeah Ashley.’ I flipped my name around and used it as my Twitter handle. When I got an Instagram and started posting my illustrations and design work, I was known as that [YEAHYELHSA]. I ran with it, and thought, no one will have this name.”

Showcasing YEAHYELHSA at Pop-up Markets

In addition to selling online, Olinger is a staple vendor at some of Pittsburgh’s notable artist markets, including Handmade Arcade, which according to Olinger takes a glorious, full week of recovery post-event, and Made & Found Market.

“Jess, the founder [of Made & Found], has put together this awesome community of people,” said Olinger. “There is such a variety of wares, which makes it fun to vend there. We [vendors] all joke that it’s hard to keep all the money that you make that day because every single artist there is so talented.”

Due to COVID-19, most local, spring and summer artist markets have been postponed; thus, Olinger has created unique offerings to engage and serve her customers, and the Pittsburgh community as a whole.

“When we received the stay at home order, I was feeling lost,” said Olinger. She needed to keep creating, keep drawing. She decided to give herself illustration prompts every day to create a “visual journal,” and keep her mind on track. As the prompts developed, she knew this “challenge” could be something more than an internal project.

When Olinger launched her draw at home challenge it became her most engaged Instagram post. Submissions for the #drawathomeclub vary from artists to nonartists, local to international illustrators and young to senior participants. There is no timeline, no rules. Draw the prompts at your leisure, draw knowing others are drawing with you.

Share your illustrations using the #DrawAtHomeClub Hashtag and YEAHYELHSA “draw at home club” gif on Instagram stories

Another way to experience Olinger’s goods and do good is by purchasing one of her Mystery Bags. They cost $8, but contain more than $30 worth of YEAHYELHSA goods.

In April, Olinger donated 100% of the mystery bag sales to the Pittsburgh Community Food Bank. She raised $150 which provided about 750 meals!

In May, her mystery bag fundraiser raised $225 for the PGH Artist Emergency Fund. To date, this fund has raised over $30,000 for local artists and performers who have lost work due to COVID-19. Olinger certainly added to that.

“Right now, especially, when we are stuck inside,” said Olinger, “it’s really important that we still make connections with people.” Thanks to Olinger’s illustrations, we all can feel a little more motivated to try our best and unite together in this effort.

Other Instagram Accounts to Follow

Olinger’s favorite artist Instagram accounts:

Shop YEAHYELHSA on Etsy. 

For more work, check out YEAHYELHSA Website + Instagram

Jessa is a writer and poet, but above all, a storyteller. Her blog houses poetry and essays on sustainable style, freelance and motherhood. Through her writing endeavors, she has worked with local and global brands such as Carnegie Museum of Art, TRYP Pittsburgh | Lawrenceville, Pittsburgh Opera, Cartier, Earth Brands and George Dickel Tennessee Whisky. Jessa lives in Pittsburgh with her husband, Ben, daughter, Louise and their pup, Opal. She wears the same rings every day, believes anything secondhand has a good story to tell and likes her whiskey straight up.

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