Spitsnogle ’08 uses art to touch lives across the world

Ashley Spitsnogle ’08

She’s a Doane graduate with a heart for the Huskers.

 

Born and raised in Odell, Nebraska, Ashley Spitsnogle ’08 says her family bleeds Husker red.

 

Now, just over 10 years removed from earning her Bachelor of Arts with an Emphasis in Painting and Drawing degree from Doane, Spitsnogle is among the very few to be a licensed artist with the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

 

Her Husker artwork, featuring Scott Frost, Tom Osborne, Brook Berringer, and Sam Foltz, among others, can be seen across the state... including inside the state’s biggest venue.

 

“To have my paintings inside Memorial Stadium is pretty cool,” Spitsnogle says. “I guess you could say it definitely validates getting licensed.”

 

Make no mistake, Spitsnogle is as big of an advocate for Doane as you will find. Professionally, she has found a niche market with Husker paintings, and it has paid dividends.

 

Her Husker artwork is sold at Scheels in Lincoln, Husker Hounds in Omaha, and The Best of Big Red stores. One of her trademark pieces, ‘Last Tunnel Walk,’ of Nebraska players Brook Berringer and Sam Foltz, who both tragically passed when they were student-athletes at UNL, is displayed inside Memorial Stadium.

 

While Spitsnogle pays royalties for all her Husker artwork as part of her licensing deal with UNL, the university made an exception with ‘Last Tunnel Walk’ and do not accept royalties on that specific painting. Instead, she donates 15% of every print sold back to the Heartfelt Incorporated, which is the organization she painted the original for that raised $7,000 to help support families who have had children pass away.

 

“To be able to paint the one of Berringer and Foltz to honor their families was very special,” Spitsnogle said. “I wanted to portray Brook kind of mentoring Sam, guiding him. Those two players meant and still mean a lot to Husker fans.”

 

One of Spitsnogle’s recent paintings, of current Nebraska head football coach Scott Frost, has been seen by thousands across the state. It made the cover of the Husker Sports Network Fall program guide, which distributed 65,000 copies throughout Nebraska.

 

She has also painted a portrait of Berringer and Osborne at the TeamMates Mentoring Gala and has been hired to paint live at the Nebraska Cattlemen's Ball for the past few years and will paint again this year. Additionally, she painted a midwest sunset live for Farm Credit Services of America, which will be displayed in their new facility in Omaha.

 

For a self-employed artist, she continues to stay busy.

 

“I have been given a gift… choosing to use that gift and putting in the work to make it better has confirmed to me that I’ve taken the right path,” Spitsnogle says. “I enjoy what I do.”

 

Amanda McKinney, executive director of the Institute for Human and Planetary Health at Doane, has known Ashley since grade school and says she is a great representative of how successful a Doane alumnus can be.

 

“She is such a talented artist and I’m so glad that she’s found success,” McKinney says. “Her work has always been phenomenal but she’s found a genre that appeals to a local market, allowing her to be successful as an artist skillfully and financially. Someone who has developed her talents to the degree that she has is deserving of that.”

 

Ashley adds, “I’m glad I went to a school that has a diverse group of students and provides an education that makes its students well-rounded. Doane was and always is looking out for the students.”

 

While Spitsnogle has found great success with her Husker artwork, it is almost without question that her most impactful project dates back to the beginning of her career, when she illustrated a children’s book titled Josh The Baby Otter.

 

Released in 2009, Josh the Baby Otter is a book promoting water safety for children, written by Blake Collingsworth. Blake and his wife Kathy tragically lost their son Joshua in the summer of 2008 when he was just 2.5 years old.

 

On a warm June day, The Collingsworths were hosting a family gathering and Joshua had slipped out of sight for a few moments. He was quickly discovered in the backyard pool, unconscious and unresponsive. After spending three days at Children’s Hospital in Omaha, Joshua was taken off life support and passed away.

 

The Collingsworths created the Joshua Collingsworth Memorial Foundation in their son’s honor and have been committed to solving the problem of children drowning across the world. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, there was an average of 3,536 deaths per year from 2005-2014 from unintentional drowning in the United States. For children ages 1-4, drowning is the #1 cause of unintentional death.

 

Josh The Otter was created with the hope of creating a generational change in the way children and adults perceive and behave around bodies of water.

 

With nearly 300,000 books distributed, the book truly has made an impact. The number of children younger than 5 who have drowned in a swimming pool has decreased 17 percent since 2010.

 

Illustrating the book was one of Spitsnogle’s first professional projects after graduating from Doane. Josh The Otter has been converted into an app that is translated in ten different languages and the book has been sold in every state and in many countries across the world.

 

Spitsnogle has stayed closely connected with the Collingsworth family and continues to be an advocate for water safety as well.

 

The Joshua Collingsworth Memorial Foundation (JCMF) has partnered with a number of organizations to promote water safety, including USA Swimming Foundation, the United States Coast Guard, National Drowning Prevention Alliance, Float 4 Life, and the Michael Phelps Foundation.

 

Through these partnerships, Spitsnogle has worked with Michael Phelps and his family, Rotary International, the National Drowning Prevention Alliance, and the United States Coast Guard.

 

To leverage the awareness that Josh The Otter has raised worldwide, the Collingsworth family has plans to release a sequel to the book, Coco the Raccoon, which again will be illustrated by Spitsnogle.

 

“I’ve been honored to work with Blake and Kathy for the past 10 years,” Spitsnogle says. “The people we have met through Josh the Otter has changed us, and made us all better people.  The one constant through the past 10 years of creating art has been being able to continue to do art for Josh the Otter. No matter what I was working on or not working on, I always had something to do for the foundation, or they would find something to do for me. Josh has touched many lives, mine included.”

 

To see more of Spitsnogle’s work, visit her website at www.ashleyspitsnogle.com. Her artwork can be seen on display at Main Street Studios & Art Gallery in Elkhorn, which is open Tuesday-Saturday.