A born and bred Canberran who went to Daramalan College, Michael, 48, has been creating his ACT-centric artwork since late 2010 when he took a voluntary redundancy from the Commonwealth government.

Yes, he brings a public servant's eye to all he does.

Michael Ashley's take on the cabinet documents discovered in a second-hand filing cabinet is included in his new book.

Ashley, who lives in Melba with his wife and son, worked for 23 years as a public servant in data analysis and policy, far from any creative outlet.

"[The VR] was just an opportunity to do something I've been thinking about for a long time,'' he said.

"The niche was Canberra because at the time, nobody wanted to do Canberra stuff at all.

"It's just about capturing the essence of Canberra, it's just years of observation.''

After years of producing pithy posters that just summed up the national capital, Michael has published his own coffee table book of the best images.

The book, It Came from Centenia: And Other Things You'd Get if you Lived in Canberra, features his rendition of – what else but? – Skywhale on it.

The cover of Canberra artist Michael Ashley's new book.

Michael, who is back working in the public service as a contractor, sees it as a more portable form of his art, an accompaniment to his bigger digital lino artwork that puts Canberra icons from Manuka pool to the Shine Dome in a different, but still so familiar, light.

The coffee table book will be launched at the Paperchain bookshop in Manuka at 7pm on Thursday, May 3.

"It's nerve-racking and exciting,'' he said.

"When you're an artist, you're putting your personality our there, it's serving up you on a plate and you hope people respond to it. And, thankfully, they have. It's quite flattering, actually.''

Michael Ashley's work is done under the Leafy Sea Dragon Artwork label.

Photo: supplied

What else could you do but embrace an artist so familiar with the tribal divide of north versus south Canberra that he's reproduced a map of Canberra based on Game of Throne territories? Who captures the infuriating nuances of the national capital, from merging traffic to show-pony cyclists to cockatoos screeching at dawn?

"First-world problems,'' he said, with a smile.

"Canberra is the land of first-world problems.''

  • It Came from Centenia: And Other Things You'd Get if you Lived in Canberra will be available at Paperchain in Manuka and at the Old Bus Depot and Handmade markets and can already be pre-ordered from Michael's website at

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Megan Doherty

Megan Doherty is a reporter for The Canberra Times

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