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James Evans Interview for Pen & Paper

James Evans Interview for Pen & Paper

“I never went to school for art, but I’ve managed to teach myself by doing things in strange ways and just learning what works and what doesn’t.”When did you decide to devote yourself to a career in visual art?I’ve always been interested in art but didn’t really know what I wanted to do. I did design for a few clothing brands, messed around with illustration, worked on some random projects. When I moved to New York I was sick of staring at a computer screen so I decided to give painting a shot. I had no clue what I was doing but immediately loved it; it was refreshing to be able to feel the paint, to smell it, to see something develop on paper. I would literally just sit there and paint circles and squares in primary colors, try to figure out the basic steps for how things worked. At some point, I realized that art helped me work through shit, that it took me out of my own head. Once I realized this, it was all I wanted to do.Tell us about your style. How has it evolved when you first started?I used to do everything in a really flat style. I remember being obsessed with Geoff Mcfetridge and always wanting to simplify an image down to a series of basic shapes and colors. For a while, I only worked in acrylic and it was all vector based, everything was just an extension of my job as an illustrator.At the time I wasn’t really painting much on canvas, I was super broke and there were always cool materials and things laying around our building so I just used what I could find. I probably would’ve kept painting in the same flat style but one day I tried painting on this broken TV that my roommates had been fucking with the night before. I painted a girl with lots of negative space and used the busted up black screen as a background for shading. It was crude but also eye-opening because that was the first time I messed around with depth. For a while after that, I painted all my canvases black before adding an image on top, going about them the exact same way. I had no clue what I was doing but it helped me to understand form and perspective. I never went to school for art, but I’ve managed to teach myself by doing things in strange ways and just learning what works and what doesn’t.This process evolved and eventually I switched over to oils which changed everything; the colors come together more naturally, the images make more sense to me.Current influences?As far as influence goes I try not to get too focused on other painters, I don’t want to start imitating them and that can happen really easily. That being said, some of my favorites that come to mind are Phil Hale, Richard Estes, Clyfford Still. There are a ton of photographers I love too, I come back to people like Philip Lorca Dicorcia or Wolfgang Tillmans a lot. I saw an IzumiMiyazaki exhibit in Kyoto not that long ago as well and was blown away.