EVANS, Carol




Author Tags: Art

“Most of us have a favourite place on the ocean’s edge,” says Carol Evans, “some beautiful refuge that we return to again and again.”

For Evans, her haven is Mudge Island, between Gabriola Island and Vancouver Island, accessible only by boat. In her latest collection of shimmering paintings, The Shores We Call Home (Harbour $18.95), Evans fondly recalls her enchanting and often harrowing trips across the heavy current of False Narrows, rowing in an aluminum skiff, before she established her studio on Salt Spring.

“I had to leave Mudge Island,” she says. “Life flows on and there’s no stopping in the current. But for years after my departure, I had a recurring dream of a pulling a rowboat down to the water, rowing across to Mudge and going first thing to see the neighbours. In the dream they welcomed me warmly and said the cabin was available and I could move back.

“I discovered that when the soul is longing, it talks in the language of dreams. That’s how I learned my body could live wherever it liked, but in my heart, that island and those people were ‘home.’”

Evans reverence for the Gulf Islands and Haida Gwaii shines in more than 80 watercolours in her third book. Since 1981, she has held fifteen one-woman exhibitions, building a solid career from art that people actually like, and buy, beyond the effete urbanism of so-called modern art.

Born in Vancouver, Evans produces sophisticated and uplifting images of the coast, focussing on the Gulf Islands by visiting out-of-the-way locations by small boat or kayak. Although her images are realistic, they border on magic realism due to her particular skill in terms of depicting water that is dappled or shining with light.

"Oh, the water," writes Salt Spring Islander Arthur Black. "Ye, Gods, can the woman capture water. The glint and the glare of it; the lambent reflections and refractions of its flickering depths and shallows. Her brushes dance across the canvas, trailing water's near-inexhaustible palette of colours, from flinty, unforgiving obsidian through blues and browns and ochres to the softest, yielding greens."

Evans was a fair weather canoeist who became an avid kayaker. “When we were in our kayaks I could feel almost like a little sea animal myself. It’s a totally different feeling out there—the breeze, the water rippling against the hull, and all of those living things around you. You spend your entire day amongst those sounds, then set up camp and sleep with them still all around you.”

She and her husband switched to sailing in 2000, usually taking off in June for most of the summer. “We still poke about on the shoreline,” she says, “but it’s in the pudgy, inflatable dingy, not the sleek, graceful kayaks.”

“I think our shores are such a source of solace and joy and uplift to all of us who live along them. And I think we sometimes take them for granted, me included. So I wanted to paint them in their best light almost to hold them up and say, ‘Aren’t they beautiful? Aren’t we lucky?’”

Evans’ book is organized with southern coastal paintings at the outset, leading further and further northward to Haida Gwaii, so it mirrors a journey.

“It is really hard to pick a favourite,” she says, “but one that jumps to my mind is ‘Passage to the Sea.’ It is a very wild, untouched beach and the painting comes pretty close to what the place really looks like. It feels to me like being right there.

“I also have favourites that are places we love: Bella Coola Net Loft, Refuge Cove, and Taking the Dog to Shore. Also, the painting called ‘Mending Nets with Grandma,’ depicting a quiet, ordinary day in a First Nations fishing community.

“I think the human animal is really invigorated by being out in that fresh air. When you're inside working—no breeze, no sound, no little birds—it’s okay, you get work done and you’re comfortable, but it's not the same.”

BOOKS:

West Coast: Homeland of Mist (Dayspring Studio 1992)
Releasing the Light (Raincoast Books, 1997) 1-55192-067-0 $21.95
The Shores We Call Home (Harbour 2010) 978-1-55017-465-6 $18.95

[BCBW 2010]

LIGHT FANTASTIC: THE ART OF CAROL EVANS
Profile (January 1998)



by Robert H. Jones

Two excessively noisy motorcycles pull into the roadside rest area, shattering the air with the sort of senseless cacophony that makes otherwise peaceful citizens yearn for a rocket launcher. The riders are big, mean-looking dudes wearing studded black leather jackets, faded jeans and engineers boots. After shutting off their machines, one dismounts, stretches, removes his metal helmet, then scratches idly at his thatch of matted, greying hair. He suddenly pauses, then points at the flat expanse of sun-dappled water separating us from Quadra Island and the picturesque Cape Mudge lighthouse. "Neat, eh?" he growls.

His partner looks up and gazes at the scene, then nods curtly. "Yeah. Looks just like a Carol Evans painting, don't it?"

"Fer sure."

Vera and I glance at each other and smile. The burly biker's statement sounds similar to one we use often while travelling around the West Coast, and one occasionally overheard being used by other Evans aficionados from all walks of life. Whether portraying scenics, nature, wildlife or people, her creative abilities strike a responsive chord with those viewing her water colour paintings, and the ranks of her unofficial fan club continues expanding.

Meeting Evans in person rates as a positive experience. Her enthusiasm for life, her curiosity about the views of others, and her sense of humour are all genuine. And her bubbling laughter is so contagious that even notoriously grouchy curmudgeons are known to join in.

Born in Vancouver, Evans had lived and worked in various parts of British Columbia before moving to Saltspring Island in 1983, two years after she started painting full time. There she met Bryn King, owner of a farm produce market in Ganges. After an eight month courtship they married. King eventually sold the market and went into construction work, but later decided to try publishing and marketing his wife's prints. It proved a successful undertaking. In addition to 45 limited edition print runs, Dayspring Studio published a book of Evans's works. West Coast, Homeland of Mist became an instant success after its 1992 release, and now in its second printing continues selling well. Releasing the Light, published in June, 1997, by Raincoast Books is proving as popular.

King and Evans spent a few years in a rented bungalow on a rocky promontory near the southern end of Fulford Harbour. Then they bought a patch of heavily-treed property at a higher elevation, where enough land was cleared to build their new house, plus a cabin-like studio for Evans and a workshop for King. They initially missed living beside the water, but some judicious pruning of a few branches now affords them of a view of the harbour below. Evans finds it peaceful in their forest nook, and claims there are actually more birds and wildlife around than by the seashore.

In comparing the new studio to her previous quarters, which were cramped, Evans tells me, "It's larger and has a skylight, so it has beautiful light in there. Now I have room for reference material -- stuff that was jammed up under my desk before -- and it's more spacious to spread it out. But once I go in there and take off my coat and get painting I hardly notice it -- it could be my other studio. It's when I'm not painting, while I'm working on other things, or just sitting there and enjoying the lighting and everything, that I really appreciate it."

The Saltspring Island Chamber of Commerce likes to promote the fact that residents enjoy near Mediterranean weather conditions with lots of sunshine, relatively little precipitation, and snow where it belongs -- high on coastal mainland and Vancouver Island mountains where it looks nice. Unfortunately, El Niño played a climatic practical joke during the winter of 1996-97, which left the island buried under a dump worthy of Whistler or Mount Washington ski resorts. While most residents were fretting over how to cope with this unbelievable event, Evans was happily traipsing around shooting photographs. "It was so beautiful! Just down our road there's a big maple tree that the sheep hang out underneath. It was really a crispy, sparkly kind of winter day, with the sun coming through trees so it was creating streaks. The tree was kind of silhouetted, but sort of misty, with parts almost misted right out. Sort of a peach-coloured light with dark, turquoise kind of shadows, then these little grey sheep around the bottom of the tree. It was an awesome sight and I took several photographs of it. I wasn't going to paint any of those snow scenes." She chuckles, then continues, "I don't think they will sell because people around here don't see the beauty in snow, but I just had to paint that one scene."

When asked how she chooses her subjects, Evans answers, "A very great per cent is the light, the way it plays. Another is clear water -- I don't know why I love painting it so much, but I am so attracted to it. I guess because it's got the surface, the depth, the bottom, and what reflects off the surface. It's just got so many levels to it. I find mist beautiful, too, so even when it's dull and grey, if there is some interesting mist moving around it really inspires me." She laughs. "Why? is probably related to some old, deep-seated reason, but I don't try to analyze it. I can paint, but I'm not too good at analyzing. I don't even think about that, I just do it and it comes, like right now! I never have to wait for the muse, it's always with me. Once started, I'm inspired by the first thing I do, then I continue inspiring myself."

As we speak, Evans reveals that a major influence on her works has resulted since they took up kayaking. "We used to paddle around a lot in our canoe, but I'm a fair weather canoeist, so it had to be really, really calm. It's not like that with kayaks because you're much closer to the water, and you can pack all your stuff inside and keep it dry. We have done trips amongst the islands here, and it's been fantastic. We have been to places that are so beautiful, you would never see them if you weren't in a small boat approaching from the water. The Gulf Islands seem like a small area, but there are hundreds of miles of shoreline, and little islands that hardly anybody ever gets to. If you go at the right time it's really quiet and there is lots of wildlife: otters, seals, 'coons, various birds, and once we saw some dolphins -- a mother and a baby. When we're in our kayaks I feel almost like a little sea animal myself. I just love it!

"It's a totally different feeling out there -- the breeze, the water rippling against the hull, and all of those living things around you. You spend your entire day amongst those sounds, then set up camp and sleep with them still all around you. I think the human animal is really invigorated by being out in that fresh air. When you're inside working -- no breeze, no sound, no little birds -- it's okay, you get work done and you're comfortable, but it's not the same.

"As a result of those trips I have actually done quite a few paintings with no wildlife, not even a sea gull. Sort of making something in the scene the subject, like maybe a strike of light across the water, or something just in the scene itself. It's been new for me to try doing this, but it seems to be well received. Like one place we discovered was this beautiful white shell sand in the middle of a horseshoe-shaped beach, with this shallow, turquoise water, then the ocean on the other side of the beach. There is nothing else, just the shells and the water, but for me, the subject was that teal blue of the water over those shells. Normally I would have thought it needed a bit of light, but it was beautiful on its own."

I ask if, once under way, she ever strays from what she planned originally to paint. Evans thinks for a moment. "Not really. A painting is never exactly the way I thought it would be when I started, but it's pretty rare to put in something that wasn't in my original thought. Being watercolour, whatever shows there in the concert was already set ahead of time, and was planned for. The only thing that really changes is what the paint does, because it will fool around on you. Watercolour will make islands look closer, and change the landscape that you're trying to paint, so you sort of have to let it have its own life."

Getting to know her brushes is something Evans feels is important. "I get familiar with them, get to know what they will do -- I actually get a little attached to some of them. For a long time, mostly for economic reasons, I used brushes that were half sable, half synthetic, so they had more spring in their bristles. Some sable brushes flop around like an old mop once they are wet. Now that I can afford sable, I'm still using some of those synthetic brushes because I know how they will work for me. My two favourites now are actually pure sable, but the bristles have a bit more of that springy quality. Little things like how the bristles move around are so important, because it really affects how you paint."

After her last major exhibition in the spring of 1996, Evans decided to forgo planning any more for the immediate future. "It's been two years between each of the last five shows," she explains, "so I've never been without the pressure of an exhibition deadline. It's hard when you can't really take a break until you've completed it. We used to get away for two or three days, but I was always thinking about getting back in case I didn't complete what I needed for the show. I decided to give myself a break. I haven't really painted any less, so when I have a collection together I'll plan a show. It will probably be a few years as I'm selling some originals, but it's of not like everyone is expecting this exhibition at a specific time, or a gallery is depending on it."

Evans still keeps in touch with collectors and fans by making four gallery appearances each year. These are "mini exhibits" that combine the showing of two or three original paintings with book and print signing. She schedules a daily appearance at two galleries each spring, then again in the fall. "I spend the afternoon meeting the gallery customers, and it really is neat. At exhibitions I often met the people who bought my originals, but I didn't really know much about the people who are interested in my prints. I get a real kick out of talking to everybody and meeting them. Their diversity is so interesting -- all ages, and quite different nationalities and backgrounds. They like my paintings for different reasons, and often times they have been to the places I've painted."

With no heavy deadlines to contend with, Carol Evans says she and Bryn King find their quality of life much improved. "I still have little deadlines, but for the most part it's about a six-hour workday, four days a week, and one for correspondence. Our kayaking trips are still only two or three days, but we get to some pretty wild places, and I take rolls and rolls of film with my old Canon -- it hangs around my neck all the time. I bought it second-hand in '84, and it was 12 years old then. It's beat up and ugly, but I know what it will do for me." She pauses then laughs, adding, "But I'm not really attached to it -- not like with my brushes."


The Shores We Call Home (Harbour $18.95)
Article



“most of us have a favourite place on the ocean’s edge,” says Carol Evans, “some beautiful refuge that we return to again and again.” Her haven is Mudge Island, between Gabriola Island and Vancouver Island, accessible only by boat.

In her collection of shimmering paintings, The Shores We Call Home (Harbour $18.95), Evans fondly recalls enchanting and often harrowing trips she made across the heavy current of False Narrows to reach Mudge, rowing in an aluminum skiff, before she established her studio on Salt Spring.

“I had to leave Mudge Island,” she says. “Life flows on and there’s no stopping in the current. But for years after my departure, I had a recurring dream of pulling a rowboat down to the water, rowing across to Mudge and going first thing to see the neighbours. In the dream they welcomed me warmly and said the cabin was available and I could move back.

“I discovered that when the soul is longing, it talks in the language of dreams. That’s how I learned my body could live wherever it liked, but in my heart, that island and those people were ‘home.’”

Carol Evans’ reverence for the Gulf Islands and Haida Gwaii shines in more than 80 watercolours in her third book. Since 1981, she has held fifteen one-woman exhibitions, building a solid career from art that people actually like, and buy, beyond the effete urbanism of so-called modern art.

Born in Vancouver, Carol Evans produces sophisticated and uplifting watercolours of the coast, often visiting out-of-the-way locations by small boat, kayak or sailboat. Although her images are realistic, they border on magic realism due to her particular skill in terms of depicting water that is dappled or shining with light.

“Oh, the water,” writes Salt Spring Islander Arthur Black. “Ye, Gods, can the woman capture water. The glint and the glare of it; the lambent reflections and refractions of its flickering depths and shallows. Her brushes dance across the canvas, trailing water’s near-inexhaustible palette of colours, from flinty, unforgiving obsidian through blues and browns and ochres to the softest, yielding greens.”

When once asked by Robert H. Jones in 1998 as to how she chooses her subjects, Evans said, “A very great per cent is the light, the way it plays. Another is clear water—I don’t know why I love painting it so much, but I am so attracted to it. I guess because it’s got the surface, the depth, the bottom, and what reflects off the surface. It’s just got so many levels to it.

“I find mist beautiful, too, so even when it’s dull and grey, if there is some interesting mist moving around it really inspires me. Why? It’s probably related to some old, deep-seated reason, but I don’t try to analyze it. I can paint, but I’m not too good at analyzing. I don’t even think about that, I just do it and it comes, like right now! I never have to wait for the muse, it’s always with me.”

Evans was a fair weather canoeist who became an avid kayaker. “When we were in our kayaks I could feel almost like a little sea animal myself. It’s a totally different feeling out there—the breeze, the water rippling against the hull, and all of those living things around you. You spend your entire day amongst those sounds, then set up camp and sleep with them still all around you.”

She and her husband Bryn King switched to sailing in 2000, usually taking off in June for most of the summer. “We still poke about on the shoreline,” she says, “but it’s in the pudgy, inflatable dingy, not the sleek, graceful kayaks.”

“I think our shores are such a source of solace and joy and uplift to all of us who live along them. And I think we sometimes take them for granted, me included. So I wanted to paint them in their best light almost to hold them up and say, ‘Aren’t they beautiful? Aren’t we lucky?’ I want to share the appreciation of this land and where we live because I think if we care about it, we’ll look after it.”

Evans’ book is organized with southern coastal paintings at the outset, leading further and further northward to Haida Gwaii, so it mirrors a journey.

“It is really hard to pick a favourite,” she says, “but one that jumps to my mind is Passage to the Sea. It is a very wild, untouched beach and the painting comes pretty close to what the place really looks like. It feels to me like being right there.

“I also have favourites that are places we love: Bella Coola Net Loft, Refuge Cove, and Taking the Dog to Shore. Also, the painting called Mending Nets with Grandma, depicting a quiet, ordinary day in a First Nations fishing community.

“I think the human animal is really invigorated by being out in that fresh air. When you’re inside working—no breeze, no sound, no little birds—it’s okay, you get work done and
you’re comfortable, but it’s not the same.” 978-1-55017-465-6

[BCBW 2010]