When we walked into Tyler Evin’s studio, we saw a Rage Against The Machine poster and heard Bon Iver playing in the background. Lying on the floor and hanging on the walls were dramatic, emotional portraits and then littering a dresser was a number of golf memorabilia. Tickled by what would seem like contradictions, we settled in and watched Tyler experiment. See his work here.
Tell us who you are and what you do.
My name is Tyler Evin and I am an artist from West Fargo. I usually like to draw and paint people. And honestly I hadn’t really taken it seriously until after my first painting class in college about three years ago. I’ve always been drawing people. I’ve always been interested in art.
How did you choose art?
I wasn’t set on majoring in art after I graduated high school. I took a lot of art classes and really enjoyed art but I’m not sure if I wanted to avoid it or I just wasn’t sure that I could make it into something so I went to NDSU my first year and took general classes to see if anything would interest me. And I decided to take an art class because I always liked art, but then after the class I guess I just knew that this was the thing for me because nothing else could make me as happy. So I transferred to MSUM and got my degree in art education and studio art.
I’ll be teaching art at Cheney Middle School and Sheyenne High School this fall so that’s exciting.
Describe your work.
Whatever kind of inspires me. I don’t usually draw or paint anything besides people except every once in awhile. Right now I’m working through a series of portraits where I’m experimenting with materials and technique because I’m still figuring things out. More often than not, whatever happens just kind of happens.
I’m definitely drawn to a muted color palatte. That probably has a lot to do with the artists that I’ve been inspired me.
Why are you so drawn to people?
For me, I can relate to a work of art a lot easier and I get a response out of a work of art if it’s a figure of a person more than if it’s a still life or something. I can appreciate technique but [a still life] doesn’t really make me feel anything.
Do you come from a creative household?
Not really. I would say that the thing that got me into art initially was my dad but he never did fine art. He would draw something if I asked him to draw something, but... I don’t really know what it came from…
How did you choose painting as your medium?
I played it safe in high school. I basically knew how to draw so that’s pretty much all I did. But then I got to college and I took my first painting class, and that’s really where I felt liberated. It was freedom for me to put a mark down and if I didn’t like it I could paint over it or move it around. I wasn’t stuck with a pencil and paper.
How do you think your work has changed?
In high school, like I said, I played it safe. I like to golf and so in high school every single project seemed to involve golf in some way or another. Looking back on it now, it’s just sort of ridiculous. But then once I got into college, I researched artists and found contemporary painters that inspired me. Then I found my direction.
Who are artists that inspire you?
I like the work of this Norwegian painter named Henrik Uldalen who does surrealistic figurative things. I like Casey Vogt, a New York artist. I like that kind of surrealistic, abstracted, figurative art.
What makes you different?
I’ve always stayed true to myself in the way that I rarely do commissions. It’s not that I don’t like doing them, but it takes away from the love of it. If I get to the point where I’m painting because I have to, or I’m painting because I’m being paid to do it but I’m not inspired to do it, then that’s when I need to take a step back. Whenever I come into my studio, I’m inspired to do it and I want to be here.
What are you working on right now?
I’m working on a painting, an underpainting, which is the first layer or first few passes through. Kind of like a background - something to get some paint on here - because it’s hard to start out with a blank white board. I’m working on a series of Instagram follower portraits. So I have a following on Instagram and I want to give back and show my appreciation. So I say, “If you’re interested in having your portrait painted, contact me and we’ll work something out.” Then I give them a direction for a photo because of the work I do, I don’t want a cheesy selfie. I like dramatic lighting, intense imagery, nontraditional portraiture. More often than not, I get these really amazing reference photos from people. It’s inspiring for me when I see those.
What do you hope people take away from your work?
It’s hard because I don’t want to say how someone should look at my work. If people look at my work in a different way, it doesn’t bother me. I just want them to have a response, to feel something, towards it. The worst thing that could happen is if they don’t feel anything one way or another when they look at it.
Describe your studio and your materials.
My studio is intimate. (chuckles) Personally I enjoy it a lot because I’m not overwhelmed. It’s just me and the artwork for the most part. But honestly this is my brother’s bedroom. I just moved all my stuff into it. But I’m the kind of person who just moves around places.
I have a lot of Gamblin oil paint because I got an honorable mention in a torrid gray paint competition. They mix the air duct dust from their factory into a paint. So I got like $350 worth of paint from them. That was better than Christmas! And in terms of experimenting, I just picked up these printmaking rollers and those are kind of working themselves into paintings. I use different kinds of solvents to see their effects on the painting. Sometimes paintings are just big experiments. I recently found out that this acetone has this speckled effect on paintings, the same as on charcoal, which is cool. What I like about the acetone is that it dries so you don’t have that residue. (Though the smell isn’t pleasant, which is why I have the air purifier. laughs.)
More often than not, it’s just about laying down textures and seeing what the tools give you.
I keep that portrait of myself in the studio - my painting professor painted that of me in 45 minutes, just really really fast - because it’s a reminder to keep things as efficient as you can. Don’t spend too much time beating a painting to death.
How do you know when a painting is finished?
For me it’s finished when I’ve told the story I need to and if I feel like making any more marks on it would take away from the effect. I’d rather have it be two or three stroke unfinished than two or three strokes over finished.
It’s never really done. I look at paintings I’ve done and think “oh maybe I should’ve done this or that…” so it’s really whenever you get tired of working on it (laughs). When I get stuck, then I set it in the studio and then come back to it, at least I hope I come back to it, but then again if I don’t, it wasn’t meant to be I guess.
How long does a typical painting take?
Um, I guess it’s hard to say because planning it and prepping everything takes a long time. I guess from conception to finished painting could be weeks. But as far as actually painting, I don’t like to work on a painting for longer than a couple of weeks at the most because that’s when things start to get monotonous.
What’s your favorite part of the process?
My favorite part is the beginning stage because I kind of have an idea but I don’t really know. I’m just kind of experimenting and throwing paint on here and then the piece kind of guides you where it wants to go and you just have to steer it. If you can steer it right, then it comes out well. That’s my favorite part, when you’re just putting paint on here, when you don’t really care what happens. You’re just trying things.
What’s the hardest part of being an artist?
The hardest part is being true to yourself. It’s easy to get sucked into to doing things because you feel like you have to. It’s hard work if you want to make it happen. People get this idea in their heads that artists have natural talent and don’t have to work hard at it. That’s not true. It’s hard work. If you want it, it takes a lot of hard work, but it’s worth it. And it’s not that I don’t like when people say you’re so talented, but that sort of negates all the hard work. I didn’t wake up one more and suddenly have the ability to draw or paint.
Why do you choose to create?
I just want to show how I look at the world, how I view people and relationships. I want to give people another point of view. Not everyone sees things the same way.
I want to make people feel something.
Why do you want to teach?
I got a job at least six years ago working at an after school program and at that point I never really thought that I would be a teacher, but working with kids, they’re just fun. I like the idea of being a mentor. Being an art teacher is different than being a math teacher because in art, after middle school at least, you choose to be there and the students want to get better at art. They’re enjoying it. You’re not lecturing, you’re showing them things. It’s more relaxed.
And I like to inspire people, to help them, not just get better at art but teach them life lessons.
What advice do you have for other artists or students?
I can only say from my own personal experience but your true calling will always find you. It may take awhile but it will.
You can’t expect things to come easily, but if you really want to be an artist, you definitely have to put in the time to improve. There’s no secret book to read or DVD to watch.