Struggle, Overpaint, Layer, Sand, Soul-Search

When you can do something well, it can be difficult to set it aside or modify that skill for the good of your art. John Evans is an American artist who admits to battling the tendency to overwork his oil paintings, sliding between depiction and evocation in a sometimes very frustrating cycle.

Light Early by John Evans, 38 x 50, oil on canvas.
Light Early by John Evans, 38 x 50, oil on canvas.
his content has been adapted from an article by John A. Parks.

“My natural instinct is to draw and describe–it’s something that I’m good at. I remember reading how Edward Hopper mistrusted his facility to draw and paint and went to great lengths to avoid being facile. My paintings seem to oscillate back and forth between a natural appearance of reality and abstraction,” says Evans.

Studying his oil paintings, that struggle is obvious. There are visual traces of the many changes that take place on Evans’ surfaces–edges of forms scrubbed away, colors that have been removed, areas sanded down with a belt-sander. What helped Evans “cure” this malady was manipulating photos on the computer–blowing them up until they were just abstract pixels or cropping and color-filtering them. He could boil down the images that attracted him to their essences and eliminate a lot of unnecessary detail.

Woman with Striped Bag by John Evans, 30 x 15, oil on canvas.
Woman with Striped Bag by John Evans,
30 x 15, oil on canvas.

He’s also made peace with his process. Going through as many as 30 stages of completion for a work can happen but it is a rarity now, whereas before it tended to be the rule that Evans’ work lived by. What has allowed this growth was Evans’ commitment to evaluating paintings to see if he could do anything to make them better. If not, he knows they are done.

In the latest issue of The Artist’s Magazine, you’ll find art tips, methods, and approaches that can invigorate your art and help you sharpen your skills, including an artist’s Road Test of acrylic mediums from Pebeo and more, so you can explore creative surface effects and get the style you want before you even pick up a brush. Enjoy!

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Courtney Jordan

About Courtney Jordan

  Courtney is the editor of Artist Daily. For her, art is one of life’s essentials and a career mainstay. She’s pursued academic studies of the Old Masters of Spain and Italy as well as museum curatorial experience, writing and reporting on arts and culture as a magazine staffer, and acquiring and editing architecture and cultural history books. She hopes to recommit herself to more studio time, too, working in mixed media.