September Artist Interview – Rob Evans

This month has been super hectic for everyone, so this month’s interview is just a little bit later than usual.  I heard about painter, Rob Evans, when Nick Mohler of the PA Guild mentioned seeing his work at the Michener Museum in Doylestown, PA.  If you’d like to find out more about him, please visit the Rob Evans website.

1. How did you get started in your craft? (using your media)

Cicada ©2001 Rob Evans oil on panel 40 x 120 inches Collection of James A. Michener Art Museum, Doylestown, PA

Since I was very young the impulse and desire has always been there to connect to and interpret the world through drawing and painting. At the same time my need to probe for a deeper understanding of the nature of things stems from being raised by two scientist parents (a biochemist and an archaeologist) with an endless curiosity about the world around them. I studied art at Syracuse University in New York and received a BFA there in 1981. The teacher there who had the biggest impact on me was Jerome Witkin, whose large multi-paneled narrative realist works were just beginning, at that time, to receive international attention. He is an extraordinary draftsman and I took every course I could with him while at Syracuse. We have remained friends to this day.  I also spent a semester abroad in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, studying the paintings of Rembrandt, Vermeer and the great 17th century Dutch painters and was particularly taken with the dramatic light and chiaroscuro in their evocative interiors and landscapes. After graduating I knew I wanted to pursue a career as a painter and have been working in a wide range of media ever since (watercolor, pastel, oils, acrylic, graphite, and mixed media).

2. What has been inspiring/influencing your work lately?
My recent work has begun to include my family as as subject matter, incorporating them in the compositions of large scale narrative/ figurative works including recent explorations of the triptych/altarpiece motif. Over the last decade my paintings have moved increasingly in the direction of dealing metaphorically with broader themes inspired by real places, experiences and memories, allowing the most common and everyday occurrences, places and things to be transformed into the universal, dealing with issues I face as an artist, parent, spouse and as a participant in life at this particular time in history. I have also been spending some time out of the studio doing plein air landscape paintings along the Susquehanna River – these are a nice change of pace from the more intensive and sustained studio works.

Wind and Ice, Susquehanna ©2011 Rob Evans oil on museum board 10 x 17 inches

3. Who are your favorite artists in your field?
The most important early influences came from studying the 17th Century Dutch painters, Rembrandt, Vermeer, van Ruisdael.  The quality of light, intimate spaces they portrayed, and powerful compositions based on a dramatic use of light and dark fascinated me. Also around that time I was attracted to the early 20th century American realist painters Edward Hopper, Grant Wood, Andrew Wyeth, and Charles Burchfield. The dreamlike and magical reality they were able to create, based on the common everyday places, people and things in their lives, had a powerful impact on me, opening my eyes to the potential for subject matter and metaphor in the simplest things around me. Influences which led to my use of the multi paneled format include David Hockney’s photo montages, early Dutch altarpieces, and the powerful narrative works of my teacher at Syracuse, Jerome Witkin. Other influences include the films of Alfred Hitchcock and the illustrations of N.C. Wyeth for their unique use of imaginary or unusual points of view, the paintings of Jackson Pollock for their rich surface texture, and the luminous imagery of the great 19th century American landscape painters for their wonderful depictions of atmospheric light, dramatic stormy skies and the subtle transition from dusk to night.  There are many contemporary artists I know personally or admire including Vincent Desiderio, Bo Bartlett, Brett Bigbee, Julio Larraz, Antonio Lopez Garcia, Odd Nerdrum, Alexis Rockman, Mark Innerst, and Debra Bermingham to name a few.

hreshold ©1988 Rob Evans mixed media on paper 40 x 60 inches (diptych) collection of Corcoran Museum of Art, Washington, D.C.

4. What is your favorite customer quote or story?
One of my favorite customer stories revolves around a young couple who stayed in the room featuring my work at the Lancaster Arts Hotel. They both fell in love with one of my prints hanging in the room and, not living together yet, each decided independently (without the other knowing) that they would purchase a copy of the print and send it as a gift to the other as a surprise reminder of their enjoyable weekend together. Not being able to let either one in on the surprise I went along with the plan and sent one to each of them – to this day I wonder how they each reacted!

5. What is your favorite piece of art or fine craft that you own?

One of my most treasured works of art is a beautiful atmospheric charcoal landscape sketch my grandmother created as a young college student in the early 1920’s. She had an amazing talent that sadly was never pursued. Although it’s not an actual work of art, I also value 2 hand written letters I received from Andrew Wyeth giving me words of encouragement in response to seeing my work.

Rob Evans is an artist and independent curator who lives and works near Wrightsville, PA. He received a BFA from Syracuse University in 1981 and has been awarded grants from the Ford Foundation, Mid-Atlantic Arts Foundation, Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, and the Pollock-Krasner Foundation.
Evans’ work can be found in many public collections including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NYC; National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; and the Corcoran Museum of Art, Washington, D.C. among others. His meticulous paintings and drawings have been featured in numerous solo and curated group exhibitions in museums throughout the United States and abroad including the Tretyakov Museum, Moscow; Corcoran Museum of Art, Washington, D.C.; Delaware Center for the Contemporary Arts; Contemporary Art Center of Virginia; Arkansas Art Center; Philbrook Museum of Art, Tulsa OK; Hunter Museum of Art, Chattanooga, TN; Mobile Museum of Art, Mobile, AL; Greenville County Museum of Art, Greenville, SC and an exhibition of American drawings organized by the Smithsonian Institution which toured internationally.
Evans’ paintings have been featured in numerous books, newspapers and magazines and on public radio and television. As an independent curator Evans recently organized the traveling exhibit, “Visions of the Susquehanna: 250 Years of Paintings by American Masters” and was author of the accompanying book. He is also the co-founder/director of the Pennsylvania Arts Experience, an artist trail providing access to galleries, museums and artist studios located in the scenic river valleys of southeastern PA from York to New Hope.

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