Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Sheila M. Evans - Interview

Coral Reef No 2
Sheila M. Evans

Duet No 3
Sheila M. Evans

Sheila M. Evans

Sheila M. Evans, PSA, NPS

It gives me great pleasure to bring Sheila M. Evans' botanical pastels to your attention. If you are a pastel artist yourself, you may have already seen her work gracing the cover of Dakota Art's catalog, or in the October issue of The Pastel Journal.

Sheila provides the following in answer to my questions.

"First, thanks for doing this interview for the blog: Pastel. Is there anything you'd like to add to The Pastel Journal article featuring you from two issues ago?" (Casey Klahn)

I'd like to clarify that the Ambient series is my newest and most current series. Not that this matters to anyone besides myself.

"What camera are you using for those macro photos you take for reference?"

It's a Sony Cybershot 3.3 Megapixel camera. I'm using the lens that came with it. I usually end up using very small portions of the photos I take, so we are talking about some seriously low-res reference photos. But I like it that way. I think it keeps me from getting too bogged down in details. Once I took some really great reference photos--super sharp, nicely composed, usable just as they were. They resulted in some terrible paintings! Well, not terrible, maybe, but definitely too futzy and detailed for my taste.

"You were listed as liking Mucha and Monet? Give me another artist, without an 'M', from history whom you follow."

I've always been blown away by John Singer Sargent.

"Now give me a contemporary artist whom you admire."

Albert Handell--I'm amazed at the depth he achieves in his paintings and how little he seems to have to do to accomplish it.

"What first brought you to the pastel medium? Did your classes at Gonzaga introduce you to them?"

Sort of. Gonzaga didn't offer classes in pastel, but there were these great figure-drawing classes taught by Bob Gilmore. He still teaches them, actually. It was more like an open studio than anything, and there were a few adult students auditing the classes who worked in pastel, which was interesting. But what really got me started was the gift of a box of pastels from my parents. I took those into the drawing classes and started timidly experimenting with color in my drawings. It was still just line work for the most part. A few years after I graduated I picked the pastels back up again, but this time I applied more of what I'd learned in my oil painting classes, and worked from dried flowers rather than live models. That's when things really started to take off.

"Tell us about your palette."

I have several hundred pastels and about 30 I use regularly. Most of them live in the boxes they came in and my workhorses sit in semi-sorted chaos in a Dakota box by my easel. I have three sections of pastels which are divided into red/oranges, green/turquoises and purples. The black and my vine charcoal sit in the grooves between the mesh trays of the box. It's mostly Unison, but I have plenty of Schminkes and Senneliers, and a few Diane Townsends and others in the mix.

"Tell us what the Sheila M. Evans box of 12 pastels would be like - some of it's colors and the brand."

Well, ideally I'd start with Rowney's intense black, but since they've reformulated their line I haven't seen them available in open stock, so I've had to do without. So let's see. A black (I've been using Art Spectrum's). Also from Art Spectrum, the darkest shade of Flinders Blue Violet. From Schminke, the pure shade of caput mortuum hell (I can't think of the English name but the German one amuses me so I remember it.) Also the Schminke pure quinacridone violet. The rest would be Unison, dark brownish reds, ochre greens, blue greens and purples.

"If the Unison factory burned down tomorrow (God forbid), what would your favorite pastel brand be, and give us a couple of reasons."

Yikes! That's a scary thought. Well, I suppose it could happen, even in rainy England, so I guess my next choice would be Schminke. They have some great subtle, and not-so-subtle, colors, and a very consistent texture which is great. Sometimes they are too soft in certain situations, but you always know what you are getting. And it doesn't hurt that my local art store has them in open stock, either.

"You once divulged your repair method for Senellier La Carte paper to me. Could you give us that here?

I have a couple of tricks with the LaCarte. One I learned from another artist or maybe an early issue of Pastel journal. That was if the surface got hit with a drop of water and came off, leaving the shiny white underlayer. In that case I would hit the spot with a bit of fixative and let that dry, then touch up with pastel. It allows the pastel to stick to the surface again.

My other LaCarte trick is for when the texture is too rough. When I first started using LaCarte, it had this great, consistently velvety texture. Then, I started getting batches that were a bit rougher and less uniform. The rougher texture was harder to work with and when it came time to frame the pieces, I found it didn't grip the pastel as well. I had a lot of trouble with dust drifting. At first I just ordered different colors but eventually all the paper I got had this new texture. Out of frustration one day I took a piece of sandpaper and went over the whole sheet of LaCarte. It worked perfectly: I had my old LaCarte back!

"What is your favorite, or preferred La Carte color?"

Sienna. It's warm but neutral and a good middle value.

"What's on your easel right now?"

Would you believe, an oil painting?

Sheila is a Signature Member of the prestigious Pastel Society of America, and of the Northwest Pastel Society.

Evans has had two consecutive and recent honorable mentions in The Pastel Journal 100 competition. She won the Dakota Art Pastels catalog cover competition and that's why every time I see my favorite catalog I say, "I know that artist!" October's issue of The Pastel Journal has a feature article about her beautiful botanical works and the process she uses to compose them.

Sheila adds Spokane ArtFest, Bellevue ArtsFair, Sausalito and Sun Valley to her art fairs, and carried home a banner from the latter for Best in Drawing. Gallery exhibits in Seattle, Portland and Spokane featured her work recently, and she currently has a hanging of large pieces at the Kress Gallery in Spokane's Riverpark Square.

On a personal note, I met Sheila at a Spokane pastel workshop (taught by Jennifer Evenhus) and it was evident to myself and all the class that she was an artist of powers. Her figure work is wonderful, and I hope that becomes part of her ouvre in the future. Now, Sheila and I show up in the same art fairs throughout the West and in that way I get to see what she's painting on a frequent basis. On the art fair circuit, the pastelists tend to stick together since we are a peculiar bunch.

Anisotrope Studio, Sheila's Web Pages.

Administrative Note:
The template of this blog has changed to a Lefty Stretch model. It does some harm to the uniformity between this blog and The Colorist, however for some reason the right column of the former template was crowding the main text at this blog, but not at my other one. Additionally, the default size of the font was inexplicably small. The stretch version may either solve that, or somehow make it more tolerable when I forget to change the font sizes manually.


Jen Evenhus said...

Hi Casey - good job on Sheila's interview - loved it. She is doing soooo well, I'm very excited for her. I bumped into your blog while waiting for a DVD to burn at work. Do visit/link my blog at and I'll do the same for yours! Jennifer Evenhus

Casey Klahn said...

Hey, Jen. Great to have you reading!

I think I have you linked somewhere. Probably at thecolorist.blogspot, which is my art process blog.

I will link you here, too. Hope your Italy trip plans are going well. I hold your art up as some the best I know of, and hope you'll keep in touch.

We eastern WA artists have to stick together, you know! Spokane's Stan Miller has a great portfolio of Italy works, BTW.