Early winter, Fox River
By James Evans
12”x16”, acrylic on canvas, framed
The river has started to freeze and light snow has settled on the spruce and the cattails. There is a promise of more in the sky.
This is my favourite walk, just over the hill from home.
Note from Artist - Jim Evans
I’ve been painting for about forty years, ever since I did a year of evening classes in watercolour. Along with a couple of weekend courses with the Canadian Society of Artists in Watercolour and a term of figure drawing in Toronto, that’s all the formal training I’ve had.
I painted exclusively in watercolour for years. It’s a lovely but demanding medium, but finally a worsening tremor in my hands meant that I could no longer manage the decisive brushstrokes that watercolour demands. You have to get it right first time, there’s rarely a chance to correct. For several years I did nothing but a few rough pencil sketches, on location on my boat, purely as a pastime.
I’ve dabbled in oils, but the smell and the slow drying of the paint were problems. Slow drying can be an advantage, but for me it just seemed to be more opportunities to stick my hand where it wasn’t wanted! Finally I found acrylics, a medium with which one can work fast, make multiple mistakes and produce a work that will stand the rough handling that my style involves.
I work mainly from photographs, with a few rough sketches; occasionally I work from memory, or plein air. I usually use a coloured ground, then make a rough underpainting to establish tones. Usually I work from the top down, as I’m a messy, uncoordinated and occasionally wild worker and tend to splatter everything below! Sometimes, though, I’ll get distracted by something interesting and do that first. Most of the time is taken up not by painting but by standing back, looking and thinking about how I’m going to achieve the effect I want (time that often might have been better spent before I started, but I’m often just too keen to get going). Finally I’ll step back, maybe photograph the work (it’s surprising what you see from another viewpoint) and make small adjustments. I make frames from planks of wood on a table saw and chop saw, finished with hand plane and sandpaper: a bit rough, like me...
In recent years my style, although it has always been basically realistic, has changed from trying to reach for perfection to letting colour and brushstrokes create an impression of what is there, although sometimes I stick to a realistic representation. My aim in painting is to capture a moment that will make you say “Yes, I know that! I’ve been there”, or “I feel that heat or the cold or the wind”. I am fascinated by light: the light of different times of day, season or weather, light beyond shadow, light reflected by sea or snow.
If you look closely at my paintings - particularly what I regard as my best work - you can see that they are nothing but blobs and streaks of colour. That is what art is about: arranging those blobs into something that might move you. Sometimes I have some small success in doing that.