Watching The Tide Change with Nicole Evans November 18 2020

Nicole Evans is an artist, illustrator and muralist currently based in Melbourne, Australia. She has a fascination with nature and animals as well as her everyday surroundings, subjects which feature almost exclusively in her figurative paintings and drawings. Nicole received a Bachelor of Creative Arts from the University of Tasmania in 2013 and a Masters of Fine Art from RMIT University in 2015. Nicole currently takes on public and private commissions and exhibits her work both nationally and internationally.

Interview by Jessica Steger. Photos supplied by Nicole Evans.

Tell us little about your creative beginnings. Do you come from an artistic family?

I don’t come from an artistic family but I feel very lucky to have loved ones who've always encouraged and supported my artistic endeavours. I’ve adored and been fascinated by animals and the natural world since I can remember. Growing up I wanted to become a marine biologist and would spend hours drawing different sea creatures and making my own wildlife ‘books’ to give to family members – so looking back, art making was always something I was naturally drawn to, often subconsciously. I was also painfully shy during my school years and art was one of the only subjects at school that I felt at ease and confident in. Painting and drawing has been an outlet for me from an early age to express myself and have a voice without having to use my physical voice. I didn’t really consider becoming an artist until later in life when I got accepted into a Masters in Fine Art degree and then went on to work as an illustrator and sign-writer/muralist which allowed me to simultaneously really hone in and focus on my painting technique whilst making a living.

Can you step us through your preliminary creative process? How do you approach starting a large body of work for an exhibition?

Ooh good question, I find knowing where to start is often the hardest part! But once the ideas begin to flow I get into a bit of a rhythm and I don’t really need to question or second guess what I’m making.

Having an idea of what I want to explore or say conceptually is pretty important for me before brainstorming imagery ideas and picking up the paint brush. But then again, sometimes an idea for an image will pop up into my head first and I try not to analyse where it’s coming from too much. Then I begin the process of finding the right reference images either from photos I’ve collected (taken by either myself or other photographers). Once I’ve done a digital mock-up or sketch I’m happy with I begin the fun part: painting. I usually start out with a basic block-in of the whole image in acrylic paint and then start on the first of many many layers of oil paint!

We are excited to have Changing Tides opening at Outré Fitzroy. Please tell us about your idea behind the show and what people can expect to see?

Thank you! I’m so excited to be invited to show at Outré! Changing Tides is a convergence of quite a few ideas and emotions that I’m currently feeling and has been a cathartic body of work to create. In my mind, the animals and scenes in my paintings represent both the natural world as well as symbolising human emotions and struggles.

All my life I’ve had a love and appreciation for animals and nature which, as I’ve gotten older, has been tinged with a certain sadness due to their vulnerability or defencelessness; human pursuits often seem to come at the expense of animals and the environment. I’m enthralled by the stories and images I’ve been seeing in recent times depicting animals and nature interacting and coming together in unexpected and unusual ways, for better or for worse, and adapting to these new environmental conditions. I feel as though there are many parallels I can draw here from my own human experience, which has only been emphasised by the current COVID19 crisis.

Changing Tides is in response to and a manifestation of all of these things swirling around in my head and aims to give a sense of resilience and hope, no matter how adverse the scenes my subjects are depicted in may be.

What would be a dream project to work on, or something you've been looking to experiment with further?

I would love to visit Antarctica and/or Iceland and make a body of work responding to my time there. They look like such otherworldly, inspiring places. I’d also love to try working on a larger scale and even some murals of my own in future.

For any budding artists out there, what is the best piece of artistic advice you've been given? And do you have any words of wisdom of your own to share with us?

The best piece of advice I’ve been given is to practice, practice, practice! Especially when first starting out, it’s so beneficial to keep making and experimenting, as well as looking at other artists' work you admire (and think about why you admire them). Even if you make something that, to you, looks like trash (I’ve been there many, many times and will no doubt be there again!) my advice would be to keep at it. I really believe you learn from your mistakes. With each painting I make I’m thinking about what works, what doesn’t or what I could improve for the next piece. I’m still learning and evolving my art, it's a process I can’t imagine ever ending!

Thank you for chatting to us, Nicole!