I met artist Evan J. Parker III this past Friday during the opening reception of “Decadent,” the February exhibit at Artists & Makers Studios in Rockville, Maryland.
Artists and Makers is the vision of artist Judith Heartsong—it is a new Rockville art space that has experienced great success in only a year. The space has nearly doubled to an astounding 13,000 square feet of studio spaces, and there are now 70 resident artists. The Compass Atelier studio and individual resident artists offer art classes for the public. There are also exhibit openings and other events, including open studios once a month on first Fridays.
Evan’s mixed media work was featured in this recent opening. He incorporates collage, drawing and airbrush to create scenes featuring mysterious figures in fantastical landscapes. The exhibit mostly features his colorful collage work, but he is a master of pen and ink, pencil and airbrush drawings as well.
One thing that is so impressive about Evan’s work is how he maintains the same moody atmosphere throughout all of his pieces and how both his marker drawings and collages achieve the same cohesive consistency. His collages are so painstakingly cut and pasted together that it is hard to differentiate his drawings from his paper collages. Another way he achieves this consistency in his work is by making thin wash of sepia with gold ink and applying it evenly over each piece with an airbrush.
“It ties everything together, makes it look kind of old.” These washes give his pieces an antiqued look and a sort of photographic quality. Evan says that he originally read about the finishing technique a few decades ago as a tip in HOW Magazine. It really stuck with him and he has continued to use finishing washes in his work.
A major conceptual and visual influence on Evan’s artwork is the psychedelic album art he enjoyed growing up in the 1960s and 70s. Peter Max and Roger Dean were major influences on him early on. “Roger Dean really flipped on the imagination switch for me,” Evan explained. Dean designed many fantasy themed album covers in the 70s, 80s and 90s including most of the albums for Yes and Asia. Evan really admired Dean’s style because it was so different from the traditional artwork that was extolled by his teachers in school.
“I was accused of cheating in high school, but I wasn’t. That’s partially why I make sure to give credit to any sources I borrow from for my collages. If you look at the bottom of my art, in pencil I cite whose work I may have used.” He was so disappointed with his art teacher that he stopped taking art classes, but continued to create on his own.
Being an artist is never easy. “You’ll never have a lot of money—you have to be OK with that.” Evan didn’t allow his teacher or other things to set him back because he knew that he needed to continue his art for his own satisfaction. Many years later, he decided to try classes again. He took a drawing class at Montgomery College and he learned something that had a great impact on his work, from someone who wasn’t a professor.
One of the life models in the drawing class encouraged Evan to explore more fantasy art and told him to start using higher quality art materials. He had been using less expensive paper and drawing mediums—his work would hold up better over time if he used higher quality colors and papers. “I became more conscious of things like lightfastness and cotton content.”
Recently, Evan has been using new Winsor & Newton Pigment Markers in his drawing and mixed media work, but uses a variety of high quality markers and inks. He mostly uses Yes! adhesive for his collage work, and he likes to varnish each piece with a fixative after it is complete, not only to secure everything but also because it “tends to sharpen and darken” all the details. Along with his carefully cut paper pieces, his finishing washes and varnishes add another dimension to his work, making his scenes look even more otherworldly and mysterious. Even up close, many of his collages are so tightly constructed, they look like drawings.
To see more of Evan Parker’s work, visit his website.