Art has always been a part of Amy Evans’ life. It started during childhood, when her grandmother encouraged her to pick up a paintbrush, and has continued through various styles and incarnations throughout the years. Evans studied art in college and became an art teacher for grades seven to 12 afterward.
“When I had children, I didn’t have a studio space to do painting, so I really went into fiber art and I loved it for many years,” Evans said, referring to weaving tapestries. “But after a while, I missed the brush, so I started painting warps.”
In weaving, the warp is the yarn that runs lengthwise along the loom, what Evans called the “skeleton” of the tapestry. She used watercolors to color the yarn and enhance the artistry of her weaving, creating landscape scenes, most pulled from memory of places she’d lived. It didn’t take long, however, for the painting urge to overwhelm the weaving.
“So that’s what led me back to painting,” Evans said, “and I never looked back.”
Out in the open
When Evans and her husband moved to Breckenridge full time nine years ago, they built their house to include an art studio. Evans loves it, particularly when it’s too cold to paint outside. She deals primarily with oil paints, which she said get sticky when the temperature drops.
When it’s not snowing, however, Evans said that the outdoors is her studio. This painting technique is called “en plein air,” coming from the French meaning “in the open air,” when an artist sets up his or her easel outside.
“It’s the experience,” Evans said of what pulls her into the elements. “You never know what you’re going to deal with. Mother Nature is in control and you’re not.”
One of the benefits of painting outdoors, she explained, is the quality of the natural light, although that can also be a challenge, as it does not stay constant but continually shifts, fading and brightening.
“It’s kind of like a blind date,” Evans said, joking. “You never know what you’re going to get.”
Evans paints en plein air both in groups and individually. While a group of artist friends may start the outing chatting, silence quickly falls as each becomes involved in his or her work. This often affords wildlife a chance to critique the art for themselves.
“I’ve had deer walk up while I’m painting because it gets so quiet,” Evans said. She also related a story of being run off by a curious buffalo while painting in Wyoming.
Landscapes and animals
Recently, Evans received the Best Landscape Award from the Women Artists of the West, a national juried women’s art organization. The award was presented at the organization’s national exhibition in Estes Park earlier this month.
“This was, to me, a very special award,” Evans said. “I was very thrilled.”
The winning painting, done en plein air and in oil, is titled “Running Around” and features an impressionistic view of a forest creek.
In addition to landscapes, Evans said she also enjoys painting animals, particularly pets, such as dogs and the occasional cat.
“I’ll paint anything that will sit still,” she said with a laugh. When it comes to puppies and energetic dogs, that can be a challenge.
Evans calls them her “Spirit of the Dog” paintings, which are also done in an impressionistic style.
“I really enjoy trying to catch the emotion of a dog, its spirit, in minimal strokes,” she said. Her first subject was her Labrador puppy. Now she accepts commissions from other dog lovers who wish to immortalize their pups in paint.
“It’s a challenge,” Evans said, but one that she relishes. “If you don’t challenge yourself, you never grow, and that’s one reason I’ll stretch myself in a different direction.”
When not working on her own pieces, Evans teaches painting classes. She’ll teach individuals or small groups of all skill levels, often en plein air. Many of her students are visitors, she said, people stopping by town and taking some vacation time to do something they’ve always wanted to try.
“I just love doing it. It’s a part of me,” said Evans of painting, whether it’s instructing in the classroom, cozy in her studio or out in the elements.
A friend once asked her what she planned to do upon retiring from painting, to which Evans answered, “Artists don’t ever retire.” She won’t be putting the brush down any time soon.
“I think art just keeps your mind going,” she said. “It keeps you young.”