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Award-winning artist uses pigment to preserve nature

Gibsons painter named artist of year
A.Elizabeth Evans in her studio (credit Michael Gurney)
Elizabeth Evans in her Gibsons studio.

The wildlife portrait that earned Gibsons painter Elizabeth Evans the title 2022 Artist of the Year from the Nature Trust of British Columbia has been sold to a private collector, but prints of her award-winning acrylic work The Intruder will be distributed commercially. 

Evans has announced that she will donate all proceeds from print sales of the painting to the Nature Trust. 

Evans received the Artist of the Year distinction during an exhibition opening at Vancouver’s Federation Gallery on Sept. 12. The Federation of Canadian Artists maintains an ongoing partnership with the Nature Trust of British Columbia to highlight the union of nature and art. The Intruder was selected from among 164 artworks submitted by 96 B.C.-based artists for the 2022 competition. 

The painting depicts a mated pair of geese honking at an interloper in their wetland habitat. Its beak bowed, the newcomer reacts to the clamorous couple with mute diffidence. 

“Art is a wonderful amplifier for the very urgent issues of climate change and land preservation, as the pieces in this exhibition demonstrate,” said Patrick Meyer, executive director of the Federation of Canadian Artists. All visitor donations and a portion of submission fees from the group’s current exhibition on Granville Island will support conservation efforts through the Nature Trust. 

For Evans, whose subjects over the six decades of her career have ranged from placid Maritime landscapes to anthropomorphic canines, the depiction of threatened species has remained a priority for the past 10 years. 

“What the Nature Trust does — protect the natural areas of the province by building a treasury of wild natural areas that serve species at risk — has been my forte for quite some time,” said Evans, who moved to the Sunshine Coast in 2009. 

The displacement of polar bears in Manitoba became her entrée to the subject. In paintings such as Pizzly and Monarch, Evans juxtaposes polar bears with sweltering skies and snow-topped cacti. The existential threat of climate change is clear. “It affected me. I thought something’s happening here. Something’s coming,” said Evans. In her 2015 painting Melting Away 2, the figures of bears literally fade from view, becoming ghostly shadows. 

Evans was mentored by Group of Seven founder Arthur Lismer and subsequently pioneered the “brickilism” technique in which solid blocks of colour form variegated textures. In The Intruder, the sun’s amber glow comes from dozens of brightly-hued rectangles. 

Luminous, swirling skies are an Evans trademark. Incarnadine clouds convey hope — and a warning. “I get carried away with the red sky,” she said, “because I’m thinking it’s not so much from the sun as it is ‘watch out, guys!’ I’m working on a large [painting] now where the sky is actually a story in itself. And you have to look at it long enough to realize that there are things going on in there.” 

Evans usually paints from reference sketches made during fieldwork and zoo visits. For The Intruder, however, the models literally came to her. A flock of three dozen geese alighted in her Gibsons backyard. Bemused by their interplay, she used acrylic paint to transpose the birds into a sun-dappled marsh. 

Like her Group of Seven forebears, Evans amplifies forms and hues to imbue nature with emotion. “I like to move people,” she said, “and if they don’t get anything else out of it, they’re going to appreciate the colour. I want you to be pulled in by the kind of thing that I’m working on because that’s how I feel. And I hope other people feel that way too.” 

A selection of Evans’s work can be viewed online by browsing to 

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