Works by Sechelt-based artist Kevin McEvoy are on exhibit at the Gibsons Public Market during the month of July, demonstrating McEvoy’s fusion of chromatic subtlety with impressionist form that echoes the Group of Seven school.
McEvoy finds inspiration for his etchings, prints, and photographs in Sunshine Coast settings. His oil painting Chapman Creek #2 depicts white-barked birches rising from a rainforest carpeted in autumnal gold. Lone Pine is a direct allusion to Tom Thomson’s early 20th-century masterpiece The Jack Pine, with the titular tree transplanted to a distinctly West Coast marine setting.
In Rock Wall, McEvoy forgoes the customary rich palette of oil paint to present a monochromatic bluff. He uses delicate colours only sparingly for patches of lichen that dot the fissured granite face.
Digital technology has gradually become part of McEvoy’s process for defining a distinctive look. “I’m a photographer, and I’ve been working from photographs for a long time,” he said. “A friend of mine introduced me to Photoshop, of all things, and showed me a bunch of the filters. So you take the photograph and then you run it through the computer and you apply a watercolour filter to it. Then I paint it. Photoshop is an amazing thing for artists.”
McEvoy obtained a degree in art education from the University of British Columbia, and also completed courses in printmaking at the Emily Carr University of Art and Design. At UBC, he studied under English-born abstractionist Gordon Smith and Scottish painter Sam Black. Upon McEvoy’s graduation from UBC, Smith cautioned him that few art teachers continue creating their own work once they assume classroom responsibilities.
Until his retirement last year, McEvoy taught art in School District 46, first at Chatelech Secondary and then at the Sunshine Coast Alternative School. In 2007, he created the emblematic art installation at Chatelech’s entrance, which is composed of individual hand-shaped copper panels.
In the midst of McEvoy’s labours, a student shimmied up the scaffolding and defaced the work in progress by spray painting the words “Grad 2007.” Since the offense was committed in full view, the vice-principal easily nabbed the pupil and assigned him to a form of restorative justice.
“I made the student pound copper panels in the metal workshop with me,” said McEvoy. “I let him pound out seven panels of his own design. He probably thought, ‘You’ll never put them on the wall.’ And then one day he comes running up to me at lunch and says, ‘You put my panels up on the wall!’ I said, ‘Good, now you see you’re an artist.’ He was beaming. After that, nobody ever got near the wall so long as he was a student at the high school.”
As an art teacher, McEvoy did not contain his craft to the classroom. McEvoy continued to refine his style and experiment with new techniques — sometimes influenced by his own students. He used their leftover paint from ersatz palettes made of egg cartons to create works with a studiously spartan colour range.
“I didn’t even make the choice of what colours I would choose,” he said. “Whatever the universe provided was what I was going to use.”
McEwan’s landscapes and wildlife studies remain on display in the atrium of the Gibsons Public Market until July 31. He maintains a website, kevinmcevoyart.ca, that features a gallery of recent works.