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Escaping to the Wilderness | Kate Evans

Ahead of our virtual group show Land and Sea in March we caught up with artist Kate Evans to get a first look at some of her works in progress and to find out more about her creative process.

Kate’s striking watercolour paintings capture the atmosphere and intrigue of remote landscapes, inspired by her travels to far-flung areas of America, Scandinavia and Asia. Dilapidated barns and uninhabited cabins stand alone in a landscape punctuated only by the odd tree here and there. The vast expanse of negative space surrounding Kate’s delicate line drawings and subtle washes of colour removes any context and gives the paintings an underlying sense of mystery and ambiguity.


Work in Progress

Can you walk us through your painting process?

I usually start by looking through photos I’ve taken on location, choosing buildings I’m particularly drawn to. My background as an illustrator means I’m used to using photos as both inspiration and also to work more directly from. Although I rarely work solely from sketches, I do keep a sketchbook for planning compositions, colour combinations and recording little details which you could never get from a photo.

I begin a painting by drawing the outline of the building in pencil. Once that’s down I’ll start adding the colours. I rarely stick to the real life colours of the photos - I’m more interested in using bolder colours that sing against each other.

The background comes last and is often the loosest part of the image in terms of mark making. I like there to be a contrast between the tighter angles of the buildings and the organic shapes of the trees and plants surrounding them.

Work in Progress [Photo courtesy of Alice Hendy]

What is it about watercolour that you particularly enjoy?

What I enjoy most about watercolour is the accidental mark making you get with it. You can never quite know how something is going to look until you put the paint down and see how the colours blend and are absorbed into the paper. For the artist it takes away an element of control as the paint does what it wants to a certain degree.

I also like the fact that it dries quickly, so you can layer up the painting in one go and have the satisfaction of seeing the colour and mark making effects immediately. With oil paint, for instance, you often have to work on a picture for days, layering up the paint, in order to see these same effects.

The Old Palm House | 90 x 83cm | Watercolour on Paper Board

Farm Building and Distant Trees | 115 x 85cm | Watercolour and Watercolour Pastel

Your work recently has focused on landscapes from Bali and Vietnam to Sweden and Canada - does your approach to painting change for these very different locations and climates?

I’ve noticed that my paintings of the more tropical locations naturally tend to be busier, with lots of foliage and overlapping shapes, and I think the colours tend to be a little warmer too. The colder landscapes seem less hectic as I leave them more bare and use a slightly cooler colour palette.

Hoi An Beach House | 105 x 83cm | Watercolour on Paper Board

There is a real sense of narrative in your work. This can be seen in your piece ‘Hoi An Beach House’, in which there is an empty chair outside the building, or in the dilapidated, perhaps abandoned, barns in many of your other paintings. What do you hope the viewer takes away from your work?

It’s perhaps a bit of cliché, but I want the paintings to be open to interpretation by the viewer. Although they’re based on existing buildings, I want there to be an element of fantasy in them; that you’re never quite sure exactly where they are. It’s more about escaping and being transported to a fantasy place, which could be a tropical island or a mountain in Scandinavia. I also want there to be an element of mystery and history to the buildings; is the house/barn/cabin inhabited? Is the viewer really alone? What did this building’s past hold?

I also listen to a lot of Scandinavian noir whilst painting and I’m sure that feeds into the work!!

See a new collection of Kate’s watercolour paintings as part of our virtual group exhibition, Land and Sea, available to view on our website from 4th - 21st March.

Sign up to our mailing list for occasional updates on Kate’s practice and to be the first to hear about upcoming exhibitions.


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