One to Watch

Nathaniel Evans

Nathaniel Evans is an emerging artist living and working in San Francisco, California. He studied Fine Art at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco. Nathaniel’s hauntingly surreal paintings are inspired by his religious upbringing in Appalachia and often feature figures in claustrophobic, compressed spaces. He uses a darker, muted color palette and often scrapes and agitates the surface, adding an element of violence to his almost photographic works.

Nathaniel received the Frank Lanza Award (2012) and the 2nd Place Contemporary Painting Award (2014) at the Academy of Art University. He has participated in group shows in Europe and the USA, most recently at Espositivo Gallery and the JustMAD Art Fair in Madrid, Spain, Stoerpunkt Gallery in Munich, Germany, and Good Mother Gallery in San Francisco.

What are the major themes you pursue in your work?

I like to think of my paintings as little ghost stories inspired by my childhood in Appalachia. Old religions and the haunted landscape make their way into my images. The figures that I paint are forced to interact with each other in a densely compressed atmosphere, and everything is represented in an almost photographic quality with some anxious and agitated mark making. My themes always center around the claustrophobic, oppressive, and seemingly violent.

What was the best advice given to you as an artist? 

Throughout art school, my teachers and colleagues would give me strong advice about technique, composition, and color, but it wasn’t until I asked a non-artist friend for a critique on my work at the time that I made an artistic breakthrough. I forget what the image was, but she said to me plainly and innocently that it was boring. Her statement forced me to really examine what makes a powerful image, and eventually led me to become much more honest and inward-looking in my art making.

Prefer to work with music or in silence? 

I mostly listen to podcasts when I paint. My favorite is called Meet The Composer, and it’s full of enlightening interviews with amazing contemporary/classical music composers. I draw a great deal of inspiration listening to their stories and concepts behind their work. I also enjoy listening to Artist Decoded by Yoshino. It’s a similar type of podcast, dealing with artists, photographers, filmmakers and performers.

If you could only have one piece of art in your life, what would it be? 

I would probably choose Arnold Bocklin’s Self Portrait with Death Playing The Fiddle. This painting sums up a desperate need to paint one’s life before it is over — that we are given only a small window of time to accomplish anything and are fully aware that the window will close at any moment. I go back to this painting for fuel when I’m feeling anxious about the difficult life of working as an artist.

Who are your favorite writers?

I mostly read non-fiction and art books. My favorite would be Nathan Goldstein.

When it comes to fiction I have mostly read classics, like Hawthorne, Hemingway, Poe, as well as some philosophy. I should read more contemporary novels.