The painter needs all the talent of the poet, plus hand-eye coordination. — Robert Brault
The best description of Naramata landscape artist and potter Dennis Evans‘ painting style comes from his wife, poet and writer Patricia Evans: “The landscape has a soul and it comes right out from the canvas, to touch the viewer. Dennis uses colour, usually pastel, sometimes monochrome and at other times, complementary, sometimes large format, or sometimes small, always trying to capture the essence of the landscape. He takes a pastoral image and transforms it into a heroic one through his choice of colour. Images come easily; their sources are all around him.”
I paint for myself. I don’t know how to do anything else anyway. Also I have to earn my living, and occupy myself. — Francis Bacon
A life-long artist, Dennis has the good fortune or as he would interpret it, fate, to end up in a place that speaks to him. Having moved from Calgary to Naramata a decade ago, he says,” I am much more connected to the landscape here. Pretty much all my landscapes are within walking distance of the studio. I have enough inspiration in Naramata to last a lifetime.”
What’s special about Naramata? “We didn’t really know how amazing it really is until we landed here,” says Dennis. “It has an aura about it. I don’t know if it is because it’s isolated being at the end of the road as it is. It was also special to the First Nations people. They didn’t live here but came to the area for their ceremonies. It’s also home to a proportionally large number of artists, which must be for a reason, and home to an incredible concentration of unique individuals.”
“When you drive out here along Naramata Road, there is a point on the road just past Apple D’Or (lodge) where you look down toward the lake and I think it is unlike anywhere else in the world. We have done a lot of travelling and it’s the most beautiful place we have ever seen. The landscape is so varied. I see a spirit in the landscape. I now work on bringing that spirit out in my paintings,” says Dennis. I think he has succeeded brilliantly.
Born in Viking, Alberta, Dennis began his art career at the Alberta College of Art (now the Alberta College of Art and Design) in the 1960s and graduated with a major in pottery and ceramics. His first love is still a key part of his artistic life. He was firing pottery out in the garden on the day I visited the studio. “It’s still like Christmas when I open the kiln after the final firing and see what I’ve created.”
He added a Bachelors degree in Fine Arts from the University of Calgary and went onto to complete a Master’s degree from the University of Houston. Dennis turned his love of pottery into a career, becoming the production manager for a major pottery manufacturing company and later opening his own production studio called Nant Mill Pottery.
“Retiring” to Naramata in 2006, he and Patricia built a studio-workshop on Naramata’s main drag, Ronbison Avenue and loving renovated and customized their house and extensive gardens. “Artists never retire and that’s OK with me. There is no other thing I want to do. I would be a bum in the street if I hadn’t found my passion,” Dennis says.
Dennis says he paint for himself and that means painting mainly in large formats to capture the large, sweeping views. “These larger paintings take up to four months to complete so they are relatively expensive for the clients,” he adds.
Clients don’t seem to mind. His art is gracing walls in England, Japan, the United States, Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia.
Studio Art Tour
The Dennis Evans Art Studios (680 Robinson Avenue) is part of a self-guided driving tour of seven Naramata artists called the Naramata Bench Studio Tour. Other stops on the tour include Cormier’s Studio (art gallery, sculpture garden and B&B at 495 Vancouver Avenue, Penticton), Terry Isaac Studio (gallery of internationally-renowned wildlife artist at 475 Upper Bench Road, Penticton), Wade Works Studio (Original art made with wine, prints and art cards, jewellery at 940 Aikens Loop), James Hibbert Pottery, (handcrafted pottery at 3015 Naramata Road), Shades of Linen, (see my blog post…50 shades of linen…natural fibre clothing designed by the store’s owner, 156 Robinson Avenue) and Forest Green Man Lavender Farm Shop (see my blog post…Sights and scents that will knock you sideways…Karolina’s vibrant colourful paintings and hand-crafted lavender products at 620 Boothe Road).