Evie Zimmer is the first in the fellow artist series that I've talked to, but I haven't met in person. I can't remember when or how we became friends on Facebook, but her work is definitely stops me in my tracks and draws me in, when I see it in the news feed. I finally got to ask Evie a few questions about her work and meditative process.
What were you doing when you got these questions?
I was teaching my painting class at Cuyahoga Community College. This particular class is held at the Metro Campus in downtown Cleveland, Ohio. I love teaching these students. So many of them have never painted and it's such a pleasure to introduce them to paint and watch them learn and grow.
What is the first thing you remember drawing as a child?
When I was around six or seven years old I had a teeny tiny spiral notebook. I used to draw girls in fancy dresses, or mini-skirts, go-go boots and sunglasses. When I got a little older I started drawing dragons and eventually faces, mostly abstracted ghoulish faces.
How did you arrive at your current paintings?
For a long time, I painted mostly portraits. People around me always praised my ability to capture a likeness and whenever I did anything abstract or design based, they always asked me that one question that makes me shudder, "What is it?". So, for a long time, I shied away from exploring my love of color and design. About five years ago I became very depressed and started to look within myself and ask myself what was missing from my life and what will make me feel complete. The answer was art. I needed to be true to myself and paint what I needed to express and stop trying to please everyone else. I began studying the op-art I love, see how it's made, investigate color interactions, study patterns of fractals, etc. My love of flowers has also crept into my work with many paintings having random leaves and petals sprouting out of swirling designs. A few of my more recent works are completely floral.
Belle De Mer
Do you do studies?
I don't often do studies. Usually a painting will start with a small thumbnail sketch or sketch I create digitally. Occasionally I will paint a small study for a larger painting to make sure I have the colors just right but often abandon the small painting before it's finished. I get too eager to start the large one.
What is your meditation practice like?
For me, the entire creative process is a meditation. I step away from the rest of the world to the point that the painting and my thoughts are all that exist. I often find myself in a state of gratitude and peace.
Do you paint in total silence?
I love music, all types! I always put on a CD when I arrive at the studio. Sometimes I will start dancing or singing but eventually I get lost in the painting process. The music will end and I won't even realize it.
If your works were actual portals, where would they take anybody who enters one of them?
That's a tough question. Everyone sees something different in my work. I like to think my art becomes whatever the viewer thinks it could be. Personally, I view my paintings to be similar to mandalas in that the meditative process of creating them is a portal to a spiritual realm; a place of peace, love, and beauty.
Who was your last portrait of and what did you discover when painting it?
My last portrait was of a fellow artist. I was pleased with the results as it did capture his mischievous character as well as a likeness. However, I never quite finished it. The hair was left incomplete along with some detail work that would have polished it up. In doing that painting I discovered that even though I am pretty good at it, traditional portrait painting bores me!
Can you talk about Gypsy and why you gave it that title?
The titles I assign to my paintings have as much to do with the spiritual energy that I feel while I'm painting as they do with the imagery. "Gypsy" has the colors of a gypsy's dress, vibrant and in motion. She is a free spirit, alive with energy, and on the verge of attaining her dreams. That's how I feel about my life right now.
What did a difficult childhood teach you?
Be kind. This is the one thing every single person in the world has the ability to do. And it would change the world if everyone did it!
Why do you think painting still matters?
It is human nature to want to express ourselves. No matter what we are doing with your lives, there is always a need to express what is within us. It is how others get to know us and has a lot to do with how we cope with life. For me, painting is who I am. People can look at my work and without ever meeting me, they can sense aspects of my personality. Many people who meet me after seeing my work say that I am exactly how they thought I'd be.
How do you describe the Ohio art scene?
I'm glad you asked! I can not say enough about how supportive the arts community is in Cleveland. We all know each other, share information, and revel in each others' successes. There are several art districts in the area and we sometimes take a Friday or Saturday and go to all of them. Columbus is about 150 miles from here and their art scene is quite active also. Since it is the capital, many Cleveland artists will participate in art activities there. The Ohio Arts Council and Art League invite artist from all over the state to participate in the Columbus events. The very prestigious Butler Museum of American Art is in nearby Youngstown and many Cleveland artists get accepted into their Midyear Show. My painting "Majesty" will be in the show this year.
What's next for you?
I'm very excited to be having a solo exhibition at the North Charleston City Gallery in South Carolina this July. While that is on display, I will be packing my things! I don't want to say any more about that since my plans are not written in stone. But I will end this interview with one of my favorites quotes:
“If one advances confidently in the direction of one's dreams, and endeavors to live the life which one has imagined, one will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.” - Henry David Thoreau
To see more of Evie's work http://eviezzz.wixsite.com/eviezimmer