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Spokane artist Sheila Evans delves into nature with oils show at Dodson’s

“Night Forest,” oil on linen, by Sheila Evans (Sheila Evans)
“Night Forest,” oil on linen, by Sheila Evans (Sheila Evans)
By Audrey Overstreet Correspondent

Spokane artist Sheila Evans finds inspiration in nature, even when surrounded by highrises and highways.

When visiting Chicago a couple of summers ago for an art show, she ducked behind a hotel to take a walk down a little ravine with a wooded area.

“There was this mass of fireflies, and growing up here, I’d never seen a firefly in my life,” Evans said. “It was amazing to see them in the dark forest.”

Her resulting painting, “Night Forest,” is one of the featured oils in her new show “Tranquility,” opening at Dodson’s Jewelers Friday with an artist’s reception.

“Night Forest” has no obvious fireflies on the canvas, nor even trees. It’s a Georgia O’Keeffe-like perspective of dried hydrangea petals, with large blue-and-green leaves, veiny and verdant. The viewer feels hushed by being thrust into the density and darkness of nature.

Another painting, “Aloft 2,” offers the same close perspective, but employs a contrasting orange and gray palate. The petals against the sky are more reminiscent of a thunderstorm than a flower.

“To my mind, these paintings are almost abstracts, not meant to be representational,” Evans said. “But I also wanted them to be relatable, inspired by nature.”

While Evans’ choices of composition and colors are mesmerizing, it’s her focus on mood that stands out. The calming effect of being visually buried in foliage and fauna is immediate.

Evans has worked mostly with pastels in the past 20 years but has returned to oils again and again. The Dodson’s show of her recent return to oil paintings harkens back to the classes she took as an art major at Gonzaga University in the late 1980s.

“I later started doing pastels on my own in drawing classes because I didn’t have a properly ventilated studio space, not a bunch of room or a lot of time for drying (layers of oil paints),” Evans said.

Evans now has her own studio in a quaint bungalow in the Perry District, where she has room to spread out. She works alone with a black cat named Lily and a collection of Buddha statues to keep her company.

A pantry full of vintage barware and cocktail glasses is a reminder of Evans’ recent exploration into the art of mixology. She produced two art and recipe books on the subject in 2014, “Mixology: The Art of Classic Cocktails” and “Mixology with a Twist: The Art of Modern Cocktails.”

Evans’ latest passion is creating painted enamels of animals. She credits Steve Gibbs, the Art Spirit Gallery owner, who died on New Year’s Eve, for inspiring her.

“I told him I had purchased a kiln and taken an enamels class, and he said if I could make five pieces in time for the spring group show (last year), I could be in it,” Evans said. He liked what she produced. He scheduled her for another show set for next November.

“Luckily, I got a chance to thank him (in our last conversation) for pushing me to work in enamels,” Evans said.

“He went so quick,” she said quietly. “It’s such a loss.”

The tranquility and calm of Evans’ paintings seem to fit the mood as this reporter said goodbye. Evans shook hands and turned back to work among her Buddhas and her images of nature.

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