evelyn leavens painter

Evelyn Leavens Retrospective
By David Mizejewski

[David Mizejewski is a naturalist, author and television personality with the National Wildlife Federation. He hosts TV programs on Animal Planet, regularly makes appearances on the Martha Stewart Show, and is author of Attracting Birds, Butterflies and Other Backyard Wildlife. He is also my former student and long time friend who for years worked with me to create my own back yard habitat, which he has awarded NWF's certificateof achievement.]

Check out this fabulous retrospective website of the work of my mentor and good friend Evelyn Leavens.
Evelyn is a master of multiple mediums from oil to ink to pastel to watercolor. Whether it’s realism or abstraction, seeing it collected like this, it becomes apparent that a visual thread of lively swirls, curves and colors characterizes her work, which spans an incredible six decades! It suggests and reflects the energy and teeming life all around us, even when the piece depicts a dormant farm field or a still-life of dead flowers.
Evelyn is nothing else if not a creature of incredible life-energy, creativity and quirkiness. Never one to let the figurative moss gather on her working style or her personality, the visual dynamism of her work is a reflection of the artist herself. Even when curves or colors are not present, or the work is completely nonobjective, there’s such a strong sense of place the effect is visceral; you feel like you are standing in the physical presence of what is depicted on the canvas.

Evelyn’s self-portraits capture in equal measure the intensely serious artist who knows her game and the kooky old lady with a membership in the Daughters of the American Revolution and the latest hip-hop CD. And check out those exquisite wrinkles and that gnarly posture—what experience, character and self-assurance they reveal!
Looking at the site, more than anything for me, Evelyn’s work recalls the place where we both grew up in central New Jersey: beaches, boats and boardwalks; decrepit orchards, scraggly woods and weedy fields all within an hour of New York City; farmer’s markets, gardens and barns; pigs, chickens and always dogs; and the eclectic citizenry of cosmopolitan characters ranging from old timers and old money to hippies and hipsters (not to mention the infamous Liz, our favorite still-life model, who is in a category all her own).

The images bring me back to Monday night art lessons at Evelyn’s during my high school years, where many of the paintings featured on the website adorn the walls. Clicking through them, I can almost smell the unique scent of her house, which doubles as her studio and classroom. It’s an olfactory mix of paints, canvas, dried still-life flowers and fresh herbs from her garden. Her figure sketches remind me of the “nudie notes” we under-18 students had to get from our parents before each live model class.
I feel pride in the fact that I own both an original pen and ink self-caricature and a print of one of Ev’s barn paintings (see #7 in Self Portraits, “Artist Under Sunflower” and #3 in Viewpoints: Barns, “Three Barns”). Both hang in my house.
So, please take a look at the site and spend some time getting to know Ev through her work. You won’t be disappointed!


BIOGRAPHY by Layli Susan Whyte


EVELYN LEAVENS by Chuck Scarborough