evelyn leavens painter

A Critical Look at an 82 Year Retrospective
By Stan Cain

A stalwart of the Monmouth County art community, Evelyn Leavens has been quite visible and prolific for all of her 82 years. She is one of the authentic talents that elevates our local member arts organizations, like the Guild of Creative Art, The Art Alliance, The NJ Watercolor Society and The Monmouth County Arts Council.

Many an art opening has been measured by questions like: "How was the show?"... "was the opening well attended?", and "....was Evelyn(s work) there?"  Her participation was sure to raise the bar on quality and creative thinking. Anyone in the know who attends an area art opening looks for her work. They know that Evelyn's work changes, evolves and is continually fresh. Her diverse approach is always presented in the most professional way, whether it was a traditional stretched canvas, a plexi shadow box to protect a paper collage triptych, or the pile of dyed straw added to accompany her painting of a cow entitled "Hay Burning Mammal".

When you are viewing the images in this website take a careful look. Note the mediums, the dates, the formats. Evelyn easily jumps ship from realism to nonobjective. She steps away from a pastoral scene and pursues a humorous piece. She doesn't lock herself in a "Picasso blue period" and then move on to the next period... no, Evelyn continually revisits technique and medium. Regardless of medium, you glean a sense of how she applies her unique point of view and personality to the different subjects she chooses. Note too, the large scale that this pint-size woman tackles.

She is fluid across many mediums... from watercolor to oils, a linoleum cut here and intaglio etching there. She masters acrylic, oils, pencil, conte, pastel, crayon, tempera, and sumi pen & ink. She has tried her hand at mixed medium and more, including embedded glass, and broken dinner plates ala Julian Schnable.

Take special note of Evelyn's command of the figure and impeccable drawing style. Her calligraphic line, and spartan mark making, combined with a very particular point of view make for some very compelling pieces. Her early illustrations of Boswell, her bassett hound, are excerpted here from the book "Boswells' Life of Boswell" published by Simon & Schuster in 1958. And a few of Evelyn's commercial illustrations are included... a strong sense of graphic design continues to shine through many of her later works in paint.

Evelyn's sense of humor comes shining through many of her works, from someone who truly enjoys life and is making the most of it. But her work is not all light hearted and funny. Underneath Evelyn's most recent body of work (Viewpoints: Barns) is a commitment to the issue of open space and the vanishing farmland. Urban sprawl is replacing much of the Monmouth County countryside, making rich fodder for her work.

Evelyn delivers personality whether its the mood of fellow painter Richard Honymar, the mystery of the talented Judy Martin, the eloquence of the lowly thistle or the delight on Tillie's face as he rides the ghost train. Enjoy the ubiquitous Liz. A mainstay model... she has no last name and is more well known to this art community than Cher. Evelyn has been using her for more than 30 years.

As Evelyn's website designer I have enjoyed working with someone almost twice my age who quadruples my talent, energy and enthusiasm. I came to find out that Evelyn's story ala biography/memoir is in the works which would make a perfect companion to a retrospective of this scope. Keep a careful eye on Evelyn Leavens, she has a lot more to contribute.


BIOGRAPHY by Layli Susan Whyte


EVELYN LEAVENS by Chuck Scarborough