Meet Sevenoaks linoprint artist Melvyn Evans
PUBLISHED: 07:34 21 September 2014 | UPDATED: 07:34 21 September 2014
Manu Palomeque 07977074797
How the Kent countryside has helped inspire this artist to create captivating works in print
Melvyn Evans’ studio is whiteboarded with small paned windows and a wood-burning stove decorated with a goat. “It’s Scandinavian, I think. I liked it,” he says.
There’s a large Harrild and Sons press, an Albion press, used for letter press and built in 1860 which is quite a feature.
This studio is at Melvyn’s home near Sevenoaks and he has been here 15 years, moving from London where he worked in a design company near Tottenham Court Road, with a studio in south London. He trained as an illustrator and used line prints as a style.
Melvyn tells me he loves the “fantastic” Kent countryside (particularly Knole, which is right on his doorstep) and the great access to London Sevenoaks offers.
“My inspiration comes from the landscape and I like the relationship, I like seascapes and working boats too.”
I ask him if he feels that formal art education is important. “I think it’s a person’s commitment to art and their enthusiasm which is important, but to spend five years doing something you love anyway is a great environment for developing,” he says.
“However, there are those out there without formal training and they can do well too,” he adds.
“A young artist should do a lot of drawing, which is the foundation for everything to do with the art world.”
During Melvyn’s college years, he first came across the work of Edward Bawden. “I loved his shapes and I loved how he added texture to his lino prints, they are full of vitality and that drew me into the world of lino printing,” he says.
Indeed, we see signs of that bold vivacity in Melvyn’s own work. His other art heroes include Henry Moore and John Piper, also William Scott, Winifred and Ben Nicholson and Samuel Palmer.
I mention the Expressionist Käthe Kollwitz, but Melvyn finds her work too dark. “I like the British artists of the 1940s and 1950s, my composition reflects that, its softness and weird shapes.”
Melvyn’s themes include painting, which he describes as “naturalistic, taken from the landscape and then I abstract.” Two of his prints were in the recent and highly prestigious Royal Academy Summer Show.
There is not a little of Alfred Wallis in some of his work, with a great sense of place. He has created a fantastic poster for the London Underground, Transport for London, for example, which won a silver award in competition.
This particular print, however, is not mentioned when I ask him what his most exciting work has been. Instead, he says: “I think it’s the prints for the Royal Academy, because these came from an idea I had been working on for quite a few years.
“I had the confidence to put them down on paper and it’s given me confidence to do more of that kind of work.”
The process of printing includes extensive preparation, with many drawings. “I have a number of ideas going on at the same time, so each one is at a different stage of completion and one may influence how I work on another.”
Melvyn may be working on several pieces at the same time as well as commissions for illustration work, which takes up much of his time.
The size of the works ultimately comes back to the restrictions of the press, the largest being 70cms by 50 cms.
“The restrictions are also in terms of colour,” he tells me. “You are limited in colour to the number of blocks, each colour has to work in the composition and it takes a lot of thinking about the way colour is going to balance. I have done six, two or three, so four is an average number.
“But I like those constraints because they force you into a sort of form and you have to make decisions. A lot of linoprint artists use a key block to hold the composition together. A key block is almost the outline. But I like to use shapes.”
The actual physical printing and producing of a work can take a week, but the drawing out and composition takes considerably longer.
The Royal Academy prints are in a run of 100, but Melvyn is thinking of producing shorter runs in the future.
Melvyn is well represented in Kent, by the David Lilford Gallery in Canterbury, West End House in Smarden, Portico at Riverhead and Dunlin and Diver in Deal.
He is planning to open his studio for the annual summer festival of the South East Open Studios and to submit to the Royal Academy again next year.
So, he’s keeping busy, but then his art is important to him and, as Melvyn says: “I think creativity in general is important, not only in the art world but also in areas like maths and physics.” n