Childhood Tales Will Never Die: An Interview with Evens Joseph

Do you remember the time when artists were the toys of their muses ? Now, muses are usually real people, mostly pretty famous women. But back then, muses were ethereal creatures connected with nature, past and future, and able to direct the creations of wonderful artworks. Where are the muses gone ? They didn’t disappear. We just stopped listening to their voices. Their voices are hidden for generations in the stories we tell to children, awaking their imagination and unique point of view on the world. If we just took a moment to listen again, even as adults, or to remember the tales we were told, we could meet the muses again. Actually, Haitian-American artist Evens Joseph has decided to reconnect with them again. He even tries to capture their fleeting grace in his illustrations.

To discover how he kept in touch with his inner child, we talked with Evens Joseph about the tales that are surrounding us and how to turn them into art that inspires.

Evens Joseph

What are the personal and artistic backgrounds that have shaped your creativity?

Growing up in a strong artist community in both Haiti and the US left a huge impact in my life personally and artistically. While I was living in Haiti as a child I was surrounded by a variety of artists such as folk artists, crafters, painters, musicians, etc. What piqued my interest in art as a child was reading French folk tale books and being amazed by the illustrations. When I was school age and moved to the US I had the opportunity to go to schools that focused on art and design, so all of my life I was immersed and introduced to a variety of types and styles of art. There are many types of art that give me inspiration and shaped me as an artist but the most powerful are music and storytelling combined together. As a child in Haiti and a young budding artist, I among others my age were always fascinated with stories and every night everyone in the area old and young, told stories with a musical rhythm. These amazing stories that were told to us were usually in the dark and we had to rely heavily on our imaginations. That is why music is such a huge inspiration for my work because each piece has such a special musical connection.

What are your sources of inspiration?

Everything around me from fashion to nature to music. I am pretty much inspired by everything, but what have a real impact on my inspiration are the women that I interact with because they often inspire ideas that roam around in my head. To me, women represent life, creation, and they are so full of passion just like a delicate flower they grow and bloom and inspire nature’s beauty itself. Now, imagine taking all of those previous things I just described and incorporating music and storytelling. That is the soul of my art.

Do you document yourself or gather references before starting a new illustration or do you rely solely on your own creativity?

Sometimes I document myself but only to show viewers the process behind my work, not for myself. I mostly rely on my own creativity because I don’t want to repeat another artist’s idea that has already been created, but when I have an artist’s block I keep a library of references to help inspire my work. Due to the fact that I interact with a lot of people, places and things throughout the day, I have an infinite amount of inspiration constantly. References don’t come into play until the initial sketch is completed and if I feel like something is off with my illustration, the reference I use is shot by myself using live models.

What is your process when creating an artwork? Do you have favorite tools, brands and artistic rituals?

I don’t sketch a lot for a piece, when I have an idea I am dedicated to that idea. Even though I was trained to make multiple sketches, I find that in doing so I fall away from my original idea which I feel is my biggest weakness as an artist especially when it comes to social media. At times, I would love to share a recent work, but because my work takes so much thought and emotion I can easily fall behind. As far as favorite tools to sketch with, I use a ballpoint pen and graphite most of the time because I want to be dedicated to my idea and lines. When I’m not using ballpoint pen and graphite, I’m trying new things with other media. If I make a mistake I want to implement that idea into my piece.

How would you describe your evolution, and, according to you, what motivated these changes?

As an artist, I’m always trying to find a way to make art that is challenging and that I can learn the most from, that’s why in the beginning I chose to work on wood. It was challenging and also therapeutic and the end result was stunning. Due to time limitation, I had to make the move to working on paper. Working on wood was slowing down my artistic process so I needed to work on my time schedule but still use a natural element like wood. Backgrounds were always a challenge for me, so working on paper has forced me to work on them (opposed to them working themselves out when I worked on wood).

What do you aim for in the future and do you have projects (exhibitions, books, etc)?

In the past, I have worked mainly on book illustrations and fashion design. Eventually I want to tell stories artistically the way that stories were told to me as a child. Currently I am looking to show my work in galleries with the hopes that my work can emotionally touch the viewers and help them in some way.

You are drawing a lot of butterfly wings; do you think that, in the same way a butterfly in Brazil could cause a tornado in Texas, an artist’s work could have a positive impact on the people who see it?

It would be the biggest compliment if my work or the work of others could positively impact people’s life in a huge way. I wouldn’t work part time but full time as an artist if I knew my work could change lives in that big of a magnitude and it would bring tears of joy to my eyes every day.




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