Comic artist and illustrator Brady Evans shares a strong interest in manga and other art forms of imagery and storytelling. His work often displays narrative themes of death, humor and our place in both the natural and supernatural world. Evans received an BFA specializing in drawing from the University of Hawai'i at Manoa in 2012 and received the Culture and the Arts Recognition Award from the Hawai'i State Foundation in 2015. We caught up with the artist to talk story about his journey as an artist, experience as a freelancer and his current art series, Void, which is on display at fishcake until May 4, 2019.
Tell me a little bit about yourself and what you do as an artist.
I do comics and illustration, but my work takes the form of different things. From books to drawings on paper for an exhibition or illustrations, I like to think of myself as working a lot with narratives and stories. Either the story is informed by the drawing or vice versa. I leave it open ended.
Was there like a pivotal moment in your life where you wanted to follow this career of being an artist and illustrator?
Both of my parents are heavily involved in the arts. My dad's a musician and my mom creates textiles, paintings, and drawings. Since I was young, they were really supportive of me going into the arts. I recently made a pivotal shift in my art career. Last October, I decided to leave my job at the Honolulu Museum of Art to work solely as a freelance artist. For the first time ever, I was going to give my art more attention than I had in the past. I had already been sending my work and exhibiting for about nine years, in addition to studying at the university or working at the museum. With the amount of time that I spent in it, I didn't want to regret not trying freelancing at least once and seeing how it works out. I didn't want to make my art suffer for not putting in enough time.
You have an art show in FishCake. Can you tell me about the pieces you put in the show?
The show is called Void. It started from a series of drawings and paintings that I did for a show at ARS Cafe in 2017. The show happened right after a few people in my life passed away very suddenly and it was a response to that trauma. These drawings display various objects and forms shaping into silhouettes of people. Even though a person is missing, there's a presence in their absence. Absences create a physical feeling. People leave an imprint in our memories and from the objects which they leave behind.
In addition to Void, I will be showing some illustrations for a book called Magic Show which is a collaboration I did with musician Gary Liu. Gary wrote the short story and I made five complimentary illustrations. I will be presenting illustrations I made for a performance/tea ceremony by Keiko Hatano.
Can you talk a little bit about your process when you're making these illustrations?
I start with the silhouette drawing in pencil to make sure the figure is visually legible. Once I have the silhouette figure down I draw the the forms. I use plant and wildlife imagery in a lot of my illustrations in Void. Recently I've been looking at the Japanese painter Ito Jakuchu. He lived during the 18th century in Japan and was known as an eccentric painter. His work is extremely detailed and he did a few temples paintings where he painted hundreds of individual flowers and plants. Half of them were dead or dying. I thought it was so beautiful how they referenced death in subtle ways. These works influenced me to put plants and wildlife into my illustrations as a way to symbolize life and death.
Can you talk more about your connections to art history?
I became invested into art history when I studied at UH Manoa. As an undergraduate, I took all of the art history classes. After I graduated from UH, I was the collections manager at the Honolulu Museum for almost five years. Art history gives me a wealth of visual influences for my work. When I create work I’m never too concern if it's original or not. All that matters is if I can fully flesh out ideas that I find interesting. I look at pieces throughout art history and take from works that I find compelling and I synthesize it into my own work.
How did you get into doing work and collaborating with Drowning Dreamers?
I know Gary the Drowning Dreamers frontman from my time as the collections manager at the Honolulu Museum of Art. Gary was a teacher in the art school. He would contact our department to use artworks for his classes. Gary happened to see my work and he reached out to me for collaboration. He felt my style of drawings would work perfectly with Drowning Dreamers and suggested we work on a couple of projects together. One of the projects was Magic Show and then Gary suggested projecting a live illustration during Drowning Dreamers performances.
While the band plays I illustrate in Photoshop to the music. I treat the canvas like an animation screening so I layer the images and colors. Gary always sends me the setlist beforehand and I have the lyrics to the songs. Before the show, I have it printed out and I look over and circle some words that are interesting to me to do a sketch to begin my live performances.
Other than that, I just let the music and the images developed from that first sketch. The songs are only four minutes long so it goes by relatively quickly. This means that I have to see what kind of marks I want to incorporate throughout the performance. So it's been fun for me, trying those things and not watching the drawings display upon the wall. Instead I focus on the work at hand on my computer screen. It's good to see other people's videos of it and seeing the band get integrated with the drawings.
What's like the biggest difference for you in terms of doing a live drawing to doing these illustrations?
With the live drawings I can't go back. I try not to undo and to be more spontaneous. If I want to delete it, I just draw over it. I'm more okay with things just being spontaneous while the ones that I plan out, I am a little more picky about composition. In a way the live ones are more freeing because I can just make it and it's big. I love when you project the image on the wall, the color bounces onto the other walls as well.
Have you ever doubted with your art practice? How do you get past that doubt?
Something that is challenging for me is that I’m comparing myself to other friends who are similar age but are at a different points in their career. I'm getting a little better at just talking myself out a bit and looking at what I do have and what I am able to enjoy doing.
What advice would you give to an aspiring artist or someone who wants to start doing freelance for a living?
It's important to very committed to what you're doing. You’ll need to develop good habits and be disciplined. They’re important because freelancing offers freedom and flexibility. Also, I don’t think I am so much of a list person, but I've found that making to-do lists helps a lot. Even if you don't get it done you can just start it again the next day. It's probably good to have a nest egg and to have some money saved up because if you ever hit a dry period, you’ll need to hunker down and be frugal.