If there was an artist whose work makes your day feel instantly brighter, that would be Charlotte-based artist, Evelyn Henson. Evelyn first started selling her artwork after graduating college in 2013, and since then her work has been seen in magazines such as Domino, Glamour, and People just to name a few. Evelyn also recently started a new initiative Evelyn Henson Giving, where 100% of the proceeds go to causes such as The Cystic Fibrosis Foundation and Make a Wish CWNC.
In this interview, Evelyn shares how she first discovered her love of art, her inspiration, and where she sees her brand going in the future.
When did your love of art first begin?
I’ve been obsessed with art for as long as I can remember. I used to write stories on my grandmother’s typewriter and then get markers to illustrate them. My mom was always finding weird and creative day camps to send me to like decoupage camp, pottery painting camp, and puppet making camp. And I loved doing every kind of craft project from popsicle stick houses to bracelet making. In middle school, I started designing patterns on Microsoft Paint and would print out my designs to use as binder covers, birthday cards, or whatever else I could think of. I was also always fascinated by museums and later majored in art history. So I have always loved art, but I didn’t start actually painting until I was about 21 and graduating from college. Pinterest had just become a big thing and I had been searching for cute quotes there and painting them on little canvases. Noticing that I would occasionally do this, two friends gave me a box of craft paints as they moved out during the summer. My paint collection then went from about 5 colors to 50 and so I decided to challenge myself to flowers for Mother’s Day. I haven’t put down the paintbrush since!
Who/what is your biggest inspiration when it comes to your artwork?
I find inspiration in everyday life, specifically in the love that surrounds me. Most of what I create starts with the idea of wanting to create a gift for someone. For example, the personalized pet mug started as a joke gift to my sisters because we’re obsessed with our dogs and I knew they would love that. A lot of my greeting cards also begin as something I want to give to a friend—so I’m always considering what other people would want and appreciate. I generally find that the more I paint, the more observant I am of my surroundings. Picasso says “inspiration exists but it has to find you working,” and I find that to be especially true of my process. The more I paint; the more inspired I am by the everyday. I just read a really great book, The Creative Curve, that elaborates on this notion more; the idea that hard work and a passion for your field is what allows us to have those “lightbulb” moments of inspiration.
I love how bright and vibrant your artwork is. Do you have a particular brand of paint or a particular color that you like to work with the most?
Thank you! I honestly buy something new every time I visit the art store and don’t really have a favorite brand. Currently, I think my collection mostly consists of Winsor & Newton, Holbein, and Turner gouache paints. My favorite color is Quinacridone Magenta. I also wrote a blog post that outlines what I tend to work with here if you want to learn more about my materials.
Tell me about a typical day in your studio.
Every day is different! I usually get to my studio around 8 am with a cup of iced coffee in hand. I typically aim to split the day in half: focusing on the business/marketing aspects in the morning, and then shift to any art projects I have going on in the afternoon. I’ll walk around the block whenever I feel stuck to clear my head and usually leave around 4-5ish depending on how busy I am/what is going on. Sometimes I’ll spend all day working on one thing (a commission, product launch, marketing campaign, etc) and sometimes I end up working until the late evening.
Is there a project that you’ve worked on that has either been the most exciting to work on, or the most challenging?
I recently did a series of Charlotte, NC neighborhood illustrations for a local news & media company Charlotte Agenda. I painted four neighborhoods and filled each with about 20-30ish restaurants and buildings. What I loved so much about this project was that I was painting places that I see and visit on a regular basis like favorite coffee shops and bakeries. The project was infinitely more exciting and rewarding for that reason.
What is the largest commission you’ve created thus far?
36×36 maybe? I’m actually not sure though—something like that!
Have you visited all of the cities that you’ve created map prints for?
I have not! The first 20 or so places I painted in the series were all cities I had been to, but, as the series grew, that standard became impossible to maintain. I usually work with someone in the area to create them now and do a lot of my own research.
You are led by the mantra “painting is a celebration of life” what do you hope your pieces bring to the lives of the people who purchase them?
My art is meant to brighten your day and bring sunshine to your homes for years to come! I love brightening people’s days in my everyday life, and I want my art to be an extension of that.
You’ve received recognition from publications such People, Southern Living & Glamour. What was it like seeing your name and work in print for the first time?
SO COOL! I have the Southern Living Gift Guide feature framed in my office 🙂 I’m extremely appreciative of every editor, writer, blogger, etc. who includes my work in their respective publications.
Your illustrations have been featured on products such as stationary, pajamas and mugs. What products do you hope to expand your brand with in the future?
I hope to have a fabric and wallpaper line in the future. I have a lifelong love for designing patterns (going way back to my Microsoft Paint days I mentioned earlier) and would love to bring that passion to more textiles. Collaborating with a clothing company would also be cool. I’d love to illustrate books as well.
Tell me about your collection of pillows that launched this Summer.
I have a lifelong love for pattern design and have been wanting to do more with textiles. Last year, I took a few Adobe Illustrator classes and pattern design classes through SkillPop and Skillshare to learn more about it. From there, I started turning my original art into repeating patterns. I spent over a year perfecting this process and getting it right. I decided to start with a pillow line and will hopefully grow to more textiles from there. The debut pillow collection consists of 15 pillows, each of which was created using my original gouache and watercolor pieces. They all have similar colors so you can have fun mixing and matching! I’m so excited about how they turned out!
You’ve also started a new initiative Evelyn Henson Giving where you’ll be using your art to raise money for causes you are passionate about.
Since I started my business in 2013, I’ve used my art to fundraise for various organizations, including Make a Wish CWNC, The Winship Institute at Emory, and The National Mental Health Alliance. So, I started “Evelyn Henson Giving” to allow me to better fundraise for various organizations. I am currently working with CF Charlotte’s STANDOUT program to fundraise for The Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. To reach my goal, I will be designing limited-time art collections from which 100% of the proceeds will benefit their organization. I really love the idea of someone having a piece of art in their home and it reminds them of how they supported an organization through their purchase.