In Conversation With: Elsie Evans
At MONC our passion is to build an individual experience through creativity. We believe that the best way to do this is through transparent design, appropriate sourcing and artisanal production. Our mission is to inspire our customers and followers by the celebrating the things that inspire us. For our first collection, our design process was influenced by aspiring creative neighbourhoods and their artisanal inhabitants.
To capture the vibrancy of each neighbourhood and further tell their stories we collaborated with artist Elsie Evans, to create a series of paintings which are captured on each micro-fibre cleaning cloth that accompanies every frame purchased. We talked to Elsie about what first inspired her as an artist, her daily paintings, and how she established The Elsie Evans Art Retreat which opened this year in her ex-pat home, Thailand.
Do you remember when you first aspired to be an artist?
I think being an artist is a state of mind, part of your physiology so to speak. So I always have been one. But I didn’t start drawing and painting until my youngest son went to school. I had time for me! I had always enjoyed playing about with colours and shapes with my interiors. (We lived in a lot of houses) . But I hadn’t really done any drawing as such.
What is your favourite medium to paint in?
I do love oil but I also love acrylic and watercolour. It depends what kind of mood I'm in or what kind of job I'm doing. So I don’t have a favourite, but I love colour. I am happy to sit and mix colours in the evening if I am too tired to do something more challenging. These go into the back of my sketchbooks which I always have at hand.
Mixing colour is a feeling, you have to go by your own gut instinct. It cannot be taught, so it’s like doodling I suppose but with colour instead of line.
How did you find yourself in Thailand and why have you remained here?
My husband got a job in Thailand, and we lived there for 18 years. I had 4 children born there, so when he died I decided to stay.
Do you have a process when starting a painting? And if so what is it?
My process tends to begin with a thought. What do I want to achieve and why and how would be the best way to go about it. I don’t sit and look at a canvas but I do let my mind meander through different options. When I'm doing a mural, for instance, I can be shopping in a supermarket and get inspiration from a product label or a pile of shoes. And Pinterest is very helpful.
What inspires you to paint and where do you find the most inspiration?
When I am painting for myself I am inspired by colour. Always! Unless it is a portrait.
What are your 'daily paintings' and where did the idea come from?
I started my daily paintings during the riots in Bangkok about 6 years ago. My studio was 3 doors down from the prime minister’s house. I was nervous about my windows being smashed by the rioters who were careering up and down the street with coffins of pig’s blood, placards and fake dead bodies. So I stayed there to protect the place. There were also riot police and fire engines. It was a very exciting and constantly changing scene every day right on my doorstep.
Instead of standing watching I decided to paint the scene. Small quick paintings seemed to work best. I put them on Facebook and they were sold instantly. I was doing 5 or 6 a day. I was finishing off a painting one night, of an army general when he was shot and killed by a sniper as he was being interviewed by the BBC. That painting was sold in about 30 minutes.
I had no students then either as they were too scared to come to the studio. Plenty of time to paint!!
Since then I use that Facebook page to sell my other paintings of places and spirit houses and to showcase my work. I suppose I should change it to Elsie Evans painting daily....because I do. even if it is a scribble in my sketchbook.
What’s been your favourite journey so far?
My favourite journey has been my journey into mural painting and also the most challenging. Every job I do the night before I panic. Why did I say yes to doing this?! Why can’t I be doing content to do my oils and sketchbook?!! It is not going to look good! And it's always the most rewarding when I have finished.
There is no wriggle room with murals, it’s you and the wall. I work alone so the buck stops at me. There is always a challenge time-wise as I'm paid by the day. Plus, I feel it’s necessary for a large mural especially in my style not to work in too much detail. That can be added at the end if necessary. Work fast get the movement and emotion down quickly. It’s also hard working on scaffolding. I always like to step back from my painting. this doesn’t work if you are 5 meters off the ground.
When did the idea of the Elsie Evans Art Retreat begin, and how did it come about?
The idea of Elsie Evans Art Retreat began many years ago. Bangkok is a very busy city. I found it quite stressful living there after 30 years, especially when there are so many wonderful places in Thailand to live. And I like colour! I used to take students out of the city to paint, and I love going on painting trips so I decided to combine the two; A residential art studio in a beautiful place.
A friend of mine showed me lovely piece of land. With a glorious view. I had been procrastinating for a couple of years I decided if I bought it I would have to do something about it! So I did.
What has been your favourite moment at the EEAR so far and why?
My favourite time at EEAR so far happens every weekend when I have people painting in the studio. others in the pool and then in the evening we all get together round the giant cooking island to drink wine and advise the chefs about what to put in their dishes. Its communal. the cooking, the yoga, the experience. New friends are made every time.
Last weekend I had 5 adults doing oil portraits from a model. Two beginners playing about with ink and watercolour and a few children painting flowers they had found in the garden. Bliss! But hard work.
What is the plan for the EEAR in the future?
I would really like to have artists visit from abroad. Thailand is a wonderful place to paint. In fact this is a great place for anyone. To have space to think, dream, plan or just chill out and enjoy good food company and enjoy the opportunity to find yourself. That is what I have done here!
What do you like to do when you’re not painting and teaching? What’s your idea of downtime?
My idea of downtime is to paint and potter in my garden. I am trying to grow figs just now. And to spend time with my sons and their friends. Mostly I prefer young people’s company. They are ambitious and driven! and open to new ideas.