Distraction and Balance, an Interview with Jillian Evelyn

September 29, 2017

Los Angeles based artist Jillian Evelyn makes beautiful paintings that bend and fold her characters, while bathing them in beautiful and rich colors. Not necessarily bright or flashy, her paintings have a soft kind of vibrance, aided by her unique color palette. The pieces tell a story, about bending to expectations, and about being cramped into physical and metaphorical space. We talked to Jillian and got to learn more about her paintings, her inspirations, and her precious dog Olie.

its complicated

So how did you get into making these types of illustrations? The women in your pieces are always twisted and contorted, how did you end up with this signature style and what has your progression been like?
Honestly…it all started because of a bad break-up, and ​dealing with ​dating in Los Angeles for the first time. Initially, I was only painting black and white heads, but eventually I started to add color and more of the whole ​figure. I wasn’t sure how I wanted to introduce bodies until I did a series called Fitting In where the girls are folded and contorted to fit in the canvas. Those paintings are a reflection of how it feels to bend and form to other people​s'/societ​y​'​s expectation of what they want you to be. My work continues to reflect that idea, but has expanded to this idea of being caught in an uncomfortable headspace or feeling. That​'​s where the abstract shapes and imagery come in, they’re a mix of distraction and balance. 

always thinking

How did you arrive at your color palette? I don't see many people using those colors, and if so, not in the almost matte way that they look in your illustrations. 
I used to only use acrylics, but then a friend gave me some leftover house paint and I loved the matte finish so I continued to use that. As for the color palette, choosing color combinations is one of my favorite parts of the process. Before pursuing art full-time, I was a footwear and textile designer. At every company that​ I worked at I always played a ​role in choosing the color palette for the season. Initially I would feel extremely unfit for the job, but learned quickly that color doesn’t have to be something you follow through fashion trends, but instead through your gut. Color is much more instinctual and connected to emotions than most people realize. My next body of work will be a different color palette…I’ve been craving more greens and earth tones…which aren't currently anywhere in my body of work. 


When did you move to LA? Where did you move from and how has the move affected you/your work?
I moved here from Boston 3 years ago, but I’m originally from Michigan. When I moved to Los Angeles, I finally started to let go of other people’s expectations and started doing what felt right for me. Los Angeles feels like home for me, and I honestly have never felt so comfortable in my own skin. 


What kind of music have you been listening to lately? do you listen to music when you paint?
I go through music phases where sometimes I feel like I’m really on top of it and finding all sorts of new things…but currently I’m in this real fucking lazy music phase. It’s embarrassing…like I’ll listen to an ex of mines continual playlist because it’s SO good and I haven’t had time to explore. (Don’t tell him). BUT I do have some go to’s like SOHN, Rhye, & Mura Masa. When I paint I rarely listen to music, I’m usually listening to a podcast or an audiobook.


Does your dog hangout with you when you paint? Does it help having them around if so? (also this is assuming that one dog in one of your photos is yours haha)
Yeah, Olie, she’s my little shadow. I usually pull up a chair near my desk and she chills/naps while I work. She even made the trip out to Portland with me. It helps having her around because she’s an alarm clock…she wakes me up to feed her and then has a mid-day meltdown around 3pm for a snack, which is a good reminder for me to take a break. 

olie and i

If you had substantial money, resources, and time, what would you want to do with your work? 
I’d want a larger studio…I currently have a live/work space in a tiny studio apartment. I love painting large, so it gets really difficult to maneuver. It would love to have a space where I could work three dimensionally…like having a wood shop and a kiln. That sounds like a dream. 

Tell us about your show in Portland, have you done many murals before? What are you looking forward to with this show?
The show is in this rad little shop called Project Object. Part of their objective is to give a portion of their proceeds towards non-profits like Bradley Angle - an organization that helps women and anyone experiencing-or at risk of domestic violence. When the owner T Ngu reached out, I was super down. Plus, I love traveling to other cities to paint. I just started doing murals this year. I’ve already done around seven, and have a few more lined up before the new year.

Thanks Jillian!