It’s with great enthusiasm that we present Evelyne Boren – A Retrospective. This landmark show will open on September 21, 2018, and will run through October 15.
EVELYNE BOREN – A Retrospective
Author: Suzanne Deats
Publisher: Acosta Strong Publishing
Release Date: September 20th, 2018
Evelyne Boren’s paintings convey the experience of beauty with the utmost intensity. Every element of every painting projects heightened emotional perception coupled with unique stylistic techniques designed to communicate this visual splendor to the viewer. From her earliest watercolors to her latest paintings, she has maintained a clear focus on this concept throughout a lifetime of artistic passion.
Her subjects range far and wide, but her approach never varies. She chooses a vantage point, lays out her tools, and opens her heart completely. She allows a particular aspect to emerge and command her attention. She composes the painting in her mind, adding and subtracting details to get at the essence. Then, in a sustained burst of energy, she sets it down fresh and whole and true.
From the outset, she has drawn upon her own vision and no other. Her only model is nature itself. She is continually inspired by the shifting light, the bunching and scattering of clouds and land forms, and the endless variety. In her vision, colors are amplified; unexpected angles and juxtapositions bring a heightened thrill to ordinary subjects. Because of this jubilant impact, each and every one of her paintings makes an indelible impression. She is one of the rare artists whose work changes the viewpoint of those who see it.
Boren embraces both tradition and innovation. Free of academic constraints, yet educated through personal study and attendance at the great museums of the world, she observes the images of earlier masters in order to ground herself in the onrush of art history. She learns, but she does not copy; it is her hand, and hers alone, on the paintbrush.
Her working regimen is a unique combination of spontaneity and discipline. The vitality that bursts from every painting is the result of constant anticipation of the next insight. She does not wait for ideas to come to her, but actively goes out and finds them. “I love a challenge,” she says, as she continually seeks new ways of expressing what she sees.
The discipline comes in as soon as she defines a subject, absorbs it, and frames it in her mind. Once this happens, she brings all her accumulated skill to bear on the scene before her. By composing the image coherently, and by deepening the colors and perspective, she transmits the excitement she feels when confronting a place yet unexplored, or approaching the familiar from a different angle.
In this respect, Boren’s art is completely consistent with the way she lives. From the earliest times, she has had a clear vision of her direction, even though the particulars always remain to be discovered day by day. She takes her circumstances as they come, meeting them from a stable and secure center within herself, yet maintaining her eager curiosity about the possibilities inherent in any situation. Like a well-composed painting, her life structure is sound, yet her energy allows for creative incidents and exciting surprises within the framework.
Her joie de vivre is legendary – so much so that her mid-career book by that name remains the definitive introduction to her art, and still enjoys an enthusiastic readership. In that book, her fascinating youth and glamorous early adulthood are recounted in detail, including her work in the movies and her celebrity-studded lifestyle in Puerto Vallarta.
At the point when Joie de Vivre was published more than twenty years ago, Boren’s paintings were artifacts of her colorful existence. Two decades later, the symmetry has reversed itself. Now her elegant reality is almost a byproduct of the avalanche of art that pours from her studio.
She maintains a healthy, vigorous lifestyle and a serenely practical outlook. This enables her to immerse herself deeply in her work. On the surface, it would seem that she simply has a strict work ethic, and while that certainly is a key component, there is something more. There is the fact that the best artists simply have to make art, just as great musicians have to make music and born poets must have their say. Those fortunate few have been chosen by their inborn character to be creative, and there is little they can do to hinder it. Life’s necessities may require attention and work, but no matter what the circumstances, the artistic imperative will always find a way to manifest itself.
Other artists may make a conscious choice to pursue a certain path. They develop skills and carve out a successful career doing whatever is best received by viewers and collectors. Their art may be worthy, their lives rewarding. They may grow with the passing years, becoming better at what they do. Some may even become famous. But this approach, working from the outside in, establishes limits on their art.
Boren paints from the heart outwards. She has a unique ability to take care of business while remaining steadfastly free. Her art not only grows, but changes subtly with each evolution in technique and insight. Her early work holds up very well in terms of quality and abiding interest. It is recognizably Boren, yet it is distinct from paintings that came before and after. Her art never becomes dated, because each painting is a part of the continuum. Rather than going off on tangents, she simply piles layer upon layer of painterly experimentation onto her core perceptions, then smooths and synthesizes until she achieves an ever-deepening richness.
This constant evolution keeps viewers and collectors coming back year after year. They understand that their own perception of a given subject is magnified by the artist’s interpretation, and they are eager to see what new awareness they can gain from the next canvas. Boren is right there waiting for them.
Her welcoming grace draws one’s mind into her world. She knows many subtle ways of creating a visual pathway for the viewer’s eye to enter the painting and then to explore every nuance, every sidelight, every unfamiliar diversion. From this virtual journey arises the meaning of each image, which is the unique essence that drew her toward the subject in the first place.
The meaning changes according to the subject, the location, the season, and the mood. Always, it is a celebration of beauty. Evelyne Boren’s art continues down the decades in a steady and sustained outpouring, each painting deeply perceptive, compelling, and joyous.
Evelyne Boren’s childhood home was in a large house in Starnberg, Bavaria, just south of Munich, where she was born in September 1939. That month marked the beginning of World War II. The family was well to do, and their town was surrounded by the idyllic scenery of the Five Lakes Country. Nevertheless, they suffered much disruption as the war progressed.
Evelyne has a vivid memory of being inadvertently left behind when the air raid sirens sounded and the family ran for the bomb shelter. By the time they realized she was missing, they were unable to come back for her. Alone and terrified at five years of age, she watched from the window as the bombs exploded all around. She believes that that experience inspired her to seek out happiness and peace in later life. “I suppose subconsciously this is the reason I create cheerful paintings,” she observes.
The war ended, the bombs stopped, and the American occupation began. Evelyne remembers the G.I.s as being very kind to the children, one of them even going out of his way to retrieve a toy for her. An idea took shape in her mind, and she began to dream of going to the United States someday.
The family was broken up and displaced by the end of the war, their big house commandeered for barracks and their mother no longer with them. Evelyne’s father, a wine merchant, managed to gather up the children and carry on. They moved to a nice residential area on the outskirts of Munich, and Evelyne became a mentor for her younger siblings.
Her father remarried for a fourth time, and his new wife befriended his eldest daughter and taught her grace and poise, as well as showing her how to dress well and move toward adulthood. Her artist grandmother was also a major presence in her life. From her, Evelyne learned to love art.
Evelyne attended school in Munich, where the study of English and French was a requirement, and she realized early on that she had an aptitude for languages. After high school, she spent a year perfecting her French in Lausanne, Switzerland, and then moved to England and earned a diploma in English. She also began a lifelong love affair with the sea, an element that continues to infuse her work and her expansive world view.
Always in the back of her mind was the dream of going to America. Already self-supporting, and with little money and few connections, she began searching the newspapers for a job that would provide her with a means of advancement toward her goal. She found it in the form of employment as a mother’s helper with an American family in the diplomatic corps.
When the family was transferred back to the States, they offered to pay her passage if she would stay with them for another year. She remembers vividly her first sight of the Statue of Liberty. The passengers gathered on the deck of the ship, and fireworks and music celebrated the occasion. Her employers flew home to La Jolla, California, but Evelyne elected to travel cross country on a Greyhound bus, a nonstop ride of five days and four nights. She marveled at the sheer size of America, after a life spent in the relatively compact environs of Europe.
Upon arrival in La Jolla, exhausted, she fell into a deep sleep. When she awoke to a sunny day in the orange groves of California, she almost could not believe that her dreams had come true. “I really thought I’d died and gone to heaven,” she smiles. She was all grown up and on her own, she was living by the ocean, and she was in America.
She fulfilled her obligations to the family and then ventured forth to work at other jobs. Fashion modeling was a natural progression for her because she was beautiful and athletic. She also worked in a leather shop where she soon became manager. The California beaches called, and there she found a circle of friends who included her in their lighthearted social activities.
After a few months, she was introduced to Lamar Boren, a director of photography in motion pictures who specialized in underwater filming. They were married in 1960. She was able to work alongside him because she was a Red Cross certified swimmer – the German equivalent of a lifeguard – and she was very photogenic. They were hired together to work on Seahunt and Flipper. Evelyne trained Flipper to swim slowly enough for children to hold on.
She also did a number of television commercials, mainly underwater. By then she was dividing her time between La Jolla and Nassau, where she worked on several films including Thunderball, in which she was an underwater stunt double for Claudine Auger, and You Only Live Twice, as a Japanese pearl diver. Both were James Bond movies starring Sean Connery.
Perhaps her most notable involvement in the movies was in Namu, the Killer Whale. When the massive sea creature was accidentally captured in fish nets off Namu Bay in Canada, he was towed into the Seattle Public Aquarium, where Lamar Boren was asked to photograph him. Evelyne befriended Namu and was able to swim with him, feed him, and ride on his back – the first woman to accomplish such a daring feat.
The film footage was so good that it became the nucleus of the motion picture. The script was written around the underwater sequences, and Lee Meriwether was hired to star in the film in part because of her resemblance to Evelyne. Later, Evelyne appeared on What’s My Line and To Tell the Truth, and none of the contestants were able to guess her occupation.
The Borens adopted two children, Vanessa and Bruce. Vanessa learned to swim before she could walk, and she performed in the swimming pool at the Fort Montague Hotel in Nassau, which had a large underwater window facing the bar. She would crawl over to the edge of the pool, fall in, and blow bubbles. The guests in the bar, seeing the baby through the window, would panic – until Evelyne dived in and the two would frolic in an underwater dance.
Evelyne’s art career began at this time. Her work on the film sets involved a great deal of waiting between takes, and she thought that she would like to use the time to capture the brilliant colors and scenery all around her. Art classes were not available, so she simply went to the library and read everything she could find, from technical instruction to books about watercolorists such as John Singer Sargent and Winslow Homer.
Admiring certain aspects of their palettes, she bought some watercolors in the same hues and began to paint. So absorbed was she, that half a day passed by before she looked up. She didn’t sign her work because she did not consider herself a professional, but her first-ever painting was selected for a competition because a friend had entered it anonymously.
Evelyne was elated. She continued to paint for the sheer joy of it, and had a few solo exhibits in the Bahamas before deciding to seek further instruction. She studied in Munich with her grandmother’s friend Ernst Hoeber, an excellent draftsman who was dedicated to the idea that all painters must first learn to draw. While she learned valuable lessons in perspective and accurate representation, his strict approach discouraged her for a while. She digested all she had learned from him and then returned to her own intuitive style.
Up to this point, she simply painted for the joy of it. But when she studied with Robert E. Wood, who inspired her greatly, another dream began to emerge. She began to hope that she could live through her art by becoming a professional artist.
Straightaway, she set to work to create this life for herself, painting and studying diligently while she took care of her family. They moved back to California, but the marriage came to an end in 1972. In her grief, Evelyne sought consolation in her art. She learned of a workshop being taught by Tom Hill in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. Hill is a charter member of the San Diego Watercolor Society; Boren herself is Member #9.
Evelyne was certain that her true vocation was painting, so she enrolled in the workshop and got on a plane. She understood that she needed to make a fresh start, but she had no idea that this experience would afford such a profound change in her life.
She had scarcely arrived in Puerto Vallarta when her workshop roommate, Nancy Fritz, asked her to come along to a party to which she had been invited. There, she met a handsome Irishman named Michael Sadlier, a former network television executive who had himself made a fresh start by moving to Mexico and becoming a real estate developer. They chatted briefly, and before the evening was over, Evelyne’s plan to remain single for a while had come to an end.
First, however, there was the workshop, which proved to be very worthwhile both because of the quality of the instruction and the authentic charm of the village and its inhabitants. She painted on the streets all day every day, absorbing the ambiance and making it into art. At night, she attended a whirlwind of parties and got acquainted with Michael.
Secondly, there were her children waiting for her in California, and so she bid goodbye to all that and returned to her normal life. Now, however, she was not bound to marriage or a husband’s needs, so she could decide what kind of life was most appropriate for her at this point. It didn’t take long for it to register that Mexico would fill the bill, so two weeks later she returned to Puerto Vallarta to look for a house and a school for Vanessa, then six, and Bruce, four.
She and a friend drove the children to Mexico, which was unheard of in those days, and they arrived safely and ready for whatever was in store. The children took to their new life with great enthusiasm and made many new friends. Like their mother, they became fluent in several languages.
Life could not have been more thrilling. Puerto Vallarta always had a party going on, and celebrities such as Loretta Young, John Huston, Elizabeth Taylor, and Richard Burton were in attendance. Evelyne danced the night away, then got up and exercised on the beach before taking up her paintbrush and turning her attention to the beautiful scene before her.
She married Michael a couple of years later. “He has always been totally supportive,” she says, “and his companionship and critiques have been so valuable.” The family lived in a condo in one of the housing developments he had built. They were comfortable there, but Puerto Vallarta itself had become increasingly crowded, noisy, and pretentious, a parody of all it once was. It was time to leave.
In 1987, Michael built Evelyne a lovely home and studio twenty miles up the Pacific coast in Sayulita, a still-unspoiled fishing village. Artists and writers were drawn there by the simplicity and the camaraderie of like-minded adventurers. Evelyne ran on the beach in the mornings, took care of her family, and found endless subjects for her paintings near this seaside villa.
They named their spacious new home Casa Bougainvillea, for the gorgeous flowers that tumbled over wall and rooftop. Windows opened to views that went on forever, and steps led down through the garden and directly onto the white sand beach. The property afforded two additional guest apartments as well as unobtrusive quarters for domestic help. Life was productive, easy, and very pleasant.
By the early 1990s, the children were grown, educated, and off on their own. Vanessa settled in Paris, where she became well known as a Feng Shui master. She has published two books on the subject: Tout Le Feng Shui, soon to be available in English as well as French, and Styles Feng Shui. She has two children, Maximilian Lambert and Lily Belus.
Bruce has had a distinguished business career in Mexico after earning an undergraduate degree from Berkeley and an MBA from Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. He has two children, Valentina and Patrick.
Evelyne and Michael began a regular routine of travel, centered around Evelyne’s painting. They continued to winter in Sayulita, but they established another home base in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where they would spend the summer and fall. Michael built a home with a light-filled studio and sweeping views of the city and the mountains from the deep terrace. The fabled sunsets compensated for the absence of the sea, and the northern New Mexico scenery provided infinite subject matter.
In the spring, Evelyne and Michael traveled around Europe, visiting Vanessa in France and exploring the many environmental treasures of the various countries that were so close together but so distinctly different from one another.
This delightful routine continued for many years. They discovered new destinations as well. In South and Central America, they explored Argentina, Colombia, and Guatemala. New Zealand offered yet another locale far removed from the others, with its own atmosphere and customs.
At home in Mexico, they found that Sayulita was beginning to go the way of Puerto Vallarta. It was become crowded and noisy and overrun with tourists. Once again, it was time to leave. In 2002, they moved farther up the coast to San Pancho, a noted cultural center. They combined two condos into a 5000-square-foot home and studio. It is inside a bird sanctuary in the jungle, with parrots and monkeys a constant entertaining presence, yet they can walk to the beach. Their penthouse affords views of the town, the river, and the ocean.
They kept Casa Bougainvillea in Sayulita and rented it out at times for retreats and luxury vacations. More importantly, Evelyne had become increasingly involved in teaching, so she conducted many of her courses there. The villa was fully staffed and was large enough to accommodate the workshops and house the students. She established a schedule of classes as she continued to travel and open herself to new possibilities.
In 2015, Michael suffered a stroke that left him partly paralyzed. Evelyne promptly stopped traveling to care for him until he was out of danger. As he worked to regain mobility, she continued to paint, and to photograph as well. She looked around locally for inspiration, and found a polo field just five minutes away. There, she did her first paintings of horses. “Summer is quiet in Mexico,” she says. “Everybody leaves. It has become my time to study horses.”
She looks forward to traveling again when and if Michael’s health permits, whether he is able to accompany her or not. That will be when she is sure of a stable situation for him, so that she can go on short jaunts with friends. Meantime, she continues to paint at her usual vigorous pace as she calmly deals with the inevitable daily logistics. She holds gallery exhibitions on a regular basis and keeps up a steady schedule of teaching. The only difference now is that she is no longer continually casting about for new places to go and see.
From the outset, Boren has respected her vocation above all, so she has adjusted her work to her more stationary routine. “I just don’t like for my life to be too easy,” she remarks, and so her existence continues to be well rounded and substantial, encompassing deep family ties, vigorous social activity, and the inevitable daily logistics. She deals with all these elements in a calm, untroubled fashion.
She finds that there is much to be gained from her current state of affairs. “Although I treasure all the traveling we have done, and continue to do to a lesser extent, sometimes I think if you’re always on the run you never fully enjoy where you are,” she observes. “Being settled in with Michael, I’m learning to live in the now. And now is a good place to be.”
Evelyne Boren began to make art in the most natural way possible, when she responded to the beauty around her by giving it personal expression. Others might try painting as a result of circumstance and find that they like it, and then figure out their own vision and create a style to go with it. Evelyne simply bought some art supplies and plunged in. She made an instant and enduring connection to her art, and life was never the same for her again.
Her first few pieces already show the delight she felt when she discovered her true calling, perhaps even before she was aware of it. There is no struggle, no effort to emulate anyone else or do what is expected. In these spontaneous early watercolors, there is only the rapture of paint on paper, of artist and subject merging into one burst of energy to create a third reality, an object of the imagination that heightens the experience itself.
In the intervening half-century, she has amassed a staggering body of work, but that primary revelation shines through every painting. It is what keeps her paintings fresh and original, even though she may be looking at a familiar scene. “My best paintings are done when I am excited about the subject,” she explains. “Then I paint vigorously, full of emotions.”
When it comes time to exhibit her finished paintings, however, Evelyne relies less on her heart than on her fine business mind, an acknowledgment of the respect she has for her art. She has had galleries in Mexico from the start, but her focus is on Santa Fe’s famous Canyon Road. As early as 1971, she exhibited at Munson Gallery, a distinguished establishment that traced its origins back to New Haven, Connecticut in 1860 and is still going strong on Cape Cod and in Santa Fe. Evelyne did not yet live in Santa Fe at that time, but returned to California. When she moved to Santa Fe, her place at Munson was no longer available, so she began to visualize where she would like to be next.
That place turned out to be with Nedra Matteucci Galleries, which Evelyne considered the number one gallery in town. She had hoped that her work would be shown there since she first came to Santa Fe. “Finding the right vehicle is a matter of timing,” she observes. She began a long and fruitful association with Matteucci as her primary exhibition space. Her opening receptions through the years occupied an important place on many collectors’ calendars, for they always awaited her next evolution with great enthusiasm.
Matteucci had two locations in Santa Fe, and Evelyne exhibited at the one on Canyon Road. The other housed a more diverse collection. Several years ago, Matteucci consolidated both galleries into the much larger space on Paseo de Peralta, and invited Evelyne to be a part of it. After serious consideration, Evelyne realized that her work was not a good fit with that space. She formed another successful association with Carlos Acosta, whose gallery, Acosta Strong Fine Art, is located in the heart of Canyon Road. Acosta has proven to be a good colleague in keeping her career running smoothly.
“I visualized each step along the way,” says Evelyne. “Visualization works.” Her entire exhibition history is a testament to this fact. She has been invited to join in a number of prestigious museum exhibitions through the years, including “Small Works/Great Wonders” at the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City. She has been in the Gilcrease Museum’s Christmas show in Tulsa, and in the Denver Rotary Club’s annual Artists of America juried exhibition in Denver, a highly sought-after honor. She had a one person show at the Ellen Noël Art Museum at the University of Texas of the Permian Basin in Odessa, Texas, and has fielded many solo exhibits at art galleries.
She has retained her gallery connections in Mexico, currently showing with Galerie des Artistes in Puerto Vallarta, and also shows in Taos with Donna Heinley, who moved her noted Boston gallery to Bent Street, off the Taos Plaza. Through the years, she has met many collectors, students, and gallery associates. Some collectors she never even sees, of course, and time and distance preclude getting acquainted with others beyond the gallery and the workshop. But of those who relate deeply to her art and make a special effort to get to know the artist as well, several have become lifelong friends.
Evelyne’s art is comprised of many factors that might be loosely grouped into Technique, Travel, and Teaching. First, there is the aspect of technical skill. She is seemingly able to paint with absolute abandon, free from the necessity of laboring over the composition, let alone the details.
But actually, a lifetime of discipline and hard work goes into every brush stroke and every sweep of the palette knife. Because of this deeply ingrained mastery, her native talent has free rein.
People might be surprised to know that she works with a limited palette, but this is what enables her to avoid the temptation to copy exactly what is in front of her. This is a vital point: she is creating a painting that is its own beautiful reality, not a likeness of anything else. The subject before her is simply an inspiration, a sounding board for her feelings. “I am looking for harmony but still expressing the feelings I have for that subject, she explains. “Each painting is different, even though the subjects might be similar. And as my feelings change, so do my color selections.”
Her attention might be captured by almost anything. Most likely it is the light or the shadows that suggest a design. “Once I have decided what it is about the subject I want to paint, I will try to ignore the rest,” she says. “That is not as easy as it sounds. In order to paint freely, you must know your subject very well. Then, forget the detail and put down only what is needed. More is not better. I want to keep it simple.”
She rarely begins with an actual photo, but she will sometimes do a watercolor or a small, quick oil sketch on site in order to capture the emotions she feels for what she is experiencing. She finds that a photo cannot do that for her. She always does a preliminary charcoal drawing, because this is where the lights and darks are first defined. Like the early Impressionists, she understands that the light is constantly changing, so it is important to get the image onto the canvas as quickly as possible. And yet she still sketches first, because it is essential for her to visualize the finished painting.
“Rarely does Nature present a perfectly designed view,” she says, “but you can change the scene in front of you. You just have to decide where you want the eye to go, and then you can come back and create an arrangement. Strong light and shadow are everything.” She moves elements about freely in the first stages, manipulating the placement of trees and objects relative to the light to get a solid composition.
“It’s the quality that counts,” she says, “not how much you can cram into the canvas.” She begins with an abstract underpainting in order to free herself from the impulse to simply color in a scene or a still life. This framework adds a special quality to the painting, even though it is hardly noticeable in the finished work.
Design and placement of the center of interest are of paramount importance to her. That center is where the lightest lights and the darkest darks go, in order for the contrast to draw the viewer’s eye. Concentrating on the warm and cool values comes next. She works with large brushes or palette knives, always painting very fast in order to capture her feelings and emotions, and always working from large to small. “I cannot sustain this mood for a long period of time,” she says. “Only at the very end will I change to smaller brushes or palette knives to add details and highlights.”
Periodically, she steps back from the painting and looks at it from a distance. Sometimes she looks at it in a mirror. This helps her decide when it’s time to stop. “Knowing when to stop is one of the most important things a person can learn,” she says.
Evelyne arrived at this point in her career via a path that began and continued to be straight and true, even though it has gained richness from embracing interesting sidelights along the way. Subjects, activities, and mediums have always varied; the single-minded concentration and the steady progression have not.
Her first medium was watercolor, which was ideally suited to the short stretches of time that were available to her as she worked in the movies. It was also ideal for capturing the brilliant colors of her surroundings in the Bahamas. Watercolor begins rather than ends with highlights because highlights are achieved by leaving pure white paper. Then comes the layering of transparent washes, and finally the more deeply saturated details.
“Watercolors always end up having happy accidents,” she observes. “They do their own thing.” This is because they are so loose that they will stray into unexpected areas and form new patterns that provide opportunities for change. This constant interplay ultimately enhances the original design.
As her work evolved, she moved into oil paint, and for a period of time she did only oils. It was a new experience in many ways. Her natural spontaneity, she found, was gone. She kept waiting for the happy accidents that watercolor afforded, but they never happened. However, when she went back to watercolor, she found that her overall work had become much stronger. Then, when she returned to oils, she saw that they had become much looser.
And so it went, back and forth, each medium complementing the other. She broadened her scope with forays into monotypes, sumi ink drawings, and other mediums. Her expertise with chiaroscuro developed from her work in watercolor and went on to inform her oils. She found one thing to be true across the board: the watercolors influenced and regulated the oils, but the reverse did not happen.
She continued to evolve, refine, and explore new methods and techniques, a practice that has never left her. On a trip to Vence, in the south of France, she was walking from one gallery to the next and noticed that all the artists seemed to be working with the palette knife, almost to the exclusion of brushes. She tried her hand at that, producing a few big, flat paintings, but she missed the layers, the intrigue between certain elements. “I got over it in a hurry,” she said. “It was not me. You have to be true to yourself.”
She resumed painting in her own style, but added what she had learned of the palette knife to her repertoire of skills. She found it a good tool for adding texture to foregrounds, in particular, but also to other areas. “In painting traditionally from dark to light,” she says, “this technique is more like watercolor in the directness of its application.”
Very recently, Evelyne has begun painting in watercolor on canvas, the most complex medium she has yet attempted. “It is so difficult,” she says. “The paint just sits there rather than being absorbed into the paper. I have to build a lot of layers. It takes patience, but the results are good in terms of the richness I can achieve. I can even combine watercolor with palette knife, which allows me to stay true to my feeling about a subject without copying it.”
Another way she accomplishes this purpose is, surprisingly, by limiting her color palette. “To express what I see,” she says, “I will choose up to six colors. Each one will have a strong sense of time and will convey the essence of what I am experiencing.” This approach allows her to tailor her palette to the atmosphere of the place she is painting. Obviously, the light on the wild moors of Cornwall is completely different from the flaming sunsets of Santa Fe, which in turn is different from the luxurious softness of Tuscany.
All these techniques and subtle skills enable her to portray the random motion of clouds, for instance, because she does not attempt to freeze how they were at a certain moment. She somehow changes with them. Conversely, she conveys the sublime stillness of some landscapes by capturing the flickering, ever changing light patterns. The effect is one of peaceful repose that is yet electric and alive.
Because she does not replicate or stylize, instead keeping her mind and heart open to what is before her, she creates a new vision of the subject each time. It is a thoroughly modern attitude.
Evelyne and Michael have spent many years traveling in the spring in search of interesting places for her to paint. Of course, her home environs in Mexico in the winter and Santa Fe in the summer provided endless beautiful opportunities, but it is a big world. Evelyne had always been curious about the next spot on the globe, not to mention the next vista just around the corner.
So away they went. Italy, Greece, and the south of France were always mainstays. Argentina, Guatemala, Colombia, New Zealand, and the British Isles provided stimulating new environments and cultures to broaden her world view. Each painting that she has produced, anywhere in the world, is recognizable as her distinctive style, yet each is also faithful to the place where it was painted.
Their routine was simple and pleasant. They would find a modest place to rent, and Evelyne would go to the local market for flowers and other small touches to make it a temporary home. In the mornings, she would pack up her paint box and Michael would drive her to various locations until she found a subject that interested her. Then he would go fishing and explore the local scene while she painted. He would find great little places to have lunch or dinner after she was finished for the day.
In Giverny, she was able to paint in Monet’s garden because the director took guest artists inside after the estate was closed to the public. “It reminded me that you don’t just have to go so far to paint,” she says. “Seventy percent of Monet’s art was painted in his own garden.”
Another time, while driving In Argentina, a flock of sheep came straight at them. Their car went into the ditch and they had to call a tow truck. In Siena, as she was sketching a street scene, she was surrounded by children who poked their fingers into her paint and generally had lots of fun – a factor that Evelyne happily embraces wherever she might be.
Once, while she was sitting outside at a café in Paris with some friends and doing some sketching, a nicely dressed woman approached the table. She explained that when she traveled, she liked to buy something from street artists. Evelyne’s friends hastened to explain that she was not a street artist, but an internationally recognized painter. The lady was embarrassed, but Evelyne saved the day. “Well, I’m an artist, and I’m on the street. It’s okay,” she smiled. The lady asked if she could buy the sketch anyway. Evelyne sold it to her for $250 and everybody was happy.
She draws on her vast repository of memories in all that she does. “Mexico, Tuscany, Provence, Santa Fe – they’re all a part of me now,” she says. “Once I have an image in my mind, I don’t forget it.” Her friends and collectors feel the same way. As one of them remarked, “Looking at Evelyne Boren’s paintings of Europe is like taking a trip there.”
Many of Evelyne’s friends requested that she teach workshops, because they were eager for more insight into her world and her vision. She was hesitant to do so at first, but once she had conducted a few classes, she found that teaching was simply an extension of her art. “It’s very exciting to teach,” Evelyne says warmly. “I wasn’t sure about it at first, but seeing how their skill improves in just a week, and how exhilarated they become, is most rewarding.”
While she still lived in Sayulita, she began teaching watercolor for two weeks in January. Since then, she has also conducted workshops in Provence and Tuscany. Now that she is based in San Pancho, she takes advantage of the proximity to Sayulita to teach at Casa Bougainvillea. It is a totally immersive experience, because Evelyne plans every session down to the last detail. She chooses the painting locations carefully, and orders the food for balanced meals so that there are no distractions to interrupt the students’ concentration on their work.
“You can hear a pin drop, it is so intense,” she marvels. “They are there to have fun, of course – but better still, the workshop opens their eyes. My students tell me afterwards that they see things differently than they did before. Everyone walks away with stronger, more colorful paintings. The enthusiasm is catching, and a good time is had by all.”
Evelyne teaches from the perspective of lifelong experience as a painter. Her self-respect naturally translates into respect for her students, as she instills confidence in who they are as individual artists. “There is no right and no wrong,” she tells them. “There is just you. Do it your way.”
Instead of telling them how to paint, she imparts knowledge born of a lifetime in art. She introduces them to basic painting methods and certain tools such as brushes and palette knives. She hands out black mat boards with cutout windows and shows them how to move it around their field of vision until an interesting vignette shows up in the window. She offers them a chance to work in the field with a clever device of her own invention – a Plexiglas® tray with a strap to free up both hands for painting. She calls it “First Impressions.”
On day one, her students become more familiar with the color wheel. She spends time introducing them to the personal philosophy that informs all of her work: “If your heart doesn’t go pitter patter, go find another subject. You have to be really excited.”
She has much practical wisdom to offer, as well. “If you don’t know how to do figures, then start by making them small. As you learn more you can make them bigger.” And, “There is nothing wrong with copying until you know who you are. It’s better to understand how it’s done and go forward, and then forget about it and be who you are.” It is a valuable lesson too seldom taught, in life as well as in art.
“When we do the color wheel in my classes,” she observes, “I am always amazed at how many versions of the same thing will be painted. Each student’s color wheel has his style, his personality. No matter how many wheels you make, your own personality comes through.” Their finished paintings are similarly personal – the same scene, yet no two paintings alike.
She gives her students a thorough grounding in basic color and design elements. Using the color wheel, she explains split complements and the use of triads, which occur every fourth color. “This takes you away from copying nature and into creating a painting about nature,” she explains. Other exercises involve covering a page with circles and squares, then going over it with a viewfinder to find interesting color and design areas, which are then cut out and used as compositional models. Evelyne likens this to collage, or to warming up at the gym, and finds that it provides its own inspiration.
She instructs her classes in the arrangement of lights and darks, always with the purpose of directing the eye toward the center of interest by providing a way into the painting. Beyond all concerns of design and color, she emphasizes the emotional response. “Go into nature,” she says. Come back and get it down immediately. It’s different if you wait.”
Evelyne’s teaching experience has now become a part of her continuing legacy. In a subtle but real way, it has assumed almost equal importance to her paintings. It is almost as if the teaching has given her a larger canvas and a more extensive palette.
“I paint because I must do it or I die,” she states. “It comes before anything else. I love the process. I go to bed thinking of the next day’s painting, and in the morning I can’t wait to go to my studio or grab my outdoor sketching back pack and explore nature – always listening to my heart. If it beats fast with excitement, I’m there. I won’t look any further.”
She enjoys this life she has created. As a very young child, she envisioned that she would be happy, and she has made it happen. “What is inside has got to come out,” she says. “It is so important to go out and smell the roses.”
Now at the apex of her career, with much more to come, Evelyne Boren continues to explore and experiment. Every work of art is deeply felt and intelligently executed. Each one breathes and pulses with life. Never one to make radical changes, neither does she stand still. She simply evolves, slowly and surely. “No matter what I paint, I’m still the same painter.”
Secure in her life and her art, she continues to spend her days responding to the beauty of the world and giving back beauty in return. “I think you find yourself a little bit every time you paint, or whatever else it is that you do in a creative way,” she says. “Over time, you become the person you are.”