Jamie Evrard: Painting La Dolce Vita
Jamie Evrard has spent this autumn season in her pied-à-terre near Tuscany cycling through the countryside and gathering new landscape inspiration for painting. In this candid interview, she shares a glimpse of her adventures and artistic process.
1) What have you been working on lately?
Well, my friend Florence and I just spent eight days on a bike trip in Sud Tirol and Alto Adige Provinces up in northern Italy. We biked along the Mincio and Adige Rivers as biking along a river is usually easier and less steep than taking a random route through the mountain. We stopped frequently to take photos of the turquoise blue water reflecting the trees along the shore.
I’m painting landscapes and reflections. The light is so beautiful here, along with the view out my window. I’m getting all caught up in the dreamy imaginary qualities of reflections and the impossible tangle of old-growth forests, and am especially loving painting something completely different.
2) Where in Italy are you located and how often do you go there?
My house is located in the Val di Pierle just east of Cortona in Tuscany. This is a very humble, down to earth area where people farm corn, sunflowers, and tobacco. People work with their hands and talk a lot about food. My friends are carpenters and stonemasons with the odd expat thrown in.
3) What do you find most inspiring about working in Italy?
There are several things that I love about working here. One is that life is simpler...no double shot, extra hot, double cup soy lattes, just un espresso. A small selection of old clothes with the odd piece from the 3 Euro table at the market, a car whose hubcaps have disappeared and long days to garden and paint with nary a phone call. My last three phone calls were from a seamstress whose kid got a hold of her phone and dialed me my mistake. The food is beautiful—hot sweet tiny tomatoes from our neighbor’s garden and yesterday a big haul of porcini mushrooms which they shared with us. Simplicity and emptiness can be inspiring. Having hours strung together without distraction is the best thing about this place. And the warm, golden quality of the light.
4) Can you tell us about your creative process? Are there any Italian artists that have influenced your work?
I usually take care of errands and odd jobs in the morning and paint in the afternoon. I paint in my bedroom here and move the furniture around to accommodate my easel and palette so that I can be right in front of the window overlooking the valley
Oh yeah, my “process”. I’m painting oils on Arches oil paper which I have never liked but do now for the inexpensive freedom it gives me to try all sorts of things. I stick up a piece and mark off a 20 by 20-inch square and choose a photo from the summer to explore. Sometimes I finish a sketch in a couple of hours, sometimes I work on a piece for a few sessions. Since the subject of the landscape is so new to me and the paper is too, I’m really enjoying not having a clue how to approach it. If a day’s work has been particularly stressful, I’ll go out to the garden and move some rocks or tear up a blackberry or nettle patch.
5) I imagine you have visited lots of art museums, famous art sites/ cultural spots during your time there. Do you have any favorites?
I particularly love the Etruscan Museums in the area—Chiusi and Cortona to name two. The Etruscans were such mysterious people and created with great abandon. I can just imagine a bunch of sculptors sitting around in the studio and one of them saying, "Hey guys let’s put deer hooves on the next candelabra.”
I also love to see anything by Piero della Francesca, a Renaissance painter whose work is timeless and deceptively simple. His Legend of the True Cross in Arezzo, and The Pregnant Madonna, The Deposition from the Cross are nearby. Sometimes I see someone walking down the street and think they could have just walked out of a Piero piece. That’s how vital his figures are. I have a couple of artist friends who live around here whose work I admire but the contemporary art scene here is basically nonexistent.
6) What would be your dream project?
Figuring out how to turn my landscape sketches into large paintings.