Jake Wood-Evans is a fascinating artist working mainly in oil and making beautiful prints taken from the original oil paintings. His work has the ability to transcend time using a traditional medium in a new and exciting fashion exploring light and dark creating wonderfully atmospheric pieces. We discover more about his methods and inspiration from the Old Masters in our Q&A...
Tell us about your new print "Lucid Dream"
I saw a picture of a man jumping into some water and it made me think about the moment before, when you are about to make a decision to jump. I started thinking about jumping into what – what are you about to do, where are you about to go? You can't see the faces, so it allows you to imagine yourself in that position. I decided to make it into a print because I think it speaks to people in different ways. I think the painting was made at a time where I got excited about colour and it is a result of me experimenting with that. It is different to a lot of my other work but I don't imagine that I'll be doing the same colour palate all my life. Painting for me is about exploration.
What or who are the main inspirations behind your work?
I'm inspired by the classical paintings of the Old Masters. They were famous for their depiction of light. But without darkness you can't create the illusion of light. I like to try and make objects glow. I wonder what some of those artists would be painting now, and how their work might look considering their craftsmanship and ability.
Describe your work in 5 words.
Dark, light, delicate, aggressive, contradictory.
Your work is often quite ethereal, the spaces you create seem to transcend place and time. Do you paint from life or the imagination?
The idea for a painting is formed from a feeling or a moment – a possibility. I use objects from life when I can, I use photos and I make things up. Anything to make the painting work. My surroundings and my experiences trigger off ideas. I fill my head full of imagery and I am always looking for subject matter. It could be something very small that triggers off the excitement required to make a painting.
How do you approach the actual making of a piece?
I'll sketch it out and I will look for reference material (photos, flowers, objects). Then depending on the subject I decide the surface and the colour palate. But also I don't want to set it in stone. You allow for happy accidents and discovery. The more successful paintings often end up completely different to how I'd imagined they would. I don't want to end up just doing something safe because I know it works.
Have you always used oil as your preferred medium?
Yes. Oil is the medium that gives me the most scope but this is why it is also the most difficult to master. All the painters I most admire use oil. As soon as I could get my hands on some I did. There is a reason the great painters – from Velazquez to Francis Bacon – used it. The potential is endless with oil – it can be thin, thick, polished, daubed, colourful etc. It has more possibilities than anything else.
What’s the one thing you can’t live without?
The obvious answer is oil paint and canvas. As I did live in my studio for a year, it literally did come down to that for a while! But this is surely par for the course as an artist.
What led you to become an artist?
It's just something that's got really out of hand. I just used to like drawing pictures on the back of my school books.
In another life (if you weren’t an artist) what would you be doing?
I would have a farm breeding miniature pigs.
What are you currently working on?
I'm working on about 15 paintings for a London show called 'To one in the dark'. The work ranges from portraits, swans, stags, chandeliers, birds, orchids... The new work has developed a different colour palate which draws more directly from the classical painting I've always been interested in. But it's still ethereal - glowing in the dark.
Describe an average day for you.
I get up, have breakfast, go to work. I'm usually in the studio by 9 o'clock. During the summer I work nice long days. During the winter, the cold and the dark limit your time in the studio a bit more.
How do you feel about the comparison of your work to the Classical tradition of painting?
If anyone does compare it to that I'm very pleased. It's not just trying to recreate what's been done in the past. The method is classical but the subject matter moves on. Returning to classical painting after a journey through the recent turbulent history of art - minimalism, conceptualism and so on... suddenly there is so much more to throw into the melting pot.
What themes do you pursue?
Death, love, loss, beauty, all the big cliches I guess.
Does the impact of the viewer influence your work and if so how?
Yes. I want to be able to make the viewer feel something that is not simple. Not just black and white, or shocking. Maybe something a bit more subtle. I like to make things ambiguous so that there is room for the viewer to imagine, and depending on their mood feel something different each time they look at the work. Is it sad? Is it beautiful? I like to leave a painting in the balance. For instance in the print 'Lucid Dream' you're not sure what the space is. Are they jumping into water or are they jumping into an abyss? There is potential to imagine.
What memorable responses have you had to your work?
I've had some responses that have made it all worthwhile and some that have made me feel very humbled. I received a handwritten letter from a serving soldier in Afghanistan once. I was also presented with a drawing done by a collector's children at a show earlier this year. I couldn't quite believe that I was their 'favourite' artist!
Name three artists you’d like to be compared to and why.
Rembrandt, Sargent, Velazquez. Because they are the best artists I've ever seen. Can but dream...
What superpower would you have and why?
Time travel so I can hang out with my boy Velazquez.
When are you happiest?
When I feel like it's happening and it's going to be OK – I'm doing a good job and I'm going to be able to paint. Usually when I've solved a problem.
What makes you angry?
Bad art done for the wrong reasons.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
Keep your integrity. Once that's gone, you can't get it back.