Amanda Evanston is the November Artist of the Month. She is from Evanston, and her favorite medium to use is acryclic paint.

How long have you been an artist or when did you start? Was there a single incident or moment when you realized this was your passion and if so, would you tell us about it?

Painting has always been with me. Always. My first memory is finger painting in the bath tub. My first friend was a lunchbox filled with art supplies. I was never the smartest or the prettiest or the funniest kid, but I could draw stuff for hours and my parents were kind enough to encourage the habit.

When I paint I can feel my cells shift. There’s nothing like it. I’m fortunate enough to live in a time and place where I get to do it every single day.


The fact that it is also how I make a living is icing on the cake. How incredible is that?!

Illinois has factored into your work in the past. What does being able to live and work in Illinois mean to you?

The seasons. If you have ever lived in a place without seasons, you come to treasure them. Because most of my work involves botanical themes, living in a place with four distinct seasons offers an endless source of inspiration. For example, in this part of the country, if you are lucky, there is a two-week stretch that happens in mid-to-late September - the plants sense the cold weather is coming so they dispose of all their energy in a short period of time. The flowers shoot up new petals so their heads get fat, and the stems get so tall and lanky they start to fall over. The flowers are fighting for light through heavy foliage, but they are also partying like there’s no tomorrow (because there isn’t!). It is neither summer nor autumn. It’s last call. The plants go wild. At the same time, the atmosphere is changing, the air has more oxygen, and the sky takes on a different shade of blue. Mid-September in Illinois has a distinct smell. Leaves start dropping from the trees so more light hits the ground. It’s septembermorningalmost as though the earth is shimmering. It’s gorgeous. All this in one precious sliver of time. In this beautiful place. I’m sure Mid-September in Wisconsin is very nice but it doesn’t quite shimmer like in Illinois.

What opportunities does Illinois present to local Illinois artists?

I can’t speak for the whole state but here in Evanston, we are quickly on our way to becoming an arts destination (which is good because the Midwest really needs a new one!). As a college town, Evanston has been home to artsy types and independent thinkers, but it’s only in the last five years that things have started to get organized. I’m fortunate enough to have a studio space with a storefront gallery, but honestly, half the people coming in my doors are other artists. If they aren’t buying, they are sharing. Someone is always cooking up a group show or a workshop or something worth seeing. Some of my neighbors don’t have a storefront, but that doesn’t stop them! Twice a year they host Art Truck Evanston in a church parking lot - they rent trucks and turn them into galleries on wheels, salon style. Neighbors hang twinkle lights, bake cookies, potluck drinks, and it’s the best block party around! Every June we have Evanston Made, a month-long celebration with tons of events, shows, and studio tours - participants are encouraged to hang one work at the Evanston Art Center, which is, by far, the best community art center I have ever seen. The physical space is fantastic for seeing art, and in addition to classes, the Evanston Art Center curates museum-quality shows, shows independent filmmaking, and boasts an unbeatable gift shop. Last year we opened another great art center - the One River School. They offer art and design education of all sorts to every age group. You’ll also notice that two years ago the murals started pouring in and more are coming every season, including a massive three-story floral work by Louise Chen coming next spring. tempImageForSaveI can’t wait! The coolest part is, unlike most artsy towns, Evanston artists do not have to exclusively rely on galleries to give permission on where and when to show our work. I belong to a committee, C3 (Creative Commerce Community), and we serve as a sort of matchmaking service for artists and business owners looking to show art in their stores, offices, or restaurants. This is awesome because it allows artists opportunities to share their work in beautiful spaces without giving up the regular 50 percent gallery commission fee, but it’s also great for businesses because they have new work on their wall every season, and their clients/customers see their interest in the local community, which is a great PR and symbiotic relationship. If you’ve never been to an art opening in an optometrist’s lobby, you’ve never been to Evanston!

What do you like about Illinois?

Everything comes through Illinois eventually, and that flavors the landscape. Years ago, before I made a living off my artwork, I worked in agricultural commodities at the Chicago Board of Trade. My office was in downtown Chicago but my phone was usually connected to farmers all across the Midwest, and I have always appreciated a certain flavor that is distinct to Illinois folks. The accent changes, but the attitude doesn’t. People here have their heads screwed on straight. People are honest, babypaintsometimes to a fault! People here under-exaggerate. Illinois people value ingenuity. Independence. Self-reliance. Nobody here will ever be impressed by a fancy house or designer shoes, but if you tell them you installed your own fire-pit they’ll get excited and want to see pictures. These are my people!

What is your favorite medium to work in?

Paint. Mostly acrylic. I like the easy clean up and it keeps the work affordable for my collectors. I love working with oil paint, but it takes ages to dry and the smell isn’t great. Most people don’t realize that a lot of art materials are highly toxic. When you have an infant at home, and you work with your hands all day, you get picky with materials. Good quality canvas and acrylic are a pleasure to work with.

Where can people view or purchase your work?

Most of my work sells online at But if you are north of Chicago, you can visit my studio gallery in Evanston Thursday through Sunday, where I also offer workshops the first weekend of the month. I post new work, progress videos, mini-tutorials, and tips and tricks on Instagram daily. You can send a direct message anytime. I’m pretty quick at getting back to people.

What artist inspires you and why?

That’s a bit like asking a child to pick a favorite parent. Even if I had one, it would feel like I am hurting someone’s feelings to admit having one in public! That said, off the top of my head, Joseph Cornell will always have my heart. Anything on the collage side of Surrealism attracts me. I’m also a big fan of Nancy Wickum – a fellow Illinois artist who taught me so much about what it is to appreciate other people’s art and how to let it inform your own. Great art requires great observation. Knowing the story behind the art Waterlillieschanges your perspective entirely. If you want a pep talk on being a working artist, read, “You Don’t Look Fat You Look Crazy” by Ashley Longshore. She’s bawdy and hilarious, but she’s also one of the very few artists willing to have a blunt discussion on how to make marketable art (and how to sell it). She’s the patron saint of self-represented artists. I listen to podcast interviews with her repeatedly. Another good book on art and artists: Mad Enchantment by Ross King, all about Monet’s years at Giverny obsessively painting water lilies, all the while fighting off blindness and the brutality of World War I blowing up in his back yard. I think most people think of Monet’s water lilies scenes as images of serenity and gentility, but when you understand that most of them were composed in a cloud of fear and desperation, they take on a new layer of complexity. You realize they aren’t pictures of flowers – they’re portraits of light on water. Still life scenes that never stood still, in life, or on canvas. Spooky. Poetic. Gorgeousness.