We’ve teamed up with Squarespace on a content series to show just how easy it is to build a beautiful portfolio site and we’re also highlighting some of our favourite artists using their platform. We also have a deal to get 10% off your own site by using the code “BOOOOOOOM” on checkout!
Head over to Squarespace.com/BOOOOOOOM to get started.
For this instalment we spoke with one of our favs, New York-based artist and illustrator Evan M. Cohen, whose meditative comics have become something of a trademark. Check out his website, built on Squarespace.
What kinds of stuff were you into as a kid? Can you paint us a little picture of young Evan?
Young Evan was into comic books, cartoons, video games, home movies, playing sports. He wasn’t the best writer and didn’t like to read but had a knack for art and that became everything he cared about pursuing.
What’s changed and what’s stayed the same?
I’m more aware of my time now and how I need to be productive. I don’t think I knew what it meant to be an artist when I was younger, especially in 2019. There is a freedom to making artwork before becoming an adult, it’s more pure and true to who you are and what you are interested in. I wasn’t yet aware of the greater questions, and didn’t use my art as much to find the answers. It was just about how it was fun and I enjoyed it.
I still carry a sketchbook and pens where ever I go, that was a habit I picked up early on. And I still prefer to work at night, when the world is quiet and time stops for a while. I still work alone in my office, and I still have a hard time taking time off of work.
Are you from a family of creative people? Is this in your blood?
My brother was a talented artist in high school but ended up pursuing the sciences instead. I had some artist friends in school, but for the most part growing up I was alone as the artist. I had a lot of friends who played music, which I kick myself for never trying back then. But I knew making art made me feel good and I had some drive to continue. I was very lucky to have people support me when I was younger. Encouragement goes a long way when you find a talent you’re good at.
Can you talk a little bit about the development of your style? How did it become what it is now?
After college, I started making more digital work to pick up freelance jobs. I was scanning my work and then working digitally, and eventually just started making everything on the computer.
Around the same time I became aware of comic artists and the alternative comic world online through sites like Booooooom and It’s Nice That. After a few years I tried making digital comics on my own and it evolved from there.
Comics showed me how to create work with intention and think about larger ideas rather than one drawing at a time. If you can take an idea and make a series of drawings about it, you have a comic. It’s a simple concept, but it was huge in showing me how to make conceptual work at a time when I felt like I was working aimlessly.
I’m into keeping things simple, removing detail and focusing more on feeling and execution of an idea. There was a point where I decided to go backwards with my art. Instead trying to capture reality as it is, I wanted to simplify it and focus on shape, color, design, composition, feeling, expression, narration. The more simple the tools, the harder the challenge to make a successful piece. Digital work really helps you play around and edit in real time as you’re working out an idea and it made sense to pursue this direction.
There seems to be a spiritual thread running through the work, would you consider yourself a spiritual person?
If not being sure of anything is spiritual, then yes I am a spiritual person. I’m still young and looking for my own answers. I don’t have just one belief and I try to journal my exploration through my art. In the end it hopefully provides some answers for me and anyone that sees it. I want the work to feel timeless and be about a things we all experience. There should be common ground for everyone to find something in the work, regardless of background or belief.
We love seeing your work animated but there is something special about your simple panels, without any movement, and having to imagine it.
Animation takes time and is a labor of love. Comics allow me to show movement over the course of the page. I really enjoy showing the passage of time, to take the viewer through step by step of what’s happening. You’re able to fill in the gaps and become a part of what’s happening.
Your images on Instagram get way (way) more likes than most other artists we follow, was there a specific moment when you experienced a breakthrough of some kind?
No moment, just a lot of hard work and using the app the way it’s designed. It’s become part of my job so I treat it as such. I try to keep it only about the artwork and I don’t have any personal social media accounts. Consistency in engagement and making good clean finished work. It’s about the work first, then presentation and finding the right audience. Find what works and what doesn’t, respond to feedback, have a purpose for what you’re presenting to the world.
For our readers out there who may be considering revamping their own websites, what’s one aspect of Squarespace that you’ve found helpful?
Everything is really easy to use and it makes updating the site quick. I really like how my comics look in the gallery layout, especially the formatting for the phone. Your site should be clean and about the art and Squarespace lets you focus on showcasing the work.
In another interview you mentioned you play music, what do you like to play?
I can sort of play piano and a little bass. I took some classes, but it’s mostly about experimenting with a whole new creative playground. Art can be very lonely at times and it’s hard to match the feeling of playing music with other people. I like discovering how to play on my own and trying new instruments, it’s a fun passion and exploration outside of art. I hope to combine the two eventually.
Who are some other artists that you’re excited about these days?
Without naming anyone, I get excited by artists that are consistently making new work all the time and who take the work seriously. I feel like I work a lot and it’s humbling to see other artists who seemingly make endless amounts of amazing artwork. It pushes me to find new ways of working and aspire to be a better artist.
What’s one thing you’d like to accomplish this year?
I would like to work on a large project. I tend to keep things small and move on from idea to idea. Maybe a longer animation or bigger graphic novel? It’s hard when you’re always hustling to make new work and have a lot of ideas bouncing around at once. I just need to find a chunk of time to disappear for a bit.
And what about one thing you’d like to accomplish in your lifetime?
Finding the perfect balance of work and play. Live a life that is the best suited for creativity and self exploration. Make the work and then live the work. Can you truly experience life if you spend most of your time documenting it? Which is more important?
I plan on making art forever, and I’m sure I will always be in pursuit of this balance. And right now it’s what’s keeping me going and pushing me forward.
Maybe we could end this with a song lyric?
I’ve had this song on repeat recently,
Villagers – “Trick of the Light”
“It’s time that I let go
Of things I can’t control
This path that I’ve taken
Is the only one I know
Well I’ve come so far to get here
And I’ve got so far to go
So I’ll take what I can get
In matters of the soul
And if I see a sign in the sky tonight
No one’s gonna tell me it’s a trick of the light
May never come but I’m willing to wait
What can I say I’m a man of the faith”