Faces of the International Marketplace: Meet Michael Evans

Michael Evans was born an artist.

“That’s just something that was in me,” he said. “I can’t even name a period where I first became interested in art. I was always creating from as far back as I can remember.”

Michael is a self-taught artist who was born in Roadtown, Tortola in the British Virgin Islands in 1955. When he was an infant, his parents moved to St. Thomas, in the United States Virgin Islands in search of better work opportunities.

As a very young artist growing up in the Virgin Islands, Michael and his family attended the islands’ annual Carnival festival. Elaborate costumes and many forms of creative expression accompany the festivities, which inspired Michael.

Years later, Michael was presented with the opportunity to render designs for costumes. This was possible because he taught himself to airbrush throughout his youth, when he created designs and graphics he rendered onto automobiles. Michael was among the earliest to experiment with the form and his work was the original inspiration for other artists who followed the art form.

Despite being interested in “fine art” from an early age, Michael did not pursue traditional art modalities until his mid-thirties. Instead, he became engaged in commercial visual arts. From the age of about 11, Michael painted designs onto model cars for himself and other kids involved with the same hobby. His early interest in the model car painting hobby translated into many years of painting airbrush designs and graphics onto custom vehicles and sometimes murals. Michael began sign painting in his late teens, during which time he was mentored by an experienced local sign maker.

In 1975, Michael joined the Army and served for three years. The major part of his time in service was spent at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, in the 101st Airborne Division as a helicopter mechanic. Ultimately, Michael joined the Army because he wanted to get away from his familiar surroundings and experience something different.

“I’ve always been adventurous and I wanted to explore and see other places,” Michael said. “That was the easiest way.”

After returning to St. Thomas after military service, Michael resumed sign-making and airbrushing but began to seriously consider graphic design as a career. Armed with a portfolio of his best sign painting and airbrush work, Michael landed his first graphic design job with a local printing company in 1983. At one point, he was engaged in three visual arts disciplines simultaneously.

Around this time, Michael met his would-be wife, Pam, who hailed from Brooklyn and worked for American Airlines on St. Thomas. In 1986, she transferred to Los Angeles, and they moved together to the mainland along with two toddlers. Michael continued his graphic design career with a job with a Los Angeles printing company that produced work for Paramount Pictures. He was thrilled with the idea of working for a company that did work for the movie industry.

“Movies… that’s like the pinnacle of the creative arts,” he remembered thinking at that time.

The pollution in Los Angeles caused Michael to have asthma attacks, however, and the city was rocked by a severe earthquake. Having had enough of California, Michael and his family relocated to Raleigh/Cary, North Carolina, in 1988. It was there that Michael gained a renewed interest in fine art and became integrated into a local art scene that encouraged his fascination. Michael quickly began participating in art exhibits and fairs and marketing his work in his new environment.

When American Airlines downsized at the Raleigh/Durham airport where his wife worked in 1995, Michael and Pam once again relocated, this time to Indianapolis. Upon arrival, Michael got involved in certain parts of the arts community in Indy – primarily Indiana Black Expo and Meet the Artists – but also took what was supposed to be a temporary job in distribution in order to earn a living. He caught on quickly, and Michael was offered the top management position. He worked more than 10 years in the industry and worked only sporadically in art as his position was demanding on both his time and energy.

Still, Michael had plans to return to the visual arts arena and in 2006 enrolled at the Art Institute of Indianapolis for formal education to update his design skills and knowledge.

At the end of 2007, Michael’s job in distribution came to an end when his company decided to consolidate and closed his facility, leaving him jobless during the economic recession of 2008. Michael decided to invest his time and resources into branching out with his own graphic design business, which started with a few customers but gained more and more clients, including the U.S. Virgin Islands Hotel and Tourism Association.

Though challenging, work has been pretty steady for Michael since then. He admitted that he hasn’t done as much fine art as he’d like, but Michael is working on coming full circle and transitioning out of graphic design and into fine art full-time.

“I envision a time when I’m just doing my fine art, and my design skills will be primarily used to promote my fine art,” said Michael. “I’m currently doing exhibits here in Indy, but looking forward to eventually branching out to other states, and perhaps internationally.”

Michael is also a resident artist, and part volunteer designer and curator with the International Marketplace Coalition where he helps with public art, exhibitions, and internal display projects.

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