July Art in the Café Artist: Evan Book

Evan Book, our café artist for the month of July, is a native of northern Vermont who was encouraged and inspired to draw by his family of creative types, especially his maternal grandmother and mother. Now a tattoo artist, and co-founder of Hinterland Tattoo studio in Plainfield, he is largely self-taught and creates works including prints, children’s book illustrations, logo designs, cover art designs, and other graphics. We spoke with Evan about his work and all the ways creative and artistic inspiration has influenced and permeated his life. The following are edited excerpts from our conversation.

You mention that art and creativity have always been an integral part of your way of interpreting and interacting with the world. Can you elaborate on that?

I often find myself noticing the beauty of lines and patterns, both in nature and the man-made world, whether it’s the negative space between the branches of a tree and the sky, or the roof line of a cityscape. I also constantly find myself subconsciously manipulating my environment to form patterns. At the playground with my kids, I’ll notice myself building patterns in the mulch with my foot, or creating ephemeral works of art with spilled coffee on the tabletop, using my fingertip as my paintbrush. I see, experience, and create art in every aspect of my life.

How have art and creativity played a role in your life?

The times of my life where I’ve felt I’ve been living as my most authentic self are when I’m producing artwork and creating regularly.  In high school, I really discovered my calling as an artist, and the joy I found in the studio helped me get through those difficult years. As an adult, art and creativity are a daily part of my life. I am striving toward a vision of successfully meeting my financial needs as a fulltime artist. Creativity fills in the spaces in my life. I feel my art is a window into my inner world, and I’m often eager to show others my work as a way for them to understand who I truly am.

How did you go about teaching yourself illustration and design?

I’ve always been self-driven in my creative practices, learning best through doing. While I did take high school art and some college levels classes, most of my progress as an artist has evolved through my hands-on independent practice.  I also haven’t hesitated to take on commission work, which has allowed me to hone my illustration skills. 

What inspired you to go into tattoo art?

As a teenager, I’d always had an interest in tattoos and assumed I’d get some myself one day. Then, as a young twenty-something, I started getting tattooed. At first, the tattoo artist would design my pieces, but after the initial ones, I started bringing in my own original designs. Soon, I began designing tattoos for friends. I was initially apprehensive about learning to tattoo; the idea of a two-year apprenticeship felt overwhelming on top of working full time as a carpenter. Eventually, with the encouragement and support of friends and family, I committed to an apprenticeship. 

What would you say to someone who says tattoos are not art?

In my experience, everything in life can be approached as art, with creative intent and attention. Tattoos, when designed thoughtfully, can be deeply personal pieces of art that can flow and fit with the natural landscape of the body. Tattoos require creative inspiration and practiced, technical dexterity. 

You mention that your art fosters exploration and personal transformation and builds a more expressive and beautiful world. Can you elaborate on that?

Again, tattoos can be so deeply personal. Very often, through the process of intentionally and permanently transforming their bodies, clients leave the studio with a renewed sense of self. For some people who may not have felt good about themselves or comfortable in their bodies, tattoos can be a powerful way for them to claim their identity. I think that experience can then ripple out and affect the world in very positive ways.

What is your favorite type of work to create? Why?

I most enjoy drawing in an intuitive, free-flowing, abstract improv style I’ve been developing since my early teens. I often sit down without any clear idea or plan, and start with a line or gesture, from which I build a pattern that grows until I feel it’s completed. I think of it as a combination of logical geometric patterns and organic, botanical-like growth. 

What do you hope the viewer’s experience will be when they see your art?

I hope that people feel like they’re on a dreamlike adventure through experiencing my work, encountering whimsical creatures and landscapes, pondering their backstories. I hope people come away with their imaginations lit up.

You can view more of Evan’s work on Instagram at _evan_book_tattoo_, at evanbookstudio.com, or on his tattoo shop’s Facebook page, Hinterland Tattoo.