We connected with 15-year old Kingston, Ontario based artist and fashion designer Evan Sharma for an exclusive interview to learn more about his artwork, as well as his creative inspirations, his new fashion brand RBLR (Right Brain Left Brain), his busy travel itinerary, and why it is important for him to give back to his community.
After reading our Q&A with Evan, be sure to check out his website and connect with him on social media. We look forward to watching Evan’s continued growth and development as an artist, entrepreneur, fashion designer, philanthropist, and cultural icon. You read it on DCWS first!
It’s safe to say that much of your generation digests art and pop culture primarily through social media. How do social media and contemporary platforms inspire your work, in conjunction with the more old school inspiration like those classical, museum-grade artists that you first saw at the Louvre?
I think that both have their place. Social media is useful because you can be anywhere in the world and access amazing pieces. I come from Kingston, Ontario, which is a small city of a just over 100,000 people. While I am lucky that we have a museum with a few Rembrandts, online sites allow you to see great work from so many different artists.
There is no way that I could see work by my favorite artists like Jasper Johns, Francis Bacon and Shepard Fairey without the internet.
That being said, I love going to galleries! Only there do I get to see the brushwork of artists close up. I also like to see how art is framed and how light hits various layers, especially if a painting is textured.
You don’t get a sense of size when it comes to art (including sculptures and installations) unless you see it in person - take the Mona Lisa in Paris, for example. Museums can transport you back to a different time, which is important in escaping technology and experiencing art as it was intended to be.
You’re about to take the sneaker and fashion world by storm with your new brand launch, RBLB (Right Brain Left Brain). It’s creative and innovative to work your art into your fashion, since both worlds of sneakers and fashion have so much history behind them, with art playing a big role in that. What ignited the idea to go into fashion and kicks, and do you have a preference towards apparel or footwear?
Firstly, I have to say that I love sneakers! I have been collecting them for a number of years and use apps like StockX to try to get some really unique ones. Because of my love for sneakers, I thought that painting on them would be interesting, and have been experimenting with that for a few years.
Since RBLB is based on the difference between the right (creative) and left (analytical) brains, I have used different art pieces to tell that story on the sneakers. For the Right Brain, I used an image of a portrait of Basquiat that I created and was sold at an auction.
For the Left Brain, I used a portrait of Einstein. I have also created a specialized Canadian version, with a portrait of the Tragically Hips’ recently deceased Gord Downie on one shoe, and Fredrick Banting, the Canadian Nobel Laureate who discovered Insulin, on the other.
While I have been into sneakers for a while, I also love clothing designers like Stone Island, Off-White, Heron Preston and A Cold Wall. I am especially attracted to technical elements like the color change of Stone Island’s Ice Jacket, and the layering concepts of Junya Wantanabe.
Many of your works seem inspired by da Vinci and Van Gogh. In this day and age, it’s hard to be exposed to classical work. You have to go out and seek it actively, in order to not get bogged down by fake news. Were you raised around artists? Did your upbringing lead to your artistry, or was it some external factor that just flipped a switch?
I was actually not raised by artists; both of my parents are doctors. While I didn’t grow up with much art influence, I was always encouraged to be creative and to explore things I was passionate about.
Nature was also a very big influence. My mum would always take me out for nature walks when I was very young, and I would be the kid to collect tadpoles and bring them home, watching them grow into frogs before I released them back to their environment.
I’ve also loved using my hands from an early age. I built my own small house in the back yard, with its own plumbing system when I was eight, along with elaborate Halloween sets. But the focus to create on canvas really came after visiting the Louvre. I think that was when a switch turned on and propelled me towards painting.
You went to Paris at 10 years old, which is where your dreams and artistic identity really started to take off. You mention that instead of just being drawn to the composition of paintings, it was the feeling it created within you which gave you the urge to recreate it. What is the balance between that emotional feeling and the technical composition, when you create art?
I think that it starts with the desire to create an emotion for the viewer. For me, that is the goal. I once painted at 7,000 feet in the mountains - I did this because being so high up on the mountains, above the tree line, is an incredible experience. I wanted other people to feel that as well.
Having said that, sometimes when I paint, I also think about technical things such as composition and color. The technical aspects evolve while I am actually doing the painting. For example, sometimes I will use mesh to get a certain texture to the painting, while other times I will use gold foil. I recently put a discovered four leaf clover into a piece, because I wanted the person who commissioned the piece to have good luck. These ideas come as I create.
On a related note, you named your fashion brand RBLR, for Right Brain Left Brain, which seems like the perfect blend of your love for both science and art. You talk about how your left brain leans more towards science, while your right brain focuses more on art and figures out how to fuse different mediums. How does science affect and inspire your art? A lot of it seems abstract, but is there a scientific or mathematic aspect that occurs in your creative process?
My scientific side comes out in both content and technique. I worked on a science project that looked at lowering methane levels in cows.
What I learned in my research is that methane is more toxic to the environment than CO2, and cows are some of the biggest contributors to methane emissions, due to regurgitating their food numerous times during digestion and blenching, which releases methane. I was able to prove that we can lower methane emissions by 60% through the introduction of an enzyme that uses methane as a substrate.
When I went to the canvas the day after working on the experiment, I started writing a lot of the experimental hypothesis and equations on the canvas, which became an underpainting for a landscape I am working on regarding global warming.
I would also say that a mathematical process influences my work. Sometimes, I think about composition mathematically - where would your eyes go next in the painting? It’s almost as if you’re trying to solve an equation.
You’re from Kingston, Ontario, and have been inspired by the more rustic geography of Canada, combined with today’s culture in more urban areas. You’ve said that much of your work is influenced by Mother Nature, not just in Canada but in Alaska and Switzerland as well. What countries are up next on the travel itinerary?
Since RBLB is my main focus right now, my goal is to have a few pop ups in Toronto, NYC and LA.
In an ideal world, I would love to visit Japan and New Zealand, but in the meanwhile, I’m happy to just work a normal job. I’m prepping my CV now to apply for a server position at an ice cream shop! It’ll be exciting to just hang out at the shop and meet tourists who visit from all over the world.
It seems as though selflessness is your forte - with the amount of hype surrounding your name, it’s impressive that you choose to raise money and show support for non-profits like The United Way and The Canadian Olympic Team. Most teens would take the money and run! Why is giving back to your community important to you?
If you look at probability, I am very lucky. I remember Gary Vee talking about how just being a human that’s alive on the planet means you’ve won the lottery, because the odds are something around four hundred trillion to one.
Take that knowledge and add living in a developed country like Canada, and that probability falls even lower. Add artistic exposure at an early age and an amazing support system - I feel a need to express my gratitude, and acknowledge the difficulties others may face.
Organizations like The United Way and hospitals all over provide so many services to those who need it, and it’s an honor to help them out.
As far as the work with the Olympics go, it started when I was heading to do some ski racing training at Sun Peaks. As we were flying over the mountains, I started thinking about how I wanted to paint there. When I started skiing, I realized how amazing the mountain peak was. And I thought that because many people would never have a chance to be at 7,000 feet and feel this energy, I wanted to create that for them.
We had to work with the mountain’s risk management people, but they ended up allowing me to paint. When I was up there the temperature was below -20 Celsius, and my paints started to freeze as soon as they were applied to the canvas. But I loved that when the paint stuck to the canvas, it gave it a very unique and textured look.
When I brought the painting back to the ski lodge, the paints all melted. Because we had so much ski gear, we had to decide whether or not to bring the painting back. I decided I really wanted to, because of the experience the canvas represented. I ended up finishing the painting back home. Interestingly, the media picked up the story when I was in the mountains. Imagine seeing a kid skiing in the lanes and then cutting out between slalom runs to paint. A few months later, I was contacted by an organization that helps raise funds for Olympians. In the end, the painting raised enough money to send an athlete to the 2020 Olympics.