They come out in the spring and summer, one at a time or in groups spread across Lithia Park and other visually interesting spots around town: artists with small easels and canvases trying to capture the world quickly in the ever-changing natural light.

This where Linda Elesiya Evans shines.

Evans, whose pastel work is showing at Boulevard Coffee, prefers painting outdoors in the form known as plein air.

"Outside is my favorite," Evans said, surrounded by a dozen small works of hers on display in the coffee shop at the Stratford Inn, 555 Siskiyou Blvd., in her show "Personalitrees."

The pieces are depictions of trees that have caught Evans' fancy. Many are from Lithia Park, others are from around Southern Oregon or from Evans' travels outside the area.

Evans' pastels are bold, with strong lines and details that bring out the aspects of the tree that attracted her in the first place.

"I'm getting what that tree is emanating that day," Evans said. "We're not used to the idea of trees communicating with us, but they definitely do. They always have something to say."

Evans was a makeup artist for 35 years before a life-changing event unlocked a door for her to move from bringing out the hidden beauty in people to doing a similar thing to the natural world on canvas.

She was originally trained as a fine artist, graduating with a degree in English and art from Univeristy of California, Davis in 1970.

"But I didn't think you could make a living at that," she said.

In order to make ends meet, she became a makeup artist, a job she continued for more than three decades.

That phase of her life came to an end when she became a caretaker for both of her dying parents from 2002 to 2006. Though painful, the period gave her a chance to pause and examine her life. At the same time she underwent a period of accelerated spiritual growth, she said.

"I thought, 'What haven't I done in life that I wish I could do?'" Evans said. "Being a professional artist for the joy of it — that's what I wanted to do."

After her parents died, Evans started studying art again and discovered she was drawn to paint the natural world. The trees came later.

"Rather than paint teapots, nudes or abstracts, I wanted to paint nature," she said. "Nature renews, restores and gives us life. My goal was to present that beauty."

In May of 2009, Evans took part in a pastel and oil workshop in Grants Pass with the artist Albert Handell. From that class, Evans took away some valuable skills and approaches, but the priceless lesson she learned came after Handell praised one of her tree pieces.

"He said, 'Paint trees until you can't paint any more,'" Evans said. "That's what I've done ever since. If there's something you love, you should exhaust it."

Handell also encouraged Evans to focus on a specific part of a tree when painting, recognizing an affinity she has for close-up depictions.

"I realized they're portraits," Evans said.

Myles Murphy is an editor and reporter for the Daily Tidings. He can be reached at mmurphy@dailytidings.com

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