Friday, November 27, 2015


I am very proud to be a part of the new Dalvero Academy exhibition Journey of Transformation that just opened at Mystic Seaport this past weekend. This exhibit is a follow up to our previous show at the Seaport a few years ago, and is focused around the 38th Voyage of the Charles W. Morgan, the last wooden whaleship in the world, and it's new message of education and conservation. There is incredible and inspiring work by 29 artists, and I am honored to be one of them!

Part of my contribution to the show is an animation called "Heartbeat". This animated short follows the life of a baby whale whose mother is killed during the heyday of American whaling in the 19th century. It continues through our destructive relationship with whales over the decades, using the bodies of whales for everything from illuminants, to industrial lubricant, to food. As our perceptions of whales, and our relationship with them changes, a new song of empathy and compassion is formed to sail forward into a more hopeful future.

You can view the animation below:

I hope you will go and check out the show if you are in the area!

I was fortunate enough to be on the Morgan's 38th Voyage last summer (you can read about my experience here). The wonderful composer for this animation was a fellow 38th Voyager, Gary Wikfors. He composed and performed all the music for this piece using an octaveharpa, nyckelharpa, tenor mandola, octave mandola, mandocello, and mandolin. What an experience it was working with a real composer! I couldn't be more grateful for his dedication and beautiful work.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Muddy Mississippi

One of my favorite things about being an illustrator is that when a project comes along, I get to learn about something completely new and different. I just got back from a trip to the Mississippi Delta where I went for research on an upcoming picture book about the blues legend, Muddy Waters. The book is called Muddy written by Michael Mahin, and it will be coming out in 2017 from Simon & Schuster. In learning about Muddy, I felt it was important to go see the environment where his music came from, and to find the soul of what he sang about.

I found a piece of that soul in Rolling Fork, Mississippi, Muddy's birthplace. (His actual birthplace was probably outside of town, and is no longer standing, but they have a "shotgun house" reminiscent of where he might have lived, as a monument in the center of town.) The outside was covered in bright colors of peeling paint and corrugated metal, while the inside was wallpapered with old newspaper.

I got to hear that soul in Clarksdale, Mississippi, the home of the Delta Blues. On my first night, I had the chance to see Bill "Howl-N-Madd" Perry and his band play at Red's Lounge. His daughter Shy sang, played keyboard, and gyrated with energy.

He gave a wink to his wife of many years at the door, as he sang about all that's great about "Delta women".

He had a cool, casual, light-hearted demeanor.

But when he sang, he had a gravelly power to his voice.

At one point, he began using a slide, to make the sounds screech and bend as his hand moved. Muddy originally learned this technique from his idol Son House, who used a broken bottleneck as his slide.

My favorite part of the performance, though, was when one of the players would just let loose in a solo. The harmonica player, instrument clasped to his face and hidden behind his hands, would suddenly erupt into a blazing, metallic riff, shimmering like heat on hot pavement. His body jerked from side to side, as the sound became a disembodied voice. Then came the electric bass solo, buzzing and vibrating the room with intensity. That unexpected explosion felt like the soul of Muddy's music, too.

Muddy worked as a sharecropper picking cotton outside of Clarksdale at a place called Stovall Farms. The building where he was first recorded for the Library of Congress, his first record, still stands on the farm along with a plaque where his sharecropper shack used to be.

Never having seen a cotton field in my life, I was astounded by them. They really stretch into infinity. But it's impossible for me to look at them and not see the brutal history, labor, and toil associated with them as well. The pain of that experience gave birth to the blues.

The sharp, dark stalks and leaves make such a rhythmic pattern branching out against the white of the cotton.

On Sunday, the town was empty until I noticed the rows and rows of cars parked outside of each one of a couple dozen churches throughout the town. Although Muddy grew up singing in church, the blues and the church did not often go together. But they were united by music that gave a place for expression of the raw emotion of the soul.

The force that gave birth to all of this region is the mighty Mississippi River. From what I heard, the river was very low when I saw it. The water usually extends far up the banks and past where I was standing on the sandy beach. Its constantly changing course, dangerous currents, and rich waters made the land fertile for cheap cotton, and gave Muddy his name.

But where I really felt the soul of Clarksdale was right on the front porch of my hotel, The Riverside Hotel. It was originally a hospital for only black patients (where the Empress of Blues, Bessie Smith, died in 1937), because hospitals were segregated. The building was rented, and then purchased by the enterprising Mrs. ZL Ratliff to turn it into a hotel. Because blacks were not allowed in most hotels at the time, it became the place to stay for traveling blues musicians, including Muddy Waters. To them, she became "Mama Z", and they became "her boys." She would feed them and give them a place to stay (sometimes even if they didn't have the money). In Muddy's case, she even gave him the kick he needed to move up to Chicago, saying he was too talented to stay in Clarksdale. The hotel passed into the hands of ZL Ratliff's son, Frank "Rat" Ratliff, who ran the hotel until he passed away in 2013.

The hotel remains in family hands, run by his daughter Zelina and his wife, Joyce Lyn Ratliff. Spending time with the two of them, among their friends, family, and long-term guests, let me see the warmth, hospitality, and sense of community of this place. This was the soul of the Delta, and the fertile soil that allowed Muddy's music to grow.

For more of Evan Turk's travel illustration, check out the link below: 

Sunday, August 2, 2015

New York City in Summer

Outside Grand Central Station

I always have very grand plans for the amount of time I'll be able to spend outside drawing every summer, which never quite adds up, but I have had a handful of great days to go out and draw the city!

New York Public Library

New York City summers are kind of a mixed bag. For every moment of beautiful sunshine and throngs of people out doing exciting things in beautiful places, there is a moment with the smell of hot garbage and 1000% humidity. But the city can't be beat for variety. In one city you can go from grand, imposing architecture, with hundreds of rushing people... a quiet shady hillside in Central Park...

...dotted with relaxed readers, sunbathers, and couples enjoying the outdoors.

And just 25 minutes from Midtown Manhattan is my own neighborhood of Jackson Heights! The bustling neighborhood with tree lined streets and old, beautiful buildings from the 1920's and 30's is sometimes said to be the most diverse zipcode in the country. Up near the 82 St subway, sometimes called "Little Colombia," you'll find mostly South American immigrants from Colombia, Ecuador, and Argentina, among others.

While down in the 70's it is a completely different world with sari shops, Punjabi music stores, and Indian restaurants, catering to the large South Asian population with "Little India" at 74th street.

And on Roosevelt Avenue, is another completely different landscape under the elevated subway tracks. The bombardment of sound with Latin music, roaring trains, and street hawkers makes for a stark contrast with the rest of the neighborhood's quiet energy.

Hopefully I'll have many more days to go out and draw before the weather turns cold again!

Wednesday, July 22, 2015


It's been a while since my last post, but there have been many wonderful exciting things happening! First, at the end of June, I got married! It was amazing and surreal, and feels like a beautiful dream already. In between the relaxing on our honeymoon in Provincetown, I did a few thumbnails of a sunset that was too amazing not to draw.

In less romantic but still exciting news, my reportage of Jerusalem was a part of an international exhibition of reportage illustration for the Reportager Award at the University of the West of England. So wonderful to be included and to see reportage work being appreciated!

I am also very honored to be representing Dalvero Academy and Canson on one of a new plein air drawing pads, all featuring Dalvero Artists! So exciting! My drawing is on the Illustration pad, with the beautiful work of Margaret Hurst on Canva Paper, Julia Sverchuk on Mixed Media, and Veronica Lawlor on watercolor. So exciting! Go check them out!

 There's also a blurb about Dalvero Academy on the inside cover!

And finally, in a sneak preview, I just received the first round of printed proofs from my upcoming book The Storyteller!

Can't wait to share the whole book with everyone! Many exciting things to come!

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Holker Hall Garden Festival

A year ago this weekend, Chris and I were traveling the English countryside and came to one of my favorite places we saw. We spent the day on the grounds of the beautiful Holker Hall in the north of England near Grange-over-Sands for the Holker Garden Festival. We read about it, and thought it sounded like the most British thing we could do: Flowers, show gardens, cheeses, sticky toffee pudding, and the most exciting, The Lamb National!

Adorable sheep in colored sweaters racing around a track and leaping over hurdles while being chased by a sheep dog! The audience favorite was the one nude sheep (gasp!)

Equally adorable English families came out to watch the festivities.

After the lambs finished their race, we watched the world famous Devil's Horsemen Stunt Team!

These amazing acrobats and their acrobatic horses can be seen in Game of Thrones, Braveheart, and a million other movies and TV shows.

Each horse and rider had its own personality, and it was amazing to see the intensely close bond that the horses shared with the riders. The animals were able to fall and play dead or feign a limp (for acting purposes).

The horses pranced in formation, moving deftly with barely any observable direction from the riders.

One of their biggest tricks was a race between two men straddling two horses each!

But the main event really was the people.

Well, the people AND their dogs, of course. So many characters! (We overheard that the little white poodle's name was Pipsy!)

For more of Evan Turk's travel illustration, check out the link below: 
Evan Turk Travel Illustration

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Grandfather Gandhi visits Texas!

Signing books with Bethany and Arun at Book People, a great independent bookstore in Austin

I just returned from an amazing whirlwind tour of Texas to talk to kids and librarians about Grandfather Gandhi with the authors Bethany Hegedus and Arun Gandhi. The book is on this year's Texas Bluebonnet Award list, which is a great honor, and the people of Texas gave us and the book an amazing welcome!

Bethany and I visited ten schools around Dallas, Plano, and Austin and got to talk to thousands of kids! It's so wonderful seeing the kids learn about Gandhi, the lessons in the book, and the artwork. We met so many fantastic kids, and amazing librarians, and each school had its own special vibe.

At one school, a mother from India dressed herself and the librarian in sarees, and brought in chai and Indian snacks for us. At another, we were greeted by live snakes, gerbils, lizards, and hermit crabs in the lobby! One school even gave us each a photo of Grandfather Gandhi amongst the bluebonnet flowers, in honor of our nomination. Counselors from another school were using the Live Your Life As Light Pledge as an anti-bullying tool. Some of my favorite things were hearing the kids call the Mahatma "Grandfather Gandhi", feeling that personal connection to him, and also seeing whole groups of kids gasp when they saw the illustration of Arun exploding with anger, ready to throw a rock. So sweet! We were blown away by the work the librarians did to make these days special for the kids.

A huge thank you to Brinker, Menchaca, Gullet, Bill Burden, Coyote Ridge, Indian Creek, Parkway, Lakeland, Forest Vista, and Southridge for having us!

If you are interested in having me come for a school visit, please contact Carmen Oliver at The Booking Biz to schedule for the next fall and upcoming year! I'd love to come visit your school!

Pictured with fellow competitors Don Tate, Elisha Cooper, John Rocco, and Molly Idle
(not pictured: our intrepid moderator, Jon Scieszka)

After the school visits, it was off to the Texas Library Association Conference (TLA) to talk with even more wonderful Texas librarians! Arun, Bethany, and I were all a part of the TLA Speed Dating event, where we each talked to over 150 librarians in 6 minute bursts! Whew! I also competed in the First Annual Illustrator Sketch-Off and was declared the winner! (Although I'm not sure how official these rankings are). A big thank you as well to Mary Jo Humphreys and the Bluebonnet committee for inviting us to participate!

This was my first visit to Texas, so I was excited to have my first helpings of fried pickles and the infamous breakfast tacos, as well as get a little time to draw some Texas personalities!

Once we got back to Austin after the flurry of school visits, I squeezed in a little time to explore the city and do a little drawing. There is a beautiful river with a hiking/biking trail at trees all along it in the center of the city. Nature, fitness fanatics, and new construction everywhere!

I got a sneak preview of what it's like to have trees with leaves again (New York is still a little behind...) as I watched some kids fishing in the river. It felt very rural and relaxing in the middle of a city, like a scene out of Huck Finn.

As I left the river, I strolled around the city, trying to settle into the slow groove of it.

Austin is also famous for its plentiful food trucks. I had a delicious sandwich with local friends at "Hey!...You Gonna Eat or What?" (ironically a New York transplant) and drew the happy customers hiding out from the rain and snarfing down the eccentric cuisine.

I was fortunate enough to stay at Bethany's writing retreat The Writing Barn and was able to relax and unwind on the beautiful acres of their property. I had to draw the gorgeous bluebonnets in the fields underneath the sprawling live oaks.

As I drew one evening, a small group of visitors came poking around the vegetation, trying to decide if I was threatening or not.

I had just enough time to draw this doe amongst the bluebonnets before she faded away into the dense thicket of branches.