On a warm, sunny day in the Crossroads district of Kansas City, it seems necessary to venture down Art Alley. The colorful creativity lining nearly every inch of brick is alluring, provoking thought and curiosity.
On a particular Sunday, the beat of hip-hop music would lead to 21-year-old muralist Evan Jackson. His artist name is “Hevan” -- pronounced like heaven.
With bobs of his head and shakes of the can, Jackson’s strokes and lines form a face filled with detail and emotion.
“Art is my life,” said Jackson. “This mural painting: it’s not just something cool to do, something fun to do. For me, it’s like—it really is a therapy.”
Evan Jackson painting a mural in Art Alley.
Tattooing was the gateway to Jackson’s painting. It was there that he perfected his drawing and then transitioned from ink to paint once he could not afford to do tattooing.
“So I kind of put all my money into painting graffiti.”
Photorealism is Jackson’s style. The image he’s creating on this day is a child’s face painted in black and white with the crown of his head serving as a vase for flowers.
“It will have contrast and emotion and color and texture and so it would give it a lot of meaning. It would obviously give the viewer their freedom to figure out what it means,” he said.
The piece has since been painted over, but Jackson doesn't mind.
"This can get tagged tonight and if it does, that's alright."
Jackson describes how this painting will have contrast and emotion.
According to Jackson, his work has not always been great. He recalls his first time painting in the alley saying, “I didn’t even know if it was legal or not, I just came in with some paint cans and I was just painting, and it was awful. It did not look good at all. I was like one of those little kids tagging stuff up.”
His “fooling around” in the alley brought attention to his skill and paid off. Jackson has painted murals of President Obama, Jimi Hendrix and Salvador Perez.
In the Crossroads, and throughout Kansas City, murals are everywhere. Jackson said being involved with painting has introduced him to new artists.
“We try to support each other. I think Kansas City is getting up there, it really is. There are so many buildings with murals on them now. Maybe five years ago, not really. Now, it’s like ridiculous. You can’t even walk a block without seeing a mural.”
Whether it's painting for pleasure or to get paid, Jackson says it’s a lifestyle.
“It’s my life.”