Is dream journalling the secret to great art? The work of Evelyn Tan has us convinced

Beginning her career driven by surrealism and anime, the Vancouver-based artist and illustrator Evelyn has been looking elsewhere for inspiration as of late.

13 March 2023


Twinkling trinkets; unmade beds; misty, glass-paned doors; and great swathes of light are frequent features in the work of Evelyn Tan. On first glance, you might think of Alice's Adventures In Wonderland, not least because of the references to sleep, the scale by which furniture sometimes appears skewed, and the odd luminosity of some of the bottles of mysterious liquid that feature. But the reference breaks down when you realise Evelyn’s work merely shares some of the same themes as Carroll’s text. The Rhode-Island based illustrator and artist tries to chase a sense of nostalgia through her practice, which often means pulling up memories and symbols from childhood.

The artist has also taken to journalling – especially for her dreams – to help shape her art. Whenever faced with a dream that presents “inexplicable feelings”, the artist documents it, a process which has “yielded much looser and abstract work”, says Evelyn, and gives her images a sense that they’re about to slip away from you. Process-wise, Evelyn combines digital and traditional illustration, using graphite and ink for the foundation, often colouring in Procreate. Alongside the dreams that fuel her work, Evelyn has been looking to miniature paintings, Rubber hose animation, Art Nouveau, and Ukiyo-e paintings for inspiration recently, alongside her “wonderful artist friends and mentors”.


Evelyn Tan: Pienqat Polonaise (Copyright © Evelyn Tan, 2022)


Evelyn Tan: Icy Bed (Copyright © Evelyn Tan, 2022)


Evelyn Tan: Alien Fruit (Copyright © Evelyn Tan, 2022)


Evelyn Tan: Guide (Copyright © Evelyn Tan, 2022)


Evelyn Tan: Summer Bed (Copyright © Evelyn Tan, 2022)


Evelyn Tan: Warm Night (Copyright © Evelyn Tan, 2022)


Evelyn Tan: A Temporary Bed (Copyright © Evelyn Tan, 2022)


Evelyn Tan: Bird Bed (Copyright © Evelyn Tan, 2022)


Evelyn Tan: Guide II (Copyright © Evelyn Tan, 2022)


Evelyn Tan: Night Visitor (Copyright © Evelyn Tan, 2023)

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Evelyn Tan: Rabbit Nest (Copyright © Evelyn Tan, 2022)

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About the Author

Liz Gorny

Liz (she/they) joined It’s Nice That as news writer in December 2021. In January 2023, they became associate editor, predominantly working on partnership projects and contributing long-form pieces to It’s Nice That. Contact them about potential partnerships or story leads.

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