Painting a client’s memory: “MEMORIES OF BUTTE”

Last night on the Grammys it was said, ...”music helps tell our stories...”.  I agree, and it is a good way to lead in to this piece: “MEMORIES OF BUTTE”

The song that first fueled this piece (for me) was “Old Timer” by Willie Nelson.

“You fell in love

Back in the day
Can't forget her face
Can't remember her name
She was a beauty
A shining star

Just when you weren't looking she broke your heart.”

I remember the first time I heard this song, standing at the easel, imagining the lyrics to Nelson’s song  paralleling the memory impressed upon me by my client. I felt connected to it, as I painted this ginger haired siren, envisioning her as love lost.  That - I may never be sure of, as I do not know the story in its entirety. But he has mentioned  on many occasions he’s been waiting 40 years for this piece.  As the commission  evolved from the photo shoot, to compositional drawings, to the colour study, and finally, the painting itself; I continued to learn small bits of information that inspired this long awaited piece.  The song he offered part way through to mark that moment in his history was “Sundown” by Gordon Lightfoot. What an interesting light that shed for me!

  “She's been lookin' like a queen in a sailor's dream

And she don't always say what she really means“.

I listened closely to the ruminative tone in my client’s voice. His brief sentences, were honest. I often chuckled at his candor, and was warmed by his sincerity as important details revealed the components that shaped the narrative of the painting.  Aside from the flowers in the foreground, every detail in this sparsely composed painting was requested. They are significant to the story shared from the  youthful adventures that have been kept private these 40 years.  The entire piece proved to come together effortlessly. However, nearing the end of completion,  I found myself committed more-so to the feeling the painting could invoke, rather than the accuracy of the source image or original muse. During these final weeks, and even after final approval given, the subject’s face morphed countless times. The hair that eventually draped across her shoulder, left  a strand delicately resting on her forearm. I purposely edited out any jewelry, as they felt distracting. Her hair had grown in length and volume from the earlier drafts. Her gaze shifted from a suggestive “come hither”, to subtly  alluring, and charmingly engaged. Her mouth softened from a pouty perse, and the corner of her mouth slightly turned to a playful, side grin, complimenting the smile I strove to imply with her eyes. Much of this piece was made from combined source photos, and my own recollections of inanimate objects. Of course there are many details that made this commission special and so much fun for me to do. Those, I shall keep to myself, respecting the privacy of my patron. While delivering the painting, he asked if it is hard for me to let go of works when they are finished. The answer is “Yes”. It can be difficult for me to let go of my work. Painting is like sending my own diary out into the world for people to see. It can feel vulnerable. Every mark made with the brush - my voice. 

Truth: I loved painting this piece. I loved the journey it took me on. I will miss the whirlwind of the way the commission came to be,  the way our communication developed, the generous freedom granted for making decisions, and this colourful person I had the great chance to get to know.

I will always hold close the memory of his genuine exclamations, “Coila, she’s beautiful!” and “I’ve been waiting forty years for this!”.  What a gift to be asked to tell someone’s story through paint.

When taking a commission, I often ask about the type of music my clients listen to...a favourite song that marks the moment in time I’m attempting to paint; helping me connect to my subject. I agree, music helps to tell our stories. It helps me tell others’ stories. There are many songs that take me to significant moments in my own life.  I like to refer to these moments as the “soundtrack to my life”, and Willie Nelson’s “Old Timer” is added to mine.

How about you? What’s yours?

“MEMORIES OF BUTTE” 27”x36” oil on custom Artefex linen panel 


In the New Year of 2018

In this new year of 2018, I am looking back on 2017 with gratitude, and looking forward with optimism while working to enjoy the moments as I figure process and concepts at the easel,  make and develop relationships, while continuing on this path mostly by faith. Sometimes I can hardly believe I get to do this. Artist.

In the very recent 2017 I feel so very grateful for the artworks sold, and works commissioned. It has been so much more than I could have imagined just 3 winters ago, as I set out to dive into making art by attending a 2 week painting intensive in NYC.  I will not list all works sold or commissioned. But I will say about the works commissioned: "I'm learning through painting portrait and special moments it is a great honour that patrons bestow upon an artist to create the likeness of a loved one." It is as great an honour to have works purchased for one's home. With that said, "I thank each and every person who has been, and is currently a part of this artistic journey!  I cannot do this work without the support of so many! Thank you for loving my work and giving it a home!!!"

I will finish with this letter drafted to 2018:

Dear 2018,   Thank you for starting the year off crisp and bright! Thank you for health and family and growth (personal and professional) in 2017! In this new year please bless me with focus and follow through. Bless me with health, and kindness and understanding even when I resist. Bless me with finding the silver linings on stormy days, and be tough when I need a kick to straighten me out...;)  Finally, please bless my work that it may bless others.  ~ Coila

Cheers to you all and a stellar 2018!!


To see regular art updates and art posts please follow the stories on my Instagram account, and/or facebook account. These links are provided at the bottom of this page. Thanks so much! ~ Coila

Official Print Release and Project Announcement

I am so very excited to make this announcement today!!!

This has been “A long time coming!” as they say, and I am very pleased to make you the first ones to know about the official print release of:
“Portrait of a Family Man”!!!!  

Not only am I excited these prints are finally available, but they are also going to help kick off a big project that has been in the works for a year now!!

Coila Evans - Mary's edit.jpg

"Portrait of a Family Man"     
High quality giclee' on acid free, archival paper.  Signed and numbered, limited edition of 100. The dimensions are the exact dimensions of the original piece of art, an approximate measurement of 11.5" x 9.5” not including the border with is approximately 1".

Short back story on the original piece:

Last Summer my husband gave me an idea to make portraits of the local coal miners referenced from historical photos. While the historical photos are still part of the plan; Troy’s idea sparked an even larger idea, and it began with a “call to the public" on Facebook, asking our local coal miners for images of themselves that I may have permission to use for a painting. Out of the several that sent images, Cody Kinn’s photo caught my eye. After months of painting, the study, followed by a finished piece on copper, and an interview with Cody and his young family, “Portrait of a Family Man” was born. As many of you know that piece was selected as a finalist, out of 1800-ish entries, for the 2016 members only Portrait Society of America competition. Of course, I was ecstatic with this amazing news. My work was being recognized by the Portrait Society of America!!!!!  In addition to this being a well received painting in a professional setting, the public has made many inquiries about the availability of prints for “Portrait of a Family Man”.
Great news my friends, my family, my patrons - You spoke, and I listened!

Bigger picture:

Developed from my husband’s original idea, there is now an entire project underway. I am very honoured to have permission granted to document the modern history of Signal Peak Energy, our local coal mine. When I called them with this idea, they graciously agreed.  My goal is to create a museum quality exhibit that will be shown on a local and state level. If all goes well, it will have the opportunity to travel beyond the borders of Montana . Before any of this is a possibility, however, the work must be made. Visiting the mine has been a fascinating process so far, and I am very excited to move forward with creating this body of work.   The number 40 (paintings) is continuously present in my mind. This expansive series, I envision, will be referenced from the combined 800+ photos and countless videos shot while underground.  To date a few studies have been made, and one piece is on the easel.   All of the paintings will be created on copper panels that are custom fabricated to my specifications. You may ask, “Why Copper?” Well, it turns out copper is a highly archival surface withstanding centuries of enjoyment without the cracking most often seen on stretched canvas or linen paintings…even Rembrandt painted on it. Besides the copper lending a luminous finish, the highly archival nature of copper influenced my choice for this age old material.


 The sale of these prints will supply me with the invaluable time and materials needed to get a solid start.
I am very committed to creating this work, and I am asking for your help to get it jump started.
Attached is a link to purchase a signed and numbered, limited edition print of 100for “Portrait of a Family Man”.

Thank you, thank you for all of your support!!!

I appreciate your patronage!!!

***I will be sure to keep you all updated on the progress of this epic project via blog and social media posts.
***Please Note:  The first order for these prints will be turned in on Monday, September 11, with a ship date currently estimated for Friday, September 15th.
Once this print sells out. There will be no more. First come, first served.


Best regards from ⭕️⬆️, MT.
119 Main ST.
Roundup, MT.



On this day 13 years ago, It was a Monday, and Crow Fair had wrapped up. Recently back from his big weekend, and anxious to hit the ground running for the work week, the hubbs wrestled with the idea of making time to drive the 50 miles to Billings to come meet me.


Thanks to the coaxing of my Aunt Christine, he agreed to meet her niece.


We met for a beer at the Rex, went on to enjoy shuffleboard at the Rainbow, and wrapped up the evening sitting at the end of a beautiful tapas table he had only just built for the newly relocated Walkers Grille.


I'll never forget how he reached out to grab my hand as we walked down Montana Ave. or how he complimented my feet. You may laugh, but it meant the world, as I've always felt insecure about my long and skinny size 10s.


We went on to enjoy 2 more dates, out of the 4 days I was in Billings. The final day he ate dinner at my grandmother's house, I met his parents, saw the space we now live, and went on a horseback ride. On that final date I knew he was "the one". I had never had a  feeling of surety come over me like that.



While our path can sometimes feel bold and exciting, and sometimes take us down a side street that feels scary and uncertain, I still know that feeling was right. Just because a person knows that it is right does not make it easy. It's been quite a journey, and I often daydream about what we will go on to accomplish in the next 13 years together...One day at a time.


Cheers to you Troy Evans for giving me freedom to achieve my dreams, thank you for all of the forgiveness you extend without condition.

I am grateful for you. ❤️


Artwork: Michael Blessing

I love this piece Michael! I am reminded everyday how blessed I was to have a life changing encounter there. Thank you for making it. ❤️


Growth - With One Eye

One of my favourite portraits is a self portrait of Pablo Picasso as a young man. Wether it was intentional or unfinished, he created a painting of  himself with only a single eye, and the other a bit smudged out. I had the opportunity of seeing it in person a couple of years ago at the MET. While it was small, it held so much strength.

Below is the second piece I have left, "unfinished", missing an eye. The first was a self portrait I did many years ago...I often wondered why I was attracted by something seemingly left undone.

Perhaps on a subconscious level, I like it because it symbolizes (for me) the human need for growth. We are all unfinished beings.  Or perhaps it means we like to keep something for ourselves, not giving society a full reveal - Guarding our hearts.

Today I decided it was time to place the final mark (my signature) on this 1 - ish year old piece painted from life at the Scottsdale Artists' School with artist Johanna Harmon. Her words of experience continue to echo through my thoughts as I paint. Thank you for helping me grow Johanna - you are an excellent artist and teacher! 


Pablo Picasso Self portait - hanging at the MET


Self portrait study 2009

Vintage family photo

In the last several months I have been receiving more portrait commissions. Yay! :) This particular commission is different than the usual commissions I am asked to do. This image is a detail shot of a work in progress, referenced from a 1920's vintage family photo. In those days it was not uncommon for photographers to use copper materials to produce an image, called a photogravure. Because the portrait was made in that time frame, in addition to it being highly archival, I have chosen to paint on copper.  (side note: I'm very grateful that my patron has absolute faith in my choice.)  I'm finding that painting on this surface changes my technique, keeping the paint smooth and forcing me to change the way I use my medium, as well as using different brushes.  Luckily, I watched a youtube video by Sadie Valeri demonstrating the use of her medium. medium. It was so very helpful, as this is definitely a learning curve for me. My goal in creating this piece is to provide smooth textures on the face(s) while incorporating my preferred, textured, brush strokes as I work out. 

I definitely love this process thus far, and hope to do many more commission works on copper in the future!

This piece has many more hours to go until it is finished. To see this and several other works in progress, be sure to follow me on Instagram, and Instagram stories.  Link/icon is at the bottom of the page.

If you have any questions or would like to begin the process for your own commission, please contact me at:

Thanks, and have a beautiful day! :)    ~ Coila                                                                                       

Bringing Back the Auction for 1 Full Week

Are you wondering why I'm bringing back the auction all week long?

Many of you have been following my work since before the very first time I offered artwork up for auction, raising money to go to NYC for a 2 week art residency 2 years ago. That was a pivotal point for me with my work. My career. Since then, I've made a strong commitment to my work, and paint in the studio nearly everyday. If I'm not painting, I'm researching imagery, planning projects, and listening to podcasts. If you've been following since then, you know how far I've come. But I have big goals. Big dreams. I need more progress. I need to be better.

The most recent, and most important of my successes to date is the recognition as a finalist from the Portrait Society of America for "Portrait of a Family Man" for which I'm truly honoured. This gives me great courage in proceeding to my next step(s).

In the past several months I have also been busily working in my studio putting together a strong portfolio of works to take to their annual conference in April.

I'm using this week's sales to aid me in making that trip to Atlanta for this amazing opportunity. Not only will I have the opportunity to have my portfolio critiqued by America's modern masters, I will also have the opportunity to watch them work, as well as take workshops, network (hopefully find a mentor) and absorb as much knowledge as possible.

Being an artist is not the easiest road to travel, but I've wanted it my entire's the only thing that has truly "fit". This conference is the next step in my career.

I thank you for your continued support of my work, applauding my successes, and encouraging me when I need it...thank you for being a part of my journey. Again, I am truly honoured.

To follow the posts tune in everyday @ 8:30 a.m. MST on my personal FB page. The auction will run through til Monday, February 27th. 

Link to today's posting :

All the best on this Monday;
Happy Presidents Day, and National love your dog day!

~ Coila Evans

Posted on February 20, 2017 .

Gotta have Faith

"Sometimes a person must laugh, before they can put on their serious face."
~ Coila

Yesterday was a most emotionally draining day. I have a deadline I wanted to complete by Saturday. However, I could only focus on the "pretty things" waiting patiently in line to be the next piece to rest atop my easel for the paint to bring them to life.
Sadly, I ruined most of the "pretty" work attempted today. Even my ballerina flew from the lip of the easel to the floor several times, smearing paint, causing me to rework the piece in its entirety. Because of the "emotional hangover" from the previous day, I could hardly be roused for more than a simple long sigh and an "okay" escaping from my lips. The only thing I accepted from this daring flight to the floor was that it could make me see the piece in a different light. As it turns out, the work in progress is now better.

After my eventful day, I went on to enjoy a few hours for dinner and family time. Somehow, I returned home renewed enough to return to the easel in the night hours, able to once again focus on a most special piece that requires much focus and a deep connection in faith, while allowing my thoughts to pass like water through a sieve. This special piece is unfolding, pushing me to find my voice, giving my work purpose.


ballerina #4 from the Prima Ballerina series

Posted on January 19, 2017 .

culture clash

I've been thinking a lot about our world, the state of affairs, and the tension increasing among "our" people.  Humans.
I've been thinking about the long lineage from whence we all have been born.

A friend shared with me a story about countless people being tested, revealing  the history of their DNA. However, prior to testing the were asked about the race they least liked. Their responses were all based on experiences they had directly or that were put upon their ancestry. The results were quite astounding. They most often found themselves connected to the very race they had such strong feelings against. 


I imagine this revelation to be most vexing.

I have my own family's history I'm working to sort through. Pain caused that affected generations before me. Somehow it has carried through to me. How can I expect any one culture to forgive and heal if I cannot myself?

I want to do a DNA test...I'm certain my test will reveal: I am "All Nations" much like my Mrs. Terry's church.

What will your test reveal?


stay tuned....there is a project brewing. 

Posted on January 11, 2017 .

Friendly reminder from 30 works in November

I was looking for an image this morning on my Instagram account, and came across this friendly reminder. Thought this should be on my blog.

This quote (below) from living legend, Howard Terpning, is one of the reasons I'm doing 30 small works in November. While each piece does not visually indicate I've "grown" or "learned more" or "pushed myself" as an artist. Each piece does represent a problem I'm trying to solve. Be it working to put down paint in a limited amount of time to become more efficient with my work, or seeking geometric shapes inside of light and shadow, capturing an expression and likeness on a small surface, telling a story, or simply creating form by referencing a piece of fruit. 
Keep your eye out for the piece that speaks to you most. Let me know if you would like to make arrangements for that piece, as many will be available for the Christmas Stroll on Saturday.

Thank you for following for the past 28 days. 
There are only 2 days that remain, but my efforts in learning will not cease. Cheers to 2 more days! 🎉

"I'll never stop learning. There's so much that I don't know. The day that a painter says he knows it all, that's the day he should hang up his brush. The greatest thing about painting is to trying to improve and learn. That's just about the best part." Howard Terpning. 
Western Art Collector, June 2016.

"Best Nine" from 2016