One ordinary day, a devout comic collector took one of his prized comics out of its wrapper. Then, taking a scalpel to it, he was about to change his world forever. CRASH! BAM! KAPOW! Within a flash, Evan Kennedy became the Superhero known as…ARTPASTE!
Evan Kennedy always denied being an artist, but it took that sacrilegious night where he had a ‘water into wine’ moment that turned his love of comics into an artistic career path. “I made one or two collages for friends as gifts and I started to get this really cool reaction to it. So I took down my collection of my original comics from the attic. Everything and anything, you name it, I’ve got it. I took out this really prized edition of Spider-man comic. I remember, I bought this when I was in college and I recall going without food that week because I had to have it…this was the nineties, so I was part of that whole thing of the consumer being sucked into the buying of comics, bagging them, storing them and having to have each edition of everything. It was sealed in a plastic bag and they hadn’t used the correct sellotape, so when I took it out, the cover got caught on it and it ripped a tiny shred, so now it was crap. I looked it up online and it turned out the comic I had paid a huge amount of money for was actually 75c on eBay (laughs). So after that, I just took out a scalpel and turned it into a canvas and from there then I went, “Wow this is actually really cool.” The first cut was the hardest, and now I don’t care, I will take anything and chop it up.”
The style of his work is really eye catching for a number of reasons; the colours, patterns, the identification. So much of this line of work is based on something you might recognise or connect with. “It’s called decoupage which is French for ‘cutting up’. As a technique, it’s as old as the hills. It’s collage, but I suppose there are differences in what I am doing. It’s hugely popular in the States; you can do anything from furniture, shoes, bags, a wall…what I’m trying to focus on is who I’m selling to.” Evan was surprised to learn who many of his customers actually are. As it turns out, there are a lot of guilty women out there who cast away the final piece of their partner’s superhero paraphernalia when they moved in together and now, here they are buying Judge Dredd pieces as an apology. “At the moment it’s all comic books with me because that’s what I know and what I have and it’s my target audience…but I have diversified my work, it’s not just from comics… I’m trying to do books and mad things, CD packaging, Lego instruction manuals…I did a nice gift box at Christmas: they were just sending some Irish things to Germany, like biscuits and so on, so I did a shoe box with Brennan’s bread wrapper, Siucra, Cadbury’s…it depends on what the person actually wants.”
Let’s face it, we are in an age where you can pick up a cheap Wonder Woman t-shirt or a pair of Superman jocks pretty handy, but Evan’s work takes this interest a lot more seriously with designs for a modern audience and characters you wouldn’t normally get, like Tank Girl. He not only has a great knowledge of this area, but his inspirations are endless. “I do enjoy doing mad collage stuff. As I have been going on, I have been really influenced by other people that are super successful at doing this: a French guy, Mr. Garcin and a guy from Texas, Mike Alcantera. I’m open to everything; I mean I’ve worked with everything from Ireland’s Own to Playboy… Everything I make is a one-off and I won’t make it again, so I don’t repeat designs or patterns.”
With many in the fan world having their comics in the correct wrapping and some dreading the idea of them being tampered with, it’s a type of artwork that has indeed, albeit not too often, come under fire. Evan came across the different attitudes at the Dublin Comic-con. “Some people are going from like ‘Why would you do that? That’s crazy! That’s insane!’ to ‘I’ve got to have it…I’m not going to be stupid and cut up an issue of something that’s worth a lot of money, but if you want to give me one to do it for you, I will no bother’ – that’s my attitude to it.” The comic book artist Ian Churchill who has drawn for Marvel was very impressed with Evan’s piece he made based on his work on The Hulk which was a drawing Churchill hadn’t seen in years. He signed it, Evan kept it at the original price and it was later sold to a lucky fan.
This kind of work could go many different directions. Evan still works as a graphic designer, performs drag and is starting a new club, so where would he really like to go next? “I often think I would love to run a comic store. I really miss Forbidden Plenty because it was great…I’d love to see something like that come back because it is a huge market…but for me personally, the dream would be that I could be an artist full-time and make a living from it. Ideally, I’d love to be doing 12 huge canvasses in the year and spend all my time doing that would be perfect.”
Evan specialises in custom pieces. You can find Evans’s work on www.evanisart.com
Interview – Mairéad Collins
Photography – Tarmo Tulit