Occasionally someone or something in the community catches our eye and inspires the rider, nature-boy, or nerd within. Stowe’s Evan Chismark has managed all of the above. An avid rider, lover of the outdoors, bigtime bike nerd, and talented arist. We caught up with him to learn more about his organically inspired art and the rider he’s become.
Mountain Bike Vermont: We noticed you’re originally from the Granite State next door, what brought you to VT, our tastier maple syrup?
Evan Chismark: What NH lacks in maple syrup they more than make up for in lobster and cheap booze. I still have pretty rabid New Hampshire pride but I’m really proud to call Vermont home. Do you remember those stickers that got popular a while back that said, “Don’t Jersey Vermont”? Well I’m going to start a campaign called, “Don’t Boston New Hampshire”. No offense to Bean-town, love the place, but my hometown in southern NH is now basically a suburb of Boston. The city just keeps creeping north. That’s one of the big reasons we moved to Vermont.
I met a guy on the chairlift last season at Stowe–a dude from Jamaica that works in the lodge–and asked him how he ended up in Vermont. His answer was that he didn’t choose Vermont, Vermont chose him, and I kinda feel the same way. We were drawn to Vermont because of the people, the mountains, the sense of community, the respect for local food and environment, and of course, for the insanely good mountain biking and snowboarding. The arts community here is amazing too–Stowe has the classic fine arts thing locked down, where Burlington has an edgier arts scene and I love being part of both worlds.
MTBVT: You seem to draw a lot of animal portraits including moose and bear, so tell me how do you get a bull moose to stand still while you draw?
EC: Bribery–I offer asylum at our house during hunting season. It’s hell on the carpets but you can’t put a price tag on art.
MTBVT: In all seriousness, where do you find your inspiration?
EC: The short answer: Miley Cyrus. Just kidding. I draw inspiration from the positive and the negative in life. Positive: my amazing wife, our two dogs, love, mountains, time spent in the woods, mountain biking, snowboarding, other artists, ambition, non-conformity, trees, good grammar (seriously). Negative: apathy, environmental degradation, the horrible food culture in which we live, brainless television. That’s one of the things I love about being an artist is the ability to channel a negative emotion into something beautiful and inherently positive–art becomes a tool for social activism. “With My Own Two Hands” is a piece that exemplifies this mentality.
Inspiration is a fickle and unpredictable mistress that comes in waves and droughts. I’m consistently inspired by challenging myself though–I have a love/hate relationship with going outside of my artistic comfort zone because on the one hand it’s a torturous endeavor that leads to sleepless nights and questioning one’s artistic merit, and on the other it begets confidence, creativity, and a sense of euphoria.
MTBVT: Got a favorite medium to work with?
EC: Most of the time I’d say pen and ink. I love the precision and lack of forgiveness–if you screw up you have to figure out a way to recover. There’s no erasing or painting over it. If forces you to take be calculated but also take chances. I also love using old junk as my canvas–salvaged wood scraps, old skateboards and snowboards, etc. Those are more brush friendly so for those kinds of pieces my go to is india ink and acrylic washes.
MTBVT: This year we’ve seen a sampling of your drawings that are inspired by mountain biking in the Stowe Mtn Bike Club’s email newsletter. Your attentional to detail is incredible, and the locations immediately recognizable- got a favorite one so far?
EC: I love those spots when you’re in the thick of the woods and all of a sudden you find yourself with an amazing view. There are places like that dotted all over Stowe. The Green Chair trail in Stowe is a perfect example but there are places out near Trapp’s like that too. Too many to pick just one.
MTBVT: Vermont has more than a few epic scenes and views when ridden by bike, how do you decide that something you see while enjoying the outdoors is worthy of being re-created?
EC: There’s this ethereal quality that some places have that I literally can’t describe. That feeling has a really strong emotional component tied to it–a great ride, an epic bonk, time spent with a loved one, etc. Some places just resonate. But when that feeling strikes it’s damn-near insatiable and it has to be captured.
Evan’s Rider facts:
Favorite trail in VT: That’s kind of a revolving door but right now I’d say Joe’s to Yellow Trail at Perry Hill. Good mix of everything. I still have a lot of exploring to do though so I reserve the right to change my answer.
Favorite time of year to ride:
Spring–tacky dirt, fresh(ish) legs, perfect weather.
Spandex or baggies?
Baggies! (Although I’ll don the ol’ weasel squeezer once in a while for a road ride). I had a pretty gnarly crash a few summers ago that was a direct result of me snagging my shorts on the lever to my dropper post. It was on the road no less on the way home–I demolished myself on a smooth, quiet, residential street. So the moral of the story is that baggies are good, but pose an occupational hazard when mixed with poor handlebar gadget management.
Favorite grade of Maple Syrup:
If I have my druthers I’ll go Grade A Medium Amber every time. But I’m pretty much equal opportunity when it comes to syrup as long as it doesn’t say Aunt Jemima or Log Cabin.
Evan: Thanks so much for the chance to share some of my art with the Vermont MTB community. You guys rock. It’s humbling to have people react so positively to what I do. If you have questions, comments, constructive criticism or just want to buy some art, hit me up at firstname.lastname@example.org. Happy trails!
MTBVT: Thanks Evan, great to catch-up with you and learn more about what makes the rider and artist in you tick. See you on the trails or (fingers crossed) waist deep in pow! Cheers!