Jacob Eveland was just a child when his father was sent to prison.
To escape that dark reality, Eveland created his own little world by drawing or playing with LEGO bricks.
Today, Eveland’s an artist whose drawings and paintings tell a story of a fantasy world of mystic creatures that ties in with his past.
His work will get a particularly large and public showing this month when he participates in the Richmond Mural Project by Art Whino along with artists from around the world.
Eveland, 27, grew up in Lebanon, Ill., on 4 acres.
His family had 15 to 20 pets at a time, from cats and dogs to lizards and hamsters. When rabbits were injured, his family nursed them back to health. While on the cross-country track team, Eveland would chase foxes and try to grab their tails, he said.
His grandparents owned a three-story antiques shop, Grandma’s Attic, where he spent much of his time. Eveland and his older sister played with the cats, often getting yelled at for chasing them down the stairs.
“It was the coolest playground for a little kid,” he said.
He helped out around the shop by doing chores, staining wood with his grandpa in the back, going with them to auctions. If he swept up for a week, he could pick out one thing from the shop, such as a small tin car. He loved listening to old phonographs, each one with a different sound.
But it wasn’t an idyllic childhood. Eveland said he grew up in a poor household. His mother was always searching for a job, and for most of his childhood, his father was incarcerated on drug charges.
Eveland often imagined his own little world as he stacked LEGO bricks or drew in his sketch book. He now realizes how much his life experiences have influenced his art. The majority of his artwork is done on paper with black ink or paint. His work often features animals, nature and sometimes items such as old tobacco pipes, lanterns, light bulbs and phonographs.
“Everything I do is tied into my past,” he said.
Although Eveland connected with his father later in life, Eveland wanted to get away from Illinois and out of his father’s shadow.
At age 18, he came to Richmond and later enrolled at Virginia Commonwealth University to study communication arts. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in 2014.
Most of his work tells a story. He put together a small zine, a self-published booklet, called “Unraveling Vengeance” with a short story paired with his artwork.
In Eveland’s fantasy world, butterflies called “the Angst” have a strong silk that unravels from the bottom of their wings, and they collect sewing needles to create things with their silk. Their wings are coated with a hallucinogenic dust that puts predators in a deep, comatose state. The world uses a trade-and-barter system, and creatures are to abide by the rules of fair trade.
A fox named Range thinks he’s the law of the land and makes the mistake of trying to eat the Angst after the butterflies confront him about an uneven trade. Eveland has created many variations of the fox after eating a mouth full of butterflies.
One mural Eveland painted for POW! WOW! DC, a street art event in May, features the fox tangled up by the silk of the Angst. Another mural he painted in 2014 on the side of a building off Broad Street in Scott’s Addition features dive-bombing birds from his story.
From July 11-24, Eveland will be the sole local artist among about 10 from all over the world — they’re coming from New York, Detroit, Peru, Amsterdam and Puerto Rico — participating in the Richmond Mural Project.
Now in its fifth year, the project is about to meet the goal of 100 murals in five years set by creator Shane Pomajambo.
A few years ago, Pomajambo decided to add a local artist to the project’s lineup each year. Last year, Richmond artist Nils Westergard painted a mural on a building off Floyd and Lombardy avenues.
This year, Eveland is representing the city’s art scene. He said he will paint four different murals for the project. Pomajambo said he found Eveland’s storytelling artwork intriguing.