Artist trades drawings for smiles

Artist Tim Evoniuk trades his drawings for smiles. The roses, he says, are most popular, and also the most difficult and time consuming to draw. Evoniuk displays photos of those with whom he’s exchanged a drawing for a smile. Many reciprocate, drawing in his book of smiles. Going through the photos, he recalls those he met. (Photos by Cheri Brubaker)

NEWPORT — Tim Evoniuk was set up on a Bayfront bench facing the moored fishing boats in Newport one Friday evening last month, drawing a rose. He had a portfolio of drawings with him, along with a camera and portable printer, drawing paper, colored pencils and three bound volumes. His bicycle was behind the bench. It is difficult to draw in his camper, he said.

Evoniuk explained the project he started in early February 2018. “This is all about the smiles,” he said. It took him 14 months to get 400 smiles, he explained, filling the first volume. Evoniuk trades his drawings for smiles, and asks for an entry in his book. He likes to photograph the smiles, too, printing up the photos on the spot and placing them in a separate journal.

“We’ve got Russia,” he said, pointing to an early entry in the first volume of the Book of Smiles. He named far-flung places from where those who have drawn or written had come. “Denmark, Mexico, Holland, China, Slovakia, Guam, Camaroon … the last entry in volume one was by someone from Guatemala,” he pointed out.

 “Not everyone can write their names,” he said. “Melody, 3 years old, last September,” he pointed, smiling. “Addison drew a monster truck.” Here’s one from Hawaii, he said.

Evoniuk said he used to draw in Starbucks in Newport. It was a great place, he said, near the intersection of Highway 101 and Highway 20, anyone going up or down the coast or coming to the coast stopping by. Since the lobby was shut down, it’s been more difficult for Evoniuk to draw — conditions outside are not ideal, he explained.

Lily, Evoniuk said, drew him a picture of her black cat. He pointed to Lily’s drawing, the cat clearly blue.

The second volume started on March 31, 2019, Evoniuk said as he turned the pages. “Dinosaur tracks, and, Isabelle was very proud of them. That’s Maximus. That’s his family. The squiggly line is where he climbed up on top.”

On the top of what? “The cape. Because I say, ‘Tell me about your drawing.’ You can’t say, ‘What is it?’”

He indicated a drawing of Luna and her dad. “Her dad asked, but she never did say why she was taller than her dad,” Evoniuk said.

He chuckled at the next page. “Allison, 4. I said, ‘Allison, tell me about your drawing.’ That’s her wearing an orange shirt. (She’s) got a boat, balloon, rainbow … she looked and me and said, “I don’t have an orange shirt.” 

Switzerland, he indicated.

 “That’s me by an 11 year old. That’s me by a 4 year old.” Evoniuk revealed a smile drawn in the book, with a blush.

There were more entries representing smiles in volume two, approximately a thousand in 10 months. He was drawing roses earlier, he explained, each drawing taking at least an hour to do. The frogs and the hummingbirds are faster. 

Refusing money in exchange for the drawings, Evoniuk explained he works for a maintenance company.

“Thank you, again,” Lyndie Slaughter said to Evoniuk as she and her son strolled by, Slaughter holding one of Evoniuk’s drawings. Slaughter picked out a frog, she said. “It’s cool that he’s out here giving them out for a smile,” she said. Both Slaughter and her son, Diego, were smiling. “I think it’s pretty neat,” she added.

“You made our day,” was a common refrain in all three volumes of the Book of Smiles.

“I had this one little boy gaping at my drawings. He wanted a list of everything I had, so he could do it,” Evoniuk recalled. “A 10 year old did that, Harvey.” He pointed. “I am seven years old and I love droing,” he read, noting the misspelling. Lola gave him a thousand bucks and a smile, drawing the thousand bucks in the book.

Here’s another one of me, he said, noting the children’s ability to accurately depict his facial hair.

Evoniuk learned to draw in prison, he explained matter of factly. “I bought some colored pencils to send my kids some cards. I got lucky, my cellie was an artist. He was selling stuff to art galleries for a thousand bucks apiece.” 

Everyone said roses were the hardest things to do, Evoniuk related. “He taught me how to do the shading.

“These were over the solar eclipse. Lily was here with her dad from Washington. Ari likes to dance and sing.” Evoniuk seemed to recall each of the many smiles he captured in his books. The tree at night with bats and the spooky house were drawn by children at the Lebanon Starbucks. They were building forts with tables and chairs.

“These are frogs. And the frogs are afraid of the spider, and that’s why he’s yelling help,” Evoniuk recounted.

“I meet them for five to 10 minutes. The only people I deal with are happy,” he explained.