Evelyn Henson’s whimsical designs spark joy and fun.
by Michelle Boudin
Photographs provided by EVELYN HENSON
Evelyn Henson wasn’t always sure she could be an artist. The fresh-faced Columbus, Ga., native who painted the popular South End confetti hearts wall remembers walking into her first art class as a college freshman — and being seriously intimidated.
“If you think of artists, they’re really edgy, they have piercings and tattoos and I’m rolling in with Lilly Pulitzer and I just didn’t think that I fit in. What’s crazy is that what makes you successful as an artist is standing out, but I didn’t realize that at 18.”
It wasn’t until her senior year at Furman University in Greenville, S.C., that she officially started painting. Her first work was a floral painting for her mom, a Mother’s Day gift. Over the next year, she painted every single day and after graduation had accumulated enough work to start a small Etsy shop. “It was such a good stress relief. I painted perfume bottles, beaches, landscapes, birds. I just was painting anything that was whimsical, colorful and happy.”
Then she hit upon an idea that helped catapult her career.
“The thing that made it so I could make it as an artist was when I started painting cities,” Henson says. She originally painted map prints of just 10 cities, featuring popular neighborhoods and hangouts around town. The collection became so popular that she now has more than 150. She also has licensing deals with Hallmark, Pier 1 Imports and Pottery Barn.
Now 28 and living in Charlotte, she’s gained a huge following thanks to her colorful Instagram-friendly mural that’s just around the bend from Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams in South End. The marketing team for the property owners had seen Henson’s whimsical designs on Instagram and reached out.
Henson was used to painting on canvas and designing for mugs, stationery and other gift items. But a wall?
“I’d never done anything like this. It was crazy! I usually paint on small pieces of paper, but I was seeing murals pop up all over Instagram and I was really interested. … I thought, wow that’s so cool that someone who wouldn’t normally interact with art in their every day [life] would walk by and stand in front of it, take a photo and feel creative.”
The oldest of five siblings, Henson is also a triplet — and the only creative one in the bunch. “None of my siblings are interested in art, but for me it brings me a lot of joy, and research shows even if you can just walk by it you get the same benefits of joy.”
That’s why she was so excited to paint the now famous mural. The concept is a play on the quote “throw kindness around like confetti.” But in order to actually paint the wall, Henson had to do a little research. “I wrote down all the things I didn’t know how to do and went one by one and just figured them out.”
Henson painted the colorful hearts during a rainy, dreary week last December and almost immediately knew she was onto something.
“It was pretty cold, and I was still finishing up, and fashion bloggers were already taking photos as I was still painting.”
Posing in front of the mural has pretty much been a regular thing ever since, and the people at Jeni’s know a good thing when they see it. This year, they hired Henson to paint a second mural on the side of their new NoDa ice cream shop. Henson hopes it doesn’t end there. She has an idea for an entire series of “kindness walls” she’d love to paint across the Queen City.
If she has her way, we’ll be throwing kindness around like confetti, all around town. SP