SALT LAKE CITY — During the 2013 NBA Dunk Contest, Jazz forward Jeremy Evans jumped over a covered portrait of himself jumping over a covered portrait.
Even though the tough championship-round slam was all the more challenging because of the extra degree of artistic difficulty, Evans wasn’t crowned as a two-time dunking champ.
It certainly didn’t help that not many realized it was his handiwork. He even touched up the portrait before the contest to get some final details, like the color of the basketball, just right.
Evans’ painting was on full display again Tuesday night at EnergySolutions Arena. But this time, it was quite clear that the same guy wearing the No. 40 Jazz jersey in the paint was the creative person behind the aesthetic paint elsewhere in the building.
With the help of the Jazz, Evans turned part of the arena’s concourse into a personal art gallery for Tuesday night’s game.
“I’m excited, just so everybody can see it,” Evans said before his informal show, which he couldn't attend because of his Jazz duties. “Hopefully from here, I can do some work for other people.”
The talented work that he’s already put the finishing touches on included an impressive and diverse collection.
The paintings ranged from Tupac to temples (interestingly placed next to each other), from Michael Jordan to Marilyn Monroe, from himself in headphones to a beautifully done portrait of his wife.
Not to forget lion and tiger masterpieces, which evoke memories of playful banter Evans occasionally has with his basketball buddy Gordon Hayward.
“I always liked the lion because it was the king of the jungle,” Evans said.
“He loves tigers,” Evans said. “He’s like, ‘If they got into a fight, the tiger would win.’ ”
No question which friend would win an art scuffle.
“He’s really talented,” Hayward said. “I like to challenge him and hype him up and say, ‘You can’t do this or that,’ and he gets all riled up and then does it and then I get to see a pretty cool piece of art.”
Evans’ tiger painting happens to be one of his favorites. Hayward also admitted that he was recently in awe of how Evans drew a guy that resembled Trey Burke on his iPad while on the team plane coming back from Oakland. He also once killed time at Macaroni Grill with eye-popping results on the tablecloth.
“We went to dinner and he drew a picture of me, a caricature with crayons. It was pretty good for just like an at-dinner, crayon doodle,” Hayward said. “He’s funny, man. He’s got a talent just to do that. I don’t know how he just sees it and draws it. It’s crazy.”
Evans has been doodling like that since he was about 4 years old, and he’s just kept fine-tuning his talent. Like his basketball skills, the 6-foot-9 athlete’s art skills leaped to the next level during his college days at Western Kentucky. (He still keeps in almost daily contact with one of his art professors.) Now Evans can adeptly use pencils and paint to make splendid details pop out, like the sparkly nose piercing in his Tupac Shakur painting that still wows teammate Alec Burks.
“That’s crazy,” Burks said. “That’s probably the best piece I’ve seen him do.”
Evans, who recently helped create a community mural with Utah youths at The Road Home, is most proud of the painting of his wife, Korrie. On the other hand, he was less thrilled about the portrait he did a few years ago of his first NBA coach, Jerry Sloan. Even so, he had the “very surprised” Hall of Famer autograph it.
“I still have the picture (of Sloan),” Evans said. “I wasn’t proud of it, did it in maybe two hours (but) I didn’t know how long I was going to be here. He knew who it was, so that’s the good thing.”
The 26-year-old doesn’t get much time to delve into complex, time-consuming art projects during the basketball year, but he plans on doing just that to wind down from his fourth NBA season in the next few weeks.
“I just have fun doing it,” Evans said.
He might add to his animal collection with an elephant or perhaps do a landscape portrait from “livestock to land” pictures he’s taken throughout rural Utah on Junior Jazz trips (an annual tradition he'll do again this summer, by the way).
Evans smiled when asked if he’s better on the court or the canvas.
“Oh, that’s pretty tough because I still feel like I have so much to grow in both areas,” he said. “I feel like I can be great in both and I’m not going to stop until I get there.”
As much as he likes Evans’ art work, Hayward didn’t have as hard of a time answering that question. After all, Evans doesn’t make money doing art, but he is making a sweet living playing hoops.
“He is in the NBA. That’s the highest level you can get to in basketball. I’d probably have to say that,” Hayward said. “But his art’s pretty good too.”