Eva McCauley

Artist, Teacher, Musician


Published, EAC Communiqué, February 1994


ast August Eva McCauley’s engraving “Mother and Child” was awarded first prize in the Elora Arts Council’s annual show INSIGHTS. The content of the picture encapsulates Eva’s life today. Conceived in two parts, the lower half depicting a child is complete on its own. The upper half, the mother, is Eva herself. When placed together, the child is seen to be held on the knees of the concerned mother. Lines of the drawing incised with a drypoint scribe are skilled and eloquent. Most striking, however, is the permeating universality of this print by a young artist. Eva McCauley has interpreted the archetypal subject of Mother and Child with modern sensibilities but timeless essence and beauty.

Eva came to Fergus three years ago, alone with her son Jason, seeking a supportive community in which to work, teach and raise a child. Now, finishing the last course required for her BFA degree at the University of Guelph, she is exploring opportunities to bring her work to the public. She is contacting Toronto galleries, and preparing for an exhibition at the Wellington County Museum scheduled for the fall of 1995 with Tony Luciani and Sarah Palmer.

Throughout childhood, Eva had a love of painting and the arts fostered by her family. Raised in Kitchener and of German descent, several times she travelled with her family to Germany where she visited galleries and museums. The old world lingers in her visual interpretations today. As a child she drew prolifically, mainly the fluid movement of horses. Later, at Forest Heights Secondary School, Eva explored oil painting, and the relevant techniques of old masters. “The artists I’ve always admired are those with consummate skill, like Rembrandt, Goya and Degas. As I explored painting I was aware of the need for essential knowledge and experience. I knew I had a lot to learn.”


During a year’s study at Wilfred Laurier University in ‘79 she quickly acknowledged her real desire to specialise in art, with emphasis on studio work. When she entered Ontario College of Art at 22, Eva was already independent and mature, concentrated on finding direct expression through painting and drawing, detached from social life. Representational art, primarily the human figure, continued to be the focus of her work. Though a student herself at this time, she taught night classes for adults and developed the Toronto Studio School in cooperation with a more experienced colleague.

Reflecting on her formal training, Eva perceives limitations: “I think schools now days can be restrictive because they reject tradition. They say we don’t need all those old skills because we are in the post-modern era. For instance, I had to teach myself perspective. There is an extensive vocabulary which we are not given, knowledge which has accrued over the centuries. Art needs boundaries or it becomes amorphous. As individuals, we can decide whether or not we accept the boundaries”.

Graduating from OCA in 1983, Eva wanted to live the total life of an artist in Toronto, but found it wasn’t easy. She did freelance art work, taught courses in Structural Drawing, Portrait Painting and Watercolours at Sheridan College part time, and painted. Her canvases from Toronto days portray humanity in urban settings like Kensington Market: the gestural flow of figures juxtaposed by the geometrical angles of architecture. They speak of the context of a big city for humanity, reminiscent of the American artist Edward Hopper. Her medium was oil paint, which Eva appreciates for its immediacy and directness. “I like to mix my own paints with pigments and oil and believe they’re better, more pure, than commercial products. I enjoy the preparation of materials in a physical and professional way; they have a tactile quality for me.”

Almost immediately after graduation she married and became a mother. Three years later, on the break-up of her marriage, Eva came to Fergus, making her studio and home in an austere stone house built in 1878. She began the demanding life of a single parent in a new community. These were difficult times, their psychological landscape expressed in paintings, encaustics and drawings by night scenes and dark foregrounds. Subjects became more conceptual, less personalized. Despite the stress of life alone caring for her young son, Eva discovered she had a desire to learn new things. She was inspired by the work of Walter Bashinski at the University of Guelph, and when her search for remunerative work proved fruitless, she registered for a BFA degree and the opportunity to learn techniques of printmaking with Bashinski. University gave Eva a more cerebral understanding of art. Principally, however, it opened to her the possibilities particular to printmaking. “I may print an engraving in black and white, but I also like to produce a ‘varied edition’ in which each print from the same plate differs in colour and tone, making it unique”. Her experiments in drypoint and etching find relevance and inspiration in the German printmaker and sculptor of social realism, Kathe Kollwitz.

Eva has found Fergus to be a sustaining and vibrant artistic community. “I love this area, and I’d like to teach here.” she says. Her present goal is to acquire a press which enables her to experiment freely with printing techniques. She would like to open a Studio where she can instruct classes in printmaking and drawing. Possibly this Studio could be combined with a small gallery. We, too, look forward to the time when Eva’s respect for knowledge and technique can enrich art students of all ages who desire the foundation of an extensive visual vocabulary.

by Beverley Cairns, February 1994

 She received a Canada Council “Quest” grant for emerging artists in 2000, and has had many Ontario Arts Council grants.

UPDATE – 1997

Eva received several printmaking awards and scholarships in ‘93 and ‘94, and went on to study for a Master of Fine Arts degree in Printmaking and Painting at University of Waterloo, completing it in April ‘96. Eva has had several etching presses built to specification. They are housed in The Glen Lammond Studio School adjacent to her house in Fergus, which will serve as a printshop as well as a school for teaching painting, drawing and printmaking to adults and children.

In ‘95, Eva had an exhibition at Homer Watson Gallery, Doon and was part of a three person exhibition at the Wellington County Museum and Archives entitled “Human Landscape”. In ‘96, she won first prize for Printmaking at the Toronto Outdoor Art Show, and the Ernst & Young Purchase Award for Print. Six large-scale monotypes are permanently exhibited at the headquarters of the Waterloo Regional Labour Council.

UPDATE – 2005

This year finds Eva McCauley living in the country on 30 acres near Damascus. In 1996 she fell in love with piper and landscaper Robin Aggus. Her studio is part of their 140-year-old log home. Robin has helped Eva return to one of her first loves, Irish and Scottish music. Eva plays fiddle and mandolin, balancing a lifelong dedication to the visual arts with a passion for Celtic music and performance. She and Robin make music together at home, along with Eva’s son Jacob, and take part in the enthusiastic Friday night traditional music sessions at the Dalby House, Elora. Eva is the organizer of the School of Traditional Celtic Music.

Since the fall of 2002, Eva has been Printmaking Professor at the University of Waterloo, teaching painting and drawing as well. Her list of shows continues to grow, with a solo show at the Kitchener Waterloo Art Gallery in 1999 entitled “Momento Mori-Monotypes and Memory Boxes”. Also a solo exhibition “Ruptured Time” at Open Studio Art Gallery, Toronto in 2002. And “Memory of Water” at the Rotunda Gallery, Kitchener City Hall in 2004. She received a Canada Council “Quest” grant for emerging artists in 2000, and has had many Ontario Arts Council grants.

Currently Eva divides her time between creating paintings, monotypes, and mixed media pieces at her Damascus studio, and the joy of playing her fiddle and mandolin.