“Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar,” the old Freudian adage goes, but this is not the case for NYC-based artist James Evans, who translates the human experience onto photorealistic oil paintings of inanimate objects and closely-cropped body parts. Largely informed by graphic design and literature, Evans’ diverse body of work features crushed beer cans, used ketchup packets and carefully-planned collages. He places a strong emphasis on text throughout his work as well, using phrases such as “Weird Here” or “Consequences” laid on top of juxtaposing images to offer a unique dialogue that goes beyond their visual representation. With the bustling streets of Manhattan serving as a constant inspiration, the ever-observant Evans continues to interpret real-life situations onto stretched canvasses.

We sat down with James Evans to discuss his eclectic inspirations, creative process, and past artist-collaborations with the likes of Opening Ceremony, Milk and more. Read on to learn about James Evans with exclusive behind-the-scenes snaps below.