Evelyn Gibbs studied at the Liverpool School of Art and at the Royal College of Art, before winning a Prix de Rome Scholarship for engraving in 1929, with which she spent two years in Italy. Supporting herself by teaching at a school for handicapped children, she wrote a book on art teaching illustrated by her pupils, and then became a teacher-training lecturer at Goldsmiths College. When Goldsmiths was evacuated to Nottingham during World War II, she created the Midlands Group of Artists: two exhibitions in a large empty building led to permanent gallery premises and a range of other activities supporting artists in the region. The Midlands Group of Artists painted murals at five locations throughout the region but none were thought to have survived. In 2013, workmen rewiring St. Martins Church in Bilborough, Nottingham uncovered two of Gibbs murals, which had thought to have been destroyed in the 1970s. These murals are now to be restored and put on public display. In 1943 Gibbs submitted three works to the War Artists’ Advisory Committee. These were purchased and led to her being commissioned to make a series of drawings concerning blood transfusion stations. A further commission on the work of the Women’s Voluntary Service, (WVS), resulted in the painting WVS Clothing Exchange (1943).
Remaining in Nottingham after the war, she married Hugh Willat, later Secretary-General of the Arts Council. She continued drawing and painting until a stroke seven years before she died.
In 2000, Aberystwyth University purchased a collection comprising 98 prints, drawings and watercolours from throughout her career from her husband’s estate. This collection formed the basis of a retrospective exhibition held in 2001.