a naturalist and a natural painter
Dana Irving is a natural. She is focused on the world around her, and art in all its forms comes naturally to her. Her abiding respect for Mother Nature results in canvases that are part realistic and part fantastical. She derives this unusual parents who had a well-developed sense of fun; from Dr. Seuss, who was not only a great storyteller but also a superb graphic designer; and from a rich and varied past and present. Her studio has nooks and crannies dedicated to a variety of art forms. And her passions are eclectic. She refers to her studio as a “three-car garage” and in that space has created a music rehearsal area, a “roughly hewn” loft for storage, an entire corner devoted to the sewing of costumes and crafts, and of course 12-foot high ceilings and north-facing skylights for her painting station. Dana describes her early years as being formative and creative. “My parents made up for whatever funds they lacked, with hard work and creativity. We had an extensive vegetable garden. We took road trips and camped. We saw beautiful things. My father built a travel trailer from scratch and by the At a local lake, we had a cabin that my father built from trees he cut himself. My amazing stylish clothes were sewn by my mother. We lived in the woods, very near to the lumber mill my father supervised. We had no neighbours, only tadpole ponds and bears and two or three trains a day, storming by the house between us and the mill. I am often asked if my parents were artistic, as though it is a genetic disposition. Although they did not have the privilege or inclination of pursuing arts in their youth, they did live a creative life as much as people of their generation, in rural Prince George, British Columbia, in the ’50s possibly could. I like to think that they made functional art.
They didn’t know it was art, but looking back now I realize that even the making of a dinner was approached with creativity and care.”
The Road to an Artistic Life
Dana’s parents encouraged her creativity too, enrolling her in ballet classes at the age of four. With her “colourful house full of original paintings and antique furniture” her Norwegian ballet teacher, Tyra Madsen, helped Dana develop a taste for an aesthetic that one day she would have to leave Prince George to cultivate. Getting away brought many new experiences for Dana, including a stint one summer with the Kootenay National Park Conservation Corps, where she was exposed to other artistic kids who “loved nature, who had plans and dreams and that I wanted to lead an artistic life.” So did studying Chinese brushwork, classical life drawing and oil painting at the Victoria College of Art. She explains, “All of the courses were classical in nature, focused on skills and techniques as well as that brilliant leap of faith that makes good into great.” To sustain her and help pay the bills for art school, Dana tried her hand at many jobs.
Previous Page, Point No Point (detail), oil on canvas, 36” x 60” above left, The Wind on English Bay, oil on canvas, 30” x 40”