a nat­u­ral­ist and a nat­u­ral painter

Arabella - - CLAUDE LANGEVIN - writ­ten by Sheila Bla­grave

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”

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