I met Druh Ireland at the opening of her solo show at the District Library in June of this year and immediately loved her “abstract expressionist” work and her friendly frankness, so I was quick to call and ask to visit her studio for my blog series.
As soon as I stepped into her house, I was greeted by an orange-red wall with one of her gorgeous abstracts entitled I am Down on my Knees which was recently exhibited in the Sans Brush group show at CityScape in North Vancouver.
Druh’s house in Lions Bay, where the family moved when her now teenaged children were in primary school, has a beautiful view of Howe Sound in the distance and a lush back garden, another passion of Druh’s.
Her Background: Fashion design, stylist, fim industry, then painting
Druh grew up in Chilliwack, BC, a suburb of Vancouver then went to Ryerson University in Toronto to study Fashion Design. She describes one of her first jobs as a “dream job”, travelling back and forth between Toronto and New York City collecting fabric and patterns and putting together a line of silk dresses for the Canadian market. From there she became a stylist for television commercials and eventually for the film industry, first in Toronto and then in the bourgeoning Vancouver industry. She worked as a costume cutter or designer in many movies!
However, the all-consuming film industry became a bit much for a mother of two so Druh moved away from it and toward her art, drawing and then painting. She has loved drawing all her life and spent long hours sketching at Basic Inquiry in Vancouver.
Then when her children started school she had 3 hours a day to paint …and paint she did. Above is a piece she did of her children when they were young. She now prefers the “child-like” energy and freedom from painting intuitively and non-representationally.
Druh’s studio space
Her studio is on the ground level which you access down a narrow spiral staircase off the kitchen-deck at the back of the house. The studio used to be a guest suite until Druh completely took it over!
Inside the glass doors is the suite’s kitchen which offers a sink and counter space to spread out her drying oils. Down the hall is the bedroom-turned-sewing room, complete with industrial machines and mannequins.
However, most of the creative action now takes place in the large living space. Druh works on several pieces at the same time and has enough room to have current works at the ready for a dab of paint, a scratch or another mark. She loves power tools and carpentry and has built drying racks for her bigger wet canvases which surround the open work space.
Her current work
Although Druh first started painting in acrylics, she bought tubes and tubes of oils in every color imaginable, hoping to one day get up the nerve to use what she considered to be the “revered” medium. Over time, however, the value of these unused oils grew in her mind and almost haunted her, until one day she reached a point where she couldn’t stand it anymore and decided to take out all her canvases and just use up all the oils quickly, frenetically until they were finished.
Lo and behold, in that exercise of “just using them up” she overcame her worries and her guilt (over having bought them and let them go unused) and discovered just how much she LOVED oils! She also had revealed a process which felt real and true to her, of thickly layering colors, scraping away, and scratching.
Druh loves to play with different compositions, and color, and also loves just black and white. More and more she seeks big open spaces in her work. She uses oils without solvents, applying the paints with palette knives and rubber brushes, so she doesn’t have to wash with turpentine. She mixes in threads from her roll of canvas and ash from her wood burning stove.
I love the built-up history on her canvases, the sensation of substance and mystery, the emergence and dissipation of shapes and colours.
I really enjoyed my two-hour visit with Druh, getting to know this emerging painter whose passion for the revealing beauty in creativity, the inspiration, truth and life found in all things artistic. Keep an eye out for her work!