#2 - A little back story...


    I was the youngest – by far. Some called me "an accident", but I prefer "miracle" :)

    I was born when my mom was 47 and my dad was 50. My 3 siblings were all married at the time with children of their own. So when I was born I was an 'instant aunt' 3 times!

    The trio above are my older siblings - WAY before I came into the world. My brother in the middle, the youngest of the group, was 20 years old when I was born.

    This is me in blue, with my niece in red beside me. NOT my cousin. She was my sister’s daughter - my NIECE. The daughter of my sister Connie, who is on the left in the above 'trio photo'.

    (This continues to make for very wacky family relationship dynamics... Today, my teenagers have a cousin that is a grandfather!)

    In my immediate family, I saw a creative thread in my Mom and sister Connie. My sister Connie painted when she was young and those paintings hung in our house. My mom needle pointed and painted her own designs. A cousin (who was much older than I) went to Art school and I remember attending her graduation art exhibition when I was young. Fascinating to me, even at a very young age!

    Here my mom is holding me with my sister Connie’s painting hanging in the background. The painting hung on the wall my entire life in that home. I was infatuated by it and can still picture that winter landscape image clearly.

    My mom was musical and played the piano most evenings. It seemed to be a family requirement that we all start taking piano lessons early in life.

    Me at the piano in our home.

    I thought it was great to have older parents. Nothing seemed to phase them. They had been through it all! They were fine letting me follow my artist dreams. My mother would tell me 'you can do whatever you set your mind to'. So I forged ahead to become an artist.

    I grew up north of Pittsburgh - country then, suburbs now. When I look back, it does seem like I’ve always had an over abundance of self-motivation, drive and energy. I was President of my class in high school, created the ideas for fundraisers, organized the dances, put on the prom. And of course made the posters, murals and homecoming floats, all while waitressing on the weekends and some evenings.

    Pittsburgh

    When I was a senior, I went to high school in the early morning to complete my last graduation requirements and then took the bus into the city to attend full time classes at the Art Institute of Pittsburgh for the rest of the day.

    It was a great foundation for Art… I took figure drawing, color and composition, perspective drawing and typography.

    I remember my figure drawing teacher well... Older, European and STRICT. We started with bones, overlaid muscles and onto figure drawing with models. We were to deposit all erasers in the box at the door. NO erasing in her class. Forcing every mark to be thought through, since it could not be taken back. She didn't like talking in the classroom either - lots of quiet concentration.

    I learned and applied the principle of perspective in architectural drawings. Color theory was taught with painting exercises. And typography? It was a class where we did a lot of meticulous hand lettering to practice the rules of type.... WAY before computers took that aspect over.

    My high school graduation

    Then I graduated from high school and it was up to me to put myself through college.

    I thought “HOW HARD COULD IT BE?”

    ...Well, I would attend 7 more colleges from Miami Florida to Ohio and back to Pennsylvania. I majored in Fine Art and Product Design along the way, student taught and was certified to teach k-12 in Art, Health & PE before it was all over.

    I taught more aerobic classes than I could count to get myself through college. At times, I had 3 jobs at once! Even had a cocktail waitressing stint when I realized I may be wasting those hours from 11 PM – 4 AM while I could be making money for tuition!

    It was a rough ride. But I was determined and I graduated - eventually.

    ... and off to the Adirondack Mountains I would go...


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    Shirl Ireland, Artist

    Elk River Art, Lodge & Studio

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