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Meet Torrance Painter and Art Director: Heather Ireland

Today we’d like to introduce you to Heather Ireland.

Heather, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
Rare in LA, but I grew up here, in Torrance, close to the beach. I was the middle child of three. My older brother, Christopher Ireland was born with CF (cystic fibrosis) and was in and out of hospitals for most of my childhood. I was used to going to my brother’s doctor visits, or seeing him at the hospital (Long Beach and Children’s of LA) after school. With that, there was a lot of “sitting” time, in which I would regularly be doodling. I would keep myself occupied and would paint or draw with whatever tools were nearby. I’d read art books and tutorials trying to figure out how other artists used the materials. Not knowing why my family was different, why my friends at school didn’t go to the hospitals to visit their brothers and such – I painted.

Painting has always been how I can collect my thoughts and process them. My mother would let me paint on the walls in her house at a young age. The murals grew and grew. As the years went by I painted over them with new murals. In middle school, I created murals at the preschool my mom worked at and other clients from our church, anything to keep my creative mind busy. I would get in trouble regularly for doodling on my homework and math quizzes.

Midway through my Freshman year of Highschool my older brother lost his battle to CF. He had a lung transplant 4 years earlier (my mother and father donated lobes from their lungs after waiting years on an organ transplant list.) The new lungs gave him 4 more great years, we were close. My brother was my biggest inspiration, and at times my biggest frustration. He showed me how to stay positive no matter what cards are dealt. Then my family was forced to start a new chapter, life after Chris.
Creation kept me going, though. I created set designs for our school plays, was active in all arts programs available and received a talent scholarship to Depaul University’s Theatre Conservatory in Chicago. I was excited for this challenge, stepping outside of my California beach life and headed to a place that actually had seasons! I studied Set Design and Scenic Painting and enjoyed the collaborative effort of working with a group of creatives.

After completing my BFA in Set Design I decided I was done with seasons and missed my beach. I came back to California and started attending events and festivals and worked as the Sales Manager at Blick Art Materials in Santa Monica. I was blown away by the idea of live painting. “Perfect! I can be social and paint at the same time!!” Painting tends to be a very isolating action, confined to a studio with limited social interaction. I started painting live at underground events (warehouses, clubs, and the middle of the desert.) I enjoy the energy that surrounds the night and bring life to the canvas before me. Every event leads to another opportunity to paint live. The act of live painting opens a conversation about art in the most unlikely places. Some come and ask questions about the work and wonder what will come next. Others stand and stare. And a few will come up and let me know they too are an artist and seeing me paint live makes them want to go home and draw too. The last reaction is my personal favorite. To inspire others to create and open a dialogue about art today. Is truly a blessing.

In the last year and a half, I have taken the position as Showcase Director for RAW Artists, and independent arts organization that throws large art showcases in over 60 cities Nationwide as well as Canada and Australia. With my new position and background showing and painting live I have the opportunity to work with other emerging artists and help them get exposure for their work. I direct the shows for San Diego and Denver while working here in Los Angeles. I continue to create and paint live at events and galleries and encourage my artists to paint (or create) every day to continue their work regardless of crazy work schedules (and life). The creative brain is a muscle, it needs to be stretched and worked out regularly to thrive. Life does happen, but we are only here for a limited time, best make the most of it. Artists dedicate their entire being to their craft. We work long hours, work all night, put energy into helping others as well.

Has it been a smooth road?
Losing my older brother when I was in Highschool was challenging. I was midway through Freshman year and my grades definitely suffered while I banded to keep it together. I can’t say I had the best of grades (because I didn’t) and was regularly corrected by teachers for my “creative spelling.” I was set on going to college, though and told my counselor of all the schools I was interested in going to. Her response was “We need to focus on you raising your grades so you can finish High School. You do not have the grades to get into a university. Maybe El Camino Community college would accept you?” I was never keen on being told no and submitted a portfolio and applied to Depaul University, SCAD (Savannah College of Art and Design), and Adelphi. I sure had fun bringing those acceptance letters to her office with a note “who needs grades?”

What are some of the influences that have played the biggest role in your journey so far?
I have had the pleasure of working and learning from many artists over the years. I believe in the power of community, artists helping artists. The day I started working as a Showcase Director for RAW Artists was a pivotal moment for me as an artist. I was no longer just a featured artist doing shows and painting live. I was now scouting, casting, directing and creating graphic designs to feature artists in the show. I was excited to share my experience of working as an artist with others and help build art communities in multiple cities. I enjoy seeing artists succeed with their craft and promotion of their work for the show.
Last night was another amazing night of Directing the San Diego RAW Artist show at House of Blues. We had 3 live bands (Christine Vu, The Retro Toys, Sometimes Julie) 2 dance troupes (Del Mar Ballet & Aerial Couture Entertainment) visual artists, accessory designers, hair and makeup stylists and fashion runway show. It was an exciting evening and every show makes me so proud of the cast I selected. Their hard work and dedication to being a positive catalyst in the arts community makes me very happy. I work with these artists and push them to keep creating and putting their work out there while being an active member of the arts myself. When I am not working on shows I am either painting live at an event or in my studio.

What kind of work do you look forward to most?
I would like to do more public art, murals or large canvases in public spaces, and continue to do commission work for clients. I want to share my work with others and bring people together. I love collaborating and bringing other creatives together for events that celebrate local art in the community.

What have been some of the most important lessons you’ve learned over the course of your career?
There are no do-overs, I am thankful for all the challenges that have come my way. Each challenge has taught me so much and made me stronger and pushed my art to where it is now. I look forward to the challenges that are in the future, and the beautiful works to come. The best advice I can give to an artist is to not let “no’s” get in your way. Starting out as an artist I was told “No” plenty of times. Told “No, you can’t go to art school for painting, that’s not a real job.” But what I kept hearing was “Here is a challenge, prove that you can do it. “

Being a young female artist has its challenges, the art world leans more to the success of male artists and places females in a box of “hobbyists” at times. A professor once told me in her earlier years she would sign her name Henry and the paintings would sell more often than when she used her full name. Years ago I wanted to learn more about tattooing and was told shop after shop “we don’t hire girls.” I did find a shop that would actually look at my work eventually in Sacramento and apprenticed for a brief period while working at the art store there. I enjoy the artform and may go back to it, but couldn’t turn down the opportunity of a promotion and transfer back to LA with the art store. Back in LA I could work and paint live at shows again! Of course, I could get upset about the no’s and feel defeated as an artist, instead, I chose to work harder and let my work speak for itself.

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1 Comment

  1. Karen Kinsley

    August 25, 2016 at 14:43

    I had to look twice. lol

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