Painter and photographer Brenda Reid Irwin may be a newer name in the Bend art world, but her use of color and diverse style can be found all around town. Showing in as many as five locations at a time, the multi-talented artist has always loved art and the inspiration it can foster.
Irwin has an eclectic background full of adventures including teaching water skiing on a Club Med cruise ship in the Lesser Antilles, ski bumming and living in Canada as well as selling real estate, renovating houses and 13 years assisting top-level executives at AT&T.
Her diverse interests and a curiosity about the world can be seen when glimpsing Irwin’s body of work as a whole: from forgotten old cars in a junkyard to abstract studies of lines and cityscapes, bursts of color to exploring the female form…it's surprising this artist’s output is only a recent development as she has been developing an artistic eye for many years.
Irwin began painting 10 years ago when she started expanding upon sketches on small canvases, but she soon discovered the joy of painting big. “I like to paint on big canvases with lots of color,” she explained. “I like to keep my mind open with ideas, and lately have been tending towards abstract art, there is a lot of freedom to it.
“I’m still trying to find my style, I think it evolves as you go,” she said. “I don’t have any formal training…and I think about it all the time, sometimes I’m afraid to do that and find out I’m doing it wrong!” she laughed.
Irwin didn’t start taking her art seriously until she and her husband moved to Bend in the fall of 2011. “I was working at AT&T, and when we left Seattle, I just wasn’t able to find a job of that caliber here, so thought while I was looking that I would start to paint more.”
A few months later, she went downtown for ArtWalk and started cold calling. “Friends have always encouraged me to sell my work…and thought I could probably take some of my paintings down there.
“I got a lot of rejection,” she said. “I started out trying to sell picture note cards, and thought I would get in small…It wasn’t until I knocked on the door of Hot Box Betty and talked to Shelly that things turned around. She looked at the wall, and asked if I would hang there the next month. I was in shock, that was my first real lucky break,” Irwin said.
Dorothy Freudenberg is 2013’s Signature Artist for the Deschutes Children’s Foundation’s (DCF) Art and Wine Auction. A contributing artist to the event for many years, Freudenberg’s vibrant digital piece, Compassionate Embrace, will be the cornerstone of the auction held at the Riverhouse Convention Center on May 4.
Since 2002, her work has raised over $12,000 to support DCF’s mission of promoting a community of services to the children and families of Deschutes County. “We have always gotten a really good response from our guests about her pieces,” commented Foundation Executive Director Kim McNamer. “Because she has been giving for so many years, we decided to honor her and all that she has done for us. The piece that she has been able to do for us is pretty amazing.”
“I had been in other auction events, [prior to being invited to participate in 2002] and was impressed with the type of event the Foundation put on, how they treated the artists, and was impressed with the outcome,” Freudenberg explained. “It’s a really worthy project, it becomes a part of your agenda...as an artist it is wonderful to give the gift of your artwork to such a worthy cause.”
The signature piece came about while she was working in her garden and photographing her poppies. “I kept returning to this fabulous subject matter; it is so dramatic,” she said. In her photographs of the flowers one particular shot stood out. After working her magic in her digital dark room, the image evolved into a striking piece of art.
The key to turning an image into a work of art lies in her collections of textures, colors and moments captured on camera. Combining her external observations with an internal vision through the medium of digital art, Freudenberg creates unique pieces that radiate with color.
“When I showed the piece to Jacob [DCF’s development coordinator] and Kim and asked what they thought, the look on their face told me,” she said. “The title, Compassionate Embrace, was a complication of ideas I had as well as an embracing of the nature and significance of the event. I am proud to see my art make a difference for the most vulnerable children and families in our community.”