When the girls came home with $27 after a particularly lucrative afternoon (especially since the stones were priced from a nickel to a quarter), an artist was born. Of course the $27 included a few tips.
By age 12, her plan was to be an author/illustrator of children’s books – a dream that came to fruition recently as Kirwen illustrated the whimsical storybook God Picked Me, written by her friend Louise Andreae.
After achieving a degree in fine arts from Central Michigan University, where she was instructed to embrace a “style,” Kirwen walked a winding artistic road, but never felt completely at ease, as she kept searching for that style.
But now, Kirwen has truly begun to live her philosophy, which she summed up while we visited Kitty O’Reillys Irish Pub in Sturgeon Bay to discuss her beautiful customized mural that dominates the dining room. “If someone sees something in my art that inspires or sparks them,” she says, “this is my dream.”
When Buster and Amy Crook renovated the former Stein tavern two years ago, a group of relatives, pals and craftsmen labored with them to rehab the old building, while Kirwen spent around 120 hours crawling on scaffoldings and hauling painting equipment in order to meticulously render a mural that combines old Sturgeon Bay (populated by friends and family of both client and artist) and an Irish landscape in the background,
“People comment on that mural all the time,” says pub owner Amy Crook, “We watched it all emerge from a white wall into this.”
Two thin vertical pipes along the wall turned into three-dimensional old-fashioned iron streetlights that support real lanterns. The red brick of the painted buildings ties into the red brick wall adjacent to the mural. And more than 40 shamrocks are deftly hidden in bushes and building facades.
A type of Renaissance woman, Kirwen, who has sculpted and welded, is unafraid of bold technique. The engaging A Quiet Place of Reflection focuses on bare-branched trees, part of a woodland scene, in torched, rusted steel set out just a bit from the canvas and casting their own shadow on the scene.
“Affordable art is important to me,” adds Kirwen. “I do my own matting and framing to keep prices down.” What else? Funky Christmas ornaments feature waxed nautical charts on origami-like cubes (Kirwen’s husband worked with similar charts during his career in the U.S. Coast Guard). Open or plein air painting provided the opportunity to win the first People’s Choice award at the Paint the Bay competition during the 2009 Boat Festival for Dreamin’ at the Docks, a stunning array of sails on water. She recalls her astonishment at winning: “It was an epiphany -- huge for my confidence -- in a humble sort of way.”
A couple of months ago, her moonscape with a single pine tree, The Chosen One, graced a holiday cover of the Arts Section of Door County’s Peninsula Pulse.
“I’m not a goal setter,” she declares. “That’s because I look for windows of opportunity. My faith is very important to me; I want to be a positive influence and to encourage others.”
© Copyright 2012 by DoorCountyTravelersJournal.com