"I like to push the boundaries of what a painting can be, using humour and fun as the guiding forces."
After the Guardian covered Redbubble artist David Irvine‘s body of up-cycled paintings, we caught up with him to chat about how his work has developed over the years. We talked about chance encounters with thrift shop paintings and his life-long relationship with drawing. David has been a consistent member of the Redbubble community since 2008 and it was a pleasure to gain some insight into his unusual, Dada inspired artworks.
Where did your idea for creating these paintings found at thrift shops come from?
I started doing my “Re-Directed” series about 6 years ago. To save money on art supplies I would frequent thrift shops, yard sales and salvage from the curb existing paintings mainly for the frames or paint over the entire canvas and do my own piece.
Then one day I had a painting of a seashore/ocean scene and I envisioned two reapers playing with a beach ball. I painted it and posted the results online and it sold immediately. It all stemmed from that moment.
Do you try to choose well known paintings or any particular style of paintings to use?
Not really, I like a variety of paintings or style of painting… it all depends on price, if it is in decent shape, the type of surface (canvas, board, paper etc..) I prefer working on board, since it’s less likely to wrinkle when paint is applied. A lot of the pieces I find are salvaged from the curb, and if its not workable, I’ll keep the frame or glass and try to recycle the remainder. I hate seeing unnecessary landfill, and waste. As long as the existing painting has some decent visual quality, has a potential “stage” to which I can add my twist, then I’ll take it no matter what style or genre.
I especially love the steak in “The Great Outdoors,” suspended and present in the painting, can you tell us about how you came up with the idea to use steak!?
The steak painting was just a lark, as well as an experiment to see what would happen. It’s so absurd, almost a twinkle of Dadaism. I had come across a flyer in the local paper for a grocery store, and it had a large photo of a steak. The structure of the cut of meat and marbling just seemed to stay in my mind. The existing painting I found on the curb and didn’t really speak to me –so I thought I’d just give it a go.
At shows it was always a very popular piece, people would just stare and try to figure out why!? What? How? I would just say I had a lot of red paint and was trying to get rid of it. It was also a test for me to see if I could render the image to look realistic, and to confuse people — no reflected colour on the water, one side is behind the trees the other is in front. It’s a nonsensical painting that just happened to work, and I did a few other meat paintings afterwards.
I like the use of juxtaposition in your artwork that makes them absurdist, do you think your artwork is influenced by absurdism or surrealism?
I think it could be…I like my art to be fun and to prompt the viewer into thinking about what is going on. The upcoming series will be even more absurd at times, I like to push the boundaries of what a painting can be, using humour and fun as the guiding forces.
Have you always painted? How did you get hooked on making your own work?
I’ve always had the ability to draw, and I loved the power I had as a child that I could create my own little worlds, and the things that lived there. It was a skill I was blessed to have and I could achieve the results I wanted with not too much frustration. As well, my friends and classmates would enjoy what I did, and I really found that quite satisfying –like a stand up comic getting that first real laugh. It was like a buzz, a shot of adrenaline. In grade school I would do drawings of monsters or friends’ requests and they would pay me a few dimes or nickels and I could then get a treat with the money I earned. My parents too were very supportive from the start — although I’m sure they may have had a bit of concern once I explained I wanted to pursue a career in the arts, as it’s a hard road, and not the wisest career to earn a living. It hasn’t been easy, but I’m glad my series featuring Re-Directed thrift store art has become quite popular. Being that it is only one aspect of what I do, I’ll continue to paint and sculpt and try new things and see just where this adventure leads…