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Evoking emotion in life and in art
The spark that ignited when Chris Dahl and Jan Bell-Irving met also lit up their artistic sides.
Now, 17 years later, they both have a compelling collection of art work. Dahl creates dramatic yet calming beach scenes, colourful portraits, and abstract animals from water-based oil paints. Bell-Irving is now primarily a glass artist, making vibrant and distinctive plates and bowls, garden stakes and jewelry.
Both artists currently have their work for sale at The Gallery @ Qualicum Art Supply in Qualicum Beach.
Dahl is originally from Ontario and moved to Vancouver in the ‘60s. After he graduated from high school he wasn’t overly keen on pursuing academics at a University, so he opted for the Vancouver School of Art (now Emily Carr University) and studied there for four years. Back then his painting was very geometric and hard edge, he said, and with it he won the Takao Tanabe book prize. At the same time he was playing in rock n’ roll bands and having a riot.
“It was the ‘60s right?” he laughed.
During his school years he took design classes but wasn’t overly interested in them. He would later make his living as a designer.
Bell-Irving was born in Vancouver and spent many summers in Parksville Qualicum Beach. She was never an artist but was always interested in art growing up, she said. It wasn’t until she met Dahl that she became any good at it, she claims.
The two met on a blind date in Vancouver. It was set up by local real estate agent Brenda Nicolls. Before the date, Bell-Irving called her mother and admitted she was a bit nervous, and had her mother ever been on a blind date?
“Only once—with your father,” was her response. And who set that up? None other than Brenda’s mother, Nan.
“I thought that was quite unusual,” said Dahl. “Meant to be.”
Dahl suggested that Bell-Irving find a hobby and so she began working with metal, sculpting and welding art.
Throughout their relationship the couple has split their time between Vancouver and Qualicum Beach. And in was in Whiskey Creek that Bell-Irving discovered a glass studio that offered classes. She was hooked. It was the colour, shapes and possibilities, she said, and now she lets her imagination run wild. She creates funky and eclectic pieces like garden-stakes inspired by Kachina dolls which are made by Hopi Native Americans in Arizona. Bell-Irving has made a Kachina garden god that scares away the deer, among others. She said its important that her art makes people smile.
“I get amused by my work I have to say, it makes me smile and I find some of it kind of silly and I like that about it,” she said.
Bell-Irving belongs to the Terminal City Glass Co-op in Vancouver where she shares a studio and creates some of her work, but the majority of it is made in her studio in Qualicum Beach.
When Dahl finished school he did primarily silk screen printing and some of his work was purchased by the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa. He then switched to photography for a time and began designing magazines, books and websites. His design credits include Vancouver Magazine, Western Living Magazine and Trek-The Magazine of the University of British Columbia. But it wasn’t until he met Jan that he fell back in love with painting, after a lapse of about 20 years from the art form, he said.
These days Jan influences his work a lot, Dahl said, particularly her fun and whimsical take on art.
“Everything Jan does is natural, it’s not derivative, she doesn’t use any reference or anything… she just makes things,” he said.
Her pieces evoke emotion, Dahl added, something he tries to accomplish with his paintings which depict surfers riding big waves. Bell-Irving thinks he’s achieved more than that.
“It’s got so much motion to it that it makes my stomach butterfly,” she said. “It provokes a physical response in me.”
The Gallery at Qualicum Art Supply is located at 206 W 1st Ave. For more on Dahl visit www.chrisdahlcreative.com, for more on Bell-Irving visit janbellirving.publishpath.com.