imkirkwood artist

I create visual narratives with my fine art drawings and computer prints


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Some Control

Posted by iris m. kirkwood on October 22, 2015 at 5:40 PM Comments comments (0)

                                                                                                   Some Control


Starting tomorrow, October 23, my self published book-The Pencil Drawings -Iris M. Kirkwood -will be available for purchase from our local Indie bookstore, Talking Leaves on Main Buffalo NY.

This book is a collection of drawings I completed between July 2013 and August 2014.

This past July I gave a talk at my Book Launch for The Pencil Drawings. I explained to the audience the reason I put this book together was to take control of getting my art before the public. And then to build an audience out of those who want to see more of my work. 2015 has been a good year. Of the juried shows I applied to, three accepted, two in California and one in Missouri.

Daily I look for callings for art, theme juried shows, calls for portfolio reviews, covers for publications, and where I think my work will fit...I submit. Sometimes it concerns me: Should the fact that I am African American woman be noted in my Artist statement? Can they see from my subjects? Though I admit my style is not what one might imagine when you say African American art. I have in fact recently learned my style falls into a new category of Afro-centric artwork- that of Afro-Futurism. I kind of like that...forward thinking elements!

I believe that I have come to a wooden bridge in life and am half way across from where my technical skill was and heading toward the direction it has yet to reach. At the same time the drop below me should I look down and get dizzy is a killer.

Last year it occurred to me that if I continue to market my drawings the way I have- if I lived to be one hundred years old maybe, maybe two hundred people will have seen my work. And then it would only be one or two pieces. So I gathered current drawings that maintained the concept of dreams and part memories into THE PENCIL DRAWINGS.

The text is minimal because the drawings are their own narrative. If you are in the Buffalo area stop in to TALKING LEAVES on Main St. and take a look, maybe even buy a copy. It is also available on Amazon:

Iris M. Kirkwood


I was on a Ted Talk...sort of

Posted by iris m. kirkwood on October 7, 2013 at 11:25 PM Comments comments (0)

I was on a Ted Talk...sort of


The Ted Talk is an intellectual gathering of Thinkers, scientist,educators, or an ordinary Joe whose thought of something so cutting edge simple that it deserves to be made known. The Ted Talks have a site And on the site is an area where the conversations started by the talks can continue; or you can start your own conversation. Awhile back on the Ted Talk Conversation site someone posted the question-What were three things you believed in as a child that as an adult you no longer believe? 

Many people responded with they no longer believed in god or goodness.

             Well the usual Santa Claus came to mind for me. But that was superficial and to me this question called for deeper thought.What did I take for granted as true when a child that I no longer believe?

Such a simple question. I had never considered my memories in this manner before and when the answer came to me I found it chilling. 

1.That the members of my family would die in order, dad, mom,me the oldest child, my sister     and then my little brother.

2. That having talent was all you needed to be successful.

3. That the races would come together if only they spent more time together and got to know     each other as people.

As an adult I no longer believe those things. But as a child I took it for granted that these things were facts. The question on Ted Conversation did not require an explanation of why the change as an adult.But I feel the need to explain how these changes came about for me.

1. My youngest brother died at age27 and was brought back to life. He was the victim of an assault and spent 3 months in a coma. It was 9 months before he was discharged to home. Some of who he was before the assault did not return.

2. Over the years I have met many people with extraordinary talent, singers, visual artist, photographers, actors, people with a natural talent for math and numbers, and those who can make the most useful items out of nothing.But beyond their home, church or family they never soar.

3.I have lived long enough to see the sabotage of the public school system in America. After the law requiring schools to integrate never occurred to African Americans and those involved with the civil rights movement  that the public school system would become a weapon of destruction through crippling policy and underfunding rather than offer an equal education to the children. 

What does this have to do with my art? I think everything. The original Ted question forced me to look at facts of my life that I had never consciously pulled together. Before the question, what I had were disjointed pieces of knowledge and memories. The pathos, laughter, humiliations, joy that I experience whether consciously or not directs me when making visual narratives . I am thankful for the question and the insight that it allowed me to find. I look at the Ted Talk site at least once a week to see what else I might find out about myself and the world.IMKirkwood




Sent from my iPad

Value of a name

Posted by iris m. kirkwood on September 6, 2011 at 11:20 AM Comments comments (0)

                                                  Is an artist made or born?

                My mom had eleven brothers and four sisters. Her own mother died when she was twelve so mom learned all about raising little kids early. She spent her teenage years as a surrogate mother to all the brothers and sisters that were younger than her. And she fought and bossed the ones that were older. My mom learned that little children are alot of work. They have to be fed regularly, they need clean clothes and shoes that fit. Girls need their hair combed and when there's more than one kid in the room someone is always crying.

             When the time came for my mom to start her adult life she fell in love with my father. During the course of her big romance she became pregnant. Mom was less than happy about this fact. The experience of taking care of all those brothers and sisters had left a bad taste in her mouth for responsibility. But eventually during the nine months she began to hope for a girl and think of a name for the baby(me).

            Adrianne. My mom decided if it's a girl  she'd name her Adrianne. She practiced writing this name. She liked the way it looked. She liked the way it sounded and she loved that no one she knew had this name.

         Well on the day I was born when my mom got her first good look at me...she was disappointed. She said 'this baby doesn't look like an Adrianne' and her mind went blank.My dad offered comfort but was at a loss to the nature of the problem. His opinion was if you want to name the baby Adrianne-name her Adrianne  'ain't nobody stopping you'. But he only voiced this opinion once.

     When I was born women stayed in the hospital for 5 days. This gave the  hospital nurses time to teach the new mother how to bath, hold and feed her baby, as well as facilitate the bonding process. Well my mother didn't need to be taught any of those things. But the bonding process was not going well. I was not Adrianne. Now my mother was stuck with a total stranger and she was not looking forward to it.

       On the fifth day when it was time to be discharged my dad was a little worried because I remained unnamed. Friends and family had been in to visit and made suggestions  that were not well recieved. When one of the nurses that had been particularly nice to my mom came in to say goodbye almost as an after thought my mom asked her-' what's your first  name?'          


And that's what I was named Iris. It was an uncommon name-not ordinary at all then or even now.

 I asked my eighty year old mom once why didn't I look like an Adrianne to her. She said-You just didn't.  Every once in a while I wonder if I would still be me-an artist and a nurse if I had looked like an Adrianne to my mother. Who can pinpoint the moment or the method that makes one-themself?


   The following is a drawing I just finished. Part of my ongoing series Culture of Women title:



Loss and gain:Rice the dog as subject

Posted by iris m. kirkwood on May 22, 2011 at 11:49 AM Comments comments (0)

          Last summer our puppy Dot was hit by a car and died. It was a terrible time and I couldn't bring myself to talk about it. She was frisky and loved to play.Wow it's hard even now to type about what happened to her.  

          In November we got another puppy, Rice. Both dogs pit bulls, both blonde and beautiful, and with totally different personalities. The only other thing they have in common is that both almost never bark.

         Rice is male and extremely attractive and like the stereotypical blonde-not that bright-but very loving. I have started photographing him with the object of doing a drawing series using my new drawing program called Artrage. This program has the ability to perfectly mimic the textural qualities of pastel and oil painting! This is exactly what I want my drawings to look like. I took one of my old sketches to practice on:

 All of the textures that are in this drawing are not evident here on the web screen. I also love that when you use the palate knife and drag one color it will allow some of the different color underneath to be exposed. I'm really liking this program and this is not a commercial. The following are sketches that I have done of Rice so far. I want to get the character of my dog in the drawings as well as a physical likeness. That character has to do with a nuance of muscle movement and the eyes.

 And here is a photo of Rice.........

Pencil Sketch

Posted by iris m. kirkwood on April 24, 2011 at 10:42 AM Comments comments (0)

              It is the drama I love. Being able to translate  emotion into a recognizable visual image is  my aim when drawing my visual narratives.

          I love drawing children because they have not learned how to hide the intensity  of their emotions.

On the following copy I popped the eyes nostrils and lips with the photoshop burn tool

I have used the following two faces in 2 finished pieces.

I used this following sketch of a preteen-

As the subject in the drawing the Five of Clubs Emotive

from my Magical Thinking series-see completed drawing-


More crumpled leaves and circle drawings

Posted by iris m. kirkwood on April 14, 2011 at 8:04 PM Comments comments (0)

    I am loving drawing these circles and crumbled leaves with a computer drawn  sky.

And I am playing with simple bright colors!

circles and crumbled leaves pencil drawings & computer process

Posted by iris m. kirkwood on April 2, 2011 at 12:30 PM Comments comments (0)

   I am thankful to have survived March 2011. I have spent most of the month coughing, hawking and spitting; or in agony from toothaches, and finally from a touch of food poisoning- I'm very happy that my wish for death several days in March did not happen.

  In spite of the misery I went through I still drew something everyday. Mostly crumpled leaves and circles. I use mechanical pencils 0.5 and 0.3, hb b and 2b. I buy lots of the 0.3 lead pieces because I have a tendency to lean to the right when I draw and the 0.3 breaks often. The following  four are pencil drawings that I am pleased with.

I made a sky background and added the drawings to the sky. I continued to draw  within the photoshop program more flat than I usually paint on the computer.

I used the above drawing as a postcard in  my portfolio submissions at the end of March as a recieved notice to be sent back to me.

I was very pleased at the plastic, rubber look of the balls and got the idea to put to of these drawings together:

I will work on the second face later. I think this will look great as a 12 x 18 print. So something productive did come out of March 2011. 


My series Magical Thinking-hope

Posted by iris m. kirkwood on December 24, 2010 at 8:01 AM Comments comments (0)

         I have noticed a glaze look come over some peoples eyes when I explain my concept for the drawing series I have been working on for the last couple of years. But when I allow someone to read my artist statement or any writing I might do in regards to my project they appear to"'get it".

                                                            Magical Thinking


        I am re-imagining myths and symbols to create an oversized deck of playing cards as a fetish for magical thinking-hope.

 It is with the disturbance of the ordinary that myths and symbols surface to importance in human consciousness. In the scramble to fix an individuals known world they will grab at the memory of forces they believe in. It is the desire of hope that my cards symbolize. 

2 Work samples:

Seven of Hearts


A re-interpretation of  Ma'at's weighing of the heart ceremony.

Is your heart lighter than a feather? The ostrich feather symbol of truth.

Seven of Spades


Based on Demeter, goddess of agriculture, mother, nursemaid, social order,


Carnival Splender Cruise there was no spam

Posted by iris m. kirkwood on November 16, 2010 at 8:19 PM Comments comments (0)


              The   news is what happens, not how it plays on a slow news week.



                 Our family and friends cruise made national news this week. The day of the fire was scary because no one, not the crew nor the staff had a clear idea of the amount of damage that was being done. It was early in the morning of November 8th when the announcement was made for all the passangers to come up to the top deck, because of the smoke. There was never a mention of the word fire.The elevators were not available, no toilets would flush, no water available -for that first full day Monday  and part of Tuesday. By late Tuesday evening all toilets were flushing and that  announcement recieved a round of applause! 

               After the  first day when it was evident that the ship wasn't going to blowup, or sink, most of the passengers and crew relaxed. We enjoyed the fresh fruits, vegetables, ham, shrimp, champagne and beer flown in by the Navy. I don't work for CaRNIVAL but my family and friends had a ball. Then we were able to spend 3 days in San Diego on Carnival at the Grand Hyatt. Above is a photo of the tugboat Chihuahuas I took. Next to the Splender the tugboat looked like a toy-reminded me of Micky Mouses tugboat Willie.

 We have lots more photos-but I haven't had a chance to finish unpacking.

     Also i enjoyed my 10 minutes of fame. I was interviewed via satellite by the local news station WGRZ here in Buffalo. Well back to reality.

I was prejudice, I see that now

Posted by iris m. kirkwood on September 1, 2010 at 11:05 AM Comments comments (0)

       It is amazing how you can live for more than half a century and still wake up one morning to discover something about yourself that you never ever suspected.



              I have tried four times in my life to learn  to speak the Spanish language.

 As a High School  student taking spansh all I remember is being in the girls bathroom one day  when two Hispanic girls came in. I watched them through the slit of my cubicle door as they walked to the mirror and applied their lipstick, speaking spanish to each other. To me it sounded like vica pica pica over and over and over-but rapidly. And I sat on the toilet moving my lips and rocking my head from side to side, silently mocking the noise coming out of their mouths. I remember that moment with embarrassment now.But I was about fourteen at the time, if that matters. Still all these years later not just spanish but all languages sound like some version of vica pica pica to me.


          Over the course of twenty plus years I  tried again and again to learn Spanish. I tried in college, then at the local International Institute and  finally as a nonmatriculating student at a community college. I bought all the books and tapes but could never get beyond the first month. So I took it for granted that I was one of those people that just can't learn a foreign language, and I gave up.

       Connections present themselves suddenly, opening up  another part of the universe  to you. I was flipping  through the cable channels  a couple of days ago when I saw RAN. RAN is a period piece about the feudal system in Japan with english subtitles.

       I watched the movie and read the words at the bottom of the screen. I got the jist of what was going on quickly. And I noticed that I almost didn't hear the Japanese the characters were speaking-  I saw the words which made the activities mean something to me. I turned the TV off and sat on the couch motionless for several minutes. Epiphany-Foreign words do not make pictures in my head -because I don't know what they mean.

       I am an artist. All my thoughts are visual. When someone tells me a new phone number-I tell them just a minute after the third or fourth number because I actually have to see the number in my head to write it down. I have lived my whole life and never put it together until a few days ago: I can't make pictures with foreign words and so cannot get beyond the rudiments of a spanish grammer class. I'm not fourteen years old anymore I don't mock what is different. I understand that foreign languages are real words, with meanings and nuances that for me will forever remain a mystery.