“Great things happen when you find your passion in life.” About eight years ago, and after careers as a DJ, interstate truck driver, and tour guide, Bruce Kirby was ready for a change. “I wanted to do something I’d loved since I was a kid. I thought back to my school days and it was out of art or sport – and I’m too old for sport,” Bruce jokes.
Fast-forward to today, and Bruce has completed a Bachelor of Creative Visual Arts and is about to open his second gallery, at 1 Gore Place, Geelong. Through social media and his first gallery, at the Fyansford paper mill, he has sold his hyper-realistic fine-liner ink drawings to buyers around the world.
“I describe my artworks as sophisticated scribbling,” he says. “It’s a technique you can’t just go and copy.”
Bruce sources the best quality paper for his art from Italy and Thailand and spends up to 300 hours on a single artwork. Subjects include animals and people, with inspiration drawn from his travels in Australia and overseas.
Bruce says his style changes as he experiments with new concepts and ideas.
“Last year I started painting rock stars and celebrities as a sideline, and they’ve been really popular. I’ve sold 20 already, including one of Michael Hutchence which has found its way to New York.”
Bruce has just put the finishing daubs of paint on a mural of Michael Hutchence on the outer wall of his new gallery. “Everybody in Australia liked Michael Hutchence. Everyone can relate to him, whether it is because they loved his music, or because of what he went through.”
Bruce plans to change the mural every three months or so. David Bowie, or possibly Freddy Mercury, might be the next to make an appearance.
The new space is one Bruce has had his eye on for a couple of years. When it became available, Bruce went to work to convert the former garage into a gallery and studio.
“It’s a small space, about 15 square metres. But it’s not about how big it is – it’s the creative process you put into it.” Bruce will use the space as a studio too, so visitors will be able to watch him at work as well as admire his latest pieces.
The journey hasn’t always been an easy one.
“When I first started studying, I didn’t have much money and I got sick from the stress of it all.” Fortunately, Bruce picked up a job driving school buses. “It meant I could work 30 hours a week and still be free in the middle of the day for study and art.”
“You’ve got to keep battling away. It’s rewarding, but it’s not easy. I’m lucky, I’ve created work that sells.
“It opened up my heart, big time. It’s something I love.”
Bruce’s new gallery at 1 Gore Place, Geelong, will be open from next week, with hours of Wednesday to Friday from 10am – 2pm, and Friday and Saturday 6 – 9pm. Bruce’s studio at the Fyansford paper mill will be open weekends from 11am – 5pm.
Follow Bruce on Insta @brucekirbyfineart and Facebook @brucekirbyart
Story and photos: Emma Homes