Ferndale artist still drawing at 90

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Ferndale artist Ireen Danz sketched this portrait during her spare time. Danz has been drawing for as long as she can remember, and at age 90, shows no signs of slowing down.

Ireen Danz has drawn for as long as she can remember, from during study halls in high school to even further back. At 90 years old, she's still at it.

"I keep improving. I will stop for a while, like when the kids were going to school," Danz said. "I would hate it, because the kids would ask why I don't bake anymore, and I felt guilty because I had been drawing and playing around."

Danz moved to Ferndale in the mid 1950s from Green Bay, Wis., while her husband, Willard, worked on the Swan Highway construction crew. She said they moved frequently prior to their children starting school and decided to stay once they were enrolled. She has been in Ferndale ever since.

In the 1960s, Danz attended art classes at Flathead Valley Community College, where she learned how to work with watercolors. Danz said she likes working with all types of media, including pencils, pastels, oils and charcoal.

"It was just a hobby. There was a piece of paper, and there it was," Danz said, pointing at one of her framed portraits.

She continued drawing while raising her family and working at various jobs over the years, including the Terrace Restaurant near Swan Lake.

From the late 1960s through the ’80s, she also did photography work with Gene Brown, who was the area schools' photographer for several years.

Danz said when she was interviewed for the job, she watched him touch up the waves in a person's hair, and as she watched him, his hands moved in exactly the same direction she would have gone herself.

"That gets pretty touchy," Danz said. "When I finished watching him and I started doing it, oh he was pleased with what I did."

After that, it was Danz's job to retouch the photographs and sort them for albums.

Although she's retired now, she still finds time to draw detailed portraits, but she said lately her focus has been on wildlife since it's what her grandchildren enjoy.

"Her house is full of artwork that she has done," Danz's friend, Claire Schraeder, said.

Danz's artwork isn't only on display at her home; she also has donated a watercolor painting to the Ferndale Sewing Circle and plans to get back into drawing portraits.

"I have gotten away from it, but I want to get back into it if I can," Danz said. "I am 90 now, so I haven't got much time."

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