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Meet Irma and David Van Dam!

They are a husband and wife team in life, art and much more. They eagerly share their enthusiasm and artistic journey together as students and supporters of a local fine arts school that many natives may not even know exists. Located in the heart of Oldtown Scottsdale, Scottsdale Artists School (SAS) is a non-profit fine arts school that is celebrating its 35th Anniversary this year.

Irma and David have not been involved with SAS that long. In fact, they were not involved with creating art early in life. It is a joy they discovered about four years ago.

Irma was born in the Philippines and came to the United States at age six. Growing up, she was involved in sports and played the piano. Her parents were in the medical field and she followed in their footsteps, working as a registered nurse. Although art was not on her radar, she did win an award for a pastel painting in high school, maybe that was an omen.

David was born in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He also played the piano early on, and played bass violin in orchestra through college. After working as a chemist for years, he decided to go to medical school at the age of 40.

David met Irma during his Intern year in Atlantic City, New Jersey, where Irma was working in the ICU. They married and moved to Memphis, Tennessee and then to New York City for his residency in anesthesiology. They continued to travel for work throughout the United States over the next eight years. Then they settled in Scottsdale five years ago.

During their travels, they began running together, and are running their 14th half-marathon next month. They enjoy finding new mutual interests.

In 2014, David discovered SAS and “dragged” Irma to their first Saturday pastel class with Allen Garns. They both say they had no idea what they were doing, but they both enjoyed it. Soon after that, they signed up for a destination oil painting workshop at the Grand Canyon with Linda Glover Gooch and had a great week. While there, they also met their “new best friend”, a SAS regular, Ginger Carter, who lived near the art school and introduced them to a whole new world of art.

David and Irma began taking Saturday classes with Robert Lemler, who became their mentor, teaching them, among other things, the importance of values (light and dark). After class, they would go to Ginger’s house and have tapas and wine and discuss art and travel. Two years ago, they moved closer to the school and to Ginger. Sadly, Ginger passed away a year later.

“One of the things I really enjoy about painting is getting absorbed in the process”, says David. “When I paint, I forget about everything else and live in the moment.” What Irma likes best is the challenge of improving her techniques and finding her own artistic voice. She also appreciates the exposure to various art instructors and fellow students.

When asked what advice they have for people who might want to get involved in art, they say, “GO FOR IT! Unlike a race, life is not about the finish line; it’s about the journey, and you’re never too old to find new interests. Anyone can learn to paint. It has nothing to do with “talent”: if you learn the process and practice you’ll get better. You’ll be challenged but never bored. Have fun and expose yourself to a variety of teachers. Keep painting, drawing, sculpting… discover your own voice!”

Everyone at SAS is so welcoming and the school is truly for all artists from beginner to professional

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