By Carol Drummond
He Did Knot Work
Creating Celtic-knot artwork had been an interest of Kevin’s since he was young. As the first person in his father’s family to be born in the U.S., he grew up surrounded by Celtic and Irish imagery.
Kevin’s family remembers him as a child sitting for hours perfecting drawings. He created his first Celtic-knot designs in his high school art class in 1981.
Because of this fascination with art, and in spite of all five of his siblings pursuing careers in science and medicine, Kevin went on to pursue a visual communications degree from the Art Institute of Pittsburgh.
After a long career as a technical illustrator, he reconnected with his love of Celtic-inspired artwork. It began with a simple idea – a one-of-a-kind drawing of his family surname, as a gift for his father, Patrick Drummond, from Dublin Ireland.
Kevin always admired the quiet man who spoke with a thick Dublin brogue. His Dad was not much of a talker, was not one to express his feelings outwardly, and since Kevin moved away from home in his twenties, he only saw him a few times a year during visits home.
Times spent with his dad growing up, doing things with him like fixing the family’s cars or caring for their horses, were cherished memories for Kevin. Thinking about an upcoming visit home in 2013, he wanted to find a way connect with his dad and pay tribute to his Irish roots.
In his free time, Kevin circled back to something he enjoyed doing as a teenager, exploring the patterns in Celtic-knot designs. Kevin had an idea to combine his illustration skills with his interest in Celtic knots, creating something unique for his dad that would celebrate his Irishness.
Knot Typical Irish Art
First Kevin carefully combed through historic fonts to find one that he could use as a starting point, to update and embellish the letter forms to match his vision. Next came the borders, this is what Kevin really liked to sink his teeth into.
All the lines of the Celtic knots had to have no beginning and no end, and they needed to find their way all around the page and back to the beginning of the design with no breaks. And just to make it even more complex, he added another border. All the lines in both borders had to maintain a consistent line weight on their never-ending journey in and around each other and around the subject, which was the family surname.
His new creation was a piece of artwork that depicted his last name, Drummond, rendered in a modern, but historically-based, Gaelic font, embellished with a double Celtic-knot border and topped off with a curvy tree-of-life winding through the empty spaces on the page. Kevin created a unique visual style.
Rather than strictly adhering to the historic colors and imagery that is typical of Celtic designs, he used that style as inspiration and brought about a new, clean way of rendering the knots, fonts, and Celtic symbols. This resulted in precise, visual elements with bright, fresh colors. We called the new style of artwork, “Modern-Celtic Design.”
When I saw what Kevin had created, I knew his dad would love it, and really, anyone with an Irish surname would feel the same way. The piece was beautifully rendered, depicted a fresh approach to a well-loved historic art form, and it was personal. I mean, what’s more personal than a name?
When family and friends began to admire the piece, Kevin realized that there are many others that would enjoy celebrating their Irishness with a modern-Celtic design of their surname or place of family origin too.
That was in 2013. We decided to see what we could do with his idea together. We first assembled a list the ten most common Irish surnames, and Kevin got work.
Murphy, Kelly, Byrne, Ryan, O’Brien, Walsh, O’Sullivan, O’Connor, Doyle, McCarthy – he created a unique modern-Celtic design for each with its own combination of Celtic knots, fresh colors, and tree of life configuration. Our new business venture, Kevin’s Irish Art, was born.
Ten years later, in 2023, Kevin’s collection included 610+ Irish surnames, 30+ Irish places, Gaelic greetings, Celtic symbols and a line of notecards with options in Gaelic and English.
Kevin and I traveled across the country during this time to feature his artwork in the largest Irish festivals in the United States, while constantly updating the website to feature the growing collection.
While Kevin was creating a phenomenal collection of modern-Celtic designs, his magnum opus, his health was slowly declining. When he passed away in May, he left a massive legacy, a tremendous body of distinctive artwork, so Kevin’s Irish Art could outlive him.
I continue fill orders using Kevin’s artwork, to make new designs using elements he created, for names and places that were not done at the time of his death, and I plan to once again take Kevin’s Irish Art back on the road to Irish festivals across the country in 2024.
Kevin Drummond, 3/5/1964 - 5/28/2023
Gone, But Knot Forgotten
Kevin’s Irish Art adorns the walls of homes, businesses, Irish pubs and gift shops in all 50 states and in Ireland. You can see Kevin’s modern-Celtic designs at kevinsIrishArt.com