George studied at the Glasgow School of Art between 1967-1971 and was invited to attend the legendary Hospitalfield School in his last year at art college. His career to date has seen a mix of both teaching and working full time as an artist.
Following his studies, he taught art and design in Scottish schools and art colleges and only started painting full time in 1998. Since then, he has regularly taken part in numerous solo and group exhibitions in Scotland, as well as having his work on display in London and New York and is a frequent contributor to The Scottish Societies including the Royal Academy.
George has an inherent interest in the architecture and landscape of his native Scotland and the spirit of the East Coast towns and fishing villages of Fife holds a special place in his heart, providing the primary inspiration for his work. Working predominantly with oils, a signature Birrell painting is stylised with saturated colours, vigorous brushstrokes and bold composition. The artist describes this as an emotional response to his memories. Often inspired by the coastline and architecture, he doesn’t paint directly on the spot or from photographs, but improvises the essential memory of a place within the comfort of his studio; harbours and their bric-a-brac, mills and castles, their texture, colour and pattern creating a unique interpretation. His paintings typically show a clear and well-constructed compositions with contrasting colours creating areas of light and shade, drawing the eyes into the small village.