Today’s artist spotlight features Alison Duncan, an Atlanta-based artist and mom of four. Through her arraignment of colors, lines, layers, and textures Alison hopes to bring happiness to those who view her work.
In this interview Alison shares about when her love of art list began, artist’s who inspire her (including one of my personal favorites, Sally King Benedict) and how she shares her love of the art with her daughters.
You grew up in the Atlanta area and graduated from both the University of Georgia and Mercer Law School. When did you first become interested in art?
I can’t remember a time I didn’t have a love for art and creating! I’ve been drawing and painting since I could pick up crayons! As I got older, I think I just never realized what art as a profession could look like, or that it was even a viable option. I do love my educational background—it suits my personality and it has served me well, but I am so grateful that I am finally pursuing this part of me and that I have the opportunity to make art and share it with others!
Where do you like to go when you need inspiration?
Because my studio time can be limited and is so precious, I have realized that I can’t spend that time searching for inspiration. I find so much inspiration around me day-to-day and I’ve learned to stockpile that so I can reference it when I’m preparing for my time to work. I save photos I’ve taken, pictures of interiors, color stories, magazine pages, doodles from my kids, you name it, and I look to these resources to get my creative juices flowing so I can make the most of my time when I’m in the studio.
Are there artist(s) who inspires you?
So many! And this can change from time to time as I’m thinking through different elements of my work. For example, when I think about graphite sketching, I love Cy Twombly and Brian Coleman’s marks; I am obsessed with Joan Mitchell’s compositions and her gestural strokes, and the patient layers and layers Mark Rothko uses to produce his color blocks. As far as contemporary artists, there are so many southern artists that inspire me! I love Sally King Benedict’s use of color and layers—I cannot get enough of her work, and how Erin Gregory communicates light and shadow is absolutely captivating. I am also so inspired by all artist-moms—and working moms in any profession—motherhood is such a gift, and being able to balance it with the other gifts we have can certainly be challenging.
Your work is mixed media and you use a combination of gouache and acrylic paints, oil stick, and graphite. What is it about these particular mediums that you enjoy?
There’s something about using multiple mediums that add layers and depth that resonates with me. It makes the work less one-dimensional, more interesting, and less perfect…a little bit messier. And I want to communicate a story or a history in my work, and I feel like I can’t do that with paint alone.
Do you have a specific brand of gouache/acrylic paints that you like to use?
I have all different brands up in my studio, and I like them all for different reasons. If I had to choose, my favorites are Golden and Acrylique acrylic paints—they have such a smooth consistency that’s so yummy!
Is there a particular color palette that you find yourself using often in your work?
I don’t think there’s one palette that I gravitate towards, but I do love all shades of pink! I find that I often have to restrain myself from using it in almost everything, haha! I’ve tended to shy away from yellows and reds—I found them intimidating—but am starting to explore those more and that’s been so fun!
Your work features abstract work on canvas and paper, figures, and kids at play. What drew you to these particular subjects?
My first love is abstracts. I love how a piece of abstract art can communicate emotion, how it can really complete space, and how you can see something new every time you look at it.
Figures are something that I always wanted to explore, so a couple of years ago I decided to commit to the 100 Day Project and really experiment with this subject. It was so freeing to try out all kinds of styles and media and just really have fun with it! I love figures and am finally revisiting the subject and what that looks like for me.
And my kids at play are just so fun! This non-traditional take on portraiture is truly inspired by my own kids. I want to capture the energy of kids in their element—fully absorbed in play or whatever is capturing their attention! It’s been a joy to create special pieces for parents and loved ones.
It’s freeing to know that there are so many artists that paint multiple subjects and we don’t have to be confined to one area. For me, each subject exercises different parts of my brain, and I’ve learned that I need that in order to avoid getting burnt out and to stay inspired.
Do you feel more creative when you’re painting a piece just for yourself versus a commissioned piece?
Oh, definitely when I’m painting for myself! I wish that wasn’t the case, and I’m learning to work through this as I hone my commission process. I tend to get a little bit in my head with commissions and instead of starting at a point that I love and that feels natural to me, I tend to focus on what I think my client expects and what they might love. I’m still learning to find the process that balances these and sparks as much creativity as painting for myself.
I loved the Day 18 & 19 figures that you did in your 100-day project (specifically the color palette featuring gold, and shades of yellow and blue. What did you enjoy the most about the 100-day project?
I’m so glad you loved them! I called those my Proverbs 31 Woman and it was actually all metallic paints—golds, silvers, coppers, and bronzes, with gold sketching, and the most popular commission request from my 100 Day Project! As for the project, I loved committing to create more consistently. I definitely found that the more I created, the more creative I became and the more the ideas flowed. But perhaps my favorite thing about the project was the freedom to explore a subject without having to commit to a style. It feels very vulnerable to share your work, especially when you’re exploring and playing around, but everyone was so encouraging and supportive—and it’s so interesting to see what some people responded to!
As a mom of four, how do you share your love of the art world with your daughters?
Oh gosh, this is so easy! My kids could color and paint all day long if I let them! It’s such a joy to watch what colors they choose and what they like to draw or paint, which changes and grows as they do. I love working in my studio with them beside me working on their own creations—and they love giving me unsolicited critiques on my work 😉 And over summer breaks, we pick one big art project to do that may take a few weeks, and that’s always a lot of fun. My kids also love reading and we’ve discovered an incredible series of children’s books by Laurence Anholt where he tells the stories of various artists—I love them as much as my kids do! We’ve read about Van Gough, Monet, Degas, Cezanne, and we look forward to reading all the others he’s written. As my kids get older, I look forward to learning more about art history and different art movements alongside them and visiting museums!