We were lucky enough to chat with artist Alison Duncan about her inspiration, her work and her life. Enjoy the full interview below.
How did you 1st discover your love of art?
I don’t remember a time when I didn’t love art. Growing up, my mother was a collector and my aunt was an artist, so we were always surrounded by meaningful and interesting pieces, which I think impacted me. I created from an early age—I have memories of going to Saturday morning art classes and entering art contests. Perhaps my first conscious thought of really loving art was when I was in second grade and I, along with another student, was asked to write and illustrate a book as a special project for our grade. I had a love for writing and illustrating and was fascinated by the ability for words to come alive through pictures. I remember my favorite author/illustrator was Steven Kellogg, with his detailed pictures that captured the emotion that his characters were feeling. I loved how art could be used to compliment, or enhance, words in that way.
How would you describe your artistic style?
I think I’m finally settling into my style of abstract expressionism, where it is finally feels like me and feels less forced. I love color, layers, and using different materials to create unique and interesting pieces that tell a story and make you feel something.
What inspired you to become an artist?
I’ve been creating for as long as I can remember and gifting my art to friends and family, but I never considered myself an artist until fairly recently. I left my job as a lawyer to raise our twins (I now have four daughters), and began painting more consistently after they were born. It began as a creative outlet and a way to decorate our own home. Then people began asking to purchase my work and requesting commissions, so it sort of grew organically from there. I suppose I was inspired to become an official small business by all of the other local female artists around me. Atlanta is such an amazing city for the arts and I have found that the community is so supportive. It is thrilling to see young women and other moms as creatives, entrepreneurs, and small business owners—it’s truly inspirational!
What is the inspiration behind your work?
I’m inspired by colors and moments, so I find inspiration almost everywhere—in my children, the colors or composition in photographs, fashion, interiors, scripture, music, and nature. If something strikes me, I try to write it down or capture it with a picture so I can reference it later.
Describe your process.
I begin my abstract pieces by planning a basic color story. Then I start with several washy layers that saturate the canvas. After a few days, that dries and I begin the layers. I plan the composition around the interesting moments in the washy base layer that I want to peek through—sometimes there’s a lot of those first layers that show through, and sometimes it’s just a little. Those base layers create a movement and depth that I absolutely love, and I think the thicker layers are such a great contrast. And then I just work…and sit…and stare…and repeat until it feels complete and tells a story that I like!
Who is your favorite artist?
Oh this is an impossible question! I really can’t name just one. I get lost in Joan Mitchell’s compositions—the surprising intentionality of her gestural strokes, her gorgeous layers and color choices—her work is so full of energy and life! And Mark Rothko—the layers and layers to produce such interesting color blocks that pull the viewer in…and then Monet—I love Monet—he is timeless and seeing his brushwork in person is like nothing else. Some of my favorite contemporaries are Sally King Benedict and Erin Gregory—their transparent layers and the depth they create is captivating; and the way Erin communicates light in her florals is just magical—I could stare at their work for hours. I just love Brian Coleman’s marks and color choices and his use of negative space. Emily Morgan Brown’s work leaves me breathless—her use of materials and her work is just insanely beautiful.
How do you name your pieces?
This can be challenging because I don’t want to influence what the viewer sees or feels too much, but sometimes I name them to hint at what inspired me, or it could be scripture, or song lyrics I’m listening to while I paint (so, it could be anything from 90s alternative to a hymns, haha!).
How do you stay inspired?
I’m grateful that lately this is something that I find myself struggling with too much—I think my biggest challenge is finding the time in the studio to release all of my creative energy, given that my primary job is raising my girls. I have learned about myself that if I take time to pause and be in awe of what is around me, taking in my surroundings for a moment—my kids playing and what colors I see when they are having fun, going for a walk, or even looking through books on interiors or art history—that I can be so inspired. Most of the time, the images I jot down or save will not lead to a painting, but sometimes the smallest bit of inspiration leads to one of my favorite pieces. It’s also interesting to find that I’ll go through phases where I keep saving images with the same color palette over and over again, so then I’m like, “Okay, I guess I’d better paint this one to get it out of my system!”
And now some fun ones… People like to get to know the artists they are buying and I’d love to include little snippets that tell a bit about who you are and your personality. Feel free to say anything that might be relevant.
If you could travel anywhere in the next ten years where would you go?
Ahhh, so many places! I’ll try to narrow it down. My husband and I love to travel, but since kids, we haven’t traveled internationally since our honeymoon. Hmmm, I traveled through Europe in high school, but only spent a few hours in Paris, so I’d love to return and really spend some time. I also really want to go to Barcelona. And I’ve never been to South America and have a dear friend from Brazil, and I’m dying to visit her and her sweet family.
Where is your favorite place you have ever traveled?
Oh goodness! So many places for so many different reasons…if I have to choose just one, I absolutely loved the Swiss and Austrian Alps. I studied abroad for a summer in Austria and had some fun adventures in this beautiful part of the world.
If you could describe yourself in 3 words what would they be?
Corny, Extroverted-introvert, and I think others would say I’m “smiley” ;-)
What is a fun fact about you?
My birthday is on Halloween, so I’m a major Halloween nerd! My husband is such a great sport and has participated in whatever couples (and now family) costumes I throw at him. My daughters absolutely love it and each year gets more and more fun as their excitement grows and they get more into the holiday! I do fear I may be doing some permanent damage since they laugh at the gory decorations and think zombies are hilarious…
Do you have any pets?
We had a sweet pup who got very sick very quickly a couple of years ago and we had to say goodbye to him. After mourning that loss and having a baby, our family is finally in a place to have another pup again, so we’re slowly looking for one that would be a good fit for us. We have a heart for rescues, so we will be looking at different organizations for our next family member soon!
Any new series ideas or fun news?
Yes! I am starting work on a small collection of figures. They will be loose and soft, with a sort of vintage vibe and I cannot wait to share them!