Artist of the Month: Laura Duis

Games on Green Street (acrylic, 24×30)
by Laura Duis was an Experimental finalist in the 23rd Annual Art Competition.

Start in Art: One of my earliest memories is watching my mom doodle. Not ordinary doodles—they were profiles of people, made up of confident, fluid lines that looked effortless. I liked what she was doing and started to create my own drawings. It seemed that as a child I was always drawing or making something—from illustrating my own books to creating greeting cards.

In college, I majored in art education and took classes from sculpture to two-dimensional design and life drawing to printmaking. I began my career in graphic design, working for screenprinting companies. Eventually I went to a commercial design school and along the way was exposed to a myriad of illustrators and designers. The urge to create works of my own became my complete focus and I’ve been working full time as a fine artist ever since. I spend eight hours a day in my home studio—a converted bedroom. I have NPR on all day to keep me company as well as my two cats to talk to. I still have a compulsion for strong design in my paintings and to have the flowing lines of my mother’s drawings.

Media and Genres: My pieces are usually neighborhood scenes, done in acrylic, with a dog or two romping through the yard.

Working Process: I start by looking at my reference materials—either photographs I’ve taken of older homes or those from my collection of books and catalogs. I then make small sketches, taking elements from different sources, as well as making up imagery along the way. Small color studies done in colored pencil come next. When I’m satisfied with the drawing and color, I go to my local copy shop and enlarge my sketch to fit the canvas I want to work on. My enlarged sketch is several pages pieced together and then traced over onto tracing paper.

Using graphite paper, I transfer my drawing to the canvas and go over the drawing with dark brown acrylic. I cover the whole canvas in a translucent orange if I’m doing a daytime scene; if it’s a nighttime scene, I’ll use blue or purple. These colors will show through in some places in the finished painting, but will also warm up or cool off the layers that follow. At this point, I begin by working in the whites so I have some idea of how the rest of the values will go from there. It’s a process of layering color after that, working all over the canvas, playing one area off the others., Usually when I feel the painting is say, 80 to 90 percent done, I’ll set it aside and work on another painting, so I can come back to it with a fresh eye. I finish my painting with satin varnish.

Inspiration for this Painting: I’ve lived in some great older neighborhoods with lots of character and have an ongoing desire to capture the feel of those places. Also, I love animals and what they add to the soul of one’s home. They are close companions, give us great happiness, and sometimes in living with animals we learn that they have special talents, such as the dog in this painting!

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