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My Journey to *Artist*

Posted by Edwin Duncan on

I knew from a pretty young age that I wanted to have a lifelong relationship with creating art. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to be an artist, an art dealer, a collector, or a museum curator, but I knew that in some way I would always work with art. My grandmother took me to an art museum in Minneapolis once as a child and I was entranced. Every piece moved me, every room changed me, every day thereafter included artistic pursuits.  

 I was fortunate to go to a school that encouraged art study and practice, I was able to pack my schedule with art and literature classes while taking math and science classes more as electives than honest courses of study. I had the privilege of two parents who paid close attention to my interests as I aged towards school and when it was time to enroll me, they found a nearby arts high school and were eager to see if it would pull anything out of me. 

 They gave up very early on me having any career in business or medicine!  

 I took an oil painting class that required us to have a seated subject for a portrait. I cheated because I didn’t like spending lots of time with my classmates. Instead of a seated subject, I painted a portrait of Lauryn Hill who had just released The Miseducation record and was having a big moment. She was pictured on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine in a sportswear vibe – it felt so untrue to this woman I loved and the record she had just given us.  

 I reimagined the portrait but in a way that felt more “Lauryn” to me.  

 While the teacher didn’t love my loose response to the actual assignment, she responded very positively to the painting. She encouraged me to keep working with oil painting, using whatever inspirations I could find. I painted a Fiona Apple, an Outkast, and a P.J. Harvey, among others. I would pick my favorite record, lock myself in a room with it, and paint the artist the way they sounded to me.  Image result for lauryn miseducation

 I guess I just…. never stopped doing this. I didn’t go to art school after graduating high school, I just kept painting. The more people who saw my work – which I sold at art shows, flea markets, and farmers markets – the more requests I started getting for commissioned portraits. I once did an entire wedding this way – I went to the wedding, took low-res photos, and provided them back to the couple six months later as oil paintings.