Leah Duncan

"I think it's important as an artist and designer to try new mediums. It keeps things fresh and gives us a different perspective."

Local Nature, 16'' x 20' screen print by: Leah Duncan' 

INTRO: Leah is an artist and designer currently based in Austin, TX. My first introduction to her work was through a series of prints hanging in a booth in Paris on Ponce in Atlanta, GA. As I walked through the rest of the store, I couldn't get one particular print out of my mind. I purchased it that day and it now hangs in my office. No matter the medium, her mark shows through. She creates everything from prints and posters to calendars and fabrics. She leaves her distinct mark on the world's walls, couches and everything in between. 

Stephanie: What is your daily process like?

Leah: It varies heavily depending on the season. I often am juggling many different tasks which could include invoicing, filling orders, working on new goods, or work for a collaboration. It's always a hard process and can often be hectic, but it's still a dream come true.

S: Do you like to experiment with any media outside of your specialties?

L: I would love to take a ceramics class. I had a toy potter's wheel growing up and I would get lost playing with the clay and watching the motions of it spinning round and round. There's something that's so organic and relaxing about the whole process. I think it's important as an artist and designer to try new mediums. It keeps things fresh and gives us a different perspective.

Desert Flowers, set of three 5'' x 7'' prints by: Leah Duncan

S: What was the transition like between graphic design and illustration? 

L: Hard. I doodled a lot growing up but never took it seriously. I feel like I was forced to draw because I worked for a screenprinter and that industry is heavily illustration-based. I was in the art department with these very talented guys who had been drawing all of their lives and their technical ability was amazing. My art director told me to draw something every day, even if it's just for 5 minutes. I did and although my technical ability will never be where there's is, I've gotten better and hopefully will continue to.

S: What is your definition of art?

L: Anything that is expressive. Any form or medium that is a reflection of someone's process, journey, or thoughts.

S: When do you feel most inspired and/or creative?

L: I'm a night owl and love to work on my most creative projects after dinner. It's normally on my sofa with a pen and paper, but I would love to work in some sort of schedule where I can try new things like painting, ceramics, etc. That would truly be the dream. Also, while I'm sleeping. Dreams can be full of surprises.

S: Do you structure your routine more around inspiration or discipline? 

L: Both. I am a commercial artist so I have deadlines to work toward and can't get carried away with my process so much. At the same time, there are instances when I come back from a walk, or a day at a museum, and I want nothing other than to sit down and make new things. It's a balance.

Process photo by: Leah Duncan

S: Where is your favorite place to work outside of your studio?

L: Outdoors. I love nature. We just moved back to Austin from Brooklyn. I've never been so happy to see trees and green plants in my life. 

S: What life lessons have you learned by being an artist?

L: Life takes courage and so does being an artist. Also, not everyone is going to like your work or your style - and that's OK. Lastly, hard work pays off.

S: What resources/voices are missing from the art world?

L: That's a really great question. The internet has brought us so much, and I feel so connected to other artists around the world through blogs and social media. Maybe encouragement is missing from the art world? Or maybe just the world? When people say they are going to be an artist, people act like they're crazy. Maybe some sort of way for us artists to communicate with the rest of the world... so they don't think we're crazy for wanting to be starving, but happy artists. I'm not really sure. Maybe a resource to say it's OK to choose this life. You got me with this question... it's a tough one. : )

Various pillow designs by: Leah Duncan

S: What distracts / discourages you from making art?

L: Sometimes I hit that block where things just aren't coming together like I had in mind. It's always a struggle to break through it but I think I've come to a point where I can embrace it as a part of the process.

S: In your opinion, how has the digital revolution impacting the art world and creativity in general?

L: As mentioned above, it's brought us together. There are artists all over the world that I've been able to connect with. I'm not sure I would have had the courage to start my business and try to make it as a designer and artist had I not seen other people doing it and making it happen.

S: How do your creative pursuits benefit you personally?

L: It's the love of my life. I don't think I'd survive if I couldn't be creative. It makes me happy.

S: Do you have any daily rituals that keep you on track?

L: I like to fit in a run on the hike and bike trails in Austin or yoga a few times a week. It's often hard to have rituals because my life is a juggling act, but I find that exercise and being outdoors re-energizes me and keeps me focused.

2015 Reptiles & Flowers calendar, 4.25'' x 11'' by: Leah Duncan


For more of Leah's work and process, check out her website, Etsy shop, Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest.

If you're curious about what kind of music Leah listens to in her studio, this really fun mix of tunes will give you an idea. She also recommends Hurray For the Riff Raff's "Blue Ridge Mountain," and here is a terrific live performance version: