Interview with Leah Duncan

AUG 5, 2014 updated Jul 13, 2021
We’re glad you’re joining us for our very first SpoonChallenge: A Month of Drawing. Every day this month we’ll be bringing you exercises and inspiration for drawing your way to beautiful surface design. It’s not too late to sign up for the SpoonChallenge to receive daily drawing prompts, creative inspiration, and interviews with amazing illustrators and pattern designers. Share what you’re sketching with the hashtag #spoonchallenge on your social media platform of choice. If you’d like to join in, follow the link after our artist interview to get signed up for the SpoonChallenge!
Today, Meet Leah Duncan, an artist from Austin, Texas who designs hand drawn textiles and stationery inspired by nature. Take a peek into her studio and artistic process and see some of the fabrics and goods featuring her surface patterns. 
It always starts with a pen and paper. Sometimes I use gouache or screen printing as a medium for my artsier projects and textiles. Otherwise it’s scanned into Illustrator to color and repeat.
I’m an illustrator and textile designer. I have my own collection of stationery and textiles as well as license my work commercially to companies for things like bedding, wall art, fabric, clothing, wrapping paper, bags, etc.

 
Contrary to what one would assume, I don’t always spend my days being creative. Running my business is a full time job, so I normally like to create in the evening after I’ve had dinner and can relax a bit knowing all of my other tasks are done for the day. I’m very much inspired by nature and my surroundings so I like to spend a lot of time outdoors where I can absorb new ideas. It’s hard for me to create on-demand, so it’s normally sparked somehow, and my process grows from there. It’s always a tough balance, but a balance of the best kind!
I adore creating surface patterns and I think a lot of people would say it’s what I’m best at. I love the way objects can wrap around each other to make a repeating image or something entirely different from the original work. It’s so much fun piecing them together each time. It’s kind of like putting together a puzzle.
The coolest thing I could imagine seeing covered in my artwork? Probably the moon. Can’t blame a girl for dreaming!
Sometimes my process is very organic and things come together quickly. Other times it can take many, many edits to get to the final product. When working commercially with companies, there is even more of an editing process because I’m working with a whole team of people with varying opinions on what the final product should be. I like to think it always comes out as genuine to the original work as possible though.
Leah’s Studio
 
I fell in love with design over ten years ago and we’ve been together ever since. I’d say design is my friend, my comfort, and my joy. If I can sit down and design something beautiful I’m in my happiest place regardless of what else may be going on in my life.  It’s truly a labor of love. I feel very lucky to be able to make a living with my craft. Even if it isn’t always the easiest path, it’s my happiest path.

Leah’s 2 minute selfie
Relationships have always influenced my work. I like to collect small moments and put them into my drawings, whether it be a mom and daughter swimming or two foster puppies napping. My life, my family, and my friends all influence my work as well as my travels. I’m heavily influenced by my environment and surroundings and am constantly absorbing ideas as the day goes by. As for other artists and designers that influence me: Lucienne Day, Jacqueline Groag, Vera Neumann, and Frida Kahlo will always be favorites, not only because of their enormous talent, but because they chased their art dreams in a time when women didn’t do such things.
In my toolbox: Bic roundstick pens, paper, ink, linen, thread, and a Wacom tablet.
If I were a protagonist in a novel, I’d be Dorothy from The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.
I’d love to visit Chile and South America in general. I would love to see how that would influence my work, and the food looks oh so good!
If I could only create art with one tool, it would be pen and paper. Or pen and whatever I could get away with drawing on.
Song that describes my creative process:
Sprawl (Mountains beyond mountains) by Arcade Fire

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