Although it is a dreary day with drizzling rain, Lauren Johnston Duncan is outside on a covered section of the patio, painting bril- liant blue skies on a large canvas. Bright colors inspire Lauren as she listens to praise music and tags her paintings with a Bible verse to offer hope for others.
On the bookcase in her living room, Lauren displays a treasured black and white photo of her grandmother, Dorry Ann Johnston, taken in 1949 when she was Miss Auburn. The photo reminds Lauren not only of her grandmoth- er’s love and encouragement in art, but how she dealt with problems, even cancer.
“My grandmother was a constant encour- agement to me,” says Lauren. “She was one of the most influential people in my life. I think she influenced me most by the way she treated people. Even though she had a hard childhood she was always able to be positive and saw the best in everyone.
“I think that relates well to my paintings,” adds Lauren. “They are my messages of hope and my prayers for hope. Painting is my way to work hard issues out or wrestle with the Lord. The storms in my paintings represent difficult things that we are up against in life, but there is always hope in Christ, even when we can’t see it. My paintings help me see the hope we have through faith.”
Lauren has been painting for as long as she can remember, and her parents tell her she was painting at three years old. She feels she received her artistic eye from her father, Trey Johnston. “In high school he was asked to paint a big tiger in the center of the basket- ball court,” says Lauren. “Although he doesn’t draw now, he is artistic.”
Both of her parents have been encourag- ing. Her mother, Teresa Spivey, took her to art classes starting at age 5. Her main art teacher was Chi Chi Lovett. Taking classes from her over the years led Lauren to know she wanted to teach art.
In high school, Lauren won a logo contest for the Jan Dempsey Art Center. Art teachers entered her paintings in the Supertindent’s Art Contest, which she won with a block print that still hangs in the Auburn City Schools central office. “Now, I am enjoying entering some of my students’ art in the contest,” says Lauren.
She graduated from Auburn University in Fine Art and has a master’s in Art Education from UAB. After graduation, Lauren taught art at an elementary school outside Birmingham. She then went to West Africa for a year to teach art at an American international school with students from across the globe.
Lauren returned home to Auburn and began teaching art at Richland and is cur- rently teaching art at Auburn Early Ed. She wasn’t sure if she wanted to stay in Auburn until she met her husband, Ben Duncan.
On the wall in her studio at home, Lauren painted a mural featuring a wave of swirling colors with the verse from Matthew, “I tell you do not worry about these things.” It is one of her favorite scriptures, reminding her “to keep our eyes on Christ and not the things of this world.”
“I am drawn to the colors and energy in the art I view and create,” says Lauren. “I loved studying the 1940s New York School Action Painters who made art in the Abstract Expressionist style. This style is where the painting is more about the process than the product. Most often when I paint, I don’t start with a plan. I start with a blank canvas and lis- ten to praise music, and the painting becomes part of my worship. I paint until the canvas feels finished.”
She works in acrylics, oils, watercolor, and pen and ink. Turquoise is her favorite color, and she often adds a splash of the color in her paintings. Sometimes she finishes with a touch of gold leaf.
Although Lauren has a passion for paint- ing, she never thought she would be an artist. “For years I was fearful of creating art to show, and it is still nerve racking anytime I share my art. It is like opening a window to my soul. But slowly the Lord has peeled off layers of myself and helped me find my identity in Him.
“I often paint with a certain scripture in mind,” adds Lauren. “My art is full of my prayers. This is how I work things out, and I always want to convey some sense of hope. A lot of my paintings have storms, which has been my theme for a while. The storms repre- sent hard things I have been dealing with, but I always paint in something bright and hope- ful. It is the calm after the storm.”
In her paintings of storms, there is a touch of sunlight to give the feeling the storm is end- ing. On one of these paintings is her favorite verse, John 16:33 “There will be trouble in this world, but the Lord has overcome the world.”
“That is the message I want to convey in my art,” says Lauren. “It is a message of hope.”
Lauren assembled 12 of her paintings to create a calendar and has cards of her paintings. LJD Artwork is available at Monkee’s in Auburn, cards available at J &M bookstores, on Facebook and Instagram at ART by LJD — and her online store Esty at www.laurenjohnstonduncan.com.
An award winning journalist, Ann Cipperly has been writing features, as well as food, travel and restaurant articles for East Alabama Living since 2004. She is a former newspaper lifestyle and food editor and currently writes features and a food column for the Opelika Observer. Ann is a native Opelikan.