News Column

J. Travis Duncan wins third annual Applaud the Artist contest

September 4, 2014

By Mary Frances Hendrix, The Augusta Chronicle, Ga.



Sept. 04--A design painted by Evans artist J. Travis Duncan is the winner of the third annual Applaud the Artist Cover Design Contest.

"Though there were several good entries, I have to admit that my eye went directly to the Duncan painting when I walked into the judging room," said judge Todd Beasley, the creative director of the Morris Museum of Art. "I liked that the artist used so much of the color spectrum in the piece and though it obviously doesn't reflect all of the arts-related disciplines in our community, it does represent three important aspects of the arts in Augusta. Using a paintbrush as the bow as it simultaneously paints the ballet slipper was a clever use of the elements that make up the painting's composition."

Said judge Keith Claussen, "A very nice interpretation of the 'arts in Augusta' motif with straightforward design and bold use of color and texture. Immediately eye-catching, the painting incorporates references to several arts elements, and the artist's placement of the paintbrush to serve as bow to the strings as it also applies color to the pointe shoes is a clever touch."

Claussen writes The Artside column biweekly for Applause.

Also judging the contest was Alan MacTaggart, who is the chairman of the Department of Art at Georgia Regents University.

When told he'd won, Duncan said, "That's terrific news. You know, it's been tough lately. My dad passed away two weeks ago and I was able to show him my painting.

"He was very excited. I know how proud he was of me," he said of his father, John Duncan.

Duncan, 37, said he had a couple of friends and family that encouraged him to enter the contest.

"I like to dabble in a lot of different things. I completely enjoy the arts and how they work together," he said. "That's why I chose the cello, paintbrush and pointe shoes. With the piece, you can see where the paintbrush is painting the ribbon. That's the way I see art. Each type of art inspires the other. Sometimes I'll see a performance and it gives me inspiration to draw or to go do something. They work together; that's what drew me to it."

He's also inspired to explore the arts and share those experiences with his 4-year-old son Emerson, who could be heard chattering in the background during a telephone interview last week.

"I try to introduce my son to art, music. We've gone to see ballet, different dance."

Duncan attended Curtis Baptist School, Evans High and Augusta State University before graduating from Liberty University.

"My whole life my mom always encouraged me to try different things. When I was real little, she put me in a painting class. That's the only formal education I had with art, but I've pretty much been doing my own thing all these years," Duncan said. "Someone would ask me to draw something or paint something. People encourage you, but you always wonder if there's an outlet for it. We prayed about it and decided, 'Why don't I try to do something with my God-given talent?' My wife, Candace, she's always seen my talents. She sees me as very art-oriented."

So now, Duncan is a full-time artist who has started to sell his work.

"Maybe this is something I should have done earlier," he said. "It's actually very enjoyable. When I'm working, I'm having fun."

He also has illustrated a children's book written by Ryon Collins, one of his best friends from his years at Evans High and Augusta State. The book, Sam and Sam in Samantha's Bad Habit, is about twin sloths where one, Samantha, has a bad habit of biting her fingernails. Duncan said copies are available at the Book Tavern and through Silent Parade Press.

The work of illustrating a book about twins, albeit sloths, came easily to Duncan, who has a twin sister, and who, as of Aug. 29, became the father of twin sons, Roland and Cohen.

Duncan's art can been seen online at 2-john-duncan.artistwebsites.com and on his Facebook page.

A cover design by Laura Hughes, of Grovetown, was selected as the runner-up in the Applaud the Artist Cover Design Contest.

"I appreciated the time involved in creating the Hughes piece," judge Beasley said. "The artist really attempted to represent a great deal of the arts in our community, especially downtown. A lot of work went into producing it and it shows."

"The artist populates her black-and-white drawing with references to Augusta's lively arts scene by filling the windows on Artists Row with posters for cultural organizations and events, and by interspersing dancing figures and musical symbols among the intricate architectural ornamentation of the storefronts, Zentangle-style," Claussen wrote. "Quite a bit of research and thought has gone into this entry."

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(c)2014 The Augusta Chronicle (Augusta, Ga.)

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