BOYNE CITY — Although he may not be an optometrist, Daniel Duncan views his purpose as helping others to see. Not to physically see better, but to see better spiritually and emotionally.
It all began with a beloved family member.
“I can remember back as far as four years old sitting next to my late Uncle Jimmy. He would draw and do a lot of pencil and charcoal drawings. He was deaf. He would say to me, ‘Dan Boy, Dan Boy, trace.” He would take his drawing and put a piece of tracing paper over it and have me trace it to build the dexterity,” explains Daniel.
“I have always had this yearning to explore and see things. The Bible talks about listening but not hearing. Well, for me, it’s the difference between seeing and observing.”
“I have always seen things differently. Growing up in North Carolina, when the other boys wanted to play football, I could play football, but I was easily distracted. If I saw something in the woods, I’d be like, ‘See you, guys.’ I‘d be out there exploring and watching these critters go up this tree.”
“I just had a fascination for God’s creation. I wanted to translate that into some sort of artform to help people see that beauty.” Daniel’s father was a tool and dye gage builder. So, the family moved occasionally as better jobs could be found. They had started out in Michigan, moved to North Carolina for much of Daniel’s childhood and then moved back to Michigan during his teen years.
In high school in the Detroit area, he took all kinds of art classes. There his artistic capabilities grew. The principal even asked him to switch classes once, because the student newspaper needed a cartoonist. Danny did his first commissioned work at the age of just 14. It was a pet portrait. “I do a lot of pet portraits. This first one I did in charcoal and pastels. The lady asked me to do five portraits, one for each of her dogs.” Daniel followed in his father’s trade after high school, becoming a tool and dye man himself. Even so, he felt he needed to do something with his artistic skills. He just didn’t know what that was.
While he continued in tool and dye downstate, his father moved to the Boyne City area. Daniel married and they decided to move up to Boyne City as well. Here they raised three boys. During those years, a dream to own an art studio in downtown Boyne City developed.
Then, in 2017, rock painting became popular. Daniel was working with watercolor at the time. While scrolling through Facebook, he ran across the page, Boyne City Rocks. He became one of the first people to become a member.
So, Daniel tried out rock painting with his two nieces in the area. After that, he became addicted to the art.
“Since then, I have painted well over a thousand rocks,”explains Daniel. “Painting on rocks has helped me develop my skills because its a challenge. You have this uneven surface. You have different colors and textures.”
As Dan began posting his rock paintings on the Facebook page, he became a local celebrity. He became friends with the woman in charge of Boyne City Rocks. She invited him to be part of an art event she was hosting. And it was at this he began to see the popularity of his rock painting.
“I also do a lot of what I call memorial rocks. That’s where, if I see a loved one who has passed, I will paint a picture the loved one and bless them with it.
“I pray over each rock too. And I pray that I can do it. Painting human faces is tough, especially on a rock. I’ll get finished about 2 o’clock in the morning and sit back and look at it. I’ll say, ‘Thank you, Lord,’ for helping me pull it off.”
While it was the rocks which led to his popularity, he continues to do paintings and other forms of art which he sells through his studio in downtown Boyne City, Duncan Studios. When he finally found the right space for his studio, he had his pastor come in and dedicate the place to the Lord’s use.
Daniel has continued in his tool and dye job. His art still remains more of a hobby for now. He believes God has truly guided his art venture. He admits though, now his most cherished moments with art, is when he can give someone a piece of art and he can see in their eyes they are truly blessed by it.