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Iowa Artist

Laura Todd


Her signature artwork consists of recognizable cityscapes in the Des Moines area.

Laura Todd focuses on painting familiar scenery from Des Moines and central Iowa.

When artist Laura Todd begins painting, time seems to stand still. She doesn’t eat. She doesn’t check her phone. She simply listens to music, focusing on the brush strokes and color combinations on her blank canvas. It’s her happy place.

“I feel so calm and at ease,” she says. “My mind is clear and focused on my painting.”

It hasn’t always been that way for Todd, but her confidence has continued to grow. She painted during her early years of school, and she minored in art during college, while majoring in Spanish education.

Todd continued to paint part time, while teaching Spanish and saving money to do art full time. Instead of focusing on when she might get her big break, she focused her thoughts on people who believed in her artistic talents. She moved from Waterloo to Des Moines, where people “care about local artists.”

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“I moved to Des Moines because I was serious about my art,” she says. “My hobby eventually turned into a fulltime career.”

Todd’s signature artwork consists of recognizable cityscapes in the Des Moines area. A favorite is to paint the sculptures at the Pappajohn Sculpture Garden.

“I’d love to have a whole collection of sculpture artwork,” she says.

For other cityscapes, she’ll take photos and paint from the images, or she’ll use photos by Des Moines area city photographers, such as Mirza Kudic and Tony Simons, who are excited to share photos.

“A photographer can edit the photo in Photoshop. But I can go further with paint. I can intensify the color or soften the sky and make it my own,” she says.

She is inspired by plein air, which means painting live at a location. Through the Des Moines Social Club, she had a showing of her plein air art.

She became energized when a group of 10 plein air artists picked a spot at the Iowa State Fairgrounds for a live painting, fulfilling her pipedream.

“Stuff I dreamed of when I was little — art at the fair or hanging in a gallery — I never thought I could achieve that. It’s not that hard after all,” she reflects.

Another love is painting celebrity musicians and murals. She’s painted several large murals at East Village stores. She admires the current mural work explosion in downtown Des Moines, bringing color and life to drab streets.

“Murals are awesome,” she says. “The bigger it is, the easier it is to paint.”

Todd teaches art for Momentum, an organization for folks with mental disabilities. She also teaches an After School Arts Program (ASAP), which is an art enrichment program for underserved youth.

The most challenging part of her career is to remain focused on herself and avoid comparing herself to other artists.

“It’s easy to look at how others are successful,” she says. “I’m working on understanding my success comes from me. People have been supportive of my art endeavors, and I hope to return that favor someday, to believe in their talents.” ♦


  1. Jim Todd says:

    Very proud of my daughter. JT

  2. Vickie Lenihan says:

    This article is awesome LAURA!! So proud of you for your ART being recognized, and promoting ART in the Des Moines area. Your paintings of Des Moines Cityscapes are beautiful. I am so proud to have you as a part of our family.
    Love you!
    Vickie and Tobi

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