An introduction is seldom required for artiste par excellence, Lisa Congdon. Nevertheless, we shall have one to channel her glory. Lisa Congdon wears many crowns; as a fine artist, an illustrator and an author. Her best known work include colourful abstract paintings, intricate line drawings, pattern design & hand lettering most of which are available through New Yorks Uprise Gallery. She is the author of six books, including our personal favourite Art Inc: The Essential Guide to Building Your Career as an Artist. Lisa sees herself as a passionate and focussed individual, who carefully immerses herself in the project she takes up. We had the pleasure of having a generous chat with the icon herself, and can’t wait for you to have a look.
On having such an extensive, well-recognized body of work we asked her what her creative process was,
Lisa : I am someone who researches things deeply before I begin creating. For example, if I get interested in a particular thing that I want to draw or paint, I really dig into reading about it as a way of preparing myself. I also play with ideas in my sketchbook a lot. But I am also a fan of not over-thinking my work and just digging in.
As a purely precise perfectionist, Lisa is not inspired specifically by one person or one thing,
Lisa: I am generally inspired by people who are risk takers, people who have big ideas and take action on them. I am inspired by people who work through their fear and don’t make excuses for why they aren’t good enough, or can’t do things.
Its pretty interesting to note that someone of her stature in the art community hadn’t always intended on taking up art as a profession,
I actually didn’t start drawing or painting until I was in my early 30’s. At first it was just a hobby, but then the more I drew and painted, the more I fell in love with it and wanted to do it all the time. A few years later, when the internet became a place for makers to share their stuff, I started sharing images of the things I made on my blog and also on Flickr. This was 2005, a few years before social media, and Flickr and blogs were the main place where people shared photos of their work. I started making friends with other aspiring artists. And I started slowly selling my work. I decided I wanted to eventually make a full time living as an artist. Eventually, in 2007, I was able to begin making a part time living from my art by having shows and selling things on Etsy. A year later, I signed with an illustration agent, and began illustrating. Now ten years later, I teach classes, illustrate full time, have six published books, licensed products, and a thriving full time career as an artist.
Of all the projects she has worked on so far we asked her which one lay closest to her heart,
Lisa : All of my projects have been very personal. In 2010 I did a project in which I documented through photography and drawing all of my weird little collections of things. It was called A Collection a Day. In 2012, I hand lettered my favorite literary and inspirational quotations for nearly a year. That project was called 365 Days of Hand Lettering. In 2013 I documented fearless change-making women from history who have inspired me in the Reconstructionists Project. This year I am making one painting or drawing a week using mostly the color blue — it’s called Experiments in Blue. I like to make projects as a way of investigating something I am interested in. It forces me to stay disciplined with developing my work outside the client work I do. They always end up being very personal and very life changing. Much of my career has been built on personal projects. I did make a really big painting that was 7×9 feet in 2014 and it took me months. It’s not necessarily my favorite, but it really is the painting that I am the most proud of.
On being asked what her plans are for the future in the art space, this is what she had to say,
Lisa : I have worked with most two-dimensional mediums from different paints to pastels to ink to markers to pencil to cut paper! One of my goals for 2017 is to do some three-dimensional sculptural work with wood. For the last year I have in my personal work limiting my palette to blue. It’s been an amazing process, and I am not sure that I am going to stop when 2016 is over. Additionally, I got really into more abstract painting a few years ago, but I haven’t had as much time or space to really develop my abstract voice since I’ve been so busy recently with client work and book illustration. I am so happy to say that I just rented a new studio which will be dedicated just to my fine art work — my abstract paintings — and will be separate from my illustration studio. There, I can work larger, and dedicate more time and space to pushing my abstract work — even further. I am so excited about this! I have two big gallery shows scheduled for the next two years, and so I will need to dedicate more time to painting larger pieces. I’m looking forward to seeing where this takes me!
Every artist was once an amateur who looked wide-eyed upon other artists and this was the case with Lisa too.
Lisa : I love so many artists, but here are some (both dead and alive) I admire enormously: Picasso, Calder, Maira Kalman, Carson Ellis, Nigel Peake, Ben Shahn, Paul Rand, Alexander Girard, Lourdes Sanchez, William LaChance Ellsworth Kelly, Matisse and Corita Kent. I am sure there are others I am forgetting. I could probably fill two pages with names!
Art has evolved into a very unique space in the 21st century with the advent of technology. Lisa thinks out loud about it,
Lisa: I wouldn’t be who I am and where I am in the art and illustration worlds without the internet. So obviously I’m in full support. That said, the internet can be an ugly, dirty place. And so you have to learn to navigate your way, not just through the recognition, but also through the more negative aspects. It can be tough. I got into making art when the internet was a new place for emerging artists. Now the internet is saturated. I feel lucky in some ways that I made my way before the space became so crowded. I gave the commencement address at a major art college this past Spring. And the message of my address was the following: there has never been a better time to be an artist. And I think that is a good thing. So many opportunities exist because of the internet and technology that never existed before for artists and designers and letterers.
In her spare time, Lisa enjoys a range of activity,
Lisa : When I’m not working, you can sometimes still find me drawing in my sketchbook, which is probably my number one hobby. You’d think I’d get tired of it, but I don’t! I also love to read books, go vintage shopping, explore the outdoors and watch crime dramas on television. I like to move my body, and so nearly everyday I also either go to spin class, ride my bike, swim or go for a run.
As for her musical taste, Lisa has these bands on her music player,
The Album Leaf, Beach House, The Decemberists, Florence & the Machine, Gossip, Sigur Ros, Sleater-Kinney, This Will Destroy You, TV on the Radio, among many other bands I love!
On being asked her favourite quote,
Lisa : Whatever you are , be a good one… (Which is also the name of one of her books. Well played, Lisa )
For all you inspired, aspiring artists out there, Lisa has precious advise for you,
Sail your own ship. Don’t compare yourself too much to other artists. Stay focused on your own ideas and your own journey.
True gold, indeed. What a pleasure it has been to gain insight into the mind of this wonderful artist. We hope you enjoyed reading our interview about the one and only, Lisa Congdon just as much as we did putting it together. Have a beautiful day.