LISA CONGDON: FINE ARTIST + ILLUSTRATOR
You are quite likely acquainted with Lisa Congdon's work. She is wildly inspiring - as a talented artist, an outspoken activist and champion of finding success along a circuitous path - and the narrative arc of her life and career is a great one. Lisa tells it best, so without further ado ....
LISA in her own words:
What do you do?
I identify as a fine artist and illustrator. I also write and illustrate books and teach.
How did you come into the work that you do now?
After I graduated from college I became a teacher. I did that for about seven years and then I left to go work at an education non-profit. While I was there, I missed the creativity of working directly with kids, so I began to take art classes, just for fun. I enjoyed the experience so much that I set up a little "studio" at my dining room table. A few years later the internet began to be a place for creative people to share their work. And I joined Flickr and began sharing images of the stuff I was making (which was both really bad and very different than the stuff I draw and paint now). But I became part of a community of artists and makers online, which grew as social media evolved. Eventually my work got better, and I began having shows and opened an Etsy shop. Within a few years, I decided I wanted to be an artist full time, and that happened in 2007. Since then my career has grown and evolved and, ten years later, here I am.
What are the biggest challenges of your work?
Managing opportunity. There is only so much time in the day. And once my career took off, I began getting more and more opportunities -- illustration clients, speaking and teaching opportunities, residency and exhibition opportunities, etc. And, of course, you want to say YES to all of them! And at first I did, and so I was working all the time. It felt like a good problem to have, but eventually I began to burn out. So the greatest challenge for me now is only taking on the amount of work that feels healthy and exciting to me, so that I can have a life outside of work, to rest and get creatively re-energized. I am getting better and better at having this sense of balance, but I still have to work at it every single day.
What do you love most about it?
Drawing and painting. The actual process of making art has never lost its magic for me. In fact, as my skills have grown over the years (which took awhile because I am self-taught), my excitement about making art has only intensified. The days I get to go to my painting studio and paint are the days I wake up the most excited. So much of being a working artist is administrative, sales, working with clients and collaborators. All of those things are great, but for me, making art is still the greatest joy of my business.
What are the biggest misconceptions about what you do?
That it's a struggle, and success is reserved for only a handful of lucky artists. That being an artist means destined to being poor or frustrated. Sure, being a working artist is hard work, but if you make good choices and you have some talent that resonates with other people, and you are not afraid to share and promote your work, it can be a very fruitful, gratifying, enjoyable way to make a living.
Have you found that being a woman impacts your experience in your industry?
Yes, the world of art and design is very male dominated, very white male dominated -- at least those are the folks getting the platforms. But that is changing, slowly. And galleries and press and museums and conferences are all more focused now than ever on highlighting not only women, but queer women and women of color in the field. I feel like we are in the midst of something really exciting, not just in the art, illustration and design worlds, but in the world in general.
Find more inspiration from Lisa on Instagram!