I have followed San Francisco artist, Lisa Congdon, for some time now, and am always captivated by her use of colour and patterns. She has a style that definitely sets her apart from other artists.
Along with recently authoring “Art, Inc.: The Essential Guide for Building Your Career as an Artist”, Lisa is partnering with CreativeLive September 30 - October 1 to teach "Becoming A Working Artist". The class is free to watch while it's live, and you have the option to purchase it for $79 throughout the class to have on-demand access to it any time. What an opportunity!
What does Creativity mean to you?
Creativity is the act of making something new -- and I’d add that when we are creative, we are coming from an emotional place, so what we are making is emotionally driven, whether it’s sadness or happiness or angst or love or just that feeling of “being inspired.”
How do you expand yourself creatively?
By giving myself the time and space to experiment and play around.
Were you creative as a child? If so, how have you evolved through the years? Did anyone encourage you, especially?
Looking back, I was creative in some ways, sure. I was really into imaginative play and my sister and I created entire imaginary worlds together. But artistically, not as much, ironically! I think I probably was shut down artistically when I was a kid, because I never thought of myself as artistic at all, ever. In fact, I never even took art classes in high school. It wasn’t until I was an adult that I started to embrace my artistic side -- which was pretty buried. But I worked hard to access it again, which eventually led to where I am now.
What inspires you most?
I am a really visual person. My whole life, even before I started painting and drawing, I have been a fan of art and design. I often refer to myself as a "visual junkie." I also love photography and played around with that for many years. I've always loved patterns and pattern design, Scandinavian design, graphic design, architecture, vintage packaging, typography, etc. So when I became an artist and started making things myself, I just drew inspiration from many of the things I loved already. For example, I love the work of Mary Blair. She worked for Disney in the mid-century and designed really cool "modern" fairy tale scenes, like you see in It's a Small World (one of her masterpieces). A lot of my work is inspired by her work, the lines and shapes and colors. I also love to travel and when I do I take lots of photos and share those things online with the people who follow my work. I think sometimes people think that artists just come up with inspiration out of thin air. But you actually have to put time and energy into making time to brainstorm, look for inspiration, and find new ideas for your work. It's all part of the process.
What turns you on creatively?
I am most inspired when I have very little pressure. Mostly when I am on vacation or traveling!
Do you have any gratefulness practices?
I do! Every morning I write three things I am grateful for. I write other things too, but this is a regular practice for me.
Do you daydream often? If so, does it inform your work?
Yes, I am a big day dreamer. I often say that every aspect of my entire career as an artist started as a day dream. Sometimes I get flashes of inspiration or ideas as a result of letting myself relax and allowing my mind to wander. I don’t day dream as often as I’d like, because I am so busy focusing on getting my “work” done (I am also someone who takes on a lot of projects and works a lot!). Which is why it’s important to take breaks, go on vacations, travel, take time off, unplug, etc.
How does a relationship and/or children affect your creativity?
I don’t have kids, but I am married. My partner is really supportive and encouraging, even about my weird inspirations, which helps me tremendously. So many people are shamed for their creative ideas or told they are nuts or weird or that something is impossible to achieve. It’s important to surround yourself with people who accept & love you (and your crazy ideas).
Is there a Creative, past or present, that you would give just about anything to work with? Who, and why?
Oh, so many! Probably three of my heroes are Rae Eames, Sister Corita Kent and Alexander Calder. In their own ways, and in their own times, they were so “out there” -- in the ways they lived their lives, in the work they produced, in the messages they were trying to put out into the world. I’d love to learn from any and all of them.
How do you care for yourself to ensure you’re available when ideas present themselves?
I get eight hours of sleep every night. I eat three healthy meals a day. And I exercise about 5 days a week vigorously. This is my formula, even when I am swamped with work. All of these things keep me energetic, healthy and focused. I am 46 years old, so the sleep is especially important! I get tired a lot more easily than I did even 10 years ago.
How do you balance life and art effectively? Or, do you?
I am forever searching for balance, but I am learning that it’s nearly impossible, and that’s because my life is my art. Sure, I have my marriage, which I treasure, but my mind never strays far from thinking about making things. It’s all consuming. And I wouldn’t have it any other way. It makes me feel happy to be making stuff every day, and to be paid to make stuff.
Do you work in a studio/space designed specifically for your creativity, or on the spur of the moment/anywhere inspiration strikes?
I do have a studio space, but it’s a place that is six miles from my home -- so often when inspiration strikes I am at home! I do try to keep a bunch of supplies at home. My sketchbook is my go-to place for getting my ideas out onto paper, at least at first. It’s important to have something, if even a blank book, at your side for when you get ideas!
Do you plan thoroughly for projects, or go with the flow?
It depends! When I do illustration work that is commissioned by a client, I have to plan ahead for the most part, because I am working from art direction and need to deliver what the client has asked for. But in my personal practice -- especially when I am painting abstractly -- I am definitely more of a go-with-the-flow person! I rarely plan ahead, except maybe to plan colors! I love working that way and seeing where it leads.
Do you utilize social media? If so, how?
Yes, I write on my blog five days a week and then post my blog content to Twitter and my Facebook Fan Page. I love being able to share what I am up to through social media, and also to follow other people’s creative adventures. I also love Instagram for “real time” stuff like in-process shots, glimpses into my studio or home life, that kind of thing!
Where can we find your art?
My website: www.lisacongdon.com
My blog: www.lisacongdon.com/blog
My Etsy shop: www.lisacongdon.etsy.com