“San Francisco illustrator and fine artist Lisa Congdon was raised in both upstate New York and Northern California where she grew to love the trees and animals that surrounded her. That love is now expressed through her paintings and drawings.”
I first heard about Lisa Congden from the MyLoveForYou blog and podcast. The podcast has such a great interview with Lisa, and I highly recommend anyone who’s interested in her work to give it a listen.
I love Lisa Congden’s work because of her humble start up, but also her drawing and painting style, her use of color and her subject matter.
Lisa is a self-taught artist, who was one of the earliest art-bloggers on the web. Over time, as her art improved and style clarified, she developed a strong following and eventually became a full-time artist. I love that, from the beginning, she always had such a great fearlessness towards color. She runs this very fine line between loud and strong color use, and simplistic shapes, but I would never say that the two are balanced. I like that she is more stylized than clean and minimal. To me, it makes the art seem more real and personal, because real life is not as clean as minimalism, often.
I love that she does not mind being a bit quirky or fun or kitch-y or folk-art-ish. Her paintingss have such heart, simplicity and depth, but stay fun.
In the podcast interview with Lisa, when asked what one piece of advice she would give to herself, back when she first started, Lisa responded with:
“Don’t really worry about what other people think. I had this perception when I started out, that as an artist, unless you went to school for art, you were like cheating. What I didn’t realize is that art is what you make it. Its not about your technical skill, its not about, like, there are some well trained artists who purposefully fuck things up because they don’t want it to look textbook, but I had this perception in my head that somehow it was cheating or somehow that I was a fake. So, I was really worried about how people trained as artists were going to think of my work.. that was just my fear of not doing something the right way. I don’t have that fear at all anymore. I realized that if you make work that’s interesting, even if its super primitive on some level, and people enjoy looking at it, then its good art. Its not about your training or whatever. … I think, [I would tell myself] ten years ago: Don’t worry what other people think. Keep doing what you’re doing. Just keep trying to make your work as good as your work can be.”
-> Conclusion: Even if you untrained, inexperienced, etc., JUST START doing what you want to do. Don’t wait till school, or until you get trained, or until stuff is good enough. EVERYONE has a crappy learning curve. EVERYONE. Teach yourself, get some practice in, do SOMETHING. Because this is your LIFE and if you know what you want to do, just start already!
In another interview she did with The Great Disconect, Lisa discussed her internal conflict with becoming an artist and her need to directly ‘give back’:
“I went into teaching right out of college because I wanted to give something back to the world. My whole identity was wrapped up in what I gave back every day; that was how I felt good about myself. One of the hardest things for me to overcome when I made the decision to leave my career in education was this sense that I was abandoning my commitment to give back to the world and I felt so much guilt about it. For me, that was the hardest thing about becoming an artist.
I do think I still struggle with this a little because it is so important to me to feel like I’m doing something good in the world every day, but I’ve been able to realize that there are many ways for me to give back. I think when you’re doing something you love in the world every day—if you get up and you’re excited about what you do, it’s good for everyone. I do volunteer occasionally and I also sit on the Board of Directors for an arts non-profit here that supports artists and works with low-income youth to expose them to art.”
Although it is totally silly, when considering industrial design as a future career, I know that I, too, had this same internal debate. I knew it was wrong to feel this way, but I totally had to get over this feeling that going into design was a ‘cop out’, because I couldn’t hack it doing engineering. I could hack it! I just need to do what I love, and what I am so good at! Anyway, I feel you Lisa.
(Click on all images to go to their original webpages.)