It is my most absolute pleasure today to introduce you to Lisa Congdon. Lisa has been a dear friend for a number of years and has been involved with the retreat for the past 2 years; one year as an instructor, one as a participant and special project leader and most recently as the artist behind the website you see today. She has been a huge mentor to me in my own art journey and has been a crucial part of the success of the retreat. Lisa will be joining us again this fall and we are in the process of finalizing a special event for early Saturday evening. Her journey to becoming an artist fascinates me as we are the same age and have both started our art careers after having another career. Enjoy our chat, her artwork and a peek inside her creative process. Have a great Thursday everyone!
Tell a little about yourself. Where you have lived, what type of creative work you have done and how you came to build your business. I was born in upstate New York, but I moved to California — to the Bay Area — when I was eight years old back in 1976. So I consider San Francisco and the surrounding area home, because it’s all I really know. I grew up in the area, went to college here and still live here! I reside in Oakland now, which is about 12 miles outside San Francisco. Right out of college I went back to school to become a teacher. And for the first 15 years of my adult working life I either worked in a classroom or at a non-profit organization that worked in public schools. Somewhere in there when I was about 31 years old, I started taking art classes and slowly (over the course of about six years) making art went from being a hobby to my entire life, including my entire income! And for the past seven years I’ve been a self employed artist. I never set out for it to be that way initially, but over time I became more intentional about it, and here I am! I am both a fine artist and an illustrator — which means I make work for myself which I sell, but I also make work for clients illustrating books and stationery and things like that. I also illustrate and write my own books. How do you keep yourself “creative” each day? Well, it’s my job to be creative. So I have no choice, which is really hard sometimes! So I there are some really basic things I do to keep my juices flowing. First, I get at least eight hours of sleep at night. Young artists might be able to pull all nighters and still make interesting work, but not me! I find that rest is really, really important. When you get down to it, creativity is just a form of brain function. And your brain can’t function well unless you’ve had enough rest. I also try to eat really regularly and as healthy as I can. Being nourished is really important I also try to make friends with every voice in my head that tells me I am not good enough or my work is bad. The main killer of creativity is negative self-talk based on shame and feelings of inferiority. I do whatever I can to push through those feelings. I work hard to not compare myself to other artists’ work or accomplishments and to stay on & honor my own path. I work hard to ignore nonconstructive negative criticism. That can be really hard, but with practice, it gets easier. What everyday things do you find inspiration in? I feel really lucky because while I don’t always feel creative, I do feel inspired by a lot in my everyday world. I am so lucky to live in beautiful Northern California where I am surrounded by gorgeous landscapes, beautiful architecture, and diverse people & cultures. Just walking down the street in Oakland is colorful a feast for the eyes. What fun and exciting things are in store for you and your business this year? Right now I am illustrating and writing two more of my own books. Making books is one of my favorite things in the world to do. I also love abstract painting, which I began doing last year. Recently I got a commission to make a 7×9 foot abstract painting for the lobby of a building. It’s been one of the most enjoyable projects I’ve ever worked on. I never imagined that I would get to paint something at that scale! I have to get on a ladder to paint and I love the physicality of painting large. I’m also launching a series of business classes with CreativeLIve based on my book, Art Inc. and I’ll be teaching more art classes through Creativebug. Having attended and taught at creative retreats what can you share that would sway someone to take the leap and attend a retreat? There is something really special about taking time away from the grind of your regular life, going somewhere really beautiful, and spending time with a bunch of other really nice women making things with your hands. I have always found CED to be equally relaxing and engaging. My first year I met two women (separately) who I now consider two of my most treasured friendships.