Unravel the Red Thread: Lisa Congdon

September 25, 2012

Over the next few weeks, I will be Unraveling the Red Thread a little further and telling you about some women that I am truly inspired by. This week, I will be delving in greater depth with a couple of teachers for our retreat. The first teacher, Lisa Congdon has been inspiring me for several years with her artwork and also with how she approaches special projects. In order to keep her creative flow and to kick start her ideas Lisa challenges herself to complete a yearlong project sometimes termed a 365 Project. These types of projects involve doing something creative everyday for a full year and documenting the process in some way. Two years ago, Lisa completed her first 365 Project called A Collection a Day where she photographed groupings of items that she collects. She started a blog with the same name and posted photographs each and every day for a year. The photographs were later turned into a book called A Collection A Day that was published by Uppercase Magazine.

This year, Lisa is in the middle of a new 365 project called: 365 Day of Hand Lettering. Each day on her website you can find a new post of a quote in her own hand. She has even developed her own font which you can find on her website. Lisa and I recently chatted about what it takes to complete a project like this, here’s what she said:

You have completed a 365 project and are in the process of completing another. Can you share your thoughts on what kind of discipline it takes and what sort of ritual or practice do you include in your routine to complete the projects?

It’s about this time in the year (2/3 through) during “year-long” projects that it can get exhausting! It’s also the time of year when people express their astonishment that I’m still keeping at it everyday. I try to remember that personal projects are supposed to be fun and engaging, even when they might not feel fun in the moment. Sometimes just reminding myself of that helps me to reconnect with why I’m actually doing it. In both my 2010 Collection a Day project and my current 365 Days of Hand Lettering, I’ve worked really hard to connect to what I love — not just about the project, but what I am photographing or hand-lettering that day.

Most of my hand lettering happens first thing in the morning, so it’s a really nice way to walk into my work day gently. Much of what I have been hand lettering have been inspirational quotes. I have actually grown quite fond of searching for beautiful or thought-provoking sentiments from interesting people. Sure, some days when I have a full plate it can feel like “just another task.” And that’s where my strong sense of self-discipline comes in. It also helps that lots of people read my blog and view & share the work I post there, so that makes me want to come back everyday with new content. The rewards are both intrinsic and external.

A few tips from Lisa on starting your own 365 project or any project for that matter:

  • pick something that is separate from what you do day to day
  • pick something you are passionate or excited about
  • define a set of rules that constrain it and make it manageable: such as one piece of hand lettering a day for a year
  • pick something motivating and challenging
  • share on the internet at regular intervals: this allows others to see your work and challenges you to keep going
  • don’t wait until January 1 to start begin today
  • most importantly: keep it simple

As I mentioned earlier, Lisa will be teaching an Accordion Book Making class at the upcoming Create Explore Discover Art Retreat in October. I have personally taken two painting courses with her and love her style of teaching and also her integration of the art world at large in her lessons. You not only learn about your particular project but also about how it relates into the larger creative world surrounding you.

For those of you in Reno/Tahoe, The Nevada Museum of Art will be opening an exhibit on September 29 called For Your Eyes Only which explores how artists use books for experimenting in their own art. This is a perfect lead in to the course that Lisa will be teaching during the retreat.

Lisa’s work has been exhibited all over the US and most recently at the Contemporary Jewish Museum in San Francisco. Her work has also been featured in numerous books and magazines.





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