When you look at Lisa Congdon’s artwork and illustrations or watch any of her Instagram time-lapse videos of her creating work, you are left with a feeling that this must be something that she has been doing since she was very young. She does it with such ease and her pieces leave you feeling both inspired and playful. Yet, Lisa is a self-taught artist who did not take her first official art class until she was in her thirties.
Lisa began her professional life first working in a law office in San Francisco and then moving to the education field where she was an elementary school teacher and then a director at an education non-profit in the Bay Area. She had worked her way up to a nice salary and work stability, yet was left with an overwhelming feeling that something was missing. She found that missing piece when she signed up for a painting class and discovered her love for pattern design and illustration.
The class lit a creative spark in her, and she continued to take additional classes in order to build up her skills as an artist. In 2007, at the age of 40, she made the decision to leave her job to focus on becoming a professional artist full time…which she eventually did in 2011. Through a lot of hard work, dedication, determination and sacrifices, she is now able to name the MoMA, Harvard University, Martha Stewart Living, Chronicle Books and Simon & Schuster as a few of her clients.
But – it did not happen overnight. As Lisa stresses in our conversation, “It’s just sitting down every day and drawing and painting – or making whatever it is you make – even when people aren’t paying attention. And even when you aren’t making an impact. You have to just trust that eventually, if you keep doing the thing you love, people will start paying attention.”
In the podcast episode we talk about the beginning stages of any creative endeavor, the importance of putting work out into the world even before you are ready and Lisa’s feelings about the term late bloomer! Listen below to learn more about Lisa’s Chapter Be story…
CHAPTER BE QUESTIONNAIRE…
What’s your favorite quote, story or fact?
She who is brave is free.
Worst work experience?
I’ve been lucky to have so many amazing jobs in my lifetime, and my experience as an artist has been exceptionally lucky, because I’ve worked with incredibly kind and open people for the most part — art directors and clients alike. Once I did work with a client who was actually downright mean and pretty disrespectful and condescending. It changed my entire experience of making art. It’s really amazing the impact (and chain effect) our energy can have on the world. I always try to remember that.
What is your definition of success?
To feel like you are enough as you are. Also, to be joyful.
How do you tap into your creative energies – especially when you are feeling drained?
I think it’s so critical to walk away from projects, even for a few minutes when you are feeling zapped and need to recharge. And that’s what I try to do. My best friend is also an artist and we text each other a lot and ask for advice about what we should do when we are feeling zapped or frustrated or everything seems to be going wrong. We encourage each other not just to walk away, but also to go do something fun, like go to an art show or museum, look at an inspiring book or watch a beautiful movie. It helps tremendously. When all else fails, sleep for as long as possible.
What does “to be” mean to you?
To live fully and to be present.
How do you spend your time when you are procrastinating?
Scrolling through Pinterest. I love Pinterest.
Ideal READING LIST – books, websites, blogs, podcasts, magazines, etc. that you would want on your Swiss Family Robinson deserted island?
- My favorite podcast is Longform;
- I don’t think I could live without Pinterest;
- I just love books in general and am a voracious reader and audiobook listener, so I’d love an endless supply of novels and memoirs.
Favorite song with “be” in the title?
Be Like This by JD Samson & MEN
LINKS & RESOURCES…
- Lisa Congdon Art + Illustration
- Today is Going to Be Awesome
- Lisa’s books (there are coloring books, too!)
- Rare Device – the retail store Lisa opened with Rena Tom
- Lisa’s blog posts on the topic of being a “late bloomer”
- Lisa’s collaboration with Chasing Paper (whose founder, Elizabeth Rees, is a Chapter Be interviewee!)
- Chapter Be post: Are You a Late Bloomer?
Images via Lisa Congdon
You are an amazing host. Truly thought provoking questions and you are a wonderful interviewer. I am so thrilled to get to listen to Lisa’s interviews and she inspires me every time. There is something so profoundly human about her, it feels like I’ve known her all my life. So happy that I found your site!
Thank you so much for your kind and thoughtful comment, Erna! I agree – Lisa is an amazing person. One of the main reasons I really wanted to interview her is that I love that she comes from such an honest, real and grounded place. I so appreciate that she talks about things from a realistic perspective and shares openly – it is very human and we all can use that right now (and always!). Thank you for being a part of Chapter Be!