Heather Hardison // Homegrown

07/02/15

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I am so excited today to share with you the work of fellow illustrator Heather Hardison. Heather is not only a fantastic artist, she’s a master hand-letterer, a sign painter, gardener cook, and a writer. She has recently published her first book, Homegrown: Illustrated Bites From Your Garden to Your Table, a gorgeously illustrated tribute to her experience with growing and eating her own food. Through her words and illustrations, Heather guides us through the process of planting, growing, harvesting, and preparing over  25 vegetables and small fruits and cooking them up into delicious meals. It also includes tips for stocking an unprocessed pantry, pickling, canning, and more!

I sat down with Heather a couple of weeks ago and asked her all about the process of creating this beautiful book, about her art practice (including her hand lettering and sign painting skills) and, of course, and about her own garden.

And without further ado, as part of my Interviews with People I Admire series, Heather Hardison!

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Lisa: Tell us a little bit about you! Where do you live and how long have you been lettering and illustrating?

Heather: I live in South Berkeley, and my art studio is in North Oakland but I’m originally from North Carolina. I moved to the Bay Area 6 years ago after I finished college at NC State.  I’ve been freelancing as a illustrator and letterer for about 3 or 4 years, and sign painting at New Bohemia Signs for 5 years. I didn’t study illustration (I studied art & design), so it took a few years of doing personal projects and putting together a portfolio before I started getting regular freelance work.

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Lisa: Your new book Homegrown: Illustrated Bites from Your Garden to Your Table is beautiful! Tell us about how this book came to be!

Heather: When I finished college and moved to the Bay Area, my first job here was working at a french restaurant in Berkeley.  I learned so much about cooking, and eating seasonally while I was working there.  There is SUCH a great food culture in the Bay Area that I’ve been incredibly influenced by. There are farmer’s markets on almost every day of the week, and some the world’s best grocery stores and food co-ops.

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Even though I was having a great time working at the restaurant, I really wanted to keep up a creative practice. So in 2010 I started my illustrated food blog, Illustrated Bites, to share all the exciting stuff I was learning about food, but also to keep myself in the habit of drawing. After a year or two of blogging, my images started getting passed around and my blog started getting popular. My editor found my blog and approached me about doing a book proposal. She help me put it together, and in early 2013 Stewart, Tabori, and Chang (an imprint of Abrams) bought my proposal. From then it was GAME ON. I wrote, illustrated, hand lettered, and designed the layout of the book. It was very intense, but I had total creative control, which was a unique opportunity. I wrapped everything up in December 2014. It was a very busy 18 months.

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Lisa: Wow, I can only imagine! I’m amazed at all the different aspects to the book, the infographics & facts, the explanations, the beautiful illustrations, the RECIPES! Let’s talk about the recipes for a moment. Did you write all the recipes? If so, what was that like? Do you have any cooking training?

Heather: I did write the recipes! They’re all very simple, vegetarian, and produce centric.  I learned a lot about cooking while I was working at the french restaurant, but I learned most of what I know about cooking on my own. I took a lot of random workshops and cooking classes, and did a lot of experiments at home.

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Lisa: Did you find yourself doing lots of research as you made this book? There is really so much science in it!

Heather: Yes, I did A LOT of research. I very much enjoyed that part of the process. I read a lot, talked to experts. Watched documentaries, and cross referenced things to make sure I had the most accurate information.

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Lisa: What was your favorite part about making this book?

Heather: Of course, I LOVED doing the illustration and and the lettering. It was my dream project in that regard, but I actually liked writing it a lot more than I thought I would. I don’t really think of myself as a writer, but I enjoyed the process so much and walked away a much better writer. I’m definitely interested in pursuing more writing projects like this in the future.

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Lisa: Tell us about your own garden. What’s in it, and how much time do you spend there?

Heather:  Since I live in a dense urban area, my garden is a hodgepodge of green space that I’ve made for myself. My apartment doesn’t have a yard, so I’ve had to be creative! I took over the sad flower beds in front of the building and turned them into raised beds for veggies. I also have a large back porch that I’ve loaded up with container gardens.
I even have have a couple of beehives on my roof! My studio mate and I have a garden behind our studio that’s fairly large, and there’s also chickens.

I love spending about a half hour everyday in the garden, doing basic chores like watering or weeding. Once or twice a week I’ll spend a few hours to catch up on things like transplanting, fixing things, and harvesting. Early in the season there are always a few full days of work to get the beds ready for planting, and bringing in new compost.

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Lisa: What is your favorite vegetable and way to cook it?

Heather: Asparagus is probably my favorite vegetable. I love tossing the spears in olive oil & salt then roasting or grilling them, then squeezing a little lemon juice on top. I’ve also been crazy about radishes this year. Slicing them super thin and using them in salads, in tacos, or just eating them with some olive oil and salt on toast.

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Lisa: You are really a master letterer. Did you learn lettering in school where you studied art and design or are you a self taught letterer? Tell us about how you got so good.

Heather: I learned everything I know about lettering from working at New Bohemia Signs, a sign painting shop in San Francisco. I’ve been working there for 5 years. It takes a lot of practice to get good at brush lettering. Learning to draw letters was a matter of learning anatomy of type and typographic rules (and when to break them.)  I’ve spent a lot of time looking a letter forms, and after a while you start to internalize the proper proportions and develop your own sense of style.

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Lisa: You are also an amazing sign painter. Tell us about how you got into sign painting and why it appeals to you.

Heather: I found sign paintings after I moved to the Bay Area. Walking around San Francisco, I couldn’t help but notice all the gorgeous hand painted signs. Once I figured out it was New Bohemia Signs who was making them, I immediately called to see if they would teach me. Lucky for me, Josh Luke was leaving to start his own shop in Boston, and they had room for an apprentice. I studied art & design in college, and I never quite understood what art & design really meant until I found sign painting. If you drew a Venn diagram of art, design, and craft, sign painting would be at the intersection of the three. In my experience, sign painters are all practically minded artists, who aren’t suited to sit a desk and that describes me perfectly.

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Lisa: Who is your new book for? What kinds of people might be interested in purchasing it?

Heather:  I think anyone who loves illustration and wants to learn more about growing and cooking seasonal food would be interested in the book. It’s not a compendium on gardening and cooking; it’s more of a love letter.  Homegrown  is a marriage of all my skill sets and love for good food; it was really a passion project! I hope that comes across, and gets people excited about trying to grow some of their own food, and cook it too.

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Lisa: What new projects are you working on now?

Heather: Currently, I’m doing a lot of personal projects to kind of suss out what I want to do next. The book was such a big project, that it put everything else on hold. So I’m taking the time to take stock and think about what direction I want to go in before momentum takes over. I’m working on a type mural, and some other lettering projects, as well as working on things like packaging for my honey. I’m also trying to enjoy the summer and go outside a lot, and swim and garden as much as possible; that feels really good. I have to stay balanced and engaged with my interests to stay creatively charged.

Lisa: I am so impressed with all that you do! Thank you for taking the time to share your work, process and book with us.

To keep up with what’s she’s doing, you can find Heather’s website here and her Instagram account here. You can buy Illustrated Bites here or anywhere books are sold.

Have a great Thursday, friends!

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New Podcast: Being Boss

06/30/15

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I am so happy to let you know that I’ve recorded a brand new podcast, this time with my wife and business partner Clay Walsh! Today on Being Boss, we talk about working together for the first time and what it was like for Clay to leave her boss lady job at California College of the Arts to join me in my business. What happens when you join your significant other for a creative entrepreneurial adventure? We spill the beans on our experience. If you haven’t listened to the Being Boss podcast series, I highly recommend it! For now, here’s a link to our recording with Kathleen and Emily!

Have a great Tuesday, friends!

CATEGORIES: Podcasts
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Art Inc. Lives Among Us // Installment 5

06/29/15

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Hello! I am so excited to share with you my FIFTH Art Inc Lives Among Us Installment! Thank you to everyone who submitted photos of your copy of Art Inc with the hashtag #artinc on Instagram. It was again very hard to choose just 25!

You can see all of the Art Inc Lives Among Us Installments here.

If you are interested in purchasing a copy of my book, Art Inc: The Essential Guide for Building Your Career as an Artist, you can get yours here on Amazon, in my Etsy shop (signed copies available there) and anywhere books are sold.

Want to be included in a future installment of Art Inc Lives Among Us? Tag your photo of Art Inc #artinc (creatively shot & well lit images are best) for a chance to be included in the next 25!

Have a great Monday, friends!

CATEGORIES: Art Inc | For Sale | My Books
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HOORAY // MARRIAGE FOR ALL!

06/26/15

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I’ve written a lot about marriage over the past few years on this blog. And today Love Conquered All with the United States Supreme Court’s Decision to support marriage equality in the entire nation. I never thought I would see this day, and I am so thrilled. You can get my LOVE CONQUERS ALL print (pictured above) here in my shop.

Have a wonderful weekend, friends!

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Sam Kalda

06/25/15

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Last year, when I was on my Art Inc book tour, I made a stop at the Powerhouse Arena in Dumbo, Brooklyn for a Q&A with my friend Grace Bonney, followed by a book signing. Usually when I sign books on my tours, especially on my Art Inc tour, the attendees tend to be fellow artists, many starting out, and others hoping to recharge their careers. I like to say hello to people and chat for a few minutes with each person. Sometimes I remember the people whose books I sign, often because they tell me their names (and somehow I remember them), but mostly because they hand me their card. I can’t remember if Sam Kalda gave me his card or I simply remembered his name that night at Powerhouse Arena, but what I do remember is that I looked him up the next day, as I often do when I meet people, and was blown away by his work. I started following him on Instagram and am continually impressed by his illustrations.

Sam, who you’ll get to know a little bit here, and who is still relatively new to the illustration scene, already works for an impressive roster of clients like The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, Pentagram, West Elm, Buzzfeed, Ebony, WWD, Groundwood Books, The New Republic, The Boston Globe, Wired, ASOS, The Chronicle of Higher Education, Johns Hopkins University, among many others. I love the mixture of clean and modern in his work with warm, textured and colorful details.

Today’s interview in my Interviews with People I Admire series, I present to you illustrator and cat fancier, Sam Kalda!

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Lisa: You are a self described cat fancier! Before we get into talking about your work, let’s break that down. What’s a cat fancier? How is being a cat fancier reflected in your daily life?

Sam: Fancier is a fancy word for appreciator. I’ve always been a cat person and, as a subject matter, cats have been something people have really gravitated towards in my work. On a day to day level, being a cat fancier means taking care of a sweet but demanding house cat.

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Lisa: You are from South Dakota! I have never met anyone in my 47 years from South Dakota. Tell me what it’s like there.

Sam: That’s not an uncommon response! I’d like to think it makes us South Dakotans rare like some kind of exotic bird. While it varies quite a bit where you are from in the state (we take the Missouri river divide quite seriously), I’m from Sioux Falls, which is the biggest city in SD. It sounds a little generic, but it’s a great place to grow up. I’m gay and live in New York now, so often times people assume a default narrative about needing to escape a restrictive environment and discover myself in a big city, yadayada. Basically like Jo from Little Women. But I really love being from South Dakota. I feel there’s a certain laid back level-headedness and strong work ethic that I’m thankful for.

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Lisa: When did you know you wanted to be an artist? How did you decide to make your way to SUNY Purchase?

Sam: I’ve always loved to draw—it’s just been a thing that I did and was known for doing since I was a kid. I’m fortunate in that my parents were (and are) very supportive of my creative pursuits. My parents both work in the medical field, but they both are very creative in their hobbies (wood working, quilting, needlepoint, mold making, etc.), so there was always an importance placed on working with your hands. Regarding college, I actually picked SUNY Purchase sight unseen. I wanted an art school in a small liberal arts college environment that was affordable and close to NYC. Purchase checked all the boxes.

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Lisa: You started off studying painting, got your MFA at FIT and now you’re an illustrator. Talk about how one thing led to the next and the connections between all of those things.

Sam: I went from studying oil painting in early undergrad to making sculptures and installation work near the end of college. For a year after school, I helped a friend on a documentary about artist-led AIDS activism in NYC in the 80s and early 90s. After deciding film was not the path for me, I began working on a picture book idea I’d had for a number of years. In the process of making the book—and being thoroughly overwhelmed by the process—I was accepted into the MFA program at FIT. I made the decision to go back to school kind of impulsively, but it really changed my career. 

I’m not sure if there’s a direct connection between all those things!  I think what interests me in a broad sense is visual storytelling, be it through a book, movie, or painting. Illustration is a great cross section of many disciplines.

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Lisa: Obviously some of your work is hand painted. But some of your work appears to be digital? Describe your process. Do you start by drawing by hand? Do you work in illustrator? Give us the info.

Sam: I always sketch with a pencil. If it’s an editorial job with a tight deadline, I work digitally. Typically, I digitally paint the background in Photoshop, using the pencil sketch as a reference. From there, I add scanned in pencil drawings, paint textures and whatever else I’m feeling for the piece. It’s a hybrid of digital painting and hand-drawing. For my personal work, I usually either paint with ink on Bristol board, or with acrylics on wooden panels. I really see the technique as a means to an end and I like switching up the way I work from time to time.

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Lisa: You do lots of editorial illustration. I am amazed at people who do lots of it because it requires a lot of skill in problem solving, thinking outside the box & concepting ideas, not to mention short deadlines. Why do you enjoy it? What draws you to it?

Sam: I like the fact that I never know what to expect. Also, there’s a certain high you get after completing a piece on a short deadline that can be addictive. That being said, there’s always panic in the concept phase!

I think editorial illustration demands a certain level of organization, preparation and focus that has bled into my own studio practice. So many of these qualities don’t come naturally to artists—myself most certainly included. Thankfully, these things can be learned through practice.

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Lisa: Who/what are your most treasured inspirations and why?

Sam: I’ll just do a quick, stream of consciousness list: Edward Bawden, Maira Kalman, Peewee’s Playhouse, vintage picture books, Memphis design, Wiener Werkstätte postcards, Bloomsbury/Omega workshop interiors, midcentury furniture, collecting chairs, brass menageries, art deco posters, well-curated bookshelves, old interior design magazines, Will Barnet, patterned rugs. I think I should make a list like this monthly to see how my interests both evolve and stay the same over time.

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Lisa: You are quite a fabulously recognized young illustrator and your client list is very impressive. Your talent is clear, but you are obviously ALSO a hard worker. Have you always been a hustler or is that something you’ve learned as you’ve gotten older or entered the profession?

Sam: Thank you! I definitely feel that I’ve learned to hustle and be organized as I got older. Like I touched on earlier, I had to work a lot on my time-management habits and organization. Before becoming a full-time illustrator, I worked for a museum in the design retail department for a number of years. I learned a tremendous amount about being professional and a good deal about basic business practices. That was as important as my illustration training to my career now. For whatever reason, I’ve always enjoyed the hunt of finding new work, tracking down art directors, and submitting my work to blogs, competitions, etc.

As a kid, I wasn’t a very serious student and never really saw myself as a “hard worker” in school—-it just wasn’t my thing.  But when it came to creative pursuits (art-making, drumming, high school theater) I really could go into a kind of hyper-focus. Near the end of high school and into college, I really started to take art-making and education seriously. I’ve slowly been trying to tame my inner couch potato ever since.

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Lisa: One piece of advice you’d give to a young aspiring illustrator trying to make it.

Sam: There are so many platitudes to choose from! Honestly, the most useful advice I was ever given was by my thesis adviser in college: You have to make work for yourself before you can make it for anyone else. Stay engaged, discover things that inspire you, and don’t fear experimentation or change. Oh, and write polite, personalized emails without insane punctuation!

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Lisa: Where can people find you on the Internets?

Sam:
samkalda.com
instagram: sam_kalda
twitter: sam_kalda
tumblr: kaldaillustration.tumblr.com/
facebook.com/samkaldaillustration
etsy: SamKaldaStore
and my agency: folioart.co.uk/illustration/folio/artists/illustrator/sam-kalda

Lisa: Thank you, Sam! You are awesome. <3

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New Tee Shirt Release with Cotton Bureau!

06/23/15

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Are you the pink sheep of your family? Get my brand spanking new, limited edition (they only print what they sell and are only on sale for two weeks) BE YOU tee shirt from Cotton Bureau today!

More info on the shirt here (there are three color options and all come in both men’s and women’s styles).

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Have a great Tuesday, friends!

 

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New Fabric Collection with Cloud9

06/22/15

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Friends, I am so happy to let you know that I am releasing a new fabric collection with Cloud9! This new collection is called KINDRED, and it’s made entirely from drawings in my sketchbook. Here is a preview of all four patterns in all colorways.  All repeats are quilt weight cotton. “Blomma” will also be printed in voile. If you are a fabric retailer, you can begin placing orders for Kindred now, and the general public can order from fabric retailers who carry Kindred starting in October.

First up, “Blomma”, which comes in three colorways:

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Also, “Fable”

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Credo (which reads, “there is nothing to fear”) in four colorways:

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And, lastly, Delicata, in three colorways!

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Have a great Monday, friends!

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New Phone Cases & Pillow Covers!

06/18/15

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Friends, I’ve got a new phone case design in my Nuvango shop! It’s called Grey Garden, and it’s for those of you who are a fan of my floral motifs but like a subtle monotone colorway. You can get yours here (comes in most phone model sizes). I’ve also got a bunch of other designs to choose from here.

Wait, there’s more! You can now order pillows through Nuvango, and I’m offering Grey Garden as a throw pillow.

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As always, you can order my Nuvango designs as laptop skins too.

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Have a great Thursday, friends! I’m moving to my new house tomorrow, so I’ll be back Monday with my new fabric collection! Stay tuned.

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New Print // Free to be Me

06/17/15

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New print in the shop! “FREE TO BE ME” // 11×14 inches // archival inks on white paper with small border // signed and dated.

Purchase yours here!

Have a great Wednesday, friends!

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Monika Forsberg

06/16/15

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If you don’t already know the work of London-based, Swedish-born illustrator Monika Forsberg, today is your lucky day. I am thrilled to include Monika as the latest subject in my Interviews with People I Admire series. I first became acquainted with Monika’s work a couple years ago and fell instantly in love. Over the last two years, she has continued to wow the illustration community and scores of new fans with her combination of boldly colorful, super quirky illustrations, hand lettering and animations. I was lucky enough to meet Monika in person last month in New York, where we were both attending Surtex, and she’s as lovely in person as she is on the Internets. Without further ado, I present to you an interview with Monika, in which we discuss her background (including her thoughts on her home country of Sweden), her process and other fun facts.

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Lisa: Monika, I am such a huge fan of everything you do! Tell my readers a little bit about you. Where did you grow up? Did your childhood/early years have an influence on your style of artwork or creative endeavors over the years?

Monika: Thank you so much, Lisa! I grew up in Lulea which is a seaside town in the very north of Sweden. I remember snow, summer, sea, sand, trees and all the smells and a very slow pace, there was so much space for boredom. I still get that feeling in Sweden. Its the most beautiful place on earth but everything is already ordered and put in its right place and it’s so good you shouldn’t touch it. Nothing can beat the tender bright bright colours of the skies in my home town or the smell of pine forest in late summer when the mosquitos have died.

As children, my friend and I were obsessed with Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn and the Mississippi river (of our imagination). We ran around our neighborhood, and I WAS Huck, and I didn’t pretend I was him but I actually WAS him.

As an adult when I am in Sweden, I just sit there (in the afternoon sun or at the kitchen table looking out at the forest through the triple glazed windows) and don’t know how to grasp it or get my rhythm to fall into synch with that tranquility and perfection. My kids love Sweden. It’s a sunshiny place. And Morfar (their granddad) makes fantastic pancakes and always has home made apple juice in the fridge.

I moved to England when I was in my early 20’s, and in London everything is like a crazy person’s idea of structure. There’s a disobedience and idiosyncrasy that, when I first came here, I found liberating, bewildering and rather difficult. Now I love that there’s always 569 things on the to do list (or the house will fall apart) and that nothing is perfect and so if I experiment it doesn’t matter. Nothing is perfect so I can make a mess.

My mum is a huge influence in my work. She had a great eye for style, color and was always making things. We always came to blows when she tried to teach me things because we annoyed each other (so much). I have memories of me sitting under the kitchen table, angry, cutting things up and being sad. Even though we clashed, I learned most of what I know today from her. It wasn’t from the things she consciously taught me but from the things I observed her doing, from just being with her. And she was the best person in the world to hug.  I’m not sure if that makes sense, Lisa?

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Lisa: It does! Our relationships with our mothers are so interesting! So tell us, before becoming an official “illustrator” in the last few years, you had a varied creative path. Start from when you were a teenager to where you are now. What was your path like?

Monika: I was a really embarrassing teenager. Cringe worthily so. You know; bad poetry, painful shyness and generally reveling in being misunderstood (how can anyone understand you when you’re too shy to speak and when you do actually speak you make no sense?). I was really childish, a late bloomer and everything in my head was a bit like grey porrige. I watched “Pretty in Pink” “The Breakfast Club” and “My Life as a Dog,”  thinking THAT is what life should be like. I’m still all of these things, come to think of it.

My friend’s dad was really into photography, and I discovered Anders Petersen’s work as a teenager when leafing through a photography magazine at their house. He photographed real life. Told stories. I quit normal school and enrolled at a photography school which had mixed aged students, and there I found my kind of world and a way to communicate that made sense. It was heaven.

The downside was that I’m an introverted shy person so photographing people all day long (as I didn’t have the patience to photograph still objects) was REALLY HARD WORK. So I moved to England to study art instead with the intention to become a textile designer. I found animation instead. And learned a new language.

I worried up until about 2 years ago that I had nothing interesting to say and that my art was boring but at the age of 39, I embraced that being rather boring is okay and that it is fine to draw little things without any big meanings.

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Lisa: To me, your work is the opposite of boring. In fact, your work has a very distinct style. What mediums do you work in? Does your work start by hand or do you render everything digitally? Or is it a combination?

Monika: I do as little work by the computer as possible. So the starting point is always pen, paint and paper sitting on my bed, whilst listening to audio books or radio documentaries. When I have a big enough pile of drawings I scan it all in and maybe use a third of it for whichever picture/project I’m working on. So there’s a lot of spillage. I use Photoshop to assemble the pictures and to enhance and remove and add little bits n bobs. I worked with Leigh Hodgkinson, the picture book author/artist, to teach me Photoshop and After Effects back in  2003 when I was making an animation for telly (and I knew nothing about computers back then), and I still use the 3-4 basic things she taught me and not much else.

I love how all creatives seem to use these programs completely differently. I tried using Adobe Illustrator once but it did my head in. I think using technology sparingly is the key. Or things turn into epic cgi monsters, which is fine if you like that sort of thing (but I don’t). How do you approach your work, Lisa?

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Lisa: My process is similar! Everything starts by hand (pen, paint, pencil) but ends up getting scanned and then “cleaned up,” moved around and arranged in Photoshop. I am self taught except (like you) for some Photoshop lessons I got from someone back in 2008, so I use the same 6 processes in Photoshop and not much else. There might be a faster, easier way to do what I do, but I have no idea. Next, let’s talk about your animations. How is the process of animation the same or different from still illustration?

Monika: It’s pretty much the same, just not as detailed. You can make 36 half decent pictures that are nothing special, but if you put them together you’ve got a three second little animation (and things move and looks pretty amazing). Animation is like a non consistent repetition. A forever changing repeat. I love repetition and find it comforting, but, at the same time, it really bores me to death. So animation is kind of perfect. You stay safe by drawing almost the same thing yet you get to make variations on a theme. Restlessness mixed with a compulsion to repeat oneself? When animating I often draw actions backwards (as it is easier to in my mind work out how a movement breaks down if i start at the end of it). Animation is great because you can make ANYTHING happen. A chicken can turn into an exploding whale in matter of seconds (and no actual animals will be harmed in the process).

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Lisa: There is very much an element of “silly” in your illustrations (and even your website). I mean that in the best way — your sense of humor really comes through. Do you consider yourself a silly person? Where does that come from?

Monika: I am really silly, and I am really happy. I love playing with words and I love banter and being silly. I think sometimes I might come across as a bit serious (until I start speaking), but it’s much more fun to laugh and have fun, although I’m a massive crier too. I cry at everything. And I have my moody days and I get angry. I sometimes feel a bit too much.

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Lisa: You break a lot of drawing and painting “rules” in terms of color, proportion, etc. This is what makes your work so unique and amazingly wonky. Is that an intentional choice or a result of something else?

Monika: My intentions are always really serious. I start things off deeply concentrated and in hyper realistic frame of mind and then about 1/3 into the drawing I lose concentration and get a new idea (or idea of a joke), and I go along with that impulse, and then I spend the last third of the picture trying to bring it back to the beginning or towards a third impulse. I guess this makes things a bit wonky. Also I love feeling the rhythm of things and my rhythm is totally unhinged. I was a terrible cello player when I was younger as I had my own rhythm (unless I played in an orchestra, then I could follow and assimilate to the general rhythm of things).

So when cutting things out I tend to cut in a fast-paced rhythm when going through curves and then slow down at details, but to generally keep a very fast pace, to not get stuck in the detail of things or the fear of not getting things right. If I do things too slowly I lose the thread. Maybe a bit like downhill skiing?

When I assemble things in the computer I am trying to learn to make interesting compositions, that’ll make your eyes dance around and move back and forth (without getting dizzy). It is the same thing with choices of color. It almost always get out of hand. I admire people who chose color palettes and stick to them. I start with a base color and then put somethings that complements it but then I just have to stick on something else, I think: “Ohh, this color likes that color (even if they shouldn’t ),” and it becomes little stories in itself which leads onto something other color wise. Then I have to try bring it all together in the end. I find blue a really difficult color to deal with. Do you feel like that about any colors?

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Lisa: Oh gosh, I hate working with purples. I avoid them quite a bit! So, inquiring minds are dying to know: where is WALKYLAND? What’s it like there?

Monika: One day my eldest son and I came up with Walkyland as a joke about something and I realized it was a great name that captured what I wanted to do, be and live. The only problem was that I had no work that fit my idea of Walkyland (a colorful green floral jungle full of strange creatures and happiness). I had no idea how to go about it as at that time I only did realistic black ink line drawings of people at the lido (outdoor swimming pool) here in London. I had no idea how to use colors or how to use my imagination. When I was a child we always drew with marker pens, and so when tackling the task of learning how to use colors I used that as a starting point because it was something I felt comfortable with.

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Lisa: What is your favorite way to spend the day?

Monika: With my kids, with my boyfriend, with my friends or all alone. At the cinema, in a cold lake, in the kitchen, on a bus or at the sidelines of my sons football match. Slouching on the sofa. Cooking, drawing, laughing, watching, being. Going to Paperchase on a Saturday afternoon with my youngest son and eating cakes. Pubs and picnics. COFFEE. Talking about all things big and small whilst swimming with my friend. Drawing whilst watching films. Dancing in the kitchen with my boyfriend as lunch is on the stove. Drawing and bantering with my office mate Matt Littler. Sleeping. Holding hands.

Lisa: What is your current dream job or client?

Monika:  l love working on commissions. I love the dialogue and the mixing of ideas and concepts between clients and myself. Collaborations. I been very lucky so far in my short illustration career to have only worked with fantastic people. Right now I’m working on some crazy butterflies for Eeboo. They are such fun people and they make work feel like play. If I could make a wish list; In the future I’d love to work on some book projects and editorials as I done very little of this.

Harvey Weinstein once wanted to meet up (well his people wanted to meet my people), but my people said unless they had a good selection of biscuits at the meeting it was a no. I think they didn’t get the joke and/or find it funny and the meeting never happened. But if he ever changes his mind  I’d love to make a ridiculously good film together with Harvs.

And we can forget about the cookie clause.

And it’d be awesome to one day do a little collaboration with you Lisa!

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Lisa: Yes!! I’d love that! Tell, us, where can people find you on the Internets?

Monika:

INSTAGRAM
WEBSITE
FACEBOOK
BLOG

Lisa: Big Thank you to MONIKA for hanging out here on the blog today! I hope you have enjoyed her as much as I have.

Have a great Tuesday, friends!

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Fortune Favors the Brave // Coming in August!

06/15/15

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Hello friends! I’m so excited to let you know that my latest book, Fortune Favors the Brave: 100 Courageous Quotations Hand Lettered by Lisa Congdon will be released on August 18. You can pre-order the book here or on Amazon.

This sequel to Whatever You Are, Be a Good One includes quotes entirely focused on the topic of bravery and being yourself.

Mark your calendars! I’m also happy to announce my book tour dates as they currently stand (and I’ll provide more info on each of these events soon, as some will include speaking and/or Q&A, along with any additions to the tour):

Drop Forge and Tool, Hudson, NY, August 26, 2015 6 pm (I’ll be there on residency!)

Rare Device, San Francisco, CA, September 18, 2015 6-9 pm

Nathan & Co, College Ave, Oakland, CA, September 19, 2015 2-4 pm

Reading Frenzy, Portland, OR, September 24, 2015, 7-9 pm

University Book Store, Seattle, WA September 28 – 7-9 pm

Linfield College Library, sponsored by Third Street Books, McMinville, OR, September 30, 2015 7-9 pm

Have a great Monday, friends! #fortunefavorsthebravebook

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On Working, A Lot

06/12/15

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I am not going to beat around the bush: I’m busy. I write about busy-ness a lot on this blog, at first a few years ago proclaiming that I was no longer going to describe myself as busy, committing myself to slowing down, blah, blah, blah. And then eventually all of that became bullshit. Because I realized I like to be busy. I like to work. I might even like to be a tiny bit stressed out.

So, as you can imagine, because I am usually working on about 20 projects at one time, most of them with client or publisher deadlines attached, people on the Internets and at speaking engagements ask me, a lot: how do you manage all of that work? And one way to interpret that question is: how do you not lose your mind with stress and anxiety? And one of the things I tell them is that “I chose this,” which I wrote about here. Identifying your busy life as a choice (and reminding yourself of that daily) is a good way to stay out of the victim-based “I’m-so-stressed-out-my-life-sucks” perspective.

But what I also think people are asking is a more practical productivity-related question: how the hell do you get all that work finished?

I have some theories about artists who have a high level of productivity, and it doesn’t necessarily include staying up all night, at least for those of us over 40. Here’s why I think I manage to be so productive. And some of these may also shed some light on why I might actually enjoy being busy.

1) I am motivated, and motivation matters. I spent the first 16 years after I graduated from college with no real intrinsic motivation to work hard or be productive. I was mostly very lazy until I became an artist. And I’m not just motivated because I like to make art more than I liked to do the jobs I had before becoming a working artist (and that IS a big part of why I’m motivated). I’m also motivated because I, alone, am responsible for the success of my career. Much of our motivation as entrepreneurs comes from our own sense of responsibility for our success, which feels different from working to promote the success of another person or organization.

2) I am focused. Until I found drawing and painting and designing, I didn’t really know what hyper-focus was. When I am working, I get so lost in it that nothing else matters. Sometimes I even forget to eat. Sometimes my wife tries to talk to me, and I do not hear her, even though she is standing right next to me! Maybe some of you know what I am talking about. That focus helps us get things done.

3) I get energy from my work, as opposed to my work taking energy from me. It’s sort of like physical exercise for me. When I swim or ride my bike in the morning, I have more energy for the rest of the day. Drawing, painting and designing give me energy. When I do occasionally work on a project that sucks my energy (and it happens), I know never to do anything like it again.

4) I work full and often long days. Now that my wife helps manage my business, I work fewer hours in a day than I did before. But even so, I still work at least nine hours a day, and sometimes I work more like 10 or 11. You can get a lot done in 9-11 hours if you are also focused. I am an advocate for taking care of yourself, though, so I also exercise six days a week, eat healthy meals, get eight hours of sleep night (yes, I sleep), and generally take weekends off. I also take vacations.

5) I’m quick. The more you do something, the better and faster you get at it. That’s why I tell my students to practice, practice, practice. I have been a professional illustrator since 2007, working on multiple projects every day since about 2010, the year my career began to take off. I draw, paint and use Photoshop a lot. Think of this as similar to Malcolm Gladwell’s  “10,000 Hour Rule,” in which he claims that the key to achieving expertise in any skill is, to a large extent, a matter of practicing for a total of around 10,000 hours. I am not sure how many hours I have put into being an artist exactly, and I am not sure I am an expert. But practicing has made me fast at what I do. Clients call, I can deliver quickly.

6) I’m a proficient project manager. Those 10 years I worked as a project manager before becoming an artist? They were not a waste of time. I know how to organize my workflow, prioritize projects, break things down into manageable steps and create to-do lists that work for me (and we all know that crossing things off our lists is the best feeling). I enjoy organizing my work, and that helps, too.

7) I love what I do. I don’t just sort of love it. I really, really love it. I don’t just love drawing and painting; I also love the creative process. I want to do it all the time, even during my free time (which is why I am always drawing in my sketchbook late at night as a way to relax). Maybe I am just making up for all the years I didn’t make art (I didn’t start drawing or painting till I was 31 years old). So far I haven’t gotten bored, either.

I also want to add here that I don’t have children, and I have an extremely supportive partner, who now co-owns my business and who is also invested in my ability to work hard. That said, I know many artists who have kids and/or relatively uninvested partners who are also enormously productive. A lot of this is about the choices we make about how we spend our time — and owning and embracing those choices, whatever they are.

That’s it from me today. Have a great weekend, friends!

CATEGORIES: Personal Essays
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Portland Pride Exhibition at Wieden & Kennedy Gallery

06/10/15

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{My contribution to the W&K Pride Exhibition & Silent Auction this Friday!}

Portland! Come kick off Gay Pride Weekend at Wieden+Kennedy’s gallery (address below) this Friday, June 12 at 6 p.m.  Local artists (including me!) have created original artworks for a silent auction, with half the proceeds benefiting P:EAR, a local organization that builds positive relationships with homeless and transitional youth through education, art and recreation.

Drinks will be offered at the event thanks to the generous support of For a Song Wines, Snowdrift Cider Co., Citizen’s Gin, Capitol Vodka, Skippers Rum and BG Reynolds Syrup. See you there!

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Have a great Wednesday, friends!

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Words for the Day // No. 67

06/09/15

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Something I always try to remind myself when I am going through struggle.

From my upcoming book of hand-lettered quotations called Fortune Favors the Brave, available for pre-order here.

Have a good Tuesday, friends!

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Courtney Cerruti // Playing With Surface Design

06/08/15

PlayingwithSurfaceDesign A few years ago, I met artist, curator, author & teacher, Courtney Cerruti. Courtney works for Creativebug and helped to concept and produce all of my classes there (including my two best-selling Basic Line Drawing and Sketchbook Explorations classes). Courtney has become one of my most treasured friends. I am perpetually in awe of her prolific creative energy and free spirit. Courtney and I also share a longtime love of neon colors. Courtney has published several books (one which I wrote about here) and her latest is my new favorite. It’s called Playing with Surface Design, and it’s a book of surface design projects, including projects for creating wrapping paper, ribbon, lampshades, garlands, plates and more. Each project is fully photographed and includes step by step instructions. Last week, I sat down with Courtney to talk about this gorgeous new book. I’m also sharing here photos of some projects from the book, all styled by Courtney and photographed by Liz Daly (except the one above, which was taken by me). I hope you enjoy this latest in my Interviews with People I Admire!

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Lisa: What inspired this particular book?

Courtney: I wanted to make a book that showed traditional printmaking techniques with a fresh and contemporary look and feel. I’ve added neons, metallics and indigos to the color palette overall and made specific tweaks to some of the processes like marbling, paste papers and monoprinting so that they better fit into the craft and DIY world we all know and love today. I’ve also thrown in some favorite painting and stamping methods to cover designs for all surfaces.

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Lisa: You have several amazing and beautiful project-based books under your belt. Tell us about what it’s like to make books like this. What inspires you to share techniques with other people?

Courtney: Every book I’ve written came from my current passion/obsession. In addition to wanting to share a process or project that I love to make, most of the projects are ones I teach in my in-person and online workshops. The books aim to inspire people as well as teach successful methods for making. I want people to pick up any one of my books and learn a better way to make an image transfer, a monoprint, a book, etc., and to feel proud about learning a new skill AND smitten because they made something beautiful too.
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Lisa: That is a great feeling! To learn something new and make something beautiful. What is your favorite project in the book and why?

Courtney: OOOH, so hard! I think my favorite might be the Bold Botanical Prints because its evokes the feeling of cyanotypes with the addition of neon. Its also more accessible and less expensive than the cyanotype process. Best of all, the printing surface is an actual slab of gelatin, as in Jell-o, which is just plain awesome.

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Lisa: When you come up with an idea for a project for one of your books, does it always go as you planned? Or do you end up scrapping some of them and trying other techniques? Tell us about this process of risk-taking and experimentation.

Courtney: The process of making a book is ever-evolving. Although I come up with an initial list of projects, they change and shift, because I become inspired by something new as I work. Delving deep into any method allows for moments of discovery and that in turn causes me to add projects and strike others as I become more or less inspired by a certain aspect of the process. Luckily I worked with a great photographer, Liz Daly, and a great Editor, Jonathan Simkosky at Quarry, who were both flexible along the way.

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Lisa: When a project you’ve imagined and then try comes out beautifully, what does that feel like?

Courtney: A successful project feels like falling in love, like what you expected and at the same time like a tiny miracle. The processes I love — and most often use and teach — all have an element of unexpectedness, which is why I think they’ve kept me interested and engaged for years.

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Lisa: There is a gallery in the back of the book of artists who do surface design, in which I am so honored to by included. Besides the artists in the book, who are some of your favorite surface designers today?

Courtney: Helen Dealtry, Chris Schmidt of Yellow Owl Workshop, Naomi Ito of Nani Iro, Kindah Khalidy, Llew Mejia, Kitty McCall, and fabric and work from the studios of Mara Mi, Marimekko, and Liberty of London just to name a few.

You can find Courtney’s website here and follow her on Instagram here. You can purchase Courtney’s new book here or wherever books are sold. Did you make something from the book? Tag it #PlayingWithSurfaceDesign to share with others. Thank you Courtney for this inspiring interview. I hope everyone has a great Monday!

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