Frequently Asked Questions :: Supplies

11/30/12

{the view from one of my work tables, taken in 2010}

One of the questions I get frequently is: What kind of supplies do you use in your work? So today I’m going to share a little bit of that with you. Art-making is a process of experimentation. I think it’s always smart to occasionally try new supplies (whether it’s a new medium or a new brand of medium), just to see if you might like something a little bit better. Taking advice or tips from other artists is also helpful. I have learned so much from the recommendations of friends.

Again, as always, my disclaimer: I do no speak for all artists here. I speak only for myself. These are the supplies I like & use. They may not work for you.

1) Paint. I use gouache. I occasionally also use acrylic (which mixes easily with the kind of gouache I use). I also occasionally use water colors. I like gouache because it is smooth, and it works well for me on a variety of surfaces. It is easy to both use thick (out of the tube with a little water) and to thin out (like water color with a lot of water). It does not have the “grip” that acrylic has, which can make it difficult when you are painting on a smooth, hard surface like masonite, but with practice that becomes easier. My favorite brand of gouache is Acryla. The color selection is lush and they mix nicely. It is more opaque than many gouaches. And that might be because it’s an acrylic-based watercolor paint. Many other gouaches are used with the binding agent gum arabic. Gouache is matte in finish, while acrylic paint can be a bit shiny. I like this, especially when I’m painting on paper.

2) Pens. One word: Micron. I love this pen, and I have about three in each width, from very tiny to thick. I do all my lettering with Microns. They are permanent and acid free. Finding the widths that work best for you (I tend to use .03-.08 the most often) can take some time, but I do use other widths for detail work or filler. I get most of my Microns at Flax Art & Design in San Francisco where you can pick and choose from a variety of sizes and colors.

3) Pencils. I use a regular old #2 for most of my drawings. And a good quality gum eraser. I sharpen often. I also use blending stumps and fixative.

4) Brushes. I don’t spend too much money on expensive brushes. I tend to use brushes that are about 6 inches long (I prefer these to long handled brushes), and I sometimes even buy the cheaper variety pack. I go through brushes very quickly (even expensive brushes). I tend to use angular, bright and flat brushes, along with liner brushes for detail work. Some of my brushes are so tiny that you can barely see the hairs on them! This is a great brush shape chart. I like brushes that are smooth (important for the kind of work I do), but also stiff (I don’t use water color brushes which can be softer). Experimenting with brushes is also important! It took me years to figure out what kinds of brushes work best for me.

5) Paper. I work on watercolor paper and regular drawing paper, depending on what I’m painting or drawing. I buy whatever is on sale, but I always look at whatever I buy to make sure it feels right (yes, touch the paper before you buy it!). I keep a variety of weights and colors around. I sometimes prefer painting on off-white paper rather than pure white because it scans better and looks less washed out.

6) Panels. I work on both wood panels and gessoed masonite panels. I like cradled panels the best because they are ready to hang. Sometimes I work on canvas too. I’m not wedded to any brand. I tend to buy what looks good quality and seems affordable.

7) Other. I also use Exacto Knives and scissors for paper cutting. I also use painters tape and a metal ruler for creating straight edges. I love circle and other shape templates. I use a Black and Decker Hand Sander to sand edges and smooth surfaces or add some distress to my work on wood. I sometimes also use transfer paper to transfer my sketches to the painting or drawing surface. When doing collage I use archival quality glue or glue sticks. Sometimes I use a glue gun when I’m making three dimensional work. I also own a miter saw to make frames for my paintings.

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I didn’t go to art school, so much of what I’ve learned about supplies has been through experimentation. Sometimes I don’t even know if I’m using the “right” materials! But I love what John Cage said once: “Art is whatever you can get away with.” And, as a mostly self-taught artist, that as been my story.

You can view previous FAQ’s here. Happy Friday.

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Drink & Draw at Outlet PDX

08/02/17

Friends, I am so excited to let you know that I am having my first ever Drink & Draw at Outlet PDX on Tuesday, August 8 from 6-9 pm! Join me for an evening of drawing together (bring your own drawing supplies) and make new friends! We’ll sell beverages (both alcoholic and non for sale — please no outside beverages). I’ll also have some posters, books and journals for sale! You can view all the details here, including the exact address (Outlet is located on NE Sandy and 25th). This is an indoor/outdoor event and it’s likely going to be hot, so dress appropriately (aka: no AC).

Please RSVP here as well (if you are on Facebook). This will help us get an accurate count so we have enough chairs and beverages!

See you on Tuesday!

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Creative Bootcamp Launches January 3!

12/20/16

Friends, I am so very excited to announce my next class series with Creativebug, the first in almost a year! It’s called Creative Bootcamp: Six Exercises  to Spark Artistic Discovery, and it launches January 3rd just in time for the new year. You can take the class at your own pace in at any time of the day or night, anywhere the world! We have launched the class page today so that you can prepare to begin the class by gathering all the materials you’ll need (just click on “materials” below each class description). That said, there is no time limit to this class! Once the each week goes live, it will live on Creativebug forever. Aren’t a subscriber to Creativebug? You can get a free trial membership starting today, and after that, it’s only $4.95 a month.

More about the series: using a variety of my favorite art supplies and tried-and-true processes, learn how to use Microns, oil sticks, paints and collage to take a fresh look at shape, line and color. These exercises allow you to “get loose” and enjoy the process without overthinking the outcome. You’ll also learn how to work with color, use collage to respond to your in-progress artwork, and go outside to gather inspiration from your surroundings. Unlike my other classes, this series focuses less on specific projects and dives deeply into the artistic process to help you develop your own creative voice.

Watch the trailer for more!

Here is a little bit about each week:

Part 1: Reinventing the Basics with Lines and Circles – Jan 3rd

Starting with the basics, you’ll learn how to look at lines, circles and simple shapes with new eyes. I guide you through drawing and image-making exercises that utilize three mediums: pen, collage and paint. Working in a large sketchbook, you’ll begin this journey by learning how to keep your approach loose and fresh.


Part 2: Color Conversation – Jan 10th

Everyone has a color palette they tend to lean toward. In this class, I show how to build upon your favorite palettes, investigating color relationships and proportions in order to achieve optimal composition and flow. To put this lesson into practice, you’ll create a collage in your sketchbook with these principles in mind.

Part 3: Get Messy Sketchbook – Jan 17th

Leave the white pages of your sketchbook behind and dive into the printed pages of a vintage book. Working in a variety of mediums, I share my favorite “Messy Sketchbook” technique, transforming a printed page into a vibrant sketchbook spread. Plus you’ll learn how to respond to the content on the printed pages in order to create truly original artwork.

Part 4: Working in Monochrome – Jan 24th

Sometimes you don’t need every crayon in the box – in this part, I focus on choosing a single color and working in a monochrome color palette. Not only is this exercise good practice for self editing, it also helps you better understand the various shades and hues that are possible within a single color. Using a variety of mediums and sketchbook spreads, you’ll unlock all of the possibilities of working in monochrome.

Part 5: An Artist Outing – Jan 31st

Sometimes leaving the studio to get some fresh air is the best way to spark inspiration. Take a walk with me through downtown San Francisco and see what catches my eye. Sit alongside me on a park bench as I sketch the buildings around me, and then watch how she adds color and further develops my drawings when I head back into the studio.

Part 6:  Accordion Books – Feb 7th

Now that you’ve created oodles of artwork in our Creative Boot Camp, you’ll need a way to put the pieces together to share with the world. Learn how to make an accordion book structure to feature as much or as little of your original artwork as you like. Or you can make a blank accordion book to use as an alternative style sketchbook and start the creative process all over again!

Sign up today! I can’t wait to have you in class!

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Portland Studio Holiday Sale December 3!

11/22/16

holidaysalepromo

Portland and PNW friends! Holiday shoppers! I’m having HOLIDAY SALE at my painting studio on Saturday December 3 from 12-5 pm! [Note: for those of you who have been to my illustration studio at my home, this event will be at my painting studio on MLK, so please refer to directions & map below!]

I’ll be selling all kinds of fun stuff, including signed books, coloring books, prints, calendars, tote bags, small original works. notebooks, and posters. Many items will be discounted. A small sampling of what I’ll have on hand is pictured below (there will be so much more than this for sale!!). I’m also selling a large wooden easel and possibly some other art supplies. I will be taking both cash and credit cards.

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IMPORTANT: MAP, DIRECTIONS & PARKING!
This event will be held at my painting studio and not my home studio. My painting studio is located in the building at 2808 NE Martin Luther King Blvd in Portland. The building is between Graham and Stanton on Martin Luther King. PLEASE REFER TO THE MAP BELOW for directions on how to enter, since my studio is NOT directly on MLK (you must enter on either Stanton or Graham)! Feel free to drag this map to your desktop and print it out. I will also place signs around the block to direct folks into the studio. Lastly, PLEASE USE STREET PARKING and do not park in the lot adjacent to my studio. Thank you so much!

studiomap

Questions about the sale? Email us at hello@lisacongdon.com! I hope to see you there!

CATEGORIES: For Sale
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My Swimming Story

04/19/16

Screen Shot 2016-04-19 at 9.04.39 AM

Today is the release of my latest book, The Joy of Swimming: A Celebration of Our Love for Getting in the Water.  I worked for over a year on this 144 page book all about swimming, and I’m so happy to put it into the world today! I wrote a book about swimming, because swimming changed my life. I have never been an elite swimmer. I just love to swim. Below is my swimming story. Enjoy!

PS: If you are interested in purchasing  copy or would like to know more about my upcoming book tour, scroll to the bottom for all the information!

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It was a beautiful California day during the summer of 1977, and Queen’s “We Are the Champions” was blasting from someone’s boom box. The Shadowbrook Splashers, my childhood swim team, had just won the championship meet. We danced and screamed in victorious revelry—all of us barefoot, nine-year-olds and teenagers alike—our tan bodies clad only in faded team suits, our mouths red from eating cherry-flavored Jell-O blocks. These were the glory days of my childhood: the summers, the morning practices, the swim meets on Saturdays, the smell of chlorine in everything—especially my hair, straw dry and green from pool water.

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I lived for summers, and I spent nearly every available minute of them at the swimming pool down the block from my family’s home in a suburban subdivision of San Jose, California’s Almaden Valley. The pool was not only where I swam, but also where, over luxuriously long summer days, I played in the grass, made friends, ate lunch, read books, and where I learned about disco music and flirting and card games. It was where I first became independent and where I first became aware of my physical strength. And it was always where my mother could find me at the end of the day if I wasn’t home in time for dinner.

Nearly 40 years later, my favorite place to be in the summer (or any time of the year if it is over 70-degrees Fahrenheit) is still an outdoor swimming pool. The smell of chlorine, the feeling of rough poolside concrete under my bare feet, and the sound of water splashing are all so nostalgic for me that even now I am often transported back to the magic of my childhood simply by closing my eyes.

My love for swimming is so My love for swimming is so profound that I decided to write and illustrate a book about it. Here I share my fondness not just for the sport of competitive swimming, but also for recreational swimming—the playful dunking and splashing we did as kids and the meditative laps we swim to work out life’s stresses. Here I pay homage to swimming’s history and some of its great moments. Here I profile fellow living swimmers as young as nine and as old as 92, regular people for whom the water is a source not only of exercise, but of serenity and healing. Here I honor some of swimming’s great heroes, some famous and some until now hidden from the spotlight. Here I recall the sounds, the smells, and the tactile sensations associated with swimming in pools, in ponds, and in the ocean. Here I pay tribute to the activity that has brought so many of us such tremendous joy.

I have been a swimmer since I was a small kid. In April 1976, when I was eight years old, my family moved from upstate New York to sunny San Jose, California. I’d taken swimming lessons already and expressed an interest early that first summer in California to join the neighborhood swim team. My mother took me straight down to the pool and registered me for my first official team sport.

I took to swimming like I took to eating: with a sort of relaxed devotion, as if it was my birthright to be in a swimsuit in 80-degree air next to a pool at all times. I was, in fact, so relaxed about competitive swimming that I never had the intense discipline to become a really fast swimmer as a kid. But being on the team did mean that I got to be in the water and hang out near the pool every single day, which was exactly where I wanted to be.

JoyOfSwimming_INT.indd

When I was 11 years old I eventually expressed to my parents an interest in swimming competitively year-round. I was an above-average swimmer, and even at that young age I knew that in order to get further above average, I’d need to work at it. My mother took me to my first practice after school at a more serious year-round team not far from our home. There I lasted only about a week, so exhausted after two hours of practice each day that I could barely stay awake afterward to finish my fifth-grade homework. My parents were not at all pushy when it came to athletics so I chose not to continue. It wasn’t until I was 17 that I began to endure, and eventually love, working hard at training—including the long hours, the exhaustion, and the endless hunger it brings. I have forever been impressed by children and teens who can work out in the pool before or after school and still engage fully in academics. It’s no small feat.

When I was a freshman in high school I was confronted with the choice to join my school’s team, and I decided that sleeping an hour later was more important than getting up and swimming before school every morning. I didn’t swim on my school’s team for the first three years of high school.

But then, during January of my junior year when I was 16 years old, I had a serious skiing accident that left me with a completely torn medial collateral ligament, major surgery, a long pin in my knee, a six-pound cast for several weeks, and a leg brace for months. My orthopedic surgeon and physical therapist recommended swimming and weightlifting as low-impact forms of daily therapy both to build back the muscle mass I’d lost and to loosen the freshly mended (though very tight) ligaments I’d torn. My family had moved to nearby Los Gatos, California, several years earlier, and my parents purchased a membership at the Los Gatos Athletic Club so that I could use the water and the weight room to recover from my injury.

It was that summer at the club’s pool that I fell in love with swimming again. But this time it was in a new way, different than I’d experienced it as a younger kid. Sure, I luxuriated at the club’s pool deck on warm days, but for the first time I also began to appreciate fully the health benefits of swimming, to experience the exhilaration of working hard at something physically challenging, and to find satisfaction in pushing myself to set and meet personal goals. That fall, at the beginning of my senior year, with my knee almost fully recovered, I finally joined the high school swim team and began swimming competitively for the first time in years. I approached it with a new vigor and discipline, going so far as to read books about the power of visualization and working out two times a day to increase my strength. At the end of that year’s season, I placed second in the 50-meter butterfly sprint at the district championship meet—out-touched by the winner by only one one-hundredth of a second.

The next year I went off to college, and another swimming hiatus ensued—this time replaced by college stuff like parties and dates and studying. I graduated four years later, in 1990, and moved to San Francisco where I began swimming laps at the historic Chinatown YMCA on Sacramento Street after work. I swam at various pools in San Francisco during those years. And then in 1996, when I was 28, I heard about a gay and lesbian Masters swim team called the San Francisco Tsunami. In my early twenties I had come out as a lesbian, and I was looking not only to enlarge my circle of friends, but also to get back in the water in a more serious way. This seemed like the perfect opportunity. I had only recently learned of Masters Swimming.

United States Masters Swimming (USMS) is a national membership-operated nonprofit organization that provides membership benefits to nearly 60,000 adult swimmers of all levels across the country on hundreds of local teams. Like many people who approach Masters Swimming for the first time, I was nervous to attend my first practice. I hadn’t swum competitively for nine years and wasn’t sure I could hack it. Could I keep up? Would I still be able to race? I was also worried about joining a team. Was I going to fit in? Would people be welcoming? I decided it was worth a try. I gathered my courage and showed up to practice at Hamilton Pool on Post and Steiner to work out with the San Francisco Tsunami.

On that day, I fell in love with the Tsunami and Masters Swimming. For the first time in my adult life I felt part of something extraordinary. Not only did I experience the health benefits and exhilaration of regular rigorous swimming workouts again, but I met some of the people who would eventually become my second family: my teammates. I also became a better swimmer. By 1997, a year after joining the team, I was swimming far faster than I did in high school, a by-product of excellent coaching and swimming year-round. In 1999, I joined my team’s coaching staff, the only female coach at the time. Over the course of 11 years, I traveled the world to compete in Masters Swimming competitions, including two Gay Games competitions in Amsterdam and Chicago.

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A tall, thin, curly-haired woman named Cari joined Tsunami shortly after I did and quickly became my best swim buddy. We were just one year apart in age and swam at almost the same pace. Just a few months after we joined the team in 1997, we traveled to San Diego for our first Masters swim meet. I was so excited (and nervous) about the competition that I literally did not sleep at all the night before the first day of the meet. But adrenaline (and a little Red Bull) saved me—I swam faster than I’d ever swum before, setting two personal bests, only to continue to better my times again and again over the next 11 years. Cari and I were so obsessed with swimming during those years that we would routinely tape any swim competitions that we could find on my VCR and watch the races together, rewinding and rewatching the most exciting parts.

Swimming also carried me through periods of intense heartache. In 2000, I ended an eight-year relationship that had gone terribly bad. I had lost so much weight due to depression after the breakup that I could barely find the strength to get to swim practice. But it was my fellow teammates who expected to see me each evening no matter how I was feeling, inviting me to dinner and feeding me. Those practices and dinners saved me. In early 2001 I used swimming as my motivation to begin to feel like myself again. I signed up for private work with Coach Geoff Glaser to rebuild my physical strength, improve my stroke, and work toward becoming a competitor in distance freestyle, a new goal at the time. By 2003 I had gained back the weight I’d lost and was a faster swimmer than I’d ever been, taking home several medals in both individual and relay events at the International Gay and Lesbian Aquatics (IGLA), including participation on a USMS record-breaking mixed relay team with Geoff and my friends and teammates Brad and Alissa.

Around 2006, after 11 amazing years, I came to a painful realization: I had to take a break from competitive swimming. The years of intense workouts and weekly coaching responsibilities were leaving me feeling tired. Simultaneously, making art had become my new passion and outlet and, increasingly, my new career. I decided that the Gay Games in Chicago that year would be my final event. It was a wonderful way to walk away, ending my swimming career on a high note: there I medaled in every event I swam, taking away six golds and three silvers.

I’ve never stayed out of the pool for long, and over the next 10 years, I kept swimming on my own on and off, the cold water always calling me back in. In 2015, my art career a steady and consistent force in my life, I felt called to begin swimming more rigorously again. I now get myself into the water for a good 3200–3600 yard workout at least three days a week, occasionally swimming with local masters teams.

There has always been a fixed and steady connection for me between art making and swimming. Both of these passions require similar things of me: enormous discipline and a unique form of endurance. They also provide motivation and direction in my life like no other pursuits. I learned that this connection is similar for many other artist/swimmers. When I began working on this book and sharing its progress on social media, scores of artists emailed me to let me know they were also swimmers. In her 2012 book Swimming Studies, artist and writer Leanne Shapton tells a beautiful and visceral tale of growing up a competitive swimmer and how, in part, that experience shaped her life as an artist. Reading Shapton’s book was the first time I realized there was a connection between athletic and artistic discipline.

Like art making, swimming is at the same time a rigorous exercise and also a form of play. It is also for many people a source of energy, vitality, and healing—a theme you will see repeated again and again throughout this book. Water wakes us up and holds us in times of distress or change. It allows the awkward to move with grace, the heavy to feel light, and the disabled to feel accomplished. It is an emotional blanket in times of recovery and vulnerability. It is a form of movement that supports us no matter how large or small we are, how tall or short, how able-bodied or disabled.

In the words of swimming great Gertrude Ederle, “When we’re in the water, we’re not in this world.” May this book provide you with a glimpse into the capacity of swimming to transform, to heal, to empower, to strengthen, and to provide transcendent joy.

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You can purchase The Joy of Swimming in your local bookshop or here on Amazon (and other online retailers). You can even get signed copies in my own shop (while supplies last).

I’m going on a book tour! Come see me in any of these places:

April 26, 7-9 pm – California College of the Arts (San Francisco)
May 8, 2-4 pm 
– Strand Books (NYC)
May 11, 7-9 pm – Powerhouse Arena (Brooklyn, NY)
May 13, 9-10:30 am  – Creative Mornings (Minneapolis)
May 17, 7-9 pm – Broadway Books (Portland)
May 24 7-9 pm – University Bookstore (Seattle)

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