My Doodling Manifesto

11/06/14

doodling manifesto_lowres

Earlier this year I designed this Doodling Manifesto and I realized the other day I had never shared here on the blog! If you’ve taken my line drawing class with Creativebug, you’ve probably heard me talk about some of these principles.

1) In doodling, there are no rules. We all have that voice in our head that says, on occasion, “you should be doing it this way.” And when we doodle, it’s important to tell those voices to shut up. Rules play a really important role in some forms of art making: how to hold your brush, what materials to use, how to create a lush background, on and on. But in doodling, you get to draw whatever you want however you want. And, furthermore, no one but you ever has to see what you doodle. So you have all the freedom.

2) Carry pens and paper with you everywhere. This is important because you never know when the opportunity (or inspiration) will strike. In line at the bank? The waiting room at the doctor? Make your down time (even the boring stuff) less boring with doodles.

3) Make time to doodle every day. Even if you only doodle for a few minutes a day, free form drawing can loosen up your creative juju and even help you process other more difficult stuff, like working through creative blocks or thinking about solutions to life’s problems.

4) Think of everything as lines and circles. You don’t have to “know how to draw” to doodle. Make shapes! Create lines! And if you do want to draw flowers or people or buildings, think of them more abstractly as a collection of lines and circles.

5) You are the boss of your art. You get to draw what inspires you. You get to draw what you want to draw, even if it’s the same stuff you always draw. If you keep a sketchbook to doodle (which I highly recommend), your sketchbook (unless you choose to share it) is your own private place that no one else ever has to see.

6) Imperfection rules. Do you know that Japanese term Wabi Sabi? It translates to something like “beauty that is imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete.” The idea here is that it is actually the “imperfections” that make something beautiful or interesting. What I often describe as “wonkiness” in art is to me what makes something really cool or different. Embrace imperfection in your doodling.

7) Doodling is art (end of story). Many of the large abstract paintings I make in my studio and sell to clients begin as doodles in pen in my sketchbook. Many of the repeat patterns I create that adorn fabric began as doodles in my sketchbook. Doodling itself, even if it’s never translated to things like canvas or surface design, is art. Every great artist doodles and every great doodler is an artist.

8) Black and white are beautiful colors. While I do use colored pens and watercolor paints in my sketchbook when I doodle, my favorite tools are black Micron pens and white paper. I encourage you to embrace the simplicity of using just one color (even if it’s not black) and even if it’s just every now and again. When you draw in black on white you will find great beauty in the monotony.

9) Negative space is as important as positive space. Whenever I teach line drawing, I remind my students that it’s important to pay attention not just to the marks you are making on the page (the positive space), but also to the white (negative) space that surrounds it. Composition is made up of negative and positive space and how they interact together, so ponder both as you doodle.

10) Everything you draw (even the stuff you don’t like) is part of your journey. It’s important to remember that even when you want to rip something out of your sketchbook because it is SO UGLY (and even if you do, and you can), the exercise of “making mistakes” or pushing something on the page too far when you should have just left it alone (sound familiar?) is all part of the journey of making art (regardless if you are a doodler or a professional artist). We learn & grow from those experiences. It’s important to learn to embrace the ugly, the mistakes, the “that looked so good until I added that color” moments. It’s all part of your path.

Have a happy Thursday, friends!

591
shares

New Notebook in the Shop!

10/21/14

scout3

Now in my shop: my 5×7 inch “mega” screen printed notebook/sketchbook (front and back pictured above).

Filled with 48 blank pages for your doodling or sketching pleasure and originally designed for my sketchXchange event in Portland in October 0f 2014, this notebook (beautifully printed by Scout Books) is now available for purchase here in my shop.

scout4

Have a great Tuesday, friends.

106
shares

Portland, YOU Are Awesome

10/13/14

photo

This past week I spoke two different times at two different events for 2014 Design Week Portland. I have always known Portland is a special place. I have been going to Portland for visits for the past fifteen years. Several members of my family, including my sister and parents live there, and I have loved that town from the beginning. But the experience of the last several days brought a new level of love and appreciation to my heart. So many incredibly kind people, well organized, sold-out events, and good beer, food, smiles & hugs.

1389416_1474399472822943_1256184006_n

Thursday I spoke at the Design Week HQ in Pioneer Square (which happened to be a geodesic dome). I was in conversation with Namita Wiggers, former Director and Chief Curator for the Museum of Contemporary Craft in Portland, and also friend and inspiration, now freelance curator, writer and big brain. We talked about my path, how I’ve used the Internet and my mulch-disciplinary approach to making a living as an artist. Thank you to everyone who came out to hear us talk, and for all the great questions I got and interest in what I do. It was all very heartfelt! A special thanks to Namita and PDW organizer Kate Bingaman Burt for inviting me to do this event!

Then, this past Friday evening, I gave a talk about my work in general & my sketchbooks to a crowd of over 200 people.

10693428_331025677068225_1888560075_n

The event was organized by the amazing Yvonne Perez Emerson and Scott Baker, founders of WeMakePDX.

-39

Here I am with my wife Clay and Yvonne at the party following my talk. I have been working with Yvonne to prepare for the event for almost nine months, and I cannot say enough about her energy and enthusiasm, not just for my event, but for supporting and being part of the Portland creative community.

Thank you, Portland, for making me feel so welcomed!

Have a great Monday, friends.

 

422
shares

SketchXchange & Book Signing

09/22/14

1971466_694361990658971_830996265_n

{what I drew on the airplane flying home from NY yesterday}

I have written here before about my love for filling the pages of my sketchbook with whatever is living in my brain. Whenever I have a free moment, which lately has been while I am flying on an airplane, I grab my sketchbook and get to drawing.

On Friday, October 10 at 5:30, in Portland Oregon (Portland area friends, this one is for you), I am giving a talk at Leftbank Annex as part of Portland Design Week and WeMake Portland’s sketchXchange & Design Week Closing Party events.

I’ll be talking about my approach to my sketchbooks and sharing images of my sketchbooks. Every attendee with get a FREE Scoutbook with my design and will have the chance to enter to win a huge set of Micron pens (courtesy of Sakura of America). At the event, I’ll be selling & signing copies of Art Inc. and Whatever You Are, Be a Good One. And I’ve got a discount code for tickets, so scroll down if you are interested!

newimage_sketchxchange_v2logo_lowres

I am offering my readers a discount on the ticket price — which includes not only my talk at 5:30 but also the awesome party & art show that will follow! The code is wemakefriends – enter this code for 50% off when you purchase your tickets here.

10684341_872956872717160_571460743_n

{what I drew on the airplane flying to NY last week}

On WeMake’s blog today they’ve posted a little interview I did with their founder, Yvonne.

Hope to see you at the event!! Happy sketching!

315
shares

Portland, I’m Coming for You!

09/03/14

newimage_sketchxchange_v2logo_lowres

Portland friends! I’m headed your way October 10!

I’ll be giving a talk and signing books as part of Design Week Portland at The Leftbank Annex. My talk is part of WeMake Portland’s monthly sketchXchange (I’ll be discussing how I approach my sketchbooks), and will be followed by a book signing for my new book Art Inc, the closing party for Design Week (which includes tons of fun activities & live music) AND the Put a Bird in It Show!

My talk is at 5 pm sharp, so get there early for a seat. Oh, and I’ll be giving away a pack or two of Micron pens to a lucky winner or two (from the audience)! I’ve also designed a 5×7 inch notebook which Scout Books is generously donating to everyone who attends.

You can purchase the ticket for the entire event here.

Hope to see you there, Portland friends! It’s going to be super fun.

113
shares

Sketchbook as Surface Design

07/25/14

925539_252820251593565_14645249_n

{I made this spread while sitting at my friend Ron’s pool on a hot July day earlier this summer.}

I am admittedly not a traditional sketchbook user. I don’t sit and sketch the people or places I see — at least very often (though I think that is a valuable exercise for sure — and one I should probably do more of). Instead, I use my sketchbooks as a way to play around with composition, color, and design elements in my work. The great thing about sketchbooks is that they are, by nature, personal work — they are for the user, not a consumer. Sure, I sketch concepts for clients all the time, but those don’t end up in my sketchbook. The majority of people don’t even show what is in their personal sketchbooks. So your sketchbook can really be a fantastic playground for anything you want it to be — traditional sketches or abstract exploration. There are no rules.

On October 10, I’ll be giving a talk sponsored by WeMake Portland for the closing of Design Week. The talk, part of sketchXchange, will focus on — you guess it — my sketchbooks! I’ll be focusing on “sketchbook as surface design,” since 8 times out of 10 I end up filling the entire surface of a spread in my sketchbook with something — a collage, an intricate line drawing, or some random lettering like the one pictured above. I’ll talk about my process, my motivations and what is going through my brain when I am creating my sketchbook spreads. Tickets go on sale soon, and I’ll keep you posted!

While I was on vacation in Portland a few weeks ago, I spent a lot of time with my sketchbook. That’s the thing about “sketching for fun & exploration” when you are a working artist. Unless you have time to build it into your daily work schedule, this kind of fun, free form sketching only happens when you are not working. And since I work most of the time, I don’t have much time to sketch — except on weekends, late evenings and, you guessed it: vacation.

Here are some of the spreads I finished while I was there.

photo 1

This one above I made with micron pens and Koi brush pens (also by the Japanese pen company Sakura). I use these pens almost exclusively.

photo 3

This spread above I created entirely from one Ladies Home Journal Magazine from 1969, scissors and a glue stick. I did it all while sitting on the guest room floor at my parents’ house watching bad cable TV shows.

photo 2

As you know, I love drawing buildings! This time I colored them in. I drew this spread while I was visiting Astoria, Oregon.

And this one took forever! I finished it last night:

photo 4

Do you keep a sketchbook or a book of daily or weekly paintings & drawings? Email me at lisacongdon@gmail.com with a short description how you approach your own sketchbook and 2-3 images and I may include it in my talk for Portland Design Week!

PS: I post fairly regular photos of my sketchbooks on Instagram, so if you don’t already, you can follow me there.

Have a great weekend, friends!

293
shares

The Good Life Project Mashup

02/10/14

goodlife

{from my sketchbook}

You may remember in a couple of years ago I sat down with Jonathan Fields of The Good Life Project and recorded this video. Since 2012, Jonathan has been recording interviews with entrprenuers around the globe about what it means to live a good life. Recently The Good LIfe Project launched this mashup video of interviewees talking about what makes a good life, and it’s a great listen.

Enjoy!

And happy Monday.

CATEGORIES Inspiration | Sketchbook
298
shares

On Making Friends With Emptiness

01/31/14

 

johnmuir

+++

You may recall that on January 2nd I wrote about having a clean slate &  that I was taking January off from illustration work to paint abstracts and read and relax. I’d had a difficult 2013 and I wanted to recharge before diving into 2014. I fantasized about long, luxurious days of bliss, maybe dabbling a bit in my studio, reading 20 books on the sofa and taking long hikes in the woods.

As happens to most of us when we take vacations (or in my case a “staycation”) —  it came and it went way too quickly. And, as many of you may have experienced, at the point this past week when I finally began to relax a little, it was nearly time to go back to work. I could use another month off, sure, but I also need to contribute to my household income. So Monday I’m back, and in full force (more on that in a bit).

I have been thinking a lot lately about what happens when we have emptiness in front of us — time to relax, no plans, blank canvases & sketchbooks, no incoming work, fewer responsibilities than we are used to. I love what I do for a living, but I use my work as a way to distract myself from the nothingness I fear. And so while you might think that having time off from work felt great (and at times it did), I also had a lot of empty time. And without the distractions of work, I was pretty anxious.

So what did I do? I created work for myself, of course. I took on about eight painting commissions. I re-opened my Etsy shop to make a little cash. I started a new sketchbook. I sewed a couple dresses. I negotiated five new illustration assignments that I will start Monday.

My wife said to me more than once, “You know, you really haven’t taken time off this month.” And she’s right. Sure, I didn’t take any illustration work, but I was still working. I didn’t read one book or lie around all day (even when I spent a week at the beach). I did hike three times. But I didn’t ever have that feeling of  bliss.

One of the things I’m working on right now is making friends with emptiness.  I am coming to terms with the illusion of safety I take in staying busy. I am even going to talk about that next month at the Nevada Museum of Art in a lecture I’m giving sponsored by the Reno/Tahoe AIGA. I’ve started meditating (more on that another day) and I’m working on being friends with my thoughts and feelings. I’m staying off the internet (another huge distraction) for intentional periods of time. If there is one thing I learned this past month, it’s that I am not comfortable not having much to do.

But it’s really true that rich creativity comes from a place of nothingness. When we are most open and relaxed and present our best ideas come to us. For me, that mostly happens when I am on airplanes (more on that also another time). Making friends with emptiness is my charge for the year. Sure, I’ll work hard (I am wired to work hard), but I want also to get more friendly with the act of relaxation. I am hoping it will allow me to bring a better, more laid back, even more creative self to my work.

So while I didn’t exactly achieve the level of bliss I’d hoped this past month, I learned something really important about my relationship to bliss: you can’t get to bliss without embracing even a small amount of emptiness.

I’ll keep you posted on my progress. Next week: a post on the trials of meditation.

Happy weekending, friends.

 

385
shares

Sketchbook :: Playing with Image Transfers

01/24/14

owl_lisacongdon

+++

You might remember recently I wrote about my friend Courtney Cerruti’s book, Playing with Image Transfers. This past week I’ve been doing just that. In Monday’s sketchbook entry (above) I transfered some images from a vintage book about Germany using packing tape and water (for more information on this technique, I highly recommend Courtney’s book). The rest of the spread is painted & drawn with my own hand. Words by the late German poet Johannes Bobrowski.

Have a great weekend, friends!

526
shares

Words for the Day :: No. 13

01/16/14

rumi_sketchbook

+++

Last night’s sketchbook entry.

Have a great Thursday, friends!

623
shares

Tip o’ the Day

01/10/14

surround yourself_lowres

This is what it’s all about.

Happy Friday, friends.

CATEGORIES Drawings | Sketchbook
972
shares

The Magic of Impermanence

09/04/13

217b49fc14ba11e3bcde22000a1f9e67_7

{Latest sketchbook entry}

It was Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh who once said, “Thanks to impermanence, everything is possible.”  Many years ago, I had this quote taped above my desk at my job, and I’d sort of forgotten about it until recently. Last week it felt like everything was going wrong. Of course, I’m exaggerating here. Really, only one big thing was going wrong and maybe several small things. Maybe you are like this too, but even when my problems are relatively small, it is so easy to fall into the pit of everything is horrible and also if only things would go this other way instead and spending time planning how can I change my life so that nothing horrible ever happens to me again? 

Lately I have come back to the idea of impermanence as a source of comfort: that nothing, nothing ever stays the same. While there may have been a time in my life with the idea of change made me uncomfortable, it’s become the thing, of late, that helps me to breathe. When I’m stuck in a cycle of feeling upset about something, I remind myself, “This is not forever.” No feeling or situation, no matter how awful, lasts forever. Things shift and change, and most of the time, they work out just fine (remember this?).

When I reflect on impermanence, it also helps me to remember to stay engaged. It’s so easy for me to get caught up the in struggle, which leads to distraction, which sometimes leads to missing out on the good and beautiful stuff in my life. It’s not always easy, but this idea of remembering that every moment is special because it will never happen again helps me to enjoy the here and now more — even when (or especially when) I’m buried in work or angry because someone is being a jerk.

For the record, the stuff that I was fretting about last week? Yep, it all worked out. This week I’m on to new worries. Time to remember that they will pass, too.

Have a great Wednesday, friends.

 

205
shares

On Not Feeling Alone

08/30/13

youaremysunshine

{Latest sketchbook entry}

Yesterday I had an AWFUL day. It seemed that everything was going wrong — several small things, and one really big thing. Circumstances had left me feeling sad and confused. It was a day when I felt like crawling in a dark hole and not coming out until everything had miraculously resolved itself. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you see it), I couldn’t crawl into a hole. I had paintings to make, illustration work to finish and a book to write. I generally don’t have time to fret. Over the course of the day, several friends (plus my sister) came to my rescue, offering their support for my situation. Others confided in me that they were having crappy days too. On Facebook I learned that more than three of my friends had spent the day in tears. One of my friends declared, “Mercury is in Uranus!” We consoled each other, gave each other virtual hugs, and took strength in the fact that we were all suffering.

By the end of the day, almost nothing about my situation had changed. The things that had upset me at 9 am were still true. But what had changed was how I felt about it. I no longer felt desperate or crazy. I felt supported. I had a sense of humor. I remembered that we all have bad days — and it’s the bad days that soften us and help us to be there for each other.

Thank you to everyone who helped me get through my day yesterday. You are all my sunshine.

Happy weekend.

167
shares

On Comparison

08/20/13

lisacongdon_maryoliver2

{My latest sketchbook entry}

There is a quote credited to Theodore Roosevelt floating around the Internet lately that says, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” I have worked hard since I first started posting pictures of my artwork on the Internet eight years ago to put my head down, focus on my own work, and not compare myself to others. For the most part, I’ve been pretty successful at it. My mantra has always been “Live your own life,” which essentially means: make your own work  & carve your own path. As a forty-something self-taught female artist in a field dominated by young people with prestigious BFA degrees in fine art,  illustration and design, I have had no choice in order to make it. In fact, when I do write and speak about my journey, I credit my ability not to compare myself to others as something that’s helped my career tremendously.

As some of you know, this past weekend I spoke at Weapons of Mass Creation Fest in Cleveland, Ohio. It was an amazing event: chock full of fantastic creatives, inspiring speakers, and warm, wonderful people. I had a fantastic time. I was, in a word, joyful. That is, until Sunday evening.

Over the weekend, speaker after speaker gave incredible, inspiring talks about their lives and work. Some speakers were hilariously funny and brought the house down with laughter. Others told personal stories about their journeys that made members of the audience (including me) cry. One speaker on Sunday got a standing ovation. Others showed incredible projects with prestigious client after prestigious client.

Then it was 6:15 and time to give my talk. As the host was announcing my ascent onto the stage, half the room emptied out (admittedly not surprising at 6:15 on a Sunday) and I jokingly quipped,  “Come back! I promise not to be boring!” Then, in the dark, I gave my talk to a half full room. My topic was a recent illustration project that had been quite challenging. I’d worked hard on this talk and labored over the order of my slideshow and talking points. And then, as if in an instant (time goes by fast in public speaking) my talk was over. I even had to rush at the end to finish. The half-full audience clapped, I exited the stage, said goodbye to as many new friends as I could, and left with Clay and her aunt, who picked us up so we could spend the night at her house in a Cleveland suburb.

“That went okay,” I said to myself in the car as we pulled away. In truth, I was completely deflated.

That night, I couldn’t sleep. “I’m boring,” I told myself. “My work is boring.” And “I’m a boring public speaker.” And “The topic of my talk was boring. ” Then there was, “I’m old.” (I was definitely one of the oldest, if not the oldest speakers and participants). I replayed the excitement earlier in the day over what other speakers had to offer the audience and then compared it to my droll subject matter and delivery. “I’m never doing this again,” I thought. I felt like crawling in a hole.

It’s often true that when I feel vulnerable or not-good-enough, I want to hide or become invisible. I also realize that when I do feel shame, it’s usually caused by my need to be perfect or important or even “the best” at something. If I don’t feel good enough or important enough (or in the case of public speaking, funny enough or inspiring enough), I sometimes experience self-deprecating remorse.

As I mentioned earlier, I have worked hard to value and honor my own experience, and to stay humble. But Sunday I felt terrible. Comparison had stolen my joy.

What’s ironic is that over the very same weekend,  while I was at Weapons of Mass Creation, I was drawing the piece above in my sketchbook. It includes a favorite line from Mary Oliver’s To Begin With, the Sweet Grass  that says, “Love yourself. Then forget it. Then, love the world.” I’m not sure I’m right, but to me this means it’s dangerous to always put so much focus on yourself and your own importance. Sure, it’s good to love yourself, but what’s more important is the connection you have and love you share with other people.

By the time I got home last night, all my fretting seemed so silly. I was back in Oakland, far away from the event and had gained some perspective. What matters is not whether I make people laugh or cry when I talk about what I do for a living. What matters is that I have a joyful life filled with good work and good people.

Maybe that’s the topic for my next public talk.

Have a good Tuesday.

388
shares

On Keeping a Sketchbook

08/07/13

95b5dd96fd1d11e296f222000a9f4dd8_7

When I first started making art years ago, I sketched a lot. For the purposes of this conversation, when I refer to sketching, I mean “drawing in a blank book for pure enjoyment and exploration.” But then I got really busy with illustration work — which, for me, was the goal — and found that I didn’t have time to draw for fun. I was sketching concepts for clients, but not ever drawing for myself.

Recently, as you may have read, I am working on creating a more balanced life (in which work doesn’t rule). As part of that effort, one of the things I’ve been trying to reincorporate into my life is art for pure enjoyment. And so I’ve started sketching again. My current sketchbook is a wonderful large book with huge spreads that I got in France, and I’m working on some more detailed pieces with my micron pens across each spread, mostly in the evening or during my daytime breaks. The piece above is the latest spread I finished in this current sketchbook. You can see the previous spread here, and some of the pages from my Paris sketchbook here.

+++

 9c881506fd1f11e2bcde22000a1f9e67_7

{Detail shot}

 

Keeping a sketchbook for professional artists is like recreation swimming for competitive swimmers. You are doing something you enjoy tremendously, but without the pressure or time constraints — like feedback, deadlines or preparing for a exhibition. Keeping a sketchbook also helps me to explore and experiment with new ideas. And, best of all, it’s entirely mine. Sketchbooks can be intimate and even highly personal. I can share what’s inside or not — that part is up to me.

Happy Wednesday.

211
shares