A Glorious Freedom is Released Today!

10/03/17

Today my book A Glorious Freedom: Older Women Leading Extraordinary Lives is released! You can purchase a signed copy of the book here in my Etsy Shop or here on Amazon or wherever books are sold. I am going on a short book tour to Portland, Seattle, San Francisco and Richmond CA (more cities to come later this year and next year). You can get more information on the book tour here.

Below is the introduction to the book that I wrote last year. Enjoy. And thank you for supporting my work.

“Age has given me what I was looking for my entire life—it has given me me. It has provided time and experience and failures and triumphs and time-tested friends who have helped me step into the shape that was waiting for me. I fit into me now. I have an organic life, finally, not necessarily the one people imagined for me, or tried to get me to have. I have the life I longed for. I have become the woman I hardly dared imagine I would be.” – Anne Lamott

The book you are holding in your hands is a book about women. It is a book about women over the age of 40 who are thriving.

You might ask, Why make this book? Why are the lives of older women worth celebrating?

My own life’s path is what piqued my interest in the topic. I am a self-described late bloomer. The year this book is published, I will be 49 years old. By profession, I am an artist, an illustrator, and a writer. I did not begin drawing or painting until I was 31 years old. I did not begin my art career until I was 40. I did not begin writing regularly until I was 42. I did not publish my first book until I was 44. I did not get married until I was 45. At 49, I have just published my seventh book. My eighth comes out next year.

Every year that passes, I become braver, stronger, and freer. Getting older has, for me, been an enormously gratifying and liberating process. I am a kinder person to others than I have ever been, and I also care far less than I ever have about what other people think of me. I am both more determined and harder working than I was when I was younger, but I also value experiencing joy in my life over my work ethic more than I ever have. I am both more secure and more vulnerable. Out of years of living with intense insecurity and trepidation, the wisdom of age has taught me the importance of courage and that my own unique path is just that—my own unique path. Aging, as Anne Lamott so eloquently put it, has led me to myself.

In an effort to express my feelings on the topic, I wrote a short essay on getting older in 2014 and published it on my blog. That essay was quickly shared by thousands on the Internet, both through my blog and through social media channels. Although I have a decent social media following and a devoted audience of blog readers, I am not a celebrity or a full-time blogger, so the attention this essay garnered was rather phenomenal. I realized that if the topic of getting older and thriving was reso­nating so strongly with so many women, then I needed to explore it further.

And that is, of course, where the germ of this book sprouted. I had long admired some well-known late-blooming women and seen them as role models since I was in my 30s. I already had ideas of the women I wanted to include in this book. But I also used the power of social media to gather even more names and con­tacts. I began the process of making this book by reaching out to my Internet community (my social media followers and blog readers) with one basic request: help me find the women you know or admire who exemplify bold and adventurous aging—artists, writers, athletes, scientists, activists, thinkers, designers, and feminists over 40 who are embracing the positive aspects of getting older: the wisdom, emotional resilience, work ethic and play ethic, insight, and sense of humor that come with age. I asked my followers to help me identify women who were late bloomers, women who hit the apex of their careers later in life or who made some bold move to live in interesting ways after the age of 40.

The response was astounding. I received emails from scores of men and women around the world with all flavor of submissions: long lists of women I should profile or interview, along with essay submissions from women about the process of aging, their relationship to aging, the struggles, the joys. The response to my call was, in fact, so astounding that I was literally overwhelmed with how to contain the potential for the book. I’d contracted with my publisher, Chronicle Books, to make a book that was 155 pages, and I was absolutely sure I’d have enough material to make a book five times that length!

I set out to cull together the best of everything I received—to research and write about women I admire, to contact real-life female heroines for interviews, and to sift through the endless essay submissions for the book to fit it into the format you are holding in your hands.

Historically and across cultural divides, women have been told to remain silent, to sit still, to hold back, not to shine. In addition, women have traditionally regarded their ability to please others—over following their own dreams and desires—as one of their greatest strengths. Furthermore, for countless generations, women have been told that once they hit middle age, their opportunity for greatness has passed.

And so the resilience and courage demon­strated by women, and, in particular, the ever-growing population of older women, to challenge and redefine these notions is one of the most exciting things to observe in the world today. We live in a time where more and more women are beginning to live out loud, to follow their own desires and dreams, to be who they are, to live fully, to live a second life after their children leave home, or their husbands are no longer with them, or their previous careers have faded.

This book profiles many women who paved the way for us—women like Katherine Johnson, Louise Bourgeois, Julia Child, and others who were challenging notions of what it meant to be an “over-the-hill” woman long before today. Many of these women discovered hidden passions and talents much later in life or hit the most exciting and fruitful time of their careers as older women. They are undeniably role models for reimagining what our lives can be. The book also tells the stories of extraor­dinary women today who are reinventing what it means to be an older woman—women who are breaking through barriers, successfully completing athletic feats, and doing their best work in their 60s, 70s, and 80s.

When I first put out a call for suggestions for the book, I got a handful of emails and Internet and comments from older women for whom aging was actually not enjoyable or interesting—the onset of health issues was no fun at all, and the death of loved ones was a regular part of their lives. These perspectives are real. And so my point here isn’t to establish some sort of Pollyannaish portrayal of female aging. Things like bodily changes, shifts in the brain, and the experience of losing loved ones are very real (and often very painful) parts of growing older, and no one escapes them. However, I hope what we can see inside the stories in this book is the enormous potential for courage, perspective, spiritual growth, and humanity that often grow out of these struggles. My aim here is to provide hope to women who are aging (or fear aging) that while the likelihood of ugly side effects grows ever larger, so too does our capacity for love, for compassion, for brave acts, for vulnerability, for creativity, and for joy.

And so here I go—here we all go—leaning toward our 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s, hair graying, wrinkles gathering, experiences accruing, insights accumulating, joy abounding.

No matter what your age or gender, may each of you find inspiration in this book to live bravely and fully, and to use your experience as your most powerful tool in living your best life.

-Lisa Congdon

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CATEGORIES: Inspiration | My Books
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The October Print of the Month is Here!

10/02/17

This month’s print is a reminder to be you…and allow others to be themselves too. It’s 11×14 inches, full bleed & ready to frame. They are limited edition (only 40 available) and once they sell out they are gone forever. They  are available here.

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New E-Course: Building a Robust Portfolio

09/28/17

Friends, I’m so excited to announce my brand new video E-Course: Building a Robust Portfolio. This is a three-part, easy to follow video e-course designed to help you prepare to build a portfolio that best showcases your work.

This course is designed for aspiring or beginning artists who don’t yet have an online portfolio and are unsure of where to start. It can also be helpful for experienced artists who have been out of the game of working professionally for a few years. This class answers questions like: What exactly is a portfolio? What should go in my portfolio? How should it be organized? Should I create one myself or hire a designer? How do I approach building my portfolio when I haven’t any or much professional work yet?

Through this video course,  guide you through practices for building your portfolio, including how to organize it, what to include in it, pros and cons of doing it yourself versus hiring a designer and building a body of work to include in your portfolio.

You can take this course from anywhere in the world at your own pace! It includes pre-recorded videos, along with a written summary of video content and resources in an easily downloadable PDF.

The class has three parts:

Part One: In the first class video, I cover what a portfolio is and why it’s important to have one as a working artist.  I’ll talk about what we mean by the term “portfolio.” I’ll also cover what other information should accompany your portfolio on your portfolio website.

Part Two: In the second video of the class, I will cover the criteria for deciding what should go in your portfolio, different ways to organize your portfolio and a few key design principles.

Part Three: The third and final video, I focus on how to approach building your portfolio when you are just starting out and don’t yet have client work, along with tips, tricks and best practices for creating a cohesive body of work.

PLEASE NOTE: This class is not about the technicalities of how to build an online portfolio. There are many platforms out there that allow you to do this easily (and some for very little money) without knowing code or complex programs, and there is a list of the best of the best of those platforms in the class PDF for you to research. In the second video I do discuss the two different ways to approach building a portfolio: either by hiring a designer to do it for you OR by using one of the online do-it-yourself platforms (or a combination of the two). There are pros and cons to each approach and I’ll discuss some of those.

This class will prepare you to take the next steps.

Register here.

Still not sure? Read an FAQ about my video courses here.

As always, email me at hello@lisacongdon.com if you have any questions at all!

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My 2018 Calendar is Here!

09/26/17

My 2018 wall calendar is now available for purchase!

This monthly calendar is 7×14 inches, printed on 100 pound opaque bright white paper and spiral bound with a wire-o hanger for easy hang & display. These calendars are limited edition. Only 350 are for sale. Once they are sold out, they are sold out.

These calendars were digitally printed in the USA in beautiful Portland, Oregon by a family owned print shop. All artwork was created by me. Get yours here!

I am also taking wholesale orders, so if you own or manage a retail shop and would like to place an order, email me at hello@lisacongdon.com

Thank you for supporting my work!

 

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Stewart Easton

09/14/17

{Recent quilt by Stewart Easton}

Every now and again I meet and befriend an artist online who lives half a world away whose work really speaks to me. British artist Stewart Easton is one of those people. Stewart was trained as an illustrator, and his work is actually quite narrative in the traditional sense, but it is his choice of medium — embroidery, and now weaving and fabric, that make it so enormously special. He sometimes spends eight to twelve hours a day embroidering, and his use of color is spectacular. His work is heavily influenced by both folk art d by his overt rejection of macho culture.  “The other side of embroidery is its ability to make a stand against male macho garbage,” he says. Recently, I interviewed Stewart about his work and his process. Enjoy!

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Lisa: Your website bio reads: “I draw. I sew. I ride a push bike and I like Clarks shoes.” So my first question is: what is a push bike and how is it different from a regular old bike?

Stewart: Haha. A pushbike is just a regular old bicycle. Guess it’s an old English term for a bike.

Lisa: Where do you live and what do you like about where you live?

Stewart: I currently live in London. I’m in Archway, North London. It’s real green here – lots of parks. I’m real close to Hampstead Heath, Finsbury Park, Queens Wood and lots of other woods and parks. So I’m real lucky to have this environment and then there is the gallery and museum scene. All the big shows stop off here so get super inspired and blown away by some real great art and artifacts. I’m really lucky.

Lisa: Tell us a bit about your trajectory as an artist. Where did you study art? What mediums have you used over the years and how have they changed? How did you begin embroidering?

Stewart: I missed out studying for a BA Degree. I was too busy being a ‘drop out’, but then in my early thirties I realised that I couldn’t really move on and progress in life without a form of a standard education, so I went along to an open day at Coventry University to enquire about an Illustration BA. Luckily I had already been freelancing with illustration, had a strong portfolio and kind of knew (at that stage) where I was at, where I wanted to be. etc. So i skipped the degree and went straight on to do an MA in Illustration.

At this time I was drawing as a practice using dip pen and ink and was interested in sequential illustration and story based narratives. My research at this time was in Folk Art – culture, customs and aesthetics, and I had the opportunity to explore working methods and mediums as long as it sat within my research. I tried embroidery and got sucked in. At this time embroidery was really quite different to the numbers working in thread now. I remember there were three main influences at the time in embroidery : Megan Whitmarsh, Kent Henricksen and Annie Aube. These were the guys who were making the most interesting works which to me was super exciting. Now embroidery is big business – but at that time (ten years ago) things were quite different.

 

{one of Stewart’s early ink drawings}

 

Lisa: When you are working on an embroidery piece, what is your process? Do you start with a drawing, etc?

Stewart: Yeah. Sketchbooks. I tend to begin with a sketchbook. They’re not necessarily used for embroidery designs, but I’ll have a week or so of working in a sketchbook if i’ve just been working on embroideries.

Mostly I’ll be stitching for an exhibition, or working on a project, so I’ll be working to a deadline. I’ll have a month or two (sometimes longer) of stitching solidly. Mostly eight to twelve hour days stitching. After these stitching marathons I need to kind of re-adjust to normal living. It’s at this time i’ll start on works that are gentle and kind on me like painting, drawing or sketchbook work. Then it all starts again.

{L: One of Stewart’s works in progress; R: Stewart holding one of his pieces}

Lisa: Embroidery is something that takes a lot of time and patience and precision. Where is your mind when you are embroidering? What, if anything, do you listen to while you work?

Stewart: My practice environment has changed since moving to London. I used to stitch to music. I would listen to a lot of drone stuff like Earth, or stoner stuff like Sleep. The slow speed of the riffs in these mirrored the practice of stitching. I also listen to old American roots, and primitive music. I like the crackles of records and the hiss of tapes – the analog kind marries well with fabric and thread.
I work more in my partner’s studio (Claire Scully) more now and she’s a sci-fi nerd so we watch lots of repeats of Stargate and Star Trek.

{Stewart’s more abstract, less narrative embroidery}

I’m just working on a book at the moment where I am discussing embroidery as an abstract. As my embroidery work has moved away from narrative and into abstract forms and colour it’s raised an interest in its ability to connect an audience in a shared experience through its removal of a story line. I see a connection with the Lojong teaching in Tibetan Buddhism and the abstract embroidery. it’s what I’m aiming for with the new works and explaining in the book I hope.

{Stewart’s older, more narrative embroidery}

Lisa: Why do you embroider? What is it about embroidering that appeals to you?

Stewart: There are two threads (like what I’ve done there?): the first is that embroidery allows me to soften a line. There’s a certain quality of line that you get with stitch which isn’t possible with ink or pencil.

The other side of embroidery is its ability to make a stand against male macho garbage. My childhood was spent on a poor council estate (bit like the the missions you guys have over there) and to be a boy is to be macho. Most of my life decisions have been against the modern expectations of maleness and not wanting to be associated with this. Though I had the most amazing childhood there. So working in this medium gives me the tools to be gentle and kind (as Morrissey says).

I suppose this connects with not wanting to sit with contemporary expectations of culture and maleness. Music has always been a real big influence on me and it was really Morrissey who opened things up and showed that you don’t have to be a fighter to be a chap. So music was the beginning of this path.

Lisa: You are an illustrator in the true sense of the word in that your work tells stories. And your work has a really amazing quality to it – it’s both very modern, but clearly draws on influences from the past, in particular folk art. Tell us about when you became interested in folk art and where you draw inspiration for your work.

Stewart: I’ve always loved stories, especially urban myths. When we were kids there was a white lady (ghost) who hovered over the fields, a mad axeman in the woods, and a number of haunted derelict houses near where I grew up. No one ever saw these, but everyone seemed to have an aunt, uncle or some relative who had. So from an early age story has always been a massive thing for me. During my late teens I discovered traditional music and got hooked on the tragedy and hardships in the narratives of the songs. The whole range of human emotions are contained therein. I often use lines from these as starting points to projects. My early work was always draped in costume, sadness of these times, so most of my early work mirrored these often rural, pre war times, events and situations.

Most recently I have become interested in post-war works and world. Especially between 1945 onwards, it’s something I had always dismissed. But, it was such an exciting time to have been making work – it was full of hope and expansion for the artist, writer, architect. My work became coloured and joyful. I guess hitting forty changed that for me.

Lisa: Do the stories and characters in your work begin in your imagination? Inspiration and ideas often come to us in a flood. How do you manage all the ideas and inspiration that enters your brain?

Stewart: Wowzers! Yeah constant overload in my brain – stories, colour, stitch, painting, weaving, drawing, writhing. I want to do everything.

I try to give time to all of these. So some mornings will be spent writing funding apps etc. afternoons drawings, evening sewing. I have no social life as such, but when your time is spent doing things you love it all becomes some fun. Sometimes I think that going to sleep and dreaming is my social life.
All of the characters and stories begin with with a spark of inspiration. Can be from a book, film music….I can be reading and a character can enter a scene which will get me thinking and then from there it will develop. It doesn’t all come at once it comes at moments when i’m not expecting it whilst washing up or something. So each story will usually contain references to five or six different sources.

{A recent weaving by Stewart}

Lisa: What projects are you currently working on right now?

Stewart: This weekend (it’s Saturday morning) I will be working on an arts council funding app, Finishing off embroideries for a show in Portland, Oregon in October at Nucleus Gallery; checking that quilt is working ready for a show on 23rd September in Glastonbury; and starting some painting for a show next May…..

Oh and fixing my loom ready to weave again. See – BRAIN OVERLOAD.

Lisa: What is one thing you tell yourself to get yourself through when you are feeling overwhelmed or frustrated?

Stewart: There are two things which I tell myself the first is that when something I’m working on is really not working or is being a real pain, I know that when it is done It’s gonna be one of my favourite pieces – Just stick with it.

Secondly If something isn’t working I keep on with it until it does. All the lame, difficult, horrid, events that happen to us in life makes us what we are and we’re pretty awesome so this piece of work is just like that and will be awesome when done.

{Stewart painting a mural a few years back}

Lisa: It’s been a pleasure. Thank you Stewart! You can also find Strewart on Instagram at @stewarteaston.

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