Words for the Day :: No. 51

12/09/14

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Words of truth from Ursula LeGuin. These particular words will appear in my next book of hand lettered quotes, which comes out next Fall from Chronicle Books.

Have a great Tuesday, friends.

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The Jealous Curator Show at Bedford Gallery

12/08/14

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You may recall that earlier this year I wrote about my friend Danielle’s (aka The Jealous Curator) fantastic book Creative Block. And recently 20 artists from the book were curated by Danielle into a show at Bedford Gallery: From Blog to Book to Gallery. Last night I attended the opening, and it is a beautiful show with many amazing works. Here are just a few of my favorite pieces(too many to photograph!) and my own work down at the bottom of the post:

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Kate Pugsley.

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Stephanie Vovas’ large scale photographs.

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Large scale Jenny Hart.

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Danielle Krysa.

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Martha Rich.

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Hollie Chastain.

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Jennifer Davis.

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Leah Giberson.

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Aris Moore.

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Lisa Golightly.

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Me!

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All six of my pieces in the show.

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My hummingbird.

All work from the show (if not already sold) is available through Bedford Gallery. The gallery does not have an online shop, but you can call or email at any time to purchase with a credit card. If you are local to the Bay Area, the show will be up through February 1, and I highly recommend a visit! Here are the seven artists (including Danielle) who were able to attend the opening last night: Kate Pugsley, Lisa Golightly, Stephanie Vovas, Danielle Krysa, me, Leah Giberson & Trey Speegle.

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One last note: both my book Whatever You Are, Be a Good One and Danielle’s book Creative Block were included in Brain Pickings Best Art, Design and Photography Books of 2014!  Have a happy Monday, all.

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Besty Cordes :: Mr. Dog’s Christmas

12/04/14

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Almost two years ago I became acquainted with Betsy Cordes. I was looking for an expert on art direction and licensing to interview for my book Art Inc and through friends I discovered Betsy. Since then we’ve become good friends and collaborators (and she is an expert interviewee in both my book Art Inc and my class Become a Working Artist). One day about a year ago Betsy and I were having lunch, and she told me about an exciting project she was working on — to put back into publication a long out-of-print book called Mr. Dog’s Christmas at the Hollow Tree Inn. She told me the story of the book and its meaning to her family and about the lengths she was stretching to bring the book back to life (it was an incredible endeavor, as you will see). I was so inspired by Betsy’s story and just last week saw the book for the first time (which is now for sale) and was so mesmerized by its beauty that I decided it would be a great story to share here. I hope you enjoy this interview with Betsy about Mr. Dog’s Christmas at the Hollow Tree Inn (scroll to the bottom for purchase details!).

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Lisa: Mr. Dog’s Christmas at the Hollow Tree Inn was originally published in 1898! How and why did you come to bring this old story back to life?

Betsy: That’s right! The author, Albert Bigelow Paine, wrote the story back at the turn of the last century. (Cool fact: Paine was also Mark Twain’s good friend and biographer!) Mr. Dog’s Christmas has been read aloud on Christmas Eve in my family since the early 1940s, first by my grandparents to my dad and his brother. My dad’s been reading it to me and my brother our whole lives and our children have now grown up with Mr. Dog, too. We’re kind of nuts about it… Christmas just wouldn’t be Christmas without Mr. Dog! I’ve even been known to ask my dad for a private reading over the phone, on those few Christmases I haven’t been able to spend with my folks.

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It’s always surprised us that the story isn’t more widely known. Although it was written over a century ago, it’s timeless. It’s just a really charming tale about the worldly and rather mischievous Mr. Dog, who decides to surprise his friends at the Hollow Tree Inn (Mr. Crow, Mr. ‘Coon, and Mr. ‘Possum) by playing Santa Claus. He goes to great lengths to pull it off, and treats his friends to a beautiful experience. Until our edition, the story had been out of print for decades and it was a couple years ago that my brother, Jason, had the brilliant idea to republish it with new illustrations. We talked about it a bit and decided we really wanted to do it ourselves, rather than try to get an established publisher interested. We felt super protective of the story because of our tradition, but we don’t own it; it’s in the public domain. We didn’t want someone else to bring it back in a way that didn’t please us!

As an art director, I knew I could find and work with an artist to bring the story to life in glorious color, and I had just enough experience with design, print production and promotion to feel comfortable managing the project myself. Truth be told, it’s become a far bigger endeavor than I ever imagined. Honestly it’s been like a second full-time job for me, but I’ve learned so much through the process that’s helpful in my work with artists, many of whom also want to publish their own books or launch Kickstarter campaigns. I’m feeling really grateful for the opportunities this project has given me.

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Lisa: The book is beautifully illustrated by well known illustrator Adam McCauley. How did he come to illustrate the book & what was it about his style that appealed to you for this project?

Betsy: I know, aren’t his drawings incredible? We are so fortunate to have him as our illustrator and I credit the Makeshift Society for bringing that about. When I started my search for an illustrator, I sent an email to the group and Adam’s wife, Cynthia Wigginton, was the first to respond, saying, “You might want to check out my husband Adam’s work.” Well, as soon as I saw his portfolio I felt he could strike that perfect balance between old and new; a lot of his work has a vintage quality about it while being entirely contemporary. As it turned out, Adam felt a great affinity for the material; it put him in mind of some of his favorite book artists, including Lewis Carroll. Because of the era and flavor of the story he saw an opportunity to work in pen and ink, a medium he loves but doesn’t often get to use for his children’s book work. Really, when I saw Adam’s first illustrations for the book, that’s when this project became so much bigger than I ever imagined. I immediately felt a larger sense of responsibility because of the beauty and rightness of his art.

Lisa: The book is also gorgeously designed! Tell us a bit about the vision for the book design, who designed it, and all of the special elements of the design.

Betsy: Thank you! I’m so proud of it, and it’s been a great collaboration between me, Adam, and—in another huge stroke of luck—his wife Cynthia! As it turns out, Cynthia is a designer and she works with Adam on many of his books. I always knew that I wanted the whole look and feel of the book to reference the Victorian era of the story. I wanted a cloth-covered book, with embossing and foil and those intricate design details that we see in books from that time. Cynthia knew just how to handle it; her choice of type, the gorgeous decorative frame that surrounds the text pages, the faux bois patterning, antiqued look of the pages, and other details are all so spot on. I’ve come to appreciate what a special and particular skill book design is, from a technical perspective as well. Knowing what you want a book to look like is one thing; being able to execute it and deliver it in printable form for mass production is quite another thing. I’m so glad to have had Cynthia on this project, and to have had the support of a really amazing print broker who shepherded it through overseas production.

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Lisa: What do you hope people experience from owning and reading Mr. Dog’s Christmas at the Hollow Tree Inn?

Betsy: You know, I just feel so incredibly lucky to have had this story and this tradition in my family for so long and I hope that our readers get to enjoy the feeling of anticipation, togetherness and continuity that we experience with it. The story is perfectly timeless. To me, it’s at least as appealing as cherished classics like Clement C. Moore’s poem “A Visit from St. Nicholas” (aka “Twas the Night Before Christmas”) and others—stories that have been part of Christmas celebrations for decades.

Lisa: Where can people purchase Mr. Dog’s Christmas at the Hollow Tree Inn?

Betsy: For now, the best place is through our website, MrDogsChristmas.com. The first edition is a pretty luxurious one, so we had to keep the production run small. If it takes off (fingers crossed!) we’d love to do a bigger run and have much wider distribution next year. But I gotta say, if it speaks to you, grab a copy of this first edition, because the look and feel of it are so special. I imagine and hope it will become an heirloom for many.

Lisa: I can vouch for that! It’s just gorgeous. Thank you, Betsy!

Incidentally, Adam McCauley will be signing copies of the book this coming Saturday, December 6 at Rare Device in Noe Valley in SF.  You can pick up your own copy of the first edition there!

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Words for the Day :: No. 50

12/03/14

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This quote, along with 99 others, will be included in my next book of hand lettered quotes, coming next fall from Chronicle Books. I’ve been thinking a lot about this particular quote over the past week.

Hope everyone is having a good & cozy Wednesday.

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Lisa’s Holiday Gift Guide!

12/02/14

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Most of the time when I write about purchasing my products here on my blog, I’m directing you to my Etsy shop. But today I’ve put together a little gift guide with a few of my paintings & products that you can’t get there. Thank you as always for supporting my work!

ORIGINAL ABSTRACT PAINTINGS

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Many of you have been asking where you can purchase original abstract works from me. Five of my paintings (all small/medium in size) are now for sale through Uprise Art’s shop. All prices include shipping, and I am also happy to frame any of these pieces in 1/4 inch birch for the buyer. Go get the while they last!

PHONE, COMPUTER and DEVICE CASES & SKINS

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Pictured above are just a few of my designs! You can order cases or skins for just about any phone, device or computer. More designs in my Nuvango shop!

STATIONERY

Chronicle Books carries three of my stationery items:

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You can find the Birch Flexi-journal here, the Le Foret Notecard Set here, and the Forests Notecard Set here.

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These three notebooks I designed for MoMA are available here.

PRINTS AT LITTLE COLLECTOR:

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Get one or both of these two prints here at Little Collector. They come in a few different sizes and with an option to purchase them framed.

PRINTS AT 20×200

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I have seven prints for sale at 20×200, all pictured above! These also come in a variety of sizes and come with a framing option.

Thanks for shopping and have a great Tuesday.

CATEGORIES: For Sale
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JCCSF Catalog Cover

12/02/14

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It was an absolute pleasure to illustrate this cover for the Jewish Community Center of San Francisco’s Winter/Spring catalog. It was an honor to work for this fantastic organization. Thank you, JCCSF!

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Nativen Bandana Launch!

12/01/14

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Those of you who follow me on Instagram may recall this photo that I posted a while back. Many of you were taking guesses at what I was designing, and I am excited to reveal that I was creating a bandana for Nativen, a New York women’s clothing company (vintage & new). You can purchase the 21 inch square bandana here and see the other artist bandanas here.

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Have a great Monday, friends!

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Creativelive Branding Class

11/28/14

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If you took my Become a Working Artist class on Creativelive (now on sale for $79!), you may recall that I recommended the Sell Your Products to Retailers class, taught by Megan Auman. Megan is a fantastic teacher with a wealth of knowledge & experience and next week she’s also teaching a Brand Your Creative Business class, which you can watch free on December 4-5. RSVP here.

In Brand Your Creative Business, you’ll explore what makes your business a unique brand and find ways to share it. You’ll learn about implementing a brand strategy and growing and protecting it. Megan will teach:

+Why branding matters

+How to define your brand

+Storytelling to promote your business

+How to develop a strategy to implement your plans

I highly recommend Megan’s classes!

Want a class that covers all aspects of launching or reigniting your art career? Purchase my Become a Working Artist class now for $79 (on sale from $99).

Have a great Friday, friends!

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On the Messiness of Life

11/27/14

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{The quote above by Tara Brach, one of the world’s greatest Buddhist teachers, will appear in my next book of hand lettered quotes, due out from Chronicle in 2015)

For most of my childhood my mom had a cartoonish greeting card taped to our refrigerator that said DULL WOMEN HAVE IMMACULATE HOUSES. Even after it was splattered with food and yellowed at the edges, this card never left the center spot on the freezer door until after I went off to college. This saying was, in a sense, my mother’s mantra. She wore her lack of fastidiousness like a badge of honor. She told my siblings and me repeatedly that she had more important things to do than to clean all the time. It was, she told us, more important to be an interesting person who did interesting things in life than to be obsessively tidy.

While I have never been a fussy house cleaner, thanks in part to my mom, I have had a harder time embracing the more figurative disorder of life: things like messy relationships, unfinished conversations, incomplete projects and impending deadlines. Immediately after reaching adulthood, I began continually obsessing over the details of the imperfections in my life and how I should fix them. If only I worked hard enough or fixed this or that relationship, my life would finally be okay. It might even become perfect!

This idea of “if I could just fix this” was, for most of my adult life, the theme. If I can just get through this to-do list. If I can just mend that relationship. If I can just finish getting that part of my life in order. Then I will finally arrive at a beautiful, perfect life. As a result, I spent years with horrible anxiety, in therapy, exploring Buddhism, reading self help books, trying to find some relief from this spinning wheel.

One of the most beautiful things about entering your 40’s and leaning toward your 50’s  (I turn 47 in January) is that you learn really crazy lessons almost daily. Stuff you thought was true your whole life comes undone. And this undoing can feel both completely terrifying and also completely liberating. One of the lessons I have learned is that I will never, ever feel like I have arrived. There will always be relationships that feel painfully awkward, there will always be unfinished items on my list, goals I haven’t achieved, unresolved email threads, people who I may have disappointed, people who don’t like me. I am never going to get there. Ever.

While this idea still freaks me out from time to time (wait, oh no, I really don’t have control?), it has been the most freeing understanding I have ever had about my life. And furthermore, I have realized the messiness of life I once rallied against is precisely how I learn and grow and evolve.

Truth be told, I still rally against the messiness. I still make to-do lists and stress out at the end of the day when I have to move things I didn’t accomplish to the next day’s list, again. I still worry that people don’t like me. I still want to please the important people in my life. The difference now is that those thoughts don’t control me or my ability to feel happiness and joy. And I also understand now that the messiest situations give birth to some of the most beautiful (I wrote about that here earlier this year). It is in fact the messiness — and not the orderliness — that is part of what makes life so profound.

So this Thanksgiving I continue to be thankful for growing older, for everything I have learned, and for my beautiful messy, imperfect life.

May you also find some beauty in the messiness of your life.

Have a happy day, friends.

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City & Country Prints!

11/25/14

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It’s that gift giving time of the year again and I’ve got two great prints over at Little Collector that make perfect gifts. They come in three different sizes (as large as 20×24) and you can even order the prints framed if you like! Best of all? Shipping is FREE on U.S. orders!

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Have a great Tuesday, friends!

CATEGORIES: For Sale | Kids Art | Paintings
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Words for the Day :: No. 49

11/24/14

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Pretty excited to have this gem in my next book of hand lettered quotes, coming from Chronicle Books, Fall 2015.

Have a great Monday, friends.

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Troy Litten

11/21/14

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Travel passes from Troy’s first trips abroad

If you have been reading my blog for any amount of time here, you may remember my friend Troy Litten. I’ve written about Troy before (almost a year ago to the day, as a matter of fact!) and his various projects and you may have even met him at one of my art openings (he’s a devoted friend). When we became friends, Troy and I instantly bonded over our love for travel, for design and for collecting old stuff. I finally had the chance to sit down with Troy and interview him for my Interviews with People I Admire series, and I was so excited, because Troy is one of the most interesting and talented people I have ever met. For most of his adult life, Troy has traveled the world more frequently than most of us, and early on — before the internet or Instagram  — he began documenting his travels in ways that have now become iconic. For many years Troy made his living as a designer, but along the way has dedicated hours and hours to his greatest passion: travel and photography. He now makes his living using his stockpile of images to create beautiful products — games, home decor, and stationery to name a few.

I sat down to ask Troy about how his obsession with travel and documenting began, where it has taken him, and a little bit about how his mind works. This is the longest interview I’ve ever published, and it’s filled with gems (including incredible images) from start to finish. Enjoy!

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Lisa: You’ve been traveling most of your adult life, and you are now in your late forties. How old were you when you became interested in traveling the world? What was your first trip out of the country and what do you remember about it? At what point did you begin the style of documenting your travels that you have become known for?

Troy: Hailing from the rather rarefied confines of Northwest Ohio, I didn’t experience much of the world outside my immediate existence (the family road trip to Disney World doesn’t count) until I backpacked around Western Europe during the summer of 1987 while in college, the definitive start of my interest in traveling the world. Among many memories are discovering my love of watching the world pass by from a speeding train, surviving on bread and cheese, realizing not everyone speaks English, youth hostel co-ed showers are a thing, meeting people my age from all over the world, replacing a stolen passport is a pain in the ass, spending nights in train stations awaiting the first train out, Europe is full of old stuff and American tourists, and that I wanted to see much, much more of the world.

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Pre-flight entertainment on Bangkok Airways, 1998

After graduating design school in 1989 I lived and worked in London for a few years and in 1992 set out for a six month trip with my friend Grit, starting in Berlin and traveling through Poland, The Baltics, Finland, Russia, China, Nepal, Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia. Afterwards I worked in Hong Kong for a while before returning to the US, first to New York then to San Francisco a few years later, continuing to travel and see the world at every opportunity.

Throughout my travels I was finding so much of interest to document, and my love of sharing what I was seeing of the world around me inspired me to begin creating postcards and mail art to share with friends and family. This was the beginning of my style of documenting my travels I’ve become known for.

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Hand-made postcard featuring Japanese street characters, created after Troy’s first trip to Tokyo in 1997

Lisa: Back in 2005 you published your first travel book called “Wanderlust” (of which I proudly have first edition copy!). In it you documented your travels through unconventional photos of regular things like signage, airline food, cheap hotel beds, train tickets and rotary telephones. This kind of collecting and documenting of the “mundane” has become popular in the last ten years but you were one of the first (if not the first) to share it widely. How did people react to your style of photography and documentation ten years ago compared to how they react today? What has changed?

Troy: Wanting to make something with all the photos and ephemera I’d collected on my travels, I created my first book proposal, titled “One-Way Non-Stop Hello Kitty”, in 1998. Two years later my somewhat more realistic proposal for an engagement calendar caught the eye of my first editor at Chronicle Books and “Wanderlust” was born. A set of 30 postcards and four journals were quickly followed by an address book (with images of public telephones from around the world), a travel journal, an engagement calendar, and in 2005 the “Wanderlust” book.

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Fueled by an appreciation of and fascination for all forms of visual culture, communication, and expression, Troy travels the world documenting hisexperiences and adventures. The result is “Wanderlust”, Troy’s series of travel-themed books, journals, postcards, notecards, and more.

I’ve continued to add to the “Wanderlust” series ever since, a total of 18 titles in 12 years, with the most recent being the “Skulls” and “Streets” journals published last year.

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Wanderlust “Skulls” and “Streets” journals

Through a unique presentation of travel photos, ephemera, and design, “Wanderlust” created a travel experience that anyone who’s ever traveled could relate to by focusing on the commonplace experiences (or “mundane”) such as trying to sleep on an airplanes, waking up in nondescript hotel rooms, ordering meals in foreign countries, finding your way around a new city, the people you meet along the way, and the souvenirs and mementos you return home with. As one reviewer at the time put it, “Wanderlust” “…created one of the most realistic accounts of the beauty, adventure, frustration, boredom and wonder of travel.”.

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Spreads from “Wanderlust”

I believe the premise of my work—that the joy of travel isn’t about getting there, but about all the fun you can have along the way—is as relevant now as it was when the book was published, as is my style of photography, documentation, and design. Now of course with camera phones and social media there are many more people documenting and sharing their daily lives and travels through photos, although I find an intriguing narrative, and the discipline to combine photos into a story to arrive at engaging universal experiences, is often lacking (I’m trying really hard not to use the word over-sharing).

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Troy’s morning travel ritual: cups of coffee from around the world, print available in his Etsy shop

Lisa: Do you know where your obsession with the “mundane” or “ugly beautiful” (as I like to call it) comes from? When did it begin for you? What role does the idea of obsolescence have in your work or how you think about your work?

Troy: I consider myself a bit of a loner/outsider/introvert and often tend to prefer observation to participation when I travel. Being instinctively drawn to the details around me that get overlooked or ignored or are thought of as inconsequential/unimportant/unappealing (the “mundane” or “ugly beautiful”), I find I can enjoy, appreciate, or simply find humor in just about anything (from cheap hotel rooms to bad meals to extended airport delays), which really comes in handy when I find myself in unfamiliar environments and situations. As Paul Theroux (one of my favorite travel writers) said, “Travel is only glamorous in retrospect.”

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Off the beaten track in Tokyo, 1997

Last year I found myself traveling to a very different place when I spent two weeks in ICU at hospital with my Mom. I found myself drawn to documenting the unfamiliar and rather scary surroundings—the beeping machines and high-tech medical equipment, antiseptic hallways and waiting rooms, the signage and seriousness of it all—in an attempt to understand my thoughts, emotions, and fears. Sharing this experience through the photos I posted on Instagram and the interactions with my followers really helped me cope with the situation and taught me a lot about the importance of the visual world around me and the impact it has on me, wherever I may find myself.

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Instagramming from the ICU, 2013

The idea of obsolescence in my work is something I’m increasingly thinking about. Many of the places I’ve visited over the years have seen dramatic changes in the visual landscape and more and more of what I’ve documented no longer exists. For example, I’ve always loved old neon signage and have a large collection I shot throughout Eastern Europe in the 1990s, much of which no longer exists. And my collection of public telephones from around the world, now a mostly irrelevant technology, I consider important as historical documentation of a moment in time fast disappearing.
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Illuminating Eastern European neon signage circa 1990s

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Public telephones from around the world, print available in Troy’s Etsy shop

Lisa: You also have an obsession with Eastern Europe. Tell us about what appeals to you about that region of the world, visually and otherwise.

Troy: I first visited Eastern Europe in the early 90s while living in London. The Berlin Wall had just come down so I visited my friend Grit in Berlin and we spent all our time exploring East Berlin on bicycles. I also visited Prague at this time, which was just beginning to dust itself off.

What first struck me about this part of the world was the “time warp” feeling, and my realization that it won’t last, that the things that made it interesting to me would not survive the approaching wave of westernization and standardization, the papering over of the beauty I found with Coca Cola and Marlboro billboards and glitzy marketing and advertising (such as you can now find on the sides of the trundling old-school trams). The no-frills graphic and product design, utilitarian architecture, and quaint signage—often naive, flimsy, unadorned, poorly printed/constructed, out-of-date—were by virtue of their flaws touchingly human and original and like nothing I’d seen throughout my travels thus far.

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Colorful Ladas, Skodas, Trabis, and more on the streets of Eastern Europe

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Earth tones and extra hard bristles, the only toothbrushes available at the central department store in Prague in 1991

Over the last 20+ years I’ve visited Poland, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Croatia, The Czech Republic, Slovenia, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Belarus, Georgia, and Armenia. This past summer I returned to Eastern Europe, sharing my travels via daily posts on Instagram (@troylitten, #trippingwithtroy_europe2014). Although much has changed, I still find this part of the world inspiring and love documenting what remains from the past era as well as the changes I see.

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Instragamming Eastern Europe, 2014

Lisa: You are also an avid collector of the things you find on your travels. What are some of your favorite collections? What are some of the weirdest?

Troy: Yes, I’m a bit of a hoarder when it comes to collecting things I find on my travels. This harks back to my approach to finding beauty in the details of a journey and how every interaction with a place, including the things you find along the way, contributes to a better understanding and appreciation of the experience. Buying packaging in the shops, scouring the sidewalks and gutters for discarded pieces of paper, collecting airmail stamps at post offices, searching out vintage postcards, and collecting old stuff at flea markets are an integral part of my everyday life on the road. Many an old rotary phone has returned home with me in the bottom of my backpack.

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Vintage rotary phones at a Minsk flea market, the blue beauty hitched a ride home with Troy

One of my favorite travel collections are the scrapbooks and journals I filled during my trip around the world in 1992. The China chapter of my scrapbook reminds me of evenings spent emptying my pockets of tickets and bits of paper in dimly lit hotel rooms, removing labels from stuff I’d bought, and drinking warm local beer while documenting the day’s treasures and adventures.

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Traveling China with a blank book and a gluestick, 1992

I’m fascinated with travel tickets and collect them everywhere I go. It’s unfortunately getting harder and harder to find unique tickets due to the increasing modernization and standardization of transport systems the world over.
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Calcutta bus tickets printed on reused bits of paper, 2001

My collection of cigarette packaging from around the world is an interesting comment on the choice of English brand names for foreign products, and the often humorous and inappropriate results.

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Light up a “Stewardess”? Drag on a “Disco”? A pack of “Yak”?

I also consider my photo series as collections (you were the first to point this out!) and I have many series I’ve been documenting for years—from figure signage to “You Are Here” signs, cheap accommodation, train/subway/bus travel, markets, post boxes, and wall murals—that I add to whenever I visit a new place. One of my favorite photo collections is hand-drawn signage.

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Markets + hand-drawn signage = happiness

When I travel I’m always on the lookout for details that capture something about the culture of the place I’m visiting, such as my series of photos of buzzers and bells at the entrances to buildings in Istanbul. The colors, conditions, and often rather shoddy workmanship are one of my favorite impressions of wandering the streets of such an ancient, crowded, disheveled, and amazing city.

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Istanbul buzzers and bells, print available in Troy’s Etsy shop

As for my weirdest collections I must admit I photograph the colorful splash guards in public urinals and can’t quite bring myself to throw away the lint I rescue from my clothes dryer after every load. Don’t ask why.

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A pile of dryer lint

Lisa: You and I share a love for images of ordinary things arranged neatly on a grid. Why is this so appealing to us?

Troy: I blame (and thank!) my love of things arranged on a grid on my Swiss-influenced design school education. Order, color, form, composition—basic design principles that I learned in school and honed throughout the years—still very much frame my approach to both my professional work as a graphic designer and my personal work. I’m always searching for structure in the world around me and aim to compose images that make sense to me visually and satisfy some inherent urge to understand, rationalize, and control my environment. I believe this is a discipline we both share, albeit arrived at through different educational and professional practices and personal experiences.

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T-shirts organized by color at Troy’s favorite Ohio thrift store, 2013

Arranging ordinary things neatly on a grid (a “Troygrid” in Troyspeak) is also for me a way to present my photos in a straightforward manner that allows for easy comparing and contrasting. I also think that utilizing grids to present similar images can result in an impression of a particular thing, place, or experience that one single photograph can’t quite capture.

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Groovy Shanghai tour buses, 2007

Lisa: What is a favorite place you’ve visited and why?

Troy: I may be interpreting your question a bit differently than intended, my favorite place I’ve visited is a place I can visit over and over again regardless of where I am, the place between departure and arrival. Traveling by air—above the earth and suspended in the sky—inspires me to contemplate where I’m coming from and where I’m going as I leave one place behind and anticipate the adventures that await upon arrival. It never ceases to amaze me that I can board a plane in one place and 12 hours later find myself on the other side of the world.

And ever since traveling overland from Berlin to Hong Kong in 1992 (including seven days on the Transiberian from Moscow to Beijing) I’ve loved traveling by train, watching the landscape speed by, observing and meeting other passengers, and moving deeper and deeper into the unknown.

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Troy’s seatmates on the train to Jaipur, India, 2001

Lisa: What are some of your recent travel-related projects?

Troy: My first puzzle, “Transit Graphics”, was published by Galison this past spring. The artwork is a collage of drawings of travel signage I’ve documented throughout my travels and I’ve really enjoyed sharing my love of signage through this new format. “Muchos Autos”, my next puzzle with Galison, will be published early next year and features photos of cars on the colorful streets of Latin America.

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“Transit Graphics 1000 Piece Puzzle” available at galison.com and other fine retailers

This year I’ve begun exhibiting my work in gallery shows around the country, including Bedford Gallery in Walnut Creek CA, Kiernan Gallery in Lexington VA, and Black Box Gallery in Portland OR.

Next year The Art Group in the UK, one of the world’s leading art publishers, will be releasing four of my pieces as fine art prints and canvas wall art. My favorites are “Air Mail”, a collection of air mail stamps and stickers from around the world, and “Late Night TV” featuring photos of TV screens with off-air test patterns and graphics from various locales including Japan, Hungary, China, Spain, and Morocco.

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“Air Mail” and “Late Night TV” fine art prints soon to be published by The Art Group

Lisa: What are you currently working on and what are some of your dream projects?

Troy: I’m currently doing some thinking outside the grid and exploring ways to combine the photos and graphics I collect to capture a sense of place through unexpected juxtapositions and arrangements, such as combinations of photos of distressed wall surfaces and drawings of graphic motifs documented while exploring Istanbul.

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Impressions of Istanbul, 2013

Some projects I’m working on a bit closer to home are documenting the garages of San Francisco (where it’s nigh impossible to find a parking space) and a typographic homage to the San Francisco street corner. Street names in SF are stamped into the concrete at street corners, and the impact of the natural and man-made environment on the letter forms—leaves and flowers from the many trees, trash and cigarette butts, moss, broken car window glass—captures for me the unique beauty and grit of the city.

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The garages of San Francisco

I’ve also begun to explore drawing as a new medium through which to share my collections and my love of things like signage, ephemera, and even hardware stores (one of my favorite places to browse). And it’s also nice to spend some time away from the computer for a change.

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Drawings of stop signs from Troy’s photo archive

A current dream project is creating a book of impressions of Eastern Europe in the 1990s through photographs, ephemera, and writings in collaboration with two good friends and travel companions, Grit and Sean, who have also traveled extensively through Eastern Europe and share my appreciation for the visual aesthetic and historical importance of this unique time and place.

I would love to curate/create an immersive gallery exhibition that explores our connection with travel and the world around us through the presentation of common travel experiences utilizing both still and interactive elements that allow viewers to react with the content, share their experiences, and respond to the experiences of others. I also hope to continue to find new ways to share my love of travel and design through new publishing formats, editorial endeavors, and surface and product design applications of my photographs and drawings.

And of course keep traveling.

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Troy’s trusty travel companion, 22 years and still going strong

Visit Troy’s website & blog here and his Etsy shop here. And don’t forget to follow him on Instagram. You will not be disappointed!

Thank you, Troy, for sharing this incredible interview and your beautiful images with us!

Have a great weekend, friends!

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New Gallery :: My Work at Uprise Art

11/20/14

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Friends, I’m very excited to announce that I am now selling abstract works through New York gallery Uprise Art. You can find my available pieces here and read an interview they did with me here.

I am thrilled to be working with this gallery to show & sell my abstract work (see larger images below for what we’re offering now) and to be listed next to such an amazing cadre of artists on their roster.

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Hope everyone is having a great Thursday!

CATEGORIES: For Sale | Paintings
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Holiday Etsy Sale!

11/19/14

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Friends, I’m have a 15% off EARLYBIRD holiday sale in my Etsy Shop starting today through December 2!

Here’s how it works: go to my Etsy Shop, select your items, and enter EARLYBIRD in the coupon code section for 15% off.

I have added EIGHTEEN original pieces to my shop, so if you are interested in original works, now is the time to purchase.

If there is a book you would like that you don’t see in my shop, that means it is temporarily sold out. I should be getting more coloring books in stock by the end of November, so stay tuned! You can get all of my books on Amazon as well.

As always, email me or send me an Etsy Convo if you have any questions at all!

Happy shopping!

XO Lisa

CATEGORIES: For Sale | New in my Shop
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For the Love of the Swim

11/18/14

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Every now and again images of what I’m working on pop up on my Instagram feed. And you may have noticed a few swimming related images popping up, including the one above. And that’s because I’ve started working on a new book, as yet unnamed, about…you guessed it: SWIMMING! I have been passionate about swimming since I was a kid and it’s always been a huge part of my life, and so I am very excited to be working on this book. The book will cover swimming history, fashion, culture, innovations, lore & so much more. It will also include profiles of swimmers, some famous, some not. The book will include mostly my artwork & hand lettering, with some photos and a couple of essays .

I am still looking for a bit more content for the book: Do you have a collection of old swimming medals or ribbons I could photograph (and return to you)? Do you have a collection of any swimming gear that is vintage (1980’s or previous)? Do you have vintage photos of swimmers I could use? Do you have an exceptional swimming story or history or know someone (dead or alive) who does? I am also looking for a few African American or Latino swimmers of all ages or genders as subjects to profile in the book (I already have many White and Asian swimmers). My subjects just need to love swimming and do it regularly (and do not need to be fast competitive swimmers). Email me at lisacongdon@gmail.com if you think you may have something to contribute. I cannot guarantee I will be able to use what you send my way, but I’d love to hear from you in the event that it’s a good fit (and it just might be!).

Look out for the book to be released in early Spring 2016 by Chronicle Books.

Have a happy Tuesday, friends! Stay tuned tomorrow for information on a big sale in my Etsy Shop!

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