Creativebug Sale!


Friends, I am happy to let you know about a sale going on at Creativebug – 1 month and 1 class for $1. Head here to learn more! $1 unlocks 1-month unlimited access to 1000+  classes on Creativebug PLUS 1 class to keep forever (a $29.90 value). Take any of my classes or other classes on the site!


June Print(s) of the Month!


I’m so excited to release my June Print of the Month which is… A TWO PRINT SET! This month’s set includes the two prints pictured above (they come unframed, though I suggest framing in black). Each print is 8.5×11 inches, signed, numbered and dated by me. There are only 40 sets available. Once they are sold out, they will not be available again. The prints are only sold as a set and cannot be purchased separately.

Get yours today!


Andy Miller // Creative Pep Talk!



One of the coolest experiences I’ve had in the past few years is being a guest on Andy Miller’s brilliant podcast, Creative Pep Talk (you can listen to my episode here). Andy is not only a fantastic podcaster, interviewer, community builder and pep-talk giver, he is also a phenomenal illustrator with a distinctive style that is so delicious I want to eat it. Andy now has a book out — also called Creative PepTalk — and I talked to Andy recently about this amazing new book, what’s behind it, and why it is we all need a pep talk now and again. The book is filled with “pep talks” from 50 different artists (including me, see my spread below, thank you Andy!). It’s colorful, bold, unpretentious and inspiring.

And so, without further ado, I introduce to you Andy J. Miller, this week’s Interview with Someone I Admire!

Lisa: Andy, before we launch into a discussion on this fantastic book, tell us a little bit about you. Who are you? What do you do?

Andy: First of all, SO THRILLED to do this, I just love and support everything you do and have done for the creative world, so I just want to say THANK YOU and thank you for being in this book! You were at the top of my contributor wish list!

Lisa: Oh, thank you, Andy. That means the world to me!

Andy: A little about me: most people know me by Andy J. Pizza these days, and I’m an illustrator who works with clients like Nickelodeon, Google and Converse. I’m also a podcaster, and my podcast Creative Pep Talk exists to help people make a good living, making great creative work.

I’m deeply passionate about sharing the breakthroughs I’m having in my creative career in hopes that it might enable a breakthrough for someone else.

Lisa: How did you get the idea for this book? Why Pep Talks for creatives? Did anything particular inspire the book?

Andy: I can’t remember exactly what sparked this idea but I’ve always loved a good collection / anthology. I kept seeing all this beautifully lettered creative wisdom and realized that it would kind of work as a double whammy as an anthology. On the one hand, it’s just a collection of phenomenal lettering and on the other hand it’s jam packed with the wisdom of a creative self help book of sorts.

I think a lot about why I’m so attracted to the idea of a pep talk. Here’s what I’ve realized: I’m just doing for others what I’d like done for me. Ironically, this pep talker requires LOTS OF PEP TALKS to keep going. A good word of affirmation or fresh perspective from a friend or mentor can keep me going for weeks!

Lisa: Haha, I am right there with you. Sometimes I say to my wife at dinner: I NEED A PEP TALK, PLEASE! There is such a myriad of terrific advice in the book. And so  I found myself saying, “YES!” and “YES!” and “I so needed to hear that today!” when I read it. I think sometimes people think those of us who have been working for years and are the ones dispensing the advice in the book somehow don’t experience insecurity or doubt or challenge. But we do! So this book really is for everyone. What is some of your favorite advice in the book?


Andy: I keep going back to Jon Burgerman’s “If You Can’t Be Good, Be Different.” Creative people get so caught up with the surface level metrics like how perfectly something is designed or how technically perfect something is. In my opinion, it’s more advantageous to get out of those races and find your own lane completely. Jon perfectly sums this up with his piece.

Jen Mussari’s page is another I keep returning to. She says “Make Friends, Not Contacts.” I am a MASSIVE believer that often in the long run, nice guys actually finish first. Those who scheme and cut corners might be quicker off the starting blocks, but their shortcuts catch up with them. Jen’s phrase reminds me that getting ahead doesn’t mean using people, and it’s possible to succeed and be a decent person at the same time.

Lastly, I’ll say Andrew Neyer’s “Stop Making Cents”. Andrew is a close friend of mine, and along the way we’ve both been very supportive of one another. We’ve always encouraged each other to charge fair rates and never to sell ourselves short.  I was so thrilled to share this piece of his with the world.

Lisa: There are so many fantastic artists and designers in the book. How did you begin to think about and select all the people in the book?

Andy: The number one criteria for this book was creative wisdom. I genuinely started with a list of people who had made an massive impact on me and had illustrated some of their wisdom visually.   Many of these folks profoundly changed my perspective and in turn my creative career with their work, their writing and their talks.

Lisa: One of the things I love about the book is the diversity of pep-talks, but also the fact that in some ways you can distill most of them down to a few key points: 1) believe in yourself (and your ideas), 2) don’t give up and 3) take risks. Your own advice in the book is about our infiniteness and potentiality when we believe in ourselves and in the power of our ideas. Say more about how that idea has played out in your own experience.

Andy: Looking back it’s very clear to me: this whole life is first and foremost a mind game with ourselves. Essentially, I’ve spent the past 9 years trying to find the right perspective or mental breakthrough that allowed me to trick myself into making progress. I am convinced that we are all infinitely more capable than we could ever imagine, and we can rise to this potential if we can just find the tricks and tips to get out of our own way.

For instance, from age 15 – 21, I was in a cycle of self destructive tendencies. They kept my self esteem low and convinced me that I was doomed to a live a life of defeat and failure. In that time frame I made some friends that pulled me out of this. When these people I respected and admired saw me as an equal, it changed the way I saw myself. This helped me break free of these cycles.

I see it in my creative career too. Every so often someone I look up to or admire or see as an ‘untouchable’ will reach out and encourage me. It always increases my self worth and belief in my own potential. For many of us we had teachers that did this for us, but I think many of us need this kind of mentorship throughout our entire lives! In short: seek these people out!

Lisa: What do you hope people who read your book get out of it? What do you hope they walk away with?

Andy: I hope at the very least they come away with some hope for the future of their creative work and that this hope helps them to make progress. On a deeper level, I secretly hope that this book will act as a kind of mentor in the form of a hardback book! I hope that its wisdom comes to them in the exact right moments to act as a catalyst for real breakthrough.

 Lisa: What is next for you? What are you working on now? (Here just feel free to share anything fun or exciting that you are working on!)

Andy: I don’t think I can say much about it at this point, but I’m working on a book that I write and illustrate that is very in line with the stuff I talk about on the podcast. So stay tuned for that!

Lisa: Where can people find you online?

Andy: instagram: @andyjpizza and twitter: @andyjpizza

Thank you Lisa!! This was amazing. Thank you so much for everything you do for the creative community!!! 😀

Lisa: Buy the book here or wherever books are sold!


Sam Kalda: Of Cats and Men


If you have been following my blog for the last few years, you know that I do interviews periodically with people I admire — mostly fellow artists and writers. A couple of years ago, I discovered the work of illustrator Sam Kalda. Sam came to a book signing for my book Art Inc in Brooklyn back in 2014, and introduced himself to me after the signing. I looked him up the next day, fell in love with his work immediately and asked him for an interview. You can read that original 2015 interview with Sam here to get to know his story.

Recently, Sam, whose career has continued to grow over the past couple of years, published his first book, Of Cats and Men: Profiles of History’s Great Cat Loving Artists, Writers, Thinkers and Statesmen. I love this book so much (and I am sure you will too) that I decided to have Sam back to chat with him again. Welcome back to Sam Kalda!


Lisa: Sam, I absolutely love this book! Tell us about how the book came to be?

Sam: Thank you! As long as I can remember, I’ve loved to draw and loved cats. I began the book while in my first year of the MFA in illustration program at FIT. In college, I came across photos of Marlon Brando and Jean Cocteau with their cats. In these gorgeous black and white photos, cats seemed to unite these two very different fellows. They were the first members of this rag tag gentleman’s club that evolved into Of Cats and Men.

Lisa: Demystify the CAT MAN for us. How are Cat Men different from Cat Ladies (or are they?). What are the defining characteristics of Cat Men?

Sam: The book’s introduction serves as a kind of “Catman” manifesto (Catmanifesto?) that’s playful rebuttal of the bizarre way we gender animals and of the cruel “crazy cat lady” stereotype. The way I like to think of it, Catmen are enlightened fellows standing alongside their cat-loving sisters as “crazy cat men.”

Lisa: When I read the book (and part of what I love about it), I couldn’t help but think about what your research phase must have looked like. How does one go about finding out which men from history were Cat Men? And then how did you manage to learn so much about their cats and life with cats? It seems so obscure!

Sam: I had the benefit of time in accumulating these characters—an early version of the book is about four to five years old. The project was always in the background, so I could be a bit of a magpie and pick up ideas here and there. I love to read and do research, and collected books about cats in art history, literature, etc.

In terms of finding the subjects, the writers were probably the easiest to find as they tend to leave an extensive paper trail of their thoughts. I discovered Balthus’ cats at a show at the Met. I love Murakami novels and anyone who’s read Murakami know’s he loves cats—especially cats that can talk to humans. I had classmates and later fans of the project send me suggestions of people they came across while reading, or while surfing the web. In fact, George Balanchine was recommended by a friend in an Instagram message. From there, I just worked one by one to unearth interesting stories and anecdotes to really confirm their Cat Man “credentials.”

Lisa: Oh, what would we do without the internet! It’s a virtual treasure trove. Who did you discover in your research that surprised you the most?

Sam: I’m not sure surprised is the right word, but I was absolutely delighted by some real gems discovered in the research phase. For instance, while reading up on Maurice Ravel, I came across a biography stating that he (Ravel) was one of the first men in Paris to wear pastels. Amazing. Another favorite anecdote about the painter Balthus didn’t make it into the book. According to one writer, Balthus was known to refer to himself as “The Thirteenth King of Cats.” Balthus came to the number thirteen because the capillaries in one of his eyes vaguely resembled the number 13. Research can occasionally be dull, but I live for those eccentric tidbits.

Lisa:  I love the section in the end about robots and cats, because it begs the question: what is the future of cat men? And what role has the internet played in making us all cat people again? How do cats make us all — even robots — more human?

Sam: Originally, I envisioned the narrative voice in Of Cats and Men to be reminiscent of Werner Herzog at his most “out there.” While that changed slightly, my inner Herzog gave me permission to go a little Sci-Fi in the conclusion.  I’m little prone to Luddite paranoia and certainly had fun camping that up.

You’re very right to say that basically everyone is now a cat person because of the internet. But our everyday interactions are so mediated by devices. We are very uncomfortable with being present and unoccupied. I think spending time with cats—animals in general—is something that is fundamentally good for us. It keeps us present and strengthens our reserves of empathy. Ergo, cats make us more human. Art can do that too, but *most* art unfortunately is not covered in fur.


Lisa: If you could spend a day with any one of the men (and his cats) profiled in your book, who would you choose and why?

Sam: Probably Edward Gorey. Maybe go antiquing and browse some used bookstores around Cape Cod? Talk about the virtues of fog? Sounds joyous.

{Sam and his cat, Sister}

Lisa: Tell us about your cat! What is her name, how old is she and what is she like?

Sam: Her name is Sister. She’s a 10 year old black and white long hair and looks like a nun wearing a habit. I think that’s my Catholic school kid coming out. She was born in a boiler room in Brooklyn and now lives with her two dads in a small, well-curated apartment. Like all house cats, she’s a rags to riches story.


Lisa: I love it! Sister is very lucky. Thank you so much for sharing your story with us, and for making this book! It’s a gift (And I’ll literally be gifting it to many cat men in my life!). You can get it here and wherever books are sold.

Sam: Thank you, Lisa!


On Self-Employment, Workaholism and Getting My Life Back


Instructions for living a life.
Pay attention.
Be astonished.
Tell about it.

-Mary Oliver

I could have titled this blog post What a Difference a Year Makes.

Or What Happens When you Really Lose It.

Or, simply, Freedom.

What I call it doesn’t matter. It just feels important to me that I write this down: part warning, part catharsis, part story of recovery.

I’m not telling this story because it’s at all unusual or because I think it’s in any way special. I’m telling it because the American ideal of busy-ness, success-by-hard-work, and the layer of bizarre importance we place on both social media & email — have the potential to be damaging. And I wanted to talk about how all of those things have impacted me and how I’m beginning to find freedom from them.

This is a story that started ten years ago when I left my job to begin making a full time living as an artist. But the important part of the story starts one year ago, almost to the day.

At the time, I was on a book tour on a stop in in New York City, and I was about to continue on to Minneapolis to deliver the 2016 Commencement Address at Minneapolis College of Art and Design and then do more book events the same week. I woke up in my friend Debbie’s apartment in Chelsea on a beautiful May morning, and came to the profound realization that I was done with the way things were in my life. I was exhausted, in physical pain, anxious and depressed. Something had to change, and this time was serious. I had hit bottom. I realized I could no longer sustain the intense workload and travel schedule that I’d been carrying for the past few years of my ten year career.

True fact: I used to be person who had a job and also thoroughly enjoyed her life outside of her job. I went to work (I worked for many years at two different non-profit organizations), felt committed and did my thing, but I didn’t bring it home with me. There was a tight container around work between the hours of 9 and 5. After 5 pm and on the weekends, I rested, swam, went hiking, hung out with friends, read books, slept in, went dancing, did some sewing and art projects, and relaxed in front of the TV.

Ten years ago in 2007, when I was 39 years old, I quit my job at the non-profit to pursue a career as an artist full time and, almost immediately, something inside of me shifted. As an artist just beginning her freelance career, I didn’t have an income yet, and I adopted a new mindset very quickly: time is money. I began to feel like even if I wasn’t working on a paid project (which I rarely did in the first couple of years), I had to be working on something — something that I could add to my portfolio for potential licensing, something that might spark some interest in my work from an art director (I started sharing my work online early in my career), or anything that might lead to something in the future. I also understood that because I was self-taught, I needed to work hard to develop my artistic skills and find my voice. If I wasn’t working, I began to feel like I was slacking. This mindset was buttressed by the fact that I was authentically excited to be making art full time. I loved what I did, and compared to an office job, I felt like I had hit the lottery, even before I made a penny. And this second factor was important.

As a result, I began working all of the time. For the first couple of years, I also opened a little store with my friend Rena to supplement my meager art income, but when I wasn’t there, I was making art and I began sharing it on the internet. For the most part, I stopped swimming regularly and I stopped relaxing in front of the TV, going dancing, sewing or sleeping in. When I was watching TV or “relaxing” in the evenings, I was doing it with a laptop or drawing paper perched on my thighs, where I was also working. In my mind, if I wasn’t working and sharing, I was losing a potential opportunity to get paid work.

This mindset served me well, initially. Within just a year or two, I began to build a following. As I drew and painted each day, I became a better and better artist. And from there, I began getting paid work. In 2008, I signed with a prestigious illustration agent. By early 2010 I signed a contract for my first book and began showing my work at a San Francisco gallery. I started getting regular illustration jobs, and I started making a regular income. (Eventually, I even wrote a book advising others how to do it).

And then in around 2011, things reached a new level — I call this my “tipping point.” At any given time, I was working on up to 15 projects at once, some small, some big. I said yes to literally every opportunity that came my way (and they began flowing in), including online teaching and public speaking opportunities in addition to illustration, publishing and licensing. Around the same time, my Etsy shop picked up steam, and I’ve made regular weekly sales ever since. I also consistently engaged in my own personal projects which I shared publicly as well, and which ultimately led to new professional opportunities. All of this stuff I was doing became a fruitful cycle. In my mind, even though it was often stressful, working 12 hour days and on the weekends was getting me somewhere. I was paying off debt, adding clients to my client list and building the career I had dreamed of having.

Looking back, I realize now that workload was already taking its toll, even then. I battled almost constant anxiety and I had terrible chronic neck and back pain from sitting at my drawing table and computer for so many hours. I had also started a relationship in 2008, and the weight of my workload caused tension for us as my career grew. I am so grateful that my partner (now wife) was so understanding, believed in me so profoundly and stuck it out with me. Ultimately, she had a huge part in helping me to walk away from the burdens of it. But aspects of our relationship suffered. I kept saying to her: “Look, if I work hard and often now, then in a few years we’ll be set financially and I will slow down and work less.”

The problem was, I was like a hamster on a hamster wheel who literally did not know how to stop the wheel and get off. Even though I was making a steady six-figure income and I could have taken some space, I had become addicted to working. I was also addicted to the rush that working and being acknowledged for the work brought to me. I was attached to the idea that it is the hustling that brings success. I began to feel more stressed when I wasn’t working, not just because I had so many looming deadlines, but because slowing down itself became uncomfortable. Despite early indications of burnout, I felt it was imperative that I continue in this way. I told myself, You can do this! You work fast! You don’t need much sleep! Someday you will be able to take a break.

To be clear, I also understood very deeply that this was all a choice I was making. While I wrote occasionally about my workload (including about how I was feeling overwhelmed) on this blog and on Instagram over the past six years, I was careful not to come off as a victim. I knew I had chosen this path. Mostly, I was outwardly cheery to my social media audience. In fact, in some ways, I wore my busy-ness as a badge of honor. I was busy, goddammit, and I was proud of it.

Somewhere in there, I got married, and two years later in 2015 we moved to Portland, Oregon and bought a house. Part of the decision to move was precipitated by a desire to have a slower lifestyle. We decided that moving from the frenetic work culture of the Bay Area of California to a city with a slower pace of life was going to give us a fresh start. But, like what happens anytime you say you are going to make a change but have no real plan in place or boundaries to implement it, we moved to Portland and nothing changed. In fact, for a time after we moved, my wife was working for me and then I hired an employee, and things actually got worse. My wife and employee were amazing and helped me with so many aspects of my business. But instead of lightening my load, I used having a team to help me with my workload as an excuse to take on even more projects for myself.

Fast forward to a year ago. I hit bottom. I was strung out, uninspired, anxious, and in chronic pain. I was miserable. For awhile, I thought about quitting all together. I fantasized about being a part time dog groomer or a gardener. I fantasized about crawling in a hole.

After I got back from that book tour, I began the necessary process of re-thinking my career and my life. Ultimately, I knew I wanted to keep working as an illustrator and writer. I just needed to get my workload down to a manageable size and I needed to start creating space in my life for rest and enjoyment and creative rejuvenation. About a year ago, I began to decline 80% of the opportunities that came my way. I said no not only to most illustration projects, but also to speaking engagements and some interview requests. I decided very intentionally to focus on only a handful of meaningful projects and speaking engagements for the next three years. I still had to finish the commitments that I’d already signed up for, but I set out to slowly relieve myself of responsibilities and start a new approach to living and working going forward.

You may remember that back in December, about six months ago and six months after I began the process of starting to lighten my load, I wrote this blog post about my burnout and the slow rebuilding. At the time, I was in the thick of the process of slowing down, but I was struggling — still really struggling — because even after I began making changes to improve the quality of my life, I still felt anxious and depressed nearly everyday. I didn’t know how to relax in my new-found time. I was still worried about what would happen next for me. The good news was that I was starting to feel inspired again — one of the worst side effects of my burnout had been a total lack of creative energy or motivation.

Fast forward to today: a year after starting this process, I am very happy to say I feel solidly on the other side. I am living and working differently, my depression is gone, and my anxiety is at an all time low. Most days, I feel great. My days are slow. I work and rest. I am starting to feel some sense of balance again. Here are some things about the journey over the last year that feel important to share.

  1. As I mentioned earlier,  I do believe the American ideal of busy-ness, success-by-hard-work, and the layer of bizarre importance we place on both social media and email — have the potential to be very damaging if we are not careful. I bought into them, and I suffered mightily. That said, I had to take full responsibility for not buying into them anymore, and that is ongoing work for me, every single day. If you had asked me a year ago to describe my existence I would have said, “I feel like I am trapped in a box and someone has filled every last bit of space in the box with rocks and trash.” The box was my life, and the rocks and trash were all my responsibilities and obligations.  I felt trapped underneath pressure, darkness and lack of space. I was suffocating. The choices I made put me in that box, and I was aware that I was also the only one who could get myself out of it.
  2. Just because you make an intentional, conscious and committed decision to change something, doesn’t mean you will see the positive effects quickly or that it will be easy. In fact, for me, my anxiety got worse before it got better — I had grown so accustomed to being in the world in a certain way, that change felt terrifying, even though it was clearly a healthy shift that I needed to make. But change happens slowly, especially when you are shifting mindsets and behavior that have been engrained in you for years. I used the same discipline to commit to slowing down and being present as I had used to hustle to build my career from scratch. I was literally addicted to work. And so breaking the cycle of constantly working was hard.
  3. That’s right. Once I did start to create some space, I had to literally relearn how to relax. As I began to finish up existing projects and take on fewer and fewer responsibilities, I began to see and feel space around me again. I was no longer trapped in the box! How cool, right? Um, no. It totally freaked me out! I was so used to filling space with work (even self-generated projects) that when my goal was to relax and slow down, I panicked. So I have approached it in several ways. First, when I am working now (because I still work), I focus on slowing down and taking my time — because there is no need to rush. I have more time! And that has made work feel more enjoyable. You can’t relax into work with you are rushing. Second, I also only check and respond to email and post on social media during specific times of the day now. I also post far less frequently on social media or on this blog. I’ve given up making art at “daily Instagram speed” — even if that means I post less often, or some days, not at all. I’ve given up being prolific and have simultaneously unplugged, both of which have been essential in finding some relief from my anxiety. Third, when I do have space outside of work, I think intentionally about how to use it. I read, take walks, mess around in my studio with no specific outcome, and go for long swims. Sounds easy, but it wasn’t. At first this intentional use of my new-found “free time” felt like torture. I was a nervous wreck! Read a book? Shouldn’t I just go back to work? I had to practice taking  slow walks in my neighborhood (which my dog helps me with since he has to stop and stiff everything in his path), going for long swims (instead of madly trying to finish my workout so I could get back to work), or reading an entire long-form article in the New Yorker (when I first started this process I couldn’t read more than a paragraph without losing focus). And I had to practice sitting with the initial anxiety that came with doing these seemingly enjoyable, relaxing activities. I am happy to report that I not only survived, but most days I am very good at relaxing now. I just have to engage my relaxing muscles again and not give up when it feels challenging.
  4. I had to redefine my definition of success. Previously, I aligned things like hustling and hard work with success. I had proven it myself over and over, and it became how I was wired. And while I do think there is a correlation between discipline, risk-taking and action with building a sustainable career as an artist, the stress of my own level of discipline, risk-taking and action had taken a huge toll on my psyche and creative energy. In the end, I decided to let go of the idea of success all together. So, now, I am beginning to think about and define whether I have a good life in terms of space and enjoyment instead of professional success. I am always thinking about how much figurative space I have around work projects, and whether I am actually finding any pleasure doing them. This perspective now also influences my decisions about what professional opportunities to say yes to and which to decline. If I am going to continue to have a career, I need to keep taking advantage of opportunities, so learning a new way of navigating them is important.
  5. Lastly, I can’t end this blog post without talking about something that has made all of this possible: meditation. Daily meditation has made all the difference for me. I have tried to mediate regularly for years, but I never followed through for more than a handful of days at a time because I never got past the “sitting in silence with my anxiety is torture” phase. But everything I read from Eastern religion to Western medical science espoused meditation as a real, long term relief for anxiety and living with more peace and calm. So, this time, to help me both with accountability and support, I began working with a coach and meditation teacher (best decision I made in the process). But here’s the thing about meditation: like with the other changes I made, despite the support, I didn’t see the positive results immediately. I had to practice meditation every day for 40 days straight before I noticed that in general I was feeling calmer and less anxious. I also had to redefine what it meant to be a “good” meditator. I had to let go of the notion that “thinking” or anxious thoughts during meditation were bad. Really, meditation is just practicing bringing your attention back to your breath over and over as the thoughts and anxieties arise. Magically (or maybe not so magically), the impact of 15-20 minutes of meditation a day on my entire 24 hour cycle has been profound. I have a long way to go in my practice, and I’m in this for the long haul.

You might be wondering, what am I up to now? I am working on two books, one that comes out in 2019 and one that comes out in 2020 — both with ample, almost luxurious timelines. The second book is a long term intensive project that will be my main work for the next two years. I am scheming a couple more video classes that I will roll out in the next year. I am making a lot of personal work. I have a book that comes out in October, and I’ll be having some book events this Fall. I have two residencies and one fine art show scheduled for 2018. Right now, that’s about it. And it feels great.

I also know I have to keep doing my other work: meditating, taking slow walks, going for long swims, participating in some activism in my community, protecting space in my schedule, and rallying against the notion that it’s all about the hustle.

I’m here to say, it just isn’t. It’s not glamorous to be busy. It’s just exhausting.

And I am done being exhausted.

Here’s to freedom!

Thank you for listening.

CATEGORIES: Personal Essays