This Art Crush entry has truly been a long time coming. I first came across Lisa Congdon by way of Meighan O’Toole’s former art blog and podcast, My Love For You (which is post-worthy in its own right–it was an enormous source of inspiration for me during my college years). While I definitely gravitated to Lisa’s work on a visual level, it was her personal story that drew me in. Freelance illustration had been her second career. She didn’t start painting or making art until she was 31, and here she was, participating in museum-level shows, working with clients like Chronicle Books, and just being a genuine, successful badass. Lisa is not only someone I look up to artistically–she’s also a prime example of a human being.
Lisa’s art career was secondary, after she accumulated over a decade of experience in the education and nonprofit industries. By pure chance, she stumbled into a painting class and began making art of all kinds from that day forward–fueled by pure joy instead of the desire to succeed quickly. Having always been an avid collector, her random ephemera would find their way into countless collages as well as a series of photos, drawings and paintings that would eventually make up her A Collection A Day project. As she continued to develop her craft and share it with the ever-expanding Internet, people began to catch on. Today, she is an accomplished and prolific working artist, blogger, illustrator, public speaker and writer. Some of her most notable clients to date include The Land of Nod, The Museum of Modern Art, Harper Collins, 826 Valencia and Martha Stewart Living Magazine.
Lisa unabashedly tackles the subjects she is most passionate about, and that fearlessness is expressed effortlessly in the execution of her work. She describes herself as a “visual junkie,” and is deeply inspired by patterns, travel, architecture and vintage packaging, just to name a few. A faithful blogger, Lisa writes about her own process in addition to other artists whom she admires, as well as her life “outside the studio,” which includes swimming, biking, sewing, and traveling. In other words, she’s just making all of us look bad! (I only kid.)
One of the reasons I relate to Lisa’s work is due to the versatility and ever-evolving nature of her aesthetic. Certain characteristics like neon hues and her penchant for all things Scandinavian are mainstays, but she continues to branch out and explore all kinds of mediums (block printing and calligraphy, to name a few). These explorations fuel her work and expand her direction, which is most recently geared towards abstract painting. She’s a wonderful example of why you don’t need to narrow yourself down to one specific style (something I often grapple with).
Lisa is quite a unique artist in that she is not only a creator, but a mentor as well. Breaking into freelance illustration can be a challenging and solitary undertaking, and she continues to give her generous time to those who wish to pursue and learn more about the field through classes, speaking engagements and conferences around the country. I first met Lisa at her first Freelance Illustration class at Makeshift Society back in December 2012, and it was one of my most pivotal learning experiences to date.
Lisa recently released her new book, “Art, Inc.: The Essential Guide for Building Your Career as an Artist,” which is a revolutionary and timely answer to the starving artist stereotype. It covers all areas of the freelance artist’s domain, such as photographing fine art, finding printing services, copyright, and diversifying income. It sits on the shelf above my working desk (I like to call it my “VIP” shelf) as I reference it constantly.
On that same note, I’m very excited to be taking Lisa’s “Become A Working Artist” class through CreativeLive next week! You can follow along with the class virtually by RSVPing here.
Julia Gfrörer studied illustration at Seattle’s Cornish College of the Arts before graduating with a double major in printmaking and painting. She was encouraged to get into making comics by her good friend, the late comics historian, publisher & cartoonist ,Dylan Williams. She started off making a few hand made zines like Ariadne auf Naxos, and Stupid Tales of Wolverine, but then found great critical success with her comic Flesh and Bone, published by Sparkplug Books. Tonally, her work is deeply rooted in Victorian gothic horror, and classic Medieval romances. I see a lot of David Lynch rubbing off in her stories, and a little Larry Clark in her raw approach to sex.
Her graphic novel, Black is the Color, was published by Fantagraphics in 2013. Her work has also appeared in The Thickness comics anthology, Arthur Magazine, Study Group Magazine, Black Eye, and The Best American Comics collection.
Julia Gfrörer also writes a regular comics analysis column for the Comics Journal called Symbol Reader. You can follow that here.
You can order Julia Gfrörer’s latest zine, Palm Ash, and get the latest news on her website here.
For more comics related art, you can follow me on my websitecomicstavern.com- Andy Yates
In the midst of a world grounded in digital technology, sometimes we need a reminder that good things can still be grounded in reality. This is why we still go visit galleries and museums to see artwork in person (a habit I’m still trying to get better at). This is why we still give each other greeting cards, or why our desks seem to collect countless post-its over time. It can be as simple as opening a letter or unwrapping a present–interacting with real material still matters.
On that note, I’d like to introduce you to Anna Bond, owner and creative director of Rifle Paper Co.–an inimitable force in the stationery field and beyond.
While Anna now lives and works in Winter Park, Florida, she has roots in New Jersey and received a degree in graphic design in Virginia. After working as an art director and freelance illustrator for a couple years, she discovered (or rekindled, rather) her love for stationery design while illustrating some wedding invitations. As mentioned in her feature on The Every Girl, stationery was the optimal combination of graphic design and illustration that she had been searching for, and so she pushed onwards.
While there’s something to be said for art directing at 21, I admire Anna’s honest and expressive way of dealing with her expectations, realities, and how to improve upon them. She’s spoken before about the first launch of Rifle Paper Co.’s website, detailing product disasters, website crashes, international shipping issues, and taking turns panicking with her husband. Without sounding cruel or spiteful, it’s incredibly comforting to know that someone as ambitious and driven as Anna has screwed up before. And to me, there’s no better way to recover than by succeeding.
Nearly all Rifle Paper Co. products feature Anna’s hand-painted illustrations, which are often nostalgic in style with a pastel palette.
Some of Rifle Paper Co.’s selected clients and collaborative partners: Anthropologie (their very first!), Kate Spade New York, Hygge & West, Chronicle Books, AMC Mad Men, and Penguin Books. I think it’s important to note that the variety of clients reflects Anna’s ability to design for both traditional and modern brands, which can be difficult depending on one’s personal style.
Follow along with Anna and her husband Nathan’s exciting ventures at Rifle Paper Co.’s website, and take a peek at Anna’s portfolio here. You can also find her on Twitter. I particularly enjoyed her Day in the Life feature on Design*Sponge as well.
Meg Hunt is a fabulous illustrator and hand-letterer, although her aesthetic is informed by the printmaking process as well. In her own words, she’s inspired by “a sense of delight and the ability to tell stories.” She’s a self-described bookworm, nature buff, and former aspiring Muppeteer.
It’s obvious that Meg has a sincere love of nature and animals, a fondness acquired during childhood and one that flourished once she moved out west. A native of New London, CT, Meg attended the University of Connecticut and received a dual degree in printmaking and illustration. She’s mentioned that attending an interdisciplinary college aided in her own abilities to explore and play within her art–while there are obviously some pros and cons of attending state schools, I definitely agree with her sentiment on this. After finishing up college, Meg moved out to Phoenix, AZ for 4 years, then to settle in Portland, OR.
Meg turns to a variety of literature and comedic podcasts to help her draw out ideas. Her process shifts between analog and digital–she employs different physical tools such as watercolor paint, powdered graphite, mechanical pencils, wax pastels, and many more to add texture to her final compositions.
In addition to her work as a freelance illustrator, Meg has also taught at Portland State University and currently teaches Visual Techniques at Pacific Northwest College of Art. She is represented by Scott Hull Associates and her client list includes Nickelodeon Magazine, Junior Scholastic Magazine, Radiolab, Chronicle Books, and Threadless.
Mary Kate McDevitt is one of the most successful hand-letterers and illustrators working today. A graduate of Tyler School of Art, Mary went on to work at a design studio in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. After 2 years, she moved out west to pursue a freelance illustration and design career in Portland, Oregon before ultimately settling in Brooklyn, New York, which is where she presently resides. While she previously imagined that she would work as an illustrator, dabbling in some lettering on the side–but it turned out to be quite the opposite. Her ever-growing client list includes Chronicle Books, CMYK Magazine, Fast Company, and the United States Postal Service.
She is specifically inspired by vintage type and techniques, including the ones of her own family. As a teenager, she discovered a plethora of handwritten letters that her mother and aunt wrote to her grandmother during college. She used this inspiration for her Your Handwritten Letters project, a daily hand-lettering exercise. Mary would hand-draw a letter of the alphabet and mail the original to a unique participant each day.
Beth Knight grew up in Wales and has a degree in Graphic Design from the Norwich University College of the Arts. As a child she used to sketch the creatures she found when she went out hiking, and from there her passion only grew. There’s something really calming about her work; it reminds me of Beatrix Potter! Check out her other work or follow her here: Portfolio | Twitter
Originally from “a little town near Hannover in Germany” Anke Weckmann has been living and working as an illustrator in London for many years now. She developed a lovely, distinct yet versatile style that works in Editorial, Fashion, as Music Artwork and in Product Design (Anke illustrated the packaging of a whole product range of cosmetics and accessoires for te brand “Too Cool For School”). And besides being updated on current commissioned works you can find the very charming and funny “Learning French” comics on her blog.
I especially love the delicate balance of detail and composition, ornamental elements and coloring. There’s so much to discover and yet her works never seem overloaded.
Also fellow or future illustrators might want to do themselves a favor and check out Anke’s blogpost on working out and staying healthy while you spend most of your career sitting at a desk.
Aurora Cacciapuoti is a Sardinian illustrator currently based in Cambridge, UK. She splits her time between running art workshops and working as a freelance illustrator, and her clients have included several magazines and books, and Wordsation, a baby clothing shop online. Her recent projects have included drawing 365 faces in a year, inspired by real and imaginary people.
In 2012, she drew 52+2 book covers– one per week and then one for each extra day of the solar year. She chose her favorite books for the project.
Aurora’s work is fun and spirited. See more of it on her website and blogs!
Natasha Newton has captured the very essence of the experience with peaceful forests and rolling hillsides. Natasha utilizes watercolor and acrylic on canvas, wood, and stone. Her muted, monochromatic palette and strong attention to texture create a wonderful depth in each landscape, as if you are looking out across fields at night and you are encountering this landscape for the very first time.
Random House has featured Natasha’s work on the cover of five different books by author Jorge Bucay, and her paintings are featured in numerous magazines including Design*Sponge, Homes & Gardens, and Apartment Therapy. Her work can currently be found in galleries in Suffolk, England, and Seattle, Washington. Natasha’s work is also showcased internationally in a variety of exhibitions.