Today’s interview on the RC is with amazingly talented Lisa Congdon. Lisa has become one of my favorites and I am so excited to share her take on rejection AND some of her incredible work. I love her work so much that I decided give a signed copy of her book, Whatever You Are, Be A Good One to one lucky reader (more info at the end of the post!)
One of the criteria for selecting people to include in the Rejection Chronicles is that they are someone I would love to have a conversation with over a cup of coffee and Lisa definitely fits the bill-although, I am not sure a single cup would do it! Perhaps best known for her line drawings and illustrations, the diversity of Lisa’s work speaks to her creative capacity as well as her technical mastery. An artist, author, illustrator, designer and teacher, Lisa has done work for the Museum of Modern Art, Martha Stewart Magazine, The Obama campaign, Chronicle Books, Simon and Schuster-in fact her list of clients could fill a blog post all on its own!
Her colorful abstractions are lyrical, juicy and reference her playful illustrations. For more of her illustrated works visit Lisa on her website and her blog, Today is Going to Be Awesome. Love her work as much as I do? Lisa’s Etsy shop is filled with signed copies of her books, prints, illustrated quotes and original works of art.
First, thank you Lisa for taking part in the RC. Rejection is a nearly universal experience and hearing the stories of others who have been through it, survived and thrived is such an encouragement! We’ll break the ice with some fun questions and then get down to the nitty gritty, so to speak, and finish up with some words of wisdom-
What is your favorite drink to unwind with?(can be anything)
During the day: ginger tea; on an occasional evening: rye bourbon.
What books are you reading now and why?
I am currently reading The Secret History by Donna Tartt. I just finished The Goldfinch, which I loved, and was immediately like, “I need to read another one of her books!” She’s a great writer. Next up I’m reading Alice + Freda Forever by Alexis Cole.
If you weren’t an artist what would you be doing or if you knew you wouldn’t be rejected what would you do?
I actually didn’t begin making art until I was 31 years old and for many years I worked away at becoming a better artist while I had a full time job. So I had a career in education for many years before I left my job at a non profit organization at the age of 39 to pursue my art career full time. I am pretty sure that if I hadn’t discovered my love for making art, I would probably still be working in that world. However, I am 46 now and can’t imagine doing anything else with my life but making and selling my art!
What is something about yourself that people don’t know about you?
I don’t make a huge effort to hide very much about myself — that I am gay, that I didn’t begin making art till I was in my early 30’s, that I never went to art school. I realize now that these are all things to be proud of, but at one time they were all sources of shame for me. So maybe that’s something people don’t know!
What’s your biggest pet peeve about art criticism?
Mean spiritedness on the part of some critics. I think intellectual conversations about art and literature are really important and valuable. But meanness is cowardly and insensitive.
What has been your most memorable rejection?
Early on in my career I had an art show. It was one of my first, back in 2005 or 2006. There were about 50 small pieces in the space, and I had worked really hard on the installation. And the day after the opening I got an email from a man I didn’t know saying that my work was totally unoriginal and that I was referencing all of these other artists. It hit me really hard. I didn’t know this person at all, but I remember feeling really defensive and hurt. The email was mean spirited, but it still nagged at me. And the more I thought about it, the more I realized that the guy was right: I needed to continue to develop my own voice. And so I worked really hard at that over the next several years.
Has rejection changed how you thought about your work or changed your direction in any way?
I think the story I just told is a good example. Often we take rejection very badly and very personally, even if it is from a complete stranger who knows nothing about us or our work. 100 people can tell us we are talented and that our work is destined for greatness. But if just 1 person tells us we are terrible or that our work is bad, that is what we focus on. But any kind of criticism – even mean spirited criticism – can help us, even if it is only to thicken our skin. And when rejection or criticism is doled from a place of love or respect, it can be incredibly helpful. Listening to what others have to say about where we need to grow or what we might do differently to get where we want to go is a really important practice. If we live in a bubble, never putting ourselves out there for feedback or rejection, we will never, ever grow.
Can rejection be a positive thing?
Absolutely. The main thing about rejection is that it’s always humbling. And I think situations that humble us and remind us of our humanity make us kinder, more conscientious people. And that’s always a positive thing. Of course the trick is to treat ourselves with compassion and not self hatred when we are rejected. If seen in a good light, rejection can teach us where to focus, what we are good at, what we need to work more at, how strong we are, all kinds of amazing things.
What advice would you offer to other artist’s, or folks in general, about rejection?
It is part of being an artist. Everyone, even at the highest levels of the art world, experiences it. Mostly, it’s not personal. So use the parts that help you grow, and move on from the rest. Also, the more you deal with rejection, the more you get used to it. And the good news is that if you are dealing with rejection a lot, it probably means you are putting yourself out there in a big way. And that is ultimately the key to getting somewhere in your career.
Thank you again-I know I keep saying it but I am SO grateful for your participation because I know so many readers will love to hear from you!
A little house keeping before I move on to the give away-I am in no way affiliated with Chronicle Books and I was not paid in any way to promote the artists work. I purchased the book for use in the giveaway and have received no remuneration in any form for this blog post.
OK, now that you know I am doing this purely because I want to (!) we can move on to the giveaway. One lucky reader will receive a signed copy of Lisa’s wonderful little book, Whatever You Are, Be A Good One, just in time for the holidays-as my gift to you. I love to share the things that motivate and inspire me and this book is open daily on my desk!
Here’s how it will go…leave a single comment below** (multiple entries will be deleted) answering this question:
Who said “Whatever you are, be a good one”?
One (1) winner will be selected at random on Friday, December 5, 2014!
**sorry, U.S. only
P. S. If you like this interview please share it!