12.13.2012

Professional Illustration class with Lisa Congdon!

Lisa finishes up her talk on the business of being a professional illustrator. @ Makeshift Society
Last night I attended a talk on Professional Illustration given by illustrator extraordinaire Lisa Congdon at Makeshift Society, a superspecial clubhouse for creative professionals in San Francisco. I've been an admirer of Lisa and her work for a while now, in part because her work is fun and sincere and approachable and whimsical and everywhere (pick up a copy of the Guardian, she's illustrated their anniversary issue; fall down an Internet wormhole and land at the Land of Nod children's retailer website even though you know barely any children, and hey, there's some hand-painted Lisa Congdon ornaments; drool over some Hygge & West wallpaper, hey that's Lisa; Lisa on Cloud 9 fabrics; Lisa on temporary tattoos; Lisa on the walls of Conference Room E at Chronicle Books, my old haunt). But the other reason I admire and follow Lisa's work is that she didn't go to art school; she is self-taught and was on a very different career path until she decided to make the switch to being a full-time, self-employed artist. I'm trying to forge a similar path, so her blog (and especially her FAQs) have been a huge inspiration for me. She's incredibly generous with sharing her experiences and tips there, and it was such a treat to hear her talk about them in person (and to meet her afterward!). I took pages of notes, and some of it was familiar already, but here were my biggest notes to self:

  • Get dressed as if you were going to an actual job. (I think that the reason a lot of freelancers don't do this is not because they're lazy/getting away with what they can, but because they're so stoked on what they're doing that they walk straight from bed to their workspace. Art trumps pants!)
  • Eat breakfast. (Same thought here. Also lunch and dinner, probably.)
  • You don't necessarily need a studio outside your home, but it's preferable if it's a space you can close up and leave at the end of the day. (French doors 2013!).
  • Keep regular work hours even when you don't have regular work. (For me, this should also apply when I have too much work.)
  • Know when to say yes and when to say no.
  • Know your dream projects and set goals: it'll help you set a direction and expand and hone your portfolio.
  • You don't have to have only one style, but be authentic. Experiment and develop bodies of work.
  • Only show work you'd like to make again or see licensed on a product. (If things suddenly disappear from my online portfolios, now you'll know why.)
  • Show up for people in your community! Go to art shows and classes and talks! (Yeah!)
  • Be nice, be professional, be assertive, be confident, be patient, be positive, be prompt, be gracious, be easy to work with, and work hard. (nbd.)
Anyway, this has been a big year of learning for me, and of approaching illustration with intention and focus. It is nice that this opportunity to take Lisa's class came at the end of year, as things wind down and hibernate for a few days and I have an opportunity to reflect on 2012 and set some goals for 2013. I'll start with breakfast. 

And thanks, Lisa. That was awesome. 

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