Lisa Congdon is a Portland, Oregon-based fine artist, illustrator and author known internationally for her colorful drawings and hand lettering. Her playful work is recognized for its vibrant palettes, geometric patterns and uplifting messages. We were thrilled when Lisa said yes to designing a fun lining for our new Slate Blue Georgie Suit. The reds, pinks and blues plus her signature patterns bring a unique twist to this classic suit. We chatted with Lisa about how she got into graphic design, her process and how she stays positive.
I read you didn’t start illustrating full-time until you were in your 40’s, can you tell us about that journey?
Well, I was working in the education sphere for many years, first as a teacher and then for a non-profit. And somewhere in that time span -- I was about 32 years old -- I went through a breakup with a woman I had been in a relationship with for almost a decade. In the midst of that breakup, I started taking art classes. I was looking for something healing, and something to fill my time. And i sort of fell in love with art. And I was pretty horrible at it at first. Just like anyone I was very much a beginner, but I loved it. So I kept at it. At the time, the internet was becoming a space for creative people to share what they were making, and I started a blog and joined Flickr, the photo sharing site. It was sort of the pre-Instagram days, but the way it worked was similar. I shared images of my work and wrote about my creative process. And I started making friends and also selling my work here and there. Eventually I decided I wanted to try to do this full time, so I just kept at it. I kept drawing and painting and figuring out who I was as an artist. And I opened a little Etsy shop and started doing illustration commissions. Eventually when I was about 40 I left my job to try to do it full time. It was so hard! I was broke! But I had never been so happy or determined. Over the years, incrementally, things have continued to grow. 14 years later I run a thriving illustration practice with two full time employees. I've come a long way!
We were so honored to collaborate with you on a print design, what is your process and inspiration when doing a collaboration?
I am so excited to work with you! I always start by asking the client what drew them to my work in the first place, and what it is that I do that really speaks to them. Sometimes people say color. Others are interested in specific imagery. Others are drawn to my messages. Then I really try to focus on that, plus whatever art direction and preferences they communicate. I try to get as much information up front as possible, and that really helps me. Then I sit down and draw! I draw digitally, so once I present my first concept, it's easy to make changes based on the client feedback. There are usually about 3 rounds of back and forth till we arrive at final artwork. Then there is the waiting period till it ends up on the product, so it's always very exciting when the thing I've designed for finally shows up in the world!
Your work is often filled with uplifting positive messages, how do you stay positive with the last two years being so up and down?
I am not always positive, but I am very fortunate to be a very resilient person. I think resilience is my super power. I'm also an extremely hopeful person. I am not entirely sure where it comes from. I have been through A LOT of very hard things in my 54 years, and I have survived them all -- and usually grown because of them. And so I have a lot of perspective about what matters. Some other things that help: I don't take myself too seriously. I ride my bike at least 100 miles a week outside. I have incredible friends, employees and family and a super loving wife. I love my work. I believe in leaning into joy, even when things feel shitty.
How Did You Meet Your Wife Clay?
We met in 2008 on Ok Cupid, when it was in its infancy. I'm not sure if the app is still like this, but back then you answered a bajillion questions about all your likes and dislikes, political leanings, spiritual proclivities, everything. And then they matched you with people who had similar tastes. I had literally been on the app for 24 hours and Clay (who had also just joined the app) messaged me and told me we were a 97 percent match, or something close to that. We went on a date, and the rest is history. We sometimes forget we met online because it happened so fast, and, as it turns out, we had like two degrees of separation (like, we knew lots of the same people and had definitely been in the same rooms before), which is common in the queer world.
I saw a recent instagram post where you said, you’ve known you were gay since 13 years old, how do you feel about the ongoing political attacks against LGBTQ+ folks?
Like many people, I feel horrible about it. I am one of those people who when I meet young queers or see them engaging out in the world, I get choked up. I think it's because I remember how vulnerable I felt at 13, and I know how tender young LGBTQ+ kids are. That tenderness makes me emotional. So knowing that these same kids are living in a world where people in power are actively trying to shame them and harm them -- it's heartbreaking. I have so much hope for the future, though. And that's because this next generation is amazing. They don't care about gender or sexual orientation. They care about climate justice and other progressive ideas, are more open to differences than any generation before them.
The collaboration with Lisa Congdon was over a year in the making and we couldn't be more excited to partner with such an inspiring person.
As part of ongoing commitment to donate 1% of all sales to LGBTQ+ focused charities, we will donating a portion of the sales from the Lisa Congdon X Slate Blue Suit to the It Gets Better Project, a non-profit committed to empowering and uplifting LGBTQ+ youth around the globe.
Photography by Gurusurya Khalsa Photography
Learn more about Lisa's work here
Follow Lisa @lisacongdon