September 2019: Find Your Artistic Voice By Lisa Congdon
I've followed artist Lisa Congdon for a while now, and while her graphic style isn't the type of work that I'm normally attracted to, I am very drawn to the strength of her voice and how distinct her work is. There is always a clear, positive message, bright colors, and a fresh point of view - no wonder I enjoy it! More than that, her writing is always excellent. If you follow her on Instagram, you will have noticed that her captions are as captivating as her images. So when she announced the publication of this book in August, I was excited to give it a read.
Another reason I was determined to grab a copy is because the subject matter is near and dear. I have long been fascinated by what makes, say, a Van Gogh a Van Gogh, and how artists with strong voices and distinct styles developed them. This is part of the subject matter I cover in my Workshops. Because I already admired Lisa's work for her voice, I was eager to find out what she had to say on the topic of developing it.
While this book doesn't contain a magic formula for quickly discovering what ingredients you will use in your specific work, it offers a road map to discovery. She begins by breaking down voice into a combination of "skill, subject matter, medium, and consistency", and argues that if practice, honesty, and persistence is applied you will arrive at your own work. According to Lisa, that arrival is "entering your own orbit", a thought that makes so much sense to me.
The book covers how to navigate influences, the importance of routines, tackling your fears, and strategies for moving development.
One point in particular that I found interesting was in her definition of skill. She pointed out that to many artists skill is directly tied to the techniques of Realism, which she suggested is a rather antiquated measure of ability. I have always been a big believer in learning the rules so that you will understand how to break them. But I understand that plenty of people just want to paint and couldn't give a fig about lifelike renderings or "proper" technique. I will freely admit, that for some work it just isn't that important. Further, these "rules" can be a major stumbling block, a cause for feelings of failure and inadequacy.
Also included are short interviews with ten different artists on how they found their voice. At first I thought this would be annoying - I came for Lisa's perspective! But I found the interviews to be insightful and sources of different perspectives and experiences.
I read this book the first time through mostly with Aurora asleep on my lap on our flights up north. I'm on my second read through, now with a highlighter in hand!
Side story: I actually went on a little bit of an odyssey to land a copy of this book. I was determined to purchase a new copy from an independent bookseller so that I could be sure I was directly supporting the author. However, there were no copies to be had in my neck of the woods. I called nearly every bookstore in Minneapolis, as I knew we'd be passing through on our way north. I found ONE copy at Moon Palace Books (amazing bookshop!), and had it placed on hold for me - success!
So, for your convenience (and admittedly my own delight), we have decided to start carrying a select collection of titles on our website, as I mentioned earlier. So, brand new copies of this very book are available right now in our shop.
Also, as previously mentioned, I have started a Book Club to discuss these monthly Book Recommendations. I'm excited to know what you think of this one and so many others. As we now have comments AND the ability to reply to them, a discussion is at last possible.
Hope you enjoy this read!