|photo: Christopher Dibble
Fine artist, illustrator and author Lisa Congdon is known for her colorful drawings and hand lettering. Her clients include Comme des Garçons, Crate and Barrel, MoMA, REI and Harvard University, among many others. She is the author and sometimes illustrator of eight books, including the starving-artist-myth-smashing Art Inc: The Essential Guide to Building Your Career as an Artist and her latest book, Find Your Artistic Voice: The Essential Guide to Working Your Creative Magic (Chronicle, August 6, 2019). She is featured in the 2017 book 200 Women Who Will Change the Way You See the World. Congdon lives and works in Portland, Ore.
On your nightstand now:
The Librarian of Auschwitz by Antonio Iturbe. This past spring I traveled to Amsterdam, Prague and Berlin--three places that hold so much history and have seen so much suffering as a result of the Holocaust. So, I felt drawn to read more, and this was the first book I found at the Amsterdam airport on my way home.
Favorite book when you were a child:
Bread and Jam for Frances by Russell Hoban and Lillian Hoban. I was obsessed with the whole series. Badgers are spooky cool.
Your top five authors:
Though this is the hardest question, ever.
Book you've faked reading:
The Iliad in college.
Book you're an evangelist for:
Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert, one of many books that changed my life and how I think about my own creativity.
Book you've bought for the cover:
The Trial by Franz Kafka. The entire "eye series" of book jacket designs for Kafka's books by designer Peter Mendelsund are wonderful.
Book you hid from your parents:
Endless Love by Scott Spencer. I bought it on the end cap of a grocery store aisle one summer day when I was 13, in around 1981. It was extremely graphic. It was the book where I first learned what actually happens when two people have sex.
Book that changed your life:
Letters to a Young Poet by Rilke. I went through a Rilke phase in my early 20s after graduating from college. I have the same copy of this book, along with a copy of On Love and Other Difficulties, that I bought in a used book store in 1991. They sit on the shelf in my office.
Favorite line from a book:
"I want to beg you, as much as I can, dear sir, to be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves like locked rooms and like books that are written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer." --Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet
Five books you'll never part with:
First edition 1928 copy of The Well of Loneliness by Radclyffe Hall (gifted to me by my first long-term girlfriend in the early 1990s)
Devotions: The Selected Poems of Mary Oliver (Mary Oliver is God)
Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed (I read this book four times.)
Patti Smith, Collected Lyrics (In addition to Mary Oliver and Oprah, Patti Smith is also God.)
Letters to a Young Poet by Rilke
Book you most want to read again for the first time:
The Claudine Series by Colette. I first read this book 30 years ago during my early 20s after I came out as a lesbian. I became obsessed with 1920s Paris at the time, including Kiki, Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas, Janet Flanner, etc.