Jealousy, Art & Tea: An awesome day of creative block-busting with The Jealous Curator and Lisa Congdon.

I recently attended the San Francisco Girl Crush Tea Party, brain-child of Danielle Kryza, known as The Jealous Curator, and hosted by SF-based artist and illustrator, Lisa Congdon.  It was awesome.

"Amazing Things Will Happen" artwork by Mary Kate McDevitt

As a fan of Lisa's work, I simply could not resist the opportunity to meet her in person and learn more about her process. Little did I know-thanks to Danielle - that the day would also ask me to take a deeper look at my creative blocks, and the very thing that I now realize draws me to Lisa's work: a feeling of admiration that borders on - yes, good old-fashioned jealousy. To quote Danielle, it's that feeling of "Damn I wish I thought of that" many of us often get when we see work we admire.   

I wasn't quite sure what to expect of the day, and I admit I had a bit of the highschool cafeteria jitters on the way in.  I had been following Lisa's 365 Days of Hand Lettering on her blog since hearing her speak at the Alt Design Summit earlier this year, and she seemed awesome, but I had no idea just HOW awesome she really is. Throughout the day I was completely humbled by her generosity.  Not only did she invite us into her cozy, light-filled studio - allowing us to snap away at all the amazing details of her displayed collections and artwork, she shared the inspiring story of her path from first grade teacher to fine artist, showed us her very first painting, and discussed her own battle with over-coming creative blocks, while offering insight on ours. 

Here is some of Lisa's most current work.  Her palette is really fresh and inspiring.  I love her use of pink and NEON (oh my lord! I thought I'd never be okay with it after the 80's, but now I'm so hooked!) Here are links if you are interested in seeing more of Lisa's fine art, or prints.

Lisa opened up her files to show us some other things she has worked on, including illustrations for book and retail clients, as well as her own book of photographs: A Collection a Day.

Did I mention the goody bags??  

Filled with all kinds of products with Lisa's artwork on them - these were the best goody bags ever!  Here are just a few of the surprises I found in mine:

The event wouldn't have been what it was without Danielle, The Jealous Curator, a Vancover-based graphic designer and artist in her own right.  Danielle spoke with utmost sincerity about her fears of "messing up the pristine white of a blank canvas" and not wanting to "spoil the perfect notebook." She shared her experience of "soul crushing" envy, and how her blog evolved.  

I was delighted when she pulled out exercises from The Artist's Way, by Julia Cameron to help launch our discussions.  It's been a while since I first read and began practicing some of the teachings in this book.  It might be a little too "self-helpy" for some, but I remember loving doing the "morning pages", and I still apply some of the techniques when I'm feeling stuck.  

After feasting on a delicious lunch from Square Meals, we got down to the business of exploring our creative blocks.  The event drew an impressive group of creative, warm-hearted, accomplished women with varying backgrounds and interests.  I paired off with the lovely Bridget Watson Payne, book editor for Chronicle Books, to do a little creative soul searching.  

Then we all bundled up and headed out into the sunlight for a gallery walk in Lisa's neighborhood.   


We checked out Guerrero Gallery and Southern Exposure, before landing at the gallery that reps Lisa's work in San Francisco, Gallery Hijinks.  We met with owner/director Jillian Mackintosh-who is an inspiration herself-having decided to open a gallery at the age of 27! I love the vibe in this space, especially with all the bold swatches of color they have painted on the walls for their current exhibition, Infinite Color.


We returned to the studio to sip tea from an assortment of vintage tea cups donated by Victoria of SF Girl by the Bay and delicious treats from Batter, some of which were inspired by Lisa's artwork - like these yummy chocolate ganache cookies sprinkled with neon pink non-pareils! I love how Lisa combines intricate, but subtle pencil drawings with bold pops of color...


As we sipped tea and nibbled, we did a little more wrangling with our inner critics, and this was really my favorite part of the day!  As we took turns sharing some of our personal jealousies, the idea emerged when we identify what we are jealous of, and why - when we are capable of saying it out loud, then we are able to see it for what it truly is (profound admiration), and then we can let it inspire us towards action.  

All in all, it was a great event!  The best part?  Meeting all of these awesome, generous, supportive women. Who says creative endeavors need to be laden with competitive perfectionism?  After so many years of doing commercial art, I'm ready to start creating something I can truly call my own.  It felt great to leave Lisa's studio full of inspiration and breathing a lot easier.  Time to just shut up and DO IT!


Thank you Danielle and Lisa for a truly awesome day! Girl Crush events are also going to be held in Los Angeles, New York, Seattle, Portland, Minneapolis, Austin and Philadelphia. You can sign up here

Special thanks to Taylor Seury, Maggie Hannon, Tiffanie Turner, Bridget Watson Payne, and Samantha Howe for allowing me to include some of their great photographs of the event here.  I learned from them (all bloggers as well) that I have a ways to go in honing my reportage skills! Please visit the blogs and sites of my fellow attendees to see what they're up to:

daily dose of sunlight - Taylor Seury - Maggie Hannon

Corner Blog - Tiffanie Turner

Pippa's Cabinet - Bridget Watson Payne

The Renovation Diaries - Samantha Howe

Cargoh Blog - Cariann Nesler Burger

Catie Cake - Catie Anchev

Still Maybe Studios - Staci Marie Leech-Cornell



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