("Disintegration" by Lisa Kurt, courtesy of the artist)
For the month of Mysterious, I'm so excited to introduce you to my friend Lisa Kurt. Lisa creates amazing characters in her work that always play with a bit of otherworldliness. In her 5 Questions, Lisa chats about her journey in illustration. Find more about her at LisaKurt.com.
Lisa Kurt is an artist and illustrator living and working in Reno, NV since 2008. She grew up and lived in the Boston area, receiving her BFA in illustration from the Massachusetts College of Art and MS in Library Science from Simmons College.
Lisa works primarily with acrylics and mixed media on canvas or wood panels; her work integrates maps and other ephemera within her paintings. Through her work, she explores stories that involve people, animals, and creatures in mysterious settings, often incorporating nature and the unexpected. Her work entails traces of nostalgia and melancholy that allow a bit of mystery to remain. Lisa’s work focuses on themes surrounding nature, memory, stories, mythologies, allegory, and dreams.
Lisa has recently illustrated a new children's book, Sarla in the Sky, published by Bharat Babies: https://bharatbabies.com/products/sarla-in-the-sky
Q01: Where do you find inspiration for your work?
Nature, music, and stories are the three things that seem to have always been with me from a young age along with the art so I find them pretty comforting and inspirational. I have some go to spots in nature when I need it and a couple of musicians on rotation, particularly when I'm painting and working to conjure a certain mood in my studio. And I'm always reading books and seeking stories about people. I have my own of course but I get a real kick out of people watching and hearing other people tell a good story.
Q02: Let's go back to the beginning. Do you remember your very first illustration? Did you know from that moment it was going to be a big part of your life?
I think I was pretty small when I start making my own little books and drawing in them. I would try to figure out how to make the binding- though I wasn't very good at it but the overall concept of a book with pictures was there when I was a kid. I would cartoon and write little stories and poems in them. I knew from a pretty young age that I wanted to make picture books and art for a living. I met children's authors and illustrators when I was tiny so it was always there for me. I could also spend a long time alone making things- that was such a pleasure.
("empathy + uncertainties" by Lisa Kurt)
Q03: What is your favorite kind of illustration work? And what surprises you most about this as a career?
When it comes to illustration work, I most enjoy making picture books. It doesn't have to be my story, I just enjoy the process of learning who the characters and setting are, and figuring out the whole flow of the story. It's such a process and very collaborative and it takes time but I enjoy making these kinds of illustrations. I'm not sure if much about this career surprises me but it certainly keeps me interested. It's still difficult to get your work in front of the right people- despite all of the tools out there. Most illustrators I talk with who are about where I am in their careers seem to struggle as I do between making time to make work and making time for promotion and getting seen. In an ideal world illustrators could focus much more on the work itself.
Q04: What's a dream goal of yours?
I try new things all the time so as long as I can keep doing that and making things I enjoy making, that's my dream. I feel like I have a lot of stories in me to tell so I hope I can tell more of them through my paintings and drawings. I always hope to reach more people too and I'd love to make more picture books of course, but really at the end of the day I just want to keep making work and enjoying the process of it.
("the courage inside you" by Lisa Kurt)
Q05: What words of wisdom do you have for young illustrators-to-be?
Please don't give up. No matter what happens in your life always make some art. It can be a rocky road with some isolating moments and we are all way too hard on ourselves. I stopped painting for years and came very close to giving up altogether and I wish I had kept making work. Even just for myself and even if I never shared it. Breaks are okay but don't make them too long. If you only ever make art just to make it because you loved it that is really all that matters. We get so caught up in what everyone else is doing or not feeling good enough. So my wisdom is just always make art of some kind.
See more of Lisa's work at her website LisaKurt.com or on Instagram @LisaKurt. All photos courtesy of the artist herself.