Below is an awesome Q&A that Kathryn Adebayo (@KATHRYNADEBAYO) conducted with Lisa:
This month's featured artist fuels the fire within herself and other members of the SVS Learn community with a tenacious dedication to her craft. If you've been perusing the SVS Learn forums lately, you may know her! Here's a chance to learn from, and about, children's illustrator Lisa Burvant.
Could you tell us a bit about yourself?
My name is Lisa Burvant. I am married with one teen, living in the foothills of Northern California where I have lived the majority of my life. I have a BA in Fine Arts. I worked in the graphic design and printing industry for over 15 years, when I stopped to stay at home and raise my son. I am an artist. I like saying that, it makes me feel confident, even when I’m not. I believe I have been an artist my whole life, and it all started with a box of Crayola crayons. My first box of 64. I would take them out and organize them by color then carefully place them in order back in the box, and hoard them, like Gollum with the Ring, from other children. =)x
Can you remember the first time you considered becoming an illustrator? What has happened since then to take you down that path?
Sixth grade. A friend of mine and I wanted to start a greeting card company because we were experts at drawing Garfield. So much so that my father started grooming me to be a newspaper comic artist…it didn’t take, although I did develop a strong love of the Sunday funnies - Calvin and Hobbes, Rose is Rose and The Far Side being my favorites, and of course Garfield. I did start making art for people though. Logo designs mostly. In college, in one of my beginning graphic design classes, a professional illustrator came to speak. I cannot remember his name, but I do remember the heart breaking disappointment that he instilled in me. He said to the class that 80% of us would never make it in illustration and should just give up and do something else. So my teen brain took that to heart, and I pursued fine art instead of illustration. I got a job in the printing industry after college. I was a prepress technician, with the occasional in-house illustrator job. Then I became a scanner operator and photoshop became my life. I loved it! But while I had a good job, I continued to work on my own art. At home I was Burvant Illustration. I did little freelance stuff for friends and family, graphic design and fine art. Never sold any of my own fine art, though. Turns out, I really suck at marketing. In 2013, I became a breast cancer survivor and my perspective on my life changed dramatically. I really wanted a true art career and started focusing harder on that goal. Fast forward to a couple of years ago, I was working on a great idea that my good friend came up with. I ended up working very hard on his project, proving to myself that I could work on my OWN dream that hard. So I dug deep down, told that ghost-of-the-a-hole-illustrator-from-college to go shine himself, and here I am. I WILL be a children’s book illustrator. Lesson: Don’t procrastinate to go after your dreams. I won’t reveal my age, but lets just say I laughed REALLY hard at the 3 Point Perspective Am I Too Old? podcast.
What has been the greatest challenge, so far, in pursuing your art dreams, and what have you learned from struggling with it?
First is Guilt. Guilty for spending time working on art that isn’t providing anything toward the cost of living for my family. My husband is supportive, even so, I am still hard on myself.
Second is Marketing. Getting myself known and seen. I do the submissions and try to network (BTW, Twitter is a crazy mess of brain vomit, with the occasional gem that keeps me going back. I can’t decide if this is fortunate or not). I really need to master marketing. I know that it is handicapping me. That’s why I am so thankful for SVS Learn. It covers the business side of illustration in addition to the fun stuff.
How has your art evolved in the last year or two? Could you share an example of an early work and a piece that's more recent? What do you think has evolved, and what did you do that helped you improve?
After finding Will Terry and SVS Learn, I have improved a lot. Mentally more so than artistically. I think I have a very good art fundamental base, I just needed the mental confidence to push through my own stupid barriers. The How To Discover Your Style class helped me, tremendously, to SEE where I want to go with my own style. I am still working through that one. I guess theoretically I always will be. I think I am getting better at telling a story in my illustrations. Before I was more focused on capturing a moment in time or mood (fine arty stuff), and now it’s about what or why something is happening in the image. And my values are finally becoming more contrasted. I’ve always struggled with pushing the darks, finding the light.
Can you share a few more examples of your work?
These are a few of my most recent additions to my portfolio.
On your website, you mention looking for representation by an agent. What are your hopes, career-wise, in illustration?
Ideally, I would like to make art for children every day of my life until I die… and get paid for it, of course.
What do you think children's literature and illustration do for society?
All I can speak to is from my own experiences. My grandmother had a basket of children’s books in the room I slept in when I came to visit. All sorts, from Little Golden books to Dr. Seuss and pop-ups. I don’t remember anyone ever reading with me, but I remember that basket. And the stories in it that have stayed with me my entire life. Did they shape who I am? I like to think that they had a part in it. I still have most of the books from that basket. It would be neat if I could create a book that would stay with a child for their whole life. That they might share it with their children.
If you would be interested in sharing your work for a chance to be featured for September head over to the SVS Learn Forum and post your best work by August 10th.