Painting Stories: An Interview With One Of My Favorite Illustrators, Lisa Kurt


Today's featured artist and inspiring woman is Lisa Kurt! I love Lisa's work, and have for several years now, so I was thrilled to see that this year she realized one of her biggest dreams - illustrating a children's book! 

You can imagine how thrilled I was to discover that the book, Sarla in the Sky, celebrates a strong, Indian woman! Seeing other illustrators working on bring more diversity into the children's book market is so encouraging, I love seeing the change happen. It makes sharing Lisa's work here extra special to me, and I hope her work and words inspire you as well.

Painting of a girl and animal on a map

 Who/what inspires you?

My biggest inspirations outside of other artists I admire are my family, music, and nature. My husband and son are both very creative and curious and I get ideas just being around them and getting their perspective on the world and seeing how they explore things.
Music is a big one for me as well. I listen to a lot of music especially when I'm building up a body of work for a show. A couple of my favorites are Sufjan Stevens and Townes Van Zandt- they are so melancholy and dark and lovely.
And nature has always been a part of my life; I grew up playing in the woods around my house- I loved it. Whenever I feel antsy or anxious- just getting near trees and water helps me feel better and more connected to the world. 

Sarla in the Sky children's book in hand

 What is one of the biggest dreams/goals you've reached in your career so far?

At this point my biggest dream I've achieved is illustrating a children's book that I really cared about. Sarla in the Sky is my first officially published book that I've illustrated and it is such an incredible story; it was a dream come true to work with the publisher, Bharat Babies, and the the author, Anjali Joshi, to bring her story to life. They trusted me so much and it was just such a pleasure to work on that project with them.

Painting of girl and fox under bush

 What inspires you to keep going when art-making times get tough?
It's funny that doing something I love so much can be so hard sometimes but it really can be. Self doubt is so crippling and it can be isolating at times, and I am very hard on myself. In those difficult moments I try to take a step back and remember why I do this and how I felt about being an artist as a child. I try to focus on the work itself and stay grateful for the opportunities I've had so far.
If things are very intense, I take walks, snuggle my dogs, or even just get outside for a hike or even just to breathe fresh air. I also take regular breaks and make coffee or switch tasks. I talk to my husband a lot if i'm struggling; we both work from home so we can have lunch and take breaks together. I try to mix it up so that I take some kind of action otherwise anxiety or fear get in my way.

Girl with falling flower petals

 What message/messages do you want to share with the world through your art?
I think of myself as a narrative artist- even in my gallery work. I imagine each piece is a story unfolding but there is always a mystery that even I don't have all the answers to and I don't want all the answers- that's what makes things so interesting. I love to not know everything- I dwell on mystery quite a lot and obsessing over the unknown is something I love about living. I would like people to feel a connection to their emotions when they view my work- whatever that might be. I think it's okay to feel sad and melancholy and all emotions are important to feel so I don't shy away from darker feelings because to me they are important not to ignore.

Girl and skeleton dog in graveyard

 Does motherhood influence your art, and vise versa? 

Yes- absolutely. I became a full time artist a couple of years after my son was born. I had taken a long break away from art and illustration and worked for several years in libraries and while I'd doodle and sketch- I had stopped painting for years and pretty much gave up. So when my son was born, suddenly I was extremely driven to create and start painting and drawing more often. I realized that I needed art to be front and center in my life again and I wanted to make changes so I was living my life in a way that would be more personally fulfilling. And being an artist makes me a more relaxed and happy parent as well.
I love the flexibility of working from home and feel like my life is less compartmentalized and more integrated which I like a lot. We also take my son to lots of art shows and events and he participates in a few too. He sincerely considers himself an artist; when he meets other artists he tells them, "I'm an artist also!" which is funny to me because it took me so many years before I felt comfortable saying that to people out loud without feeling like a fraud.
But he's right- he is an artist and he's confident about it at such a young age so I am learning from him. No matter what he decides to do for a living- art will always be there for him and it'll always be there for me too.

Painting of girl holding sailing ship in water

You can follow Lisa's work on Instagram and Facebook to see her process and her new paintings!

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