How did you become an artist?
I drew all the time when I was a child. I would hand in book reports that were fully illustrated, and I would write stories and illustrate them. I was terrible at painting, but loved to draw.
I went to Parsons School of Design, and then I took courses at New York Academy, School of Visual Arts, National Academy Museum and School of Fine Arts, The Art Students League and Cooper Union.
It sounds strange, but one day when I was young, I was drawing a tree across the street from my grandparents’ farm in my sketchbook. My father came up and looked at my drawing and said, “You should be an illustrator”. From then on, that’s what I wanted to be.
Are there one or more artists whose work is an influence?
I don’t remember looking at any picture books when I was small, except for one Golden Book, which I still have. But I had some of the Andrew Lang Fairy Tales books, which had very detailed Edwardian pen and ink illustrations. I poured over them for hours, looking at everything. Later, I discovered Beatrix Potter and Arthur Rackham, whose work I love. And then I discovered all those 19th illustrators, Edmund Dulac, Kay Neilsen, Charles Robinson, and the 20th century illustrators, Arthur Szyk, Howard Pyle, and another favorite of mine, N.C. Wyeth. I could go on and on.
Being an illustrator, whatever job I get inspires me. Painting for myself, I collect things that catch my eye. I may pick something up while on a walk and keep it on a shelf until I have a use for it. I keep files of images that interest me and might get me thinking of a painting. I am attracted to textures, and love to paint things that only exist in my mind. Plus, whenever I can get outside, I like to do little plein aire paintings in oil or watercolor, usually no bigger than 2 ½” by 3 ½”. I’m usually out walking my dogs, and I can’t take a lot of time to paint. I’ve started painting landscapes of morning and evening twilight, since that’s usually when I get outside.
If the painting is for a client, I get the information on what they want, then do the necessary research and find the correct reference material. Then I do little thumbnail sketches, and from there, pick a few that seem to work. If I’m doing a book cover, I usually like to do three sketches, in color, to show the client. When one is picked, I do a final drawing, and when that is approved, move on to a painting.
For myself, I get an idea, sketch it down, then in some cases, don’t work on it for years, and just think about how to do it. I have folders and folders of ideas, and when I have the time, I go through them, work some more, and then eventually paint them. An example of that is a year ago I was doodling while listening to a lecture. I started to draw a woman with a pumpkin for a hairdo, then a pumpkin for a gown. Sometime later, I went through pictures of pumpkins and leaves and tendrils and put that into the folder. More time went by, and while at a farmers market on the way back from the Outer Banks, I saw an unusual type of pumpkin, and brought it back, and from there, did a drawing, then a painting.
Are there links where more of you art can be seen?
Yes, I have my website, http://www.lisafalkenstern.com
I am also on:
What types of markets do you create art for?
I have mostly done all my work for publishing companies. I spent over twenty years doing book covers, and then I switched to picture books, but I still do covers as well as other jobs that come in. My steampunk ABC book comes out on April 15th!
Do you do other things regarding art like teaching?
I have taught a few classes and workshops, but since I feel I am still learning about art, I feel uncomfortable telling other people what to do.
I have gone on school visits but I don’t consider that teaching, that’s fun.
Do you pursue other creative interests like writing or music?
I have become an author/illustrator of two picture books, A Dragon Moves In and my upcoming book, Professor Whiskerton Presents Steampunk ABC. I sculpt my book characters to have something to paint from and for many years I was a very avid gardener. I had to give that up as that took too much time.
Where can your art be seen? Is it on products, books, etc?
My work is almost entirely on book covers and in picture books. My original art has been in several shows, one in Bold Hype Gallery in New York City last year and I am in the upcoming Focus On Nature Show in the New York State Museum in Albany. I also have shown paintings in the Bucks County Gallery in New Hope, PA, and well as in Gallery 440 in Park Slope.
That I am able to communicate on an artistic level with other people. I am always amazed when people I don’t know email me and tell me how much they like my work. It’s something to paint that’s personal to you and other people appreciate it.