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This month I'm happy to share my interview with local artist, Lisa Berman. I met Lisa through Mati McDonough's online course, Daring Adventures for Creative Biz. We connected at a Creative Morning talk in Oakland and then later I had the pleasure to visit her open studio in Berkeley. I love taking online courses because it fits well with my schedule, but nothing beats meeting a real live person. So, I was so excited to find out that Lisa was in the area and willing to get together. Like many creative women, Lisa is talented in not just one area. She's a graphic designer, painter, photographer and musician! I love the advice she shared in her interview and challenge you to follow it. 

How would you describe your work?

I see myself as a graphic designer, an artist, and an aspiring photographer. The last couple of years I'm really enjoying getting back into working with my hands more (getting off my computer, as much as I appreciate it) via paint, pen-and-ink, calligraphy, and photography. I love the balance of really colorful, and also simple and sparse - ie black-and-white art. As much as I enjoy graphic design (which I do as my main line of work), it's important to me to balance helping clients, with creating from a place of complete personal freedom.

What mediums do you most frequently use?

Acrylic, pen-and-ink, sumi brush/ink, calligraphy, scratchboard, letterpress, photography, collage.

Describe your workspace.

I'm super grateful to be part of Teahouse Studio in Berkeley. I love sharing the space with 6 other creative women entrepreneurs. I worked from home for many years and was longing for some creative company. We encourage each other, inspire each other, and it's good networking, too. We're all quite focused when we work (and quieter than I expected 7 gals would be!), however, we take the time to share lunch and ideas when possible. I'll admit I wish that I'd been more a part of Teahouse while they were offering a lot of workshops, as it's been a long-time dream of mine to open a space like that - still thinking about it!


Describe a typical day in the studio for you. Do you keep any routines? Are you a full time artist or do you have another job?

Most days I'm doing graphic design for my main livelihood. Saturdays are spent with my 8-year-old son. Sometimes we'll do art projects at the studio or gather a bunch of friends for a fun project. 

Sundays are my main dedicated day to create for fun (though some weeks I'm playing catch up). Occasionally I'll stay late at night during the week to do a little creative work after being at my computer.

Where do you find inspiration for your work?

I'm a fairly recent Instagram addict, I love that it's so visual. I also appreciate Pinterest. AND, I'm doing my best to be on social media less and use that time instead to create.

I had the good fortune to spend a week in Mexico with Flora Bowley in 2014 and learned to paint from a place of intuition, or "process painting." ... the opposite of how I learned to create in college in my design, painting, and photography classes! 

It's been so freeing. It feels really good to learn to trust myself again.

What’s some good advice you got that you would like to share with other artists?

Lots of creative reminders that it's OK (more than OK) to be true to who you are, and not have to fit into what others expect of you. (How else are we going to live our dreams!?)

To just BEGIN! Take those small steps, do something, anything. And, to be willing to "F it up" - make mistakes, try things that you haven't tried or even heard of before. Also, being willing to ask questions, and ask for help.

What are your thoughts about being a woman and an artist? How does it inform your work, if it does? 

I love this "new" wave of women entrepreneurs - so much support for women artists - from women artists - creating a new route that's different than the previous business models out there. 

Social media does help a lot, too - and women seem to like to share and write about their experiences, thankfully ;). The whole digital world is so vast, and so small - amazing to connect with folks all over the world.

Also, being a mom somehow helps me relate to creating (art, music, whatever really) as a sort of "birthing" process - creating something that didn't exist before, in that particular form, anyway.

Is there anything about the Bay Area that is especially beneficial or not so beneficial to artists? Any Bay Area artists that you follow or admire?

I mostly grew up in San Diego, which has beautiful beaches, but tends to be pretty conservative. When I went off to college at Cal Poly and learned from visiting artists/designers from San Francisco - I knew that that is where I wanted to end up.

I love that the Bay Area is so wide open - to different cultures and ways of being. I love partaking in classes and conversations in local spaces like Handcraft Studio, Makeshift Society, CreativeLive, and CreativeMornings.

Looking at: my current favorite artist is Lauren McIntosh (co-owner of Tail of the Yak). She's a painter, print-maker, calligrapher, and more! I'm taking her calligraphy class right now in her beautiful home, surrounded by her insanely gorgeous paintings and prints - ah. I'm also lucky to be inspired by Mati McDonough daily as we share a studio. I love her playfulness and use of color plus including words of wisdom or poems. I am always inspired by my good friend, Angela Hennessy's deep, beautiful, and thoughtful work. I also love Rae Dunn's ceramics and aesthetic.


Who are you reading, looking at or listening to these days?

Reading: Thich Nhat Hanh for reminders to breathe, accept, and be present; Brene Brown for courage and willingness to be vulnerable; Tiny Beautiful Things (aka Dear Sugar); and a few other books on combining art & business (Lisa Congdon's for example). Also reading lots of kids' books to my son (recently, the creative and wacky Shel Silverstein ;)

Looking at: again, Lauren McIntosh, Mati McDonough, Flora Bowley, so many brush letterers (especially from Australia! found on Instagram). I have a lot of favorites - impossible to list them all.

Listening to: I'm an old-time string band musician, as well (though no longer touring very much), so I am mostly up on the traditional, acoustic music scene. Then again, I also do Zumba - so I'm learning a lot of those songs, as well!

Any final words or thoughts or upcoming projects that you would like to share? What are you working on these days?

First, I want to thank you, Nancy. I'm honored that you asked me to take part in your "I Was Curious About Her" project. I'm so glad that we met in Mati McDonough's "Creative Biz" course,

and that we still see each other at Creative Mornings. You are such an inspiration with all that you do, and your enthusiastic, warm attitude. I hope to take one of your classes sometime soon (that hike and paint combo sound fabulous, for instance)! 

What I'm working on these days: I recently launched my etsy shop, which is exciting! It's "Lisa Berman Studio." I am slowing gathering my ideas and images to create a couple of custom books - a "leave-behind" portfolio, and one that's completely for fun and exploration - things I'm drawn to. I'd also like to eventually do a series of books on important topics - perhaps titled "It Can't Wait." I'd like to share more art and creating with others - through selling my work and through teaching and hopefully inspiring others. I plan to do a "Sumi Ink Club" gathering soon (based on the club happening in LA! Of course, there's still my eventual dream to run a workshop studio/space for art (and occasional music) with a sweet little cafe!


Thanks, Nancy!

Here are my links:

Lisa Berman

(and for anyone that's interested in my music, too: /

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