Meet Lisa Congdon: Fine artist, illustrator, cyclist, and author. We've been big fans of her bold, beautiful art and personal style for years. Translating that style to the blank canvas of our Rover Pack Mini was a perfect match. All you need is a Sharpie and an imagination. Lisa, you're everything both timeless and original. Learn more about Lisa's path into art and cycling, her inspiration, and the ability to keep up with a busy life below.
Can you tell us about your art career path?
I discovered art when I was about 32 years old after I switched jobs, went through a breakup and moved in by myself. I was looking for something to fill my time and feed my soul, and I began taking art classes. At first, I was terrible at drawing and painting, just like any beginner. But I loved it! And I got comfortable with being a beginner. I set up a little "studio" at my kitchen table in my tiny apartment and started painting on the weekends and at night. Creativity oozed out of me and I became obsessed. A few years later the internet started to become a space for creative people. I joined Flickr and started a blog. And that was really the beginning for me, because I started sharing the stuff I was making publicly. And I found a community there as well. I kept making art and learning new techniques and sharing. And I started getting commissions. Over the past two decades since then I slowly developed my artistic voice and skill and built a business.
What's been your cycling career path? How did the two link up?
I'd hardly call it a career BUT I do love to ride bikes. I have been riding bikes since I was 28, when I first got on a road bike. I rode off and on, with various levels of seriousness from then on. When I turned 50, I joined a women's cycling club here in Portland and began riding more regularly. Then during the pandemic, my best riding buddy and teammate, Jodee, introduced me to gravel cycling. Once I went on a trail for the first time, I was all in. I began gravel racing last year, and have met some incredible people who are really stars in the gravel cycling world and who have become heroes and mentors to me, including Serena Bishop Gordon and Sarah Sturm. I've ramped up my training and this season I am competing in 9 events! I designed my first kit back in 2015 for Lentine Alexis and her teammates who attempted Cape Epic in South Africa. Then a couple years later I did my first of what would eventually be two jersey designs for Velocio. In the last two years I've started talking even more openly about my love for cycling on social media, and since then I've started to get all kinds of cool collaborations with cycling companies – from Schwinn to some I can't talk about yet but that I am very excited about. I just designed a poster for the Filmed by Bike film festival here in Portland. I love cycling and I love art and I love that these two things that matter so much to me have merged.
What keeps you inspired, both on and off the bike?
Well, let me say first that cycling keeps me sane and in my body. My job as an artist is so cerebral and requires intense focus, so I do a lot of sitting and drawing and I spend hours in my head. Then I get on my bike and get all my energy out and get present with my body and my breath. I think feeling energized and happy in my body makes me a better artist. It keeps me more present in my work. Cycling feeds my creativity. I owe my level head and zest for life to cycling.
Tell us about your connection to our mutual friend Sarah Sturm.
Well it's a great story. Last year I registered for the Oregon Trail Gravel Grinder, which is this stupidly hard gravel stage race in Oregon where you ride over intense terrain (sand, lava rocks, etc) over 350 miles and 30,000 feet of climbing. I had no idea what I was getting myself into. Anyhow, a few days before the race, I saw the race organizers posted on Instagram about some pros who were coming to race. And one of them was Sarah. So I began following her. And moments later, she posted in her Instagram stories that she was "fan girling" that I followed her and she tagged me. Turns out she's also a graphic designer and she'd been following me for some time, was a fan, owned some of my work and had taken one of my online classes. So I wrote to her to say hello and promised to say hello during the race. So the first day of the race I met her at dinner and she's incredibly kind and goofy and has this amazing laugh. And literally every day of the race after that we'd see each other and she was winning the women's field so I'd congratulate her. Anyway, the last day I fell off my bike right in front of her on some sand as she sped past me (the pros started after the amateurs that day) and I shouted, "Of course I fall in front of you!!" and she laughed and was like "Is that you, Lisa?" and we still laugh about it today. After the race I had her on my podcast, and then she interviewed me on Gravelle. And we've stayed in touch. And she's such a great mentor to me, as is Serena Bishop Gordon, who finished right behind Sarah in that race and has also become a mentor to me. And I also befriended Sarah's mom Margie, who drove Sarah's bus from point to point on the race, and who is amazing. I am racing Oregon Trail again this year (albeit more prepared) and I can't wait to do it all over again. Except maybe not falling in front of Sarah.
You seem to keep pretty busy… what do you do to stay sane/decompress/self-care/relax?
I go to bed at 9:30-10 every night. I take strategic rest days. I get a massage almost once a week. And acupuncture every two weeks. I eat good food. I enjoy my wine and a little bourbon. I am grateful for my life, I laugh a lot and I don't take myself too seriously.
How did you choose the design for the Rover Pack?
Well, I don't have much experience embellishing fabric that is three dimensional. And I was worried that if I painted the backpack I would ruin it somehow. So I decided to stick to a technique that I knew I could control on a three dimensional surface, which is a sharpie drawing! I love drawing botanical illustrations and decided to do a pattern all over with a sharpie. It's very meditative.
Any advice for younger artists hoping to make a career out of their work? Any advice you wish you could go back and give to your younger self?
Hang in there. It takes a long time to establish yourself enough to make a career. So find another way to make money for a while and focus on finding your style and perspective as an artist. Keep making work and keep putting it out there. Mostly, be yourself. Make the art that makes you happy.