Lisa Congdon and Gertrude Stein

From Lisa’s blog:

“Most illustrators or designers will tell you that every now and again a job comes along that makes your heart skip a beat. Late in 2011, I got one such call from Chronicle Books. They asked me to illustrate a collection of Gertrude Stein poetry called Tender Buttons, Objects. When I got the call, I was currently going through my second period of obsession with Stein, her life and work, after seeing the phenomenal exhibit Seeing Gertrude Stein: Five Stories at the Contemporary Jewish Museum in San Francisco. My first period of obsession occurred in the early 90′s when I was in my early 20′s. At that time, I read everything I could get my hands on about Stein and her partner Alice B. Toklas, and their life in Paris.

So when I got the call, I was more than excited. I was ecstatic! This was for me a dream job.

If you know anything about Stein’s poetry, you know she played with words, and many of her poems don’t really make much sense. Here’s an example of a poem from Tender Buttons, Objects:

‘Enthusiastically hurting a clouded yellow bud and saucer, enthusiastically so is the bite in the ribbon’

And so I also knew this would be a challenging assignment, illustrating abstract poems. But I reveled in the idea of putting pictures to Stein’s words, as difficult as it might be. Chronicle graciously allowed me to concept all of the illustrations myself. This was the most creative freedom I’d ever had in a job, and I loved it.

Of course, I did get stuck a few times, and my editor and designer were there to help me concept ideas. In the end, we came up with about 40 illustrations for the book. Here is a sneak peek at a few of my favorites (without accompanying poetry; you’ll have to buy the book to see that!):

All the illustrations are gouache and graphite on paper.

Tender Buttons, Objects will be released this Spring, around March, so stay tuned. You can pre-order the book here on Chronicle’s website or on Amazon.

1 Comment

  • Intriguing

    by Robin Gartner
    January 8, 2023

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