Lisa L. Cyr

Lisa L. Cyr creates evocative illustrations with a unique blend of spontaneity and refined craftsmanship. She utilizes abstract textures, colors, and tactile objects skillfully woven together with tightly rendered images to communicate complex concepts. Lisa’s work has been exhibited both nationally and internationally and is included in the permanent collection of the Museum of American Illustration. She is also an accomplished author with her finger on the pulse of the creative industry.
I caught up with Lisa between speaking engagements to ask her a few questions about her work and get her take on what’s happening in the world of illustration.

Q:  You’re work is often built around a strong conceptual solution. How do you approach a conceptual assignment?
A:  Clients come to me when a story, text or concept is difficult to visualize or the subject matter calls for a more cerebral solution. I often get assignments that call for illuminating abstract ideas such as the passing of time or opposing themes like life and death, good and evil or disappointment and acceptance that need to be portrayed within the same image.

I always begin with research, an integral part of the process. After amassing myself in a topic, I synthesize what I have unearthed, making vital connections and establishing relationships that bring the concept to life. Clever editing is always used as a way to create room for imaginative interpretation, inviting the viewer to personally invest in the overall concept.

In my work, I often use layers of symbolism, metaphors and allegory as a way to stimulate curiosity, provoke thought and encourage the viewer to look deeper to discover anew. There is an element of storytelling present but it’s more poetic rather than narrative in nature. I am interested in emotionally and intellectually engaging the viewer, creating a multi-sensual experience rather than a slice-of-life scene.

Q:  You’re work uses a multitude of media. What does a multimedia aesthetic offer in the communications process?
A:  My work is not only layered in concept but also in media, a rhythmic synthesis of drawing, painting, collage, assemblage and sculpture within the same picture plane. Choices in materials and technique are never random but deliberate and conscious, based upon their ability to most effectively communicate a concept. Through my work and the research that I’ve gained by writing books on innovative production and processes, I’ve learned a lot about how various materials and techniques can evoke innate responses based upon their inherent properties and the cultural and historical connotations that have been attributed to them over time. I use this knowledge to yield a more emotionally-driven image.

My compositions employ disparate and fragmented typographic elements, ideograms and ephemera that have been taken out of their ordinary context and reorganized, overlapped and juxtaposed to impose the power of suggestion. I use a push pull process, where I put things onto the working surface only to later scrape, scratch and peel back into it, arriving at an environment that ignites the imaginative faculties. To push the picture plane into the third dimension, I will often insert boxes, apply imaginary windows and add assemblage accents in a visually dynamic way. Throughout my work, the various pictorial elements I employ take on multiple roles and the visual field becomes a playground for the mind. A profile on my work will be featured in an upcoming issue of The Artist’s Magazine (June 2009). I also have work coming out in SPECTRUM 15: The Best in Contemporary Fantastic Art.

Q:  Describe your ideal assignment.
A:  I’ve been very fortunate in my career to be able to do assignments that are ideal and perfect for me. Since I am in control of the content of my work, I have built a career around my own interests. My life experiences are what drive my work. Because I write and illustrate, I get to choose the topic and what I want to translate in words as well as pictures.

For me, the artistic process begins with an inspired idea. From there, the idea is flushed out, set into a format (ie. book, article, card series, calendar and other merchandising etc.) and sold to a quality publisher with an international distribution channel. The work is then written, illustrated, designed, produced and put out into the culture. I am also very involved in the marketing of my projects, actively speaking across the country at art organizations, industry conferences and universities. Lectures, events and exhibits allow me to share the content to a targeted audience, garnishing feedback and energizing me for the next project.

Q:  Can you talk about your most recent book called Art Revolution?
A:  Art Revolution (June 2009, North Light Books) is at the forefront in exploring alternative, innovative ways of conceptualizing and creating art that is on the cutting-edge. Throughout the highly visual book, insightful and thought-provoking profiles of leading artists and illustrators accompany stellar, multi-media work. The book also provides insight into the historical influences behind contemporary thinking and approaches, investigating the origins of alternative, unconventional picture making throughout the decades. In addition, exciting splash spreads, featuring demonstrations and behind-the-scene looks at groundbreaking artists at work, help shed light on signature processes and techniques.

There is a rich amalgam of media available to creatives today, offering a wide range of possibilities for exploration and experimentation. Art Revolution is on the cutting-edge, revealing how alternative, mixed media aesthetics is uniting the disciplines of two-dimensional, three-dimensional, digital and new media art in inventive combinations. For those wanting to venture outside the norm, a complete directory of the manufacturers and suppliers used by the artists featured is listed in the back of the book so that sourcing materials, gaining access to health and safety procedures and obtaining additional information on unconventional techniques and approaches are easily accessible.

The demands, distractions and challenges present in today’s fast-paced, chaotic world make it ever more difficult to break through the sea of mediocrity to make a memorable, lasting connection with an audience. For artists that are looking for an edge, wanting to push their work further, this book is a valuable asset and ongoing source for inspiration.

The artists featured in the book include Marshall Arisman, Brad Holland, Dave Mckean, Barron Storey, David Mack, Fred Otnes, Kazuhiko Sano, Lisa L. Cyr, Cynthia von Buhler, Rudy Gutierrez, Michael Mew, Lynne Foster, Kathleen Conover, Robert Maloney, Susan Leopold, A.E. Ryan, Stephanie Dalton Cowan, Matt Manley, Richard Tuschman, Dorothy Simpson Krause and Camille Utterback.

In addition, Reinterpret, Reinvent and Redefine is an insightful lecture and highly visual presentation that will be available upon the launch of the book. Interested organizations, universities and the media can visit for more details.

Q:  You write and lecture extensively about the business of illustration and the creative industry in general. What is your perception of the health of the illustration business?
A:  The economic climate has crippled budgets and left buyers to seek alternatives, opening up the competitive landscape to corporate stock houses and royalty free imagery. Although the markets for print have become fragmented, we are seeing tremendous growth in the areas of new media. For illustrators, the entertainment-based markets of gaming and animated films yield exciting and prosperous avenues—offering not only onsite and offsite freelance work but also fulltime employment with benefits, stock options and bonuses in a very upwardly mobile industry. For information on these markets, check out my article, Interactive Storytelling, in the Communication Arts Illustration Annual (July 2008). To remain viable, illustrators, more than ever, need to become more entrepreneurial in their approach, developing their own content and not simply relying on the market for guidance.

Q:  You’re married to Christopher Short, a successful illustrator with a very different approach and technique from your own. Does that create any special challenges for a marriage?
A:  Prior to working as a prolific 3D illustrator and animator, Chris was an amazing oil painter of beautiful figurative subjects for mass market book publishers. He switched to the digital realm as a way to dramatically increase not only the number of jobs that he could handle in a week but also the variety of work. Chris has always had a passion for music and film. By working 3D, he now has the ability to animate and add sound to the work he creates. His work can also be seen on Profilestock and at

The biggest challenge that we face is security for the long-term. Because we both work exclusively as freelancers, it’s important that jobs continually flow in. It takes a lot of effort and work to make that happen every week. But, when you have a mortgage and are supporting a family, you get up each day hitting the pavement hard, developing intellectual property and sending out proposals in search of new opportunities for the work to move and grow. Between the two of us, there isn’t a market that we haven’t tapped.

Many of our illustrator friends have a spouse with a fulltime gig to supplement slow times and for health insurance and benefits. We have to supply those things ourselves. When I had my daughter, there was no maternity leave. I worked right up to the delivery and then continued to work right after she was born. It’s challenging to juggle everything, but I’ve been doing it for over 25 years. The last ten years have been with my husband Chris and I have enjoyed the collaboration ever since.


Lisa L. Cyr’s website:

Lisa L. Cyr’s stock archive:


All images copyright © 2008 Lisa L Cyr. All rights reserved.

3 Responses

  1. Your work is a total inspiration. I have never seen quite this synthesis of sculpture and painting before. I am in awe!


  2. I noticed that this is not the first time you mention this topic. Why have you chosen it again?

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