Uplifting Conversations

Creative Careers Interviews

Cartoonist and Artist Lilly Fluger

By Molly J. Anderson-Childers | Posted July 28, 2008 | Updated July 8, 2019

Art by Lilly FlugerGreetings, fellow word-wizards and denizens of the Dork Side. Welcome to the strange and delightful universe of Lilly Fluger. A talented cartoonist and an artist in her own right, as you can see at LillyArts.com, this Goddess of Lollipops and Sunshine Drops has agreed to discuss all things creative. Welcome to Creativity Portal, Lilly!

Lilly Fluger: Hi Molly. I am honored to be interviewed by you, and to be part of the great Creativity Portal website. I just love it.

Q: When did you first discover your talent for cartooning and painting? Which came first?

A: I am discovering my talent still. Some days more than others. I don't really know how it all started, but I wanted to be happy and laugh, and lighten up the seriousness of my life. So I played around with cartoon drawings. I wanted to be important and popular and be liked, so I tried to be clever and funny and get others to laugh. Painting came after.

I always had colors with me, from those 99-cent paint boxes to crayons to markers to little packets of the colored pencil stubs in mini zip-locks in my purse. Drawing funny doodlings just seemed to happen. Working at UCLA hospital, me and the pharmacy tech would draw and laugh. He came up with a funny idea, "Moonhorse," and we started a playful cartoon strip. At another pharmacy, my assistant and I started drawing a line of Christmas Cards with funny Santas and animals.

While living on an island in Florida, I got into designing and painting custom t-shirts for people. In Santa Monica, on a whim, I did menu illustration. The watercolors came much later, in Oregon. I always kept that as a far off dream. I took a watercolor class, and learned about the paints and papers and brushes.

In Portland, I signed up for a cartooning class. I arrived a bit late to notice that lots of adults were leaving the building. Was it cancelled? I head inside, and open the door, to see that it's filled with kids! Those were the moms leaving (who had driven their kids to the class). Everybody was 4-10 years old, 90% boys, and me! I felt so strange at first, but then realized, hey, I'm with my correct age group!

Q: When did you decide that a career in the arts was what you wanted, rather than a "day job?"

A: When I was born. But then, I also I thought arts=no money. And I never thought I really had a choice. So my plan was to get money first through what society and family said you should do, get rich, and then work part time and THEN finally pursue the fun times of exploring art play. Of course it never worked out that way, the rich part. And putting off fun? I learned that there is NO FUN in that. I never enjoyed my clinical pharmacy "career", because I never did it out of love. I made a long battle, and fought against it. I did that with anything that made me feel un-free. School, work. Family. So as I followed the shoulds, I rebelled like crazy inside. I thought art was cool and hip and "in" and all I wanted was to just feel free. I still resist the word "career." I prefer to say I want to feel good and play. I want a "career" in joy.

My favorite "career" is one I gave myself called Beach Monitor. We were living on site as caretakers of a church in Carmel by the Sea, California. The beach was six blocks away, and I dubbed myself beach monitor. I just went to the beach and monitored. It was a great beach. It was usually very empty. Beautiful houses, beautiful beach, nobody there. I'd read lots of art and drawing books. At night, I'd walk down and secretly sing and dance to the waves. That was a great career. Waves are a great audience.

Q: How has your experience of living and traveling in Europe shaped or influenced your work?

A: Living in Europe was an incredible adventure in life. But the aspect of my travels that influenced me most was people and life and the day-to-day things like food and lifestyle. Most of all, travelling there aided in building my self confidence in three years of wandering around without knowing what's next. I learned to trust life, to trust my self, and began building my connection to my inner inspiration source and allowing all my creative explorations to flow. Life is art first. Me as artist making art is secondary. Travelling taught me you can feel like crap in the most beautiful of places, and you can feel good in the the most horrible places.

Europe and the arts — especially France — seemed intimidating before I went. After I saw so many museums and the Mona Lisa and the David and Rodin's Penseur in person, the intimidation went away. I focused on the pleasure in the process of making the work and wanting that to be fun. I realized I was also very product oriented — it made me more determined to be "Princess Process", and stop trying to be so productive.

European values hold a sense of beauty and pleasure as being important and a big part of life. They encourage differences, and praise variety and eccentric unique slants. I loved that. That was very freeing.

Q: Can you talk about what influence, if any, the Shadow-Self has upon you and your work? It all seems so light and funny and sweet — Lilly's Magical Lollipop Kingdom — how do you navigate through darker waters? Is this "Dark Side" ever reflected in your work?

A: I have this "sunshine side" only because of darkness, and the strong desire to be happy and feel good that it caused in me. I am really quite well practiced in the (hehe heh) "dark arts." By that I smilingly mean, that I owe all this happy invincibility I feel to all the unwanted that I have experienced. Because of the law of attraction, (what you focus on you get more of), I don't really want to remember all the doubts, fears, lack of money, lack of health, lack of power, lack of freedom — all the struggles in my life made me want a deep understanding and clarity of how this universe works and to feel freedom, ease, and empowerment. But they were wonderfully powerful, motivating, and strong. Shadow is only the blocking of the light. Shadow is no force in itself. There is only a force of goodness, and thoughts we have that block it out in any given moment. Most of those thoughts are picked up from others around us and become habits.

Art by Lilly Fluger

How do I navigate through darker waters? In the past, I used action. I left my family, burned my pharmacy license, got mad, quit, and left it all to travel around and seek the magic of life. Now, I have a much easier method. I navigate by adjusting my thinking in the moment till it feels better. It took me a long time to make this transition because I thought life was hard, that simple and easy was a pipe dream. I thought if you ignored something unwanted, and focused on the wanted thing, you were living in some fantasy la la world. That you weren't being responsible and helping anything. After I learned about the law of attraction and the power of my own thoughts, it got clearer everyday. I like to think of myself as a belief wizard (Hocus Focus). Yes there's a cartoon. Or sometimes a thought swashbuckler, matey.

It is very important to allow one's self all the emotions — especially the ugly ones. Getting mad and raging and yelling and blaming and revenge thoughts are incredible self-empowerment tools. Not the taking of action, (that just causes trouble) and not staying in blame or anger forever. But letting yourself express it is a natural way to take you back into joy eventually. Every emotion is an indicator of how empowered we feel, and we have been taught that it's not nice to get angry or blame or rage. But that is the only path back to love. It's little steps.

So I navigate the darker waters of fear or despair, where there is no clarity, with getting damn hell mad, and reaching with thoughts to feel a little bit better. I am lucky cause my mom was off-the-charts inappropriate and a grand emotion expresser. She was a great example. (I didn't realize it at the time, of course.)

The dark side reflected in my work? Only in an appreciation of what negative feelings mean, as guidance — used as a joke in some Abrahamster cartoons. As I was reaching to grasp the concept of my feelings being my guidance from within, I would draw playful cartoon reminders for me. I used Abrahamster, based on Abraham Hicks, and made jokes about my inner hamster.

The dark side is the shadows; I use shadows ALL THE TIME! I love shadows. The shadows give rich beautiful 3D contrast and make all the colors stand out brilliantly in my watercolors! That's exactly what the 'unwanted contrast' of life does, it really brings into prominent focus and clarity the bright colors of joy.

Q: What is your greatest source of inspiration?

A: Nature. This week it is tropical fishes and unbelievable, incredible, uncanny, incomprehensible, magical creatures that nature makes that blow me away, like the leafy sea dragon. I also love animals and bugs and watching things sprout and hatch and flowers unfurling. I mean how do they do that?! I used to have preying mantis egg cases that hatched by accident in my bedroom. Boy that was exciting. I love going to the zoo to see the incredible zillions of animals and plants. I love travel and especially camping cause you get to walk and see nature up close. I love to explore a trail. I love waking up and your backyard is different and new. I love meeting new people. Going new places. New slants at living.

Q: Which painters have influenced your own work?

A: Chagall, Matisse, Picasso, Cezanne, Georgia O'Keeffe and Van Gogh. But I also love Frank Webb, Jeanne Dobie, Don Andrews, Barbara Nechis, Ann Pember, Jan Kunz, Nita Leland, Cathy Johnson, Steven Hanks and Bruce MacEvoy's fantastic watercolor website, handprint.com.

Q: Who are some of your favorite contemporary cartoonists and animators?

A: Quentin Blake, Jim Henson, Babette Cole, Dr. Seuss, Mark Parisi, Randy Glasbergen, Charles Schultz, Amy Winfrey, Kevin Henkes, Bruce Degen. Lots and lots of my favorites are children's book illustrators which is what I mostly read.

Q: When you get the Sunday paper, which section do you read first? (I personally go straight for the funnies!)

A: I don't get a Sunday paper. I don't read newspapers. For decades. Really. If I'm in a hotel and they drop a USA today, I look at the pretty colors in the weather section. I'll then look at recipes and food in the food section. And then comics. That is funny, I never thought about it.

Q: Who is your favorite super-hero, and why?

A: My favorite super hero, and you might not think this is a true super hero — in the Pixar movie "Finding Nemo" — in the credits at the end, there's a funny little teensy fish, and he's swimming around — and this big ugly giant deep sea vulture fish creature with one of those hangy lures and huge mouth and all teeth comes up to this little fishy. And then (drum roll suspense here) the little fishy surprises you by somehow opening his mouth and in one gulp eating the big mean fish up. That little fish is my super hero. Why? It's so powerful and surprising and ... oh no I can't stop it from coming ... efFISHent!

Q: What is your creative process when creating a new cartoon? Can you take us through the entire thing, from the genesis of an idea all the way to the finished product?

A: It's different each time. I carry a pad with me. Ideas come often when I've focused elsewhere. When me and Steve go to the embarcadero and we got these new mini kites and this x-zylo toy thing to throw, while we're sunning on the grass, watching the boats, flying the kites, eating grapes, that's when the idea comes. I spent a week recently just trying to collect and organize all these little endless pads and papers of ideas and jokes. Sometimes a picture triggers an idea. Sometimes I get a play on words and draw it after. I do so much on impulse. I always go on tangents.

If you said, make me a new cartoon right now, I'd pick an animal. Let's say an anteater. Let's say he's a confused anteater, because all his ants were uncles. That doesn't make any sense — yet. But maybe the ants could be getting ready to be eaten by a cute anteater, and one ant says "WAIT! You can't eat that! That's not an ant, that's my uncle!" ... and the anteater makes a silly perplexed face.

Then I would draw them. I usually look at anteater pictures in nature. Web, library, Ranger Rick, Zooo Nooz... etc. I happen to have some zoo videos of anteaters and I get myself focused on anteaters. That is usually really fun, cause nature is so amazing. I look for things to notice in body shape and details to put in the drawing. All the while in my imagination, something is developing just by focusing there. I guess my imagination is handling the layout. So then I just start drawing anteaters. The key always is the expression on the face, in the eyes. I just do a bunch and try to do them so they look silly and ridiculous, so they crack me up.

After I have a few, I usually go and ask Steve what he thinks. (This is the definitive test). I show him the scribbles, and say do you like this anteater, or does this look like an anteater, or which one of these do you like best. Then, if he looks at it, and makes this funny smiley expression face of "what the hell is that??!" and says "Don't you have something to do?"... then I KNOW IT'S GOOD! Then I go back, and using a light tray, I trace the best one into position. (I do the same for the ant drawing process). I take the final back to Steve. By now, I have to sneak up on him, cause he's playing his computer game, and this disrupts his focus. I stick the drawing in front of his screen and say, "Look." And if he says "GET AWAY!" in a special laughing frustrated way as he glances at it, I again, know I'm "IN LIKE FLINT."

So I go back to the drawing. Now it depends on who it's for, and how it'll be used. I can color it in Photoshop after scanning in the black and white, or by hand with colored pencils, acrylics, or some new watercolor crayons, or I can get out my watercolors (my favorite method). I transfer the image onto watercolor paper, tracing it through my light tray. Then I mist my palette to wet all the paints. I like Winsor and Newton, Daniel Smith, da Vinci for my paints. I have gouache and watercolor but mostly use the transparent watercolors. Usually I let the drawing sit and get excited about the 'painting part'. I come back and paint it. That part is spontaneous too. I just do quick light washes. I love spaces and textures and how the colors float into each other. I go outside lines and like it, but later when I scan it in, I often edit this out if it's for someone else. Then it's all about the computer world of being a pixel editor in Photoshop, cleaning it up, adjusting, optimizing (if it's for the Web) and saving the file in the appropriate jpg, png, etc. Then I go eat dinner, watch TV.

Q: How do you get into the "creative flow state" and maintain it?

A: I have spent my life learning to live in the 'creative flow'. Most of the time, I am already always in the creative flow. I've practiced so much, that when I am not in the creative flow and feeling good, my world stops, and I just have to get myself feeling better before I even agree to live on another moment willingly. Creative flow is about not offering any resistant thoughts, so the flow can flow without being blocked. So any doubt, worry, or concern anywhere in my entire life will mess up my flow if I focus on them. The things that open my flow are anything that involves appreciation, love, wow, neato, fun, cool, beauty, applause, interest, curiosity, adoration, amusement, delight, wonder, approval, oh goody.

If my art room is a horrible giant mess of endless doodles and ideas that I want cleaned up and organized, I take a creative slant and think, gosh, I have so many endless creative ideas, I am SOOO abundant. I appreciate this gargantuan grandness of ever-flowing ideas. That opens up my creative flow — the mess can still be there, but I feel so much better. I didn't take any action except thought so it was easy to feel better and I feel empowered cause I did it on purpose.

I used to take a walk, but I'd be on endless walks, and they were fun, but I never understood that I felt better cause I changed my focus by looking around observing positive stuff and breathing a lot. So when I came back I felt refreshed. I still love walks. But what I love is the understanding of exactly HOW I felt better and being able to do it for myself without needing to change anything external. Without action. That's where all struggles come in.

Q: Who are your creative faery godmothers and Muses? (Support network of artists, writers, and inspiring souls — living, dead, or imaginary!)

A: My inner source pals are a jovial bunch. They are the liveliest dead bunch, completely out of my mind imaginary, emotionally real, and so inspiring and funny! After that, and Steve, I have no other support network. I made it that way to learn to give it to myself. So now it's become sort of a habit. But I receive inspiration from all sorts of people in all sorts of situations. But I pretty much get everything coming to me through my source whenever I ask.

Q: Do you have a ritual for beginning a new creative work, or for finishing a piece?

A: No. And 90% I never do finish.

Q: Can you discuss the higher purpose of creativity in your life? Why were you called to do this work — instead of becoming a fabulously silly bank teller or accountant, for example?

A: My sense of higher purpose is in how I love this earth and nature, how it all works endlessly and the fantastic variety of it all. My creative way is to perceive what's in front of me so it feels good, for the purpose of opening up my link to my life source so that it can flow through me.

Did you see the movie Second Hand Lions? Robert Duvall as Hub gives a speech to a boy. He says: "Sometimes the things that may or may not be true are the things a man needs to believe in the most." You can believe whatever you want no matter if it's true or not... you believe what MAKES YOU FEEL GOOD WHEN YOU BELIEVE IN IT. Creativity is a determination to believe in things that feel good because it launches your creative energy flow. Then, there is joy in what you're doing because of the connection to and flow of source.

Art by Lilly FlugerCreating something from nothing on blank paper is fun because I get to use that format to play with my inner source. I ask, and they surprise me with inspiration and ideas, and it is really fun. If it's word play and cartoon jokes, it's doubly fun and funny. And I get to go try it out on others, and laugh at their responses.

With my watercolors, I get so focused on the beauty and shadows and colors and nuance and angles and curvacious shapes of nature, that I feel I am on some kind of painter's cocaine. And when I go elsewhere, I start to see shape and detail and sparkle and notice nuance and shadows, the entire world becomes thick and sensuous and brilliant in new ways I never noticed. It's so wonderful, that feeling.

I just thought, what if you asked a kid this "higher purpose" question? It's absurd. Kids are all about having fun and joy. There is no higher purpose in life than fun and joy! The art of living and experiencing life is the porpoise and it is high. It's the joy feeling component, that zesty thrill, during the doing that makes any moment valuable and inspiring and compelling.

I have no clue why I do this. It is just fun.

Q: Are there sacred, spiritual, or healing aspects of creativity that have manifested in your life which you want to share?

A: Drawing cute playful characters is "healing" in the aspect that drawing is a powerful focusing tool, and you're distracted from your worries or concerns. Because cartoons are playful, it adds another aspect by lightening the mood. It's all humorously sacred, spiritually physical, and healthfully healing if while you are doing it, you are thinking things that feel good. There is huge power in thought. Feeling good is an indication that source is flowing through unrestricted. Feeling good is extremely healthy.

Q: Would you care to discuss some of your new, upcoming projects, classes, events or artwork exhibitions?

A: We're going to Molokai, and I love snorkeling. I'm playing with new watercolors and papers, and painting tropical fish. I'm drawing bunny butts and making up rhyming stories about cute buns. I'm putting up silly tree pun cartoons on my website. I got some chia pets and have been experimenting with sprouting micro greens on them.

Q: What would you say to your thirteen-year-old self if you met her on the street today?

A: Trust yourSELF. It's going to be better than you ever imagined it.

Q: Any last words of advice, humor, or inspiration for our Creativity Portal fans?

A: Pretend big, imagine feisty, make your own kind of truth. You are a human in god's pajamas. Here are two favorite quotes I've been carrying around for years about two of my favorite things; surprise and delight:

"Follow delight, your sense of delight. Please do not work at this. Have all the fun you can allow — you'll be very surprised."

"Surprise is the twin partner of delight, of recognition on Earth of limitless possibilities and of eternality. For the biggest surprise to the Earth consciousness, no matter how advanced, is just how the apparent limitations and barriers and "deadlines" fall away into timeless and infinitely variable unfolding beauty and complete love."

©2007 Molly J. Anderson-Childers. All rights reserved.

Deal of a Lifetime

By Lilly Fluger | Posted August 29, 2006 | Updated July 8, 2019

Art by Lilly FlugerIn our world of shopping and commerce, coupons and rebates, one-click buying, price comparisons, free trial offers, 2 for 1 sales, and "drastically reduced sale prices", it seems that everyone wants to find a good deal. And that makes simple good sense. But perhaps we've all forgotten that we've already gotten our best possible deal: We each 'got to' be born for free. I didn't pay to be born, did you? This idea hit me over the head the other day with a bonk of gratitude and a delightful fresh new perspective. I realized that I have a whole free life! But that's not all.

This free life came to me complete with my very own unique free body! I DIDN'T HAVE TO DO A THING TO GET IT!!! And while it does require some food and water, all of the rest is taken care of for free! This body performs a trillion inner doings that are miraculous and I don't have to do or pay anything for them to happen. I get to breathe for free and think for free and move for free. And while I am supposed to dress it with clothes after 3 or 4 years old (unless I'm living in a nice jungle) — I don't have to do anything or know anything about chemicals, muscles, neurons, lungs, oxygen, or saliva to have it work properly. In fact, I've found that the more I leave it alone, the better it works on its own.

I have a genius, marvelous body for free! What a deal! That body lets me experience the joys of beautiful sights, the pleasures from delicious tastes and aromas, the delights of soft silky touches, the ecstasy of enchanting music and exhilaration of crashing ocean waves. This incredible sensory apparatus comes free of charge in this deal-of-a-lifetime package! It is covered in a marvelous material called skin that keeps it all nicely together! And, it takes care of itself! If the surface is breached, it grows/makes its own healings to close it back up! It all happens free-of-cost!

It breathes for free and my heart pumps for free and when I want to move my hand to pick up my coffee mug, it knows (somehow) how to take my desire and send it to my brain and muscles and fingers and then my hand does it — and I never have to think about how! This is the best service in town and my body doesn't even want to be tipped. It just keeps giving endlessly free of charge! Gratis. On the house. It's all comped. It's a complimentary free body. How lucky is that?

Now the other part of this phenomenal package-deal are a few extras that come with: A planet of everything-you-could-ever-want plus ongoing new stuff forever being made. If you didn't like the deal so far, I know this will have you sold. For you receive the wonderful add-on free gift called nature that is sure to blow your socks off! It's just an endless resource of wonder and magnificence that comes with trees and plants, animals and bugs, fishes and oceans, and weather. And, let's not forget free stars that twinkle. That alone would make it the best possible deal. If you add the sun and moon, well, how good does this deal get?!! And it's all free.

One of my favorite parts of this great deal is thoughts and feelings. While my body can run, my thoughts can fly at light speed. And with the other free gift of imagination, well, that takes this bargain to infinity and beyond. I get to pretend for free. I have unlimited free thoughts! How rich is that? I really and most truly understand how grateful the scarecrow felt when he got his brain, because I just don't know what I'd do without mine. And I haven't included the free dreams component of the deal. Yes surely, this bargain beats all competition!

Life wins, hands down, as the best deal in the universe!

Now, according to educated hearsay from experts, there is one more part of the deal that actually tops all the previous offers! That is the 100% guarantee trade-in policy. At any time, no questions asked, unconditionally guaranteed, you can trade in your body for a new model! You can start over fresh. Of course you'll have amnesia, so the slate is clear, and you are able to begin with that fresh new focus and perspective that being born gives. You can return as a new bright bundle of baby free of charge all over again! How lucky can we all be? This deal is better than winning the lottery! And its something we all already have. It's the deal of a Lifetime!

©2006 Lilly Fluger. All rights reserved.

Lilly Fluger resides in San Diego, CA where she enjoys drawing cartoons, painting watercolors and going to the zoo. If you need a good dose of silly, or desire more information about Lilly Fluger's cartoons, ebooks and puzzles, as well as her visual art, check out LillyArts.com.

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