Book Reviews

by Lisa Call on January 18, 2006

in Book Reviews and Comments

As I mentioned in my comment back in December I finally decided to look at the following 2 books because so many people had recommended them or were talking about them:

My kids reviewed the books and now it’s my turn.

My goal with this review is to explain what I think about these books in terms of their usefulness for me. They are not overall critiques of the books. I could do that but I’d have to actually read them first and I don’t really want to do that.

I’m at a point in my art life right now where I have more ideas than I have time. I have more motivation than I have time to create. I love the work I’m making and feel it is really pretty good work. I’m able to push myself out of my comfort zone when needed and try new things. For example I have 2 new series in the works, I recently took a new direction with my Structures series and I’m learning to draw to see where this will lead me in my fiber work.

I didn’t read either book from cover to cover but I found that each one had a chapter that resonated with me.

In Tharp’s book it was Chapter 1. I think she spells it out in very clear language. There is no magic. There are no secrets. It’s just hard work. Put in the time, practice and you get better each day.

When I started making “art” quilts I didn’t have hundreds of ideas as I do today, that came over time. The more I work, the more ideas I generate. The process feeds on itself. I’m not doing exercises to come up with new ideas, I just work and the ideas come. There really is no magic. There is just a passion on my part to work hard as an artist.

In Eric’s book it was skill #6 that I could relate to “Creating in the middle of things”. The exercise is to answer the question “How will I manage to create in the middle of things?” It’s a hard question but he makes the very obvious observation that most people are never able to answer this question and hence they never create. His advice is to “drop everything” and just create.

I’m a single mom and I work full time as a software engineer yet I still manage to make a heck of a lot of artwork. I think I’ve done this by doing exactly what Eric says – I have learned to create in spite of everything else going on in my life. I don’t have more hours in the day than anyone else. I just choose to use my time in my studio vs. just about anything else.

For me those 2 chapters were all I needed to read of these books. Anytime I get lazy or feel unmotivated I just need to think about what these 2 chapters say. There is no magic, there will be no art if I’m not in my studio.

I did skip around and read parts of other chapters but I wasn’t very inspired by what I read or interested in what they had to say. I’m just not a self-help book type person. It’s not to say I don’t think getting outside help with motivation isn’t good, I just don’t get that motivation from a book.

I think Nancy Crow has by far been the biggest help and motivator for me. I take workshops from her every year or two and it helps me refocus and redefine my work. I also have a coach of sorts that has me set goals and holds me to them. I see her 4-5 times a year and I find it very helpful.

I think what it comes down to is I don’t feel that there is anything in my art I need to change or want to change right now. If I felt like I needed change I’m not really sure I’d read these books, but I can see that for some people they could be helpful. I say do whatever works for you. I really admire Gabrielle Swain. She was looking for a change in her work and is now working directly with Eric Maisel as her creativity coach and making great strides.

And now it is very late and my download (33 MB) to modern postcard completed and I can check “order postcard” off of my list. Hurray! I’m also about 1/2 done quilting Structures #39. Tomorrow I’ll post a picture of what I’m doing, it’s rather tedious work. But very meditative and I’m listening to Johnny Cash again, which is really fun. Reminds me of my brother, he loved “Ring of Fire” and that train song when we were growing up.


Mary Manahan January 18, 2006 at 5:37 am


Sometimes a really good CD will take me through a project over a few weeks, I just listen to it constantly while working. Right now it’s My Morning Jacket’s “Z”.
Coldplay’s “A Rush of Blood To The Head” took me through a few quilts.

Valeri January 18, 2006 at 5:46 am

You’ve said it all! I have the Twyla Tharp book and chapter 1 is the most relevant for me too. Like you I have to work though not full time thankfully or I’d never get anything done. I admire the quantity and quality of work you produce working full time and bringing up kids!

Lisa Call January 19, 2006 at 8:19 am

Mary, glad to hear I’m not the only one listening to the same thing over and over.

Thanks Valeri, just getting in there and doing the work is all it takes. My kids are very supportive.

gabrielle swain January 19, 2006 at 4:12 pm

Thanks Lisa for the encouragement. It was time for me to change. Not everyone is in the same space at the same time. Your work is exciting, solid and inspiring. My desire to change came not from the external work but from an internal itch. In the end, we all do what we need to do…make art, no matter what or why.

Shan Bryan-Hanson January 24, 2006 at 4:26 pm


I love what you say about the art process feeding itself. That is so true. It’s both wonderful and frustrating to have and abundance of ideas. I, too, am a mom and find audio books can keep me working into the wee hours of the night when a deadline is approaching.

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