Returning to the Classroom

by Lisa Call on January 16, 2017

in From The Studio

Post image for Returning to the Classroom

Sketching in Fabric

Studying with Nancy Crow

Last week I took a 5 day intensive workshop with Nancy Crow here in New Zealand.

I wasn’t really sure how the experience would go as it has been 10 years since I was last in the classroom on the student side of the desk.

I started out the first hour or two with my head spinning trying to figure out how to be a student again.

I managed to get things sort, I let go of any preconceived ideas of what I was going to get out of the class and I just did the work.  Adopting a “beginner’s mind” let go and see what happens.

Our focus was on figure/ground the first few days and we worked in black and white.

It was great fun letting go of my “voice” and experimenting.


My workspace



A major piece

After 2 days of black and white, it was time for color – creating a major piece over 3 days.  Much of this exercise is a study in value and so I used whatever color I have on hand that fit the bill.

I went with a wide wide color palette.


In Grayscale

Here is the final piece with the color removed.  The value is doing all of important work in the composition. I actually prefer this in the grayscale as all of that color is just a bit too over the top for me.


Class was Easy Peasy

(As they say a lot here in New Zealand.)

When I studied with Nancy years ago I found it quite difficult to understand the concepts.  It could take months to sort out what we were supposed to be learning.

While this class wasn’t exactly easy peasy, it also wasn’t super hard (other than having to sew a huge number of hours to get everything done).

10 years later and the study of much art and learning design, I didn’t struggle with understanding what she was asking us to do.  And more importantly – why she was asking us to do it that way.

I’m quite pleased that my understanding design and composition has paid off.

And while I don’t think I learned anything I didn’t already know, what did happen is all of the puzzle pieces (color, composition, value, figure/ground, etc) were all tossed up into the air and they landed in new configurations.  New insights and aha’s on ways to make my art better.

Which is exactly what one hopes to get from a workshop.

Earlier this year I declared my Structures series as complete.  I was feeling it had become to easy and I had stopped pushing myself.  This workshop came along at exactly the right time to shake things up.

So I have to say I am thrilled I attended.


My work and Me

To give you a sense of scale – here I am at the end of class with my completed artwork. It was large.


What’s Next

The big take away from the week is that I am likely to start incorporating more shapes into my figures.  The last 10+ years I’ve used almost exclusively line.

I won’t be doing it as you see here – this work looks too much like an exercise from a Nancy Crow workshop.

Next up is sorting out how to move forward incorporating these ideas into my current voice.  I can see a lot of sketching in my future.


Image of Lisa Call and Nancy Crow, January, 2017 - New Zealand
Nancy Crow and Lisa Call

And of course – the photo with Nancy – she is as energetic as the first class I had with her 18 years ago.


{ 20 comments… read them below or add one }

Susan Milligan January 16, 2017 at 7:39 pm

Most impressive Lisa, it is great to see your progression over the week. I am looking forward to new developments in your future work.


Lisa Call January 17, 2017 at 8:57 am

Thank you Susan. I’m looking forward to seeing what develops also :)

Ann January 17, 2017 at 12:19 am

Looking forward to seeing “shapes” and your next textile adventures.


Lisa Call January 17, 2017 at 8:57 am

Yes! I honestly can say I have no idea what those shapes will be yet!

Martha Marshall January 17, 2017 at 1:11 am

How exciting, Lisa! It’s always great to shake things up a little bit. Looking forward to how it manifests in your future work.


Lisa Call January 17, 2017 at 8:58 am

Yes! We can get so stuck in a rut if we aren’t careful!

Vicky Stein January 17, 2017 at 1:22 am

Yes, shaking things up! How exciting. I look forward to seeing what you follow up with. (And PS, I love the color!)


Lisa Call January 17, 2017 at 8:59 am

Thank you! I’m glad to have confirmation that all that color can be appealing!

Pamela January 17, 2017 at 4:42 am

Wow!! Looks exciting, vibrant & fresh!! I still learn new things studying with Nancy even after 15 years!! I’m excited for you & am looking forward to seeing how you develop these ideas! Yay for you!!!


Lisa Call January 17, 2017 at 9:00 am


She is an amazingly brilliant artist – so so much to learn from her!


Maria Shell January 17, 2017 at 8:33 am

Great post! Great new work!


Lisa Call January 17, 2017 at 9:00 am

Thanks Maria!

Louise Porter January 17, 2017 at 12:18 pm

Thanks for sharing your reactions to Nancy’s class Lisa. Lovely work on your part. I met Nancy when she stayed with me on one of her previous visits to NZ. Pleased to read that she’s still fit and well! Louise Porter


Lisa Call January 24, 2017 at 7:50 am


Thank you :) And yes! She is doing great!


Drew January 18, 2017 at 6:51 am

i love your finished piece. i’m looking forward to seeing how you incorporate it in to your art. i’m taking a nancy crow class in june… i’m excited and nervous!


Lisa Call January 24, 2017 at 7:51 am

Drew! Have fun! Nancy’s classes are a unique experience. You will enjoy it and learn a lot.


Lyn January 21, 2017 at 9:00 am

Nancy’s classes teach you a lot. After she taught in Montana years ago, we formed a Nancy Crow survival group to process it all. Many Montana well known teachers now we’re in that class.


Lisa Call January 24, 2017 at 7:53 am


I took a class with Nancy in Sand Point, ID one year. Maybe 2007. Spent the entire day before hand driving through montana :)

Beautiful place. And good for you all for staying connected after class.


Jeanne Marklin January 30, 2017 at 5:03 pm

Lisa, I love what you did in the workshop! I’ve taken many with Nancy and I often learn more afterwards than during the class. Looking forward to seeing where shapes lead you – there’s so many possibilities.


Lisa Call February 6, 2017 at 11:26 am


Yes! Much has to sink in as time goes on!!


Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: