#100daysofArtTweets: Days 51-68
Art Journal Every Day: Daily Pages from November 2017

Five Lessons from The Crow Barn

I'm still processing my two weeks at The Crow Barn in Ohio. As I percolate, I've come up with a few lessons I thought you might find useful because they apply to all kinds of classes and learning.

ONE: Let go of self-consciousness and competing with those around you.

You're in a room surrounded by other talented people.  It's difficult to be vulnerable and open, but I believe it's the only way to truly learn.  If you're worried about what other people think of you or what other people are doing, you're not really focused on the task at hand: learning.

One of my fellow students at The Crow Barn noted that this particular group of students felt much less competitive than previous groups of students she had been a part of at The Crow Barn.  She told me that she enjoyed this class more and felt that she was getting more out of it because of that lack of competition.   

As a side note: I believe that we all have the power to change the "feeling" or mood in a room.  If things are feeling competitive, you can cool that feeling by refusing to give in to it.  Compliment other students.  Ask questions.  Let everyone be an expert in the room.  Support fellow students who might be struggling.  A little kindness goes a long way. 

If you're feeling self-conscious, here are some tips to help you let go of that feeling:

  • Stop looking at what other people are doing.
  • Don't compare yourself to others -- including the teacher. 
  • Be kind to yourself.  No one on earth is as mean to us as we are to ourselves.
  • And remember, that no one really pays attention to you as much as you think they are.  A woman once told me that she wore two different shoes all day -- through a packing mishap -- and NO ONE noticed all day long.  Even when she asked them if they noticed anything odd about her outfit.  Crazy.

TWO: Learning is hard.  Take notes.

This is one of the places where Nancy Crow and I are very much on the same page -- albeit in slightly different ways.

Listen, there's a reason all those students take notes in academic classes.  Why should art classes be any different?  An in-person class is full of valuable information.  Why lose a huge portion of that value when you walk out of the classroom?!

I take notes about:

  • things the teacher says
  • the things I make or do in class
  • how that doing and making went and what I would do differently next time
  • tips from fellow students

It really helps me to remember what actually happened in class.  I can refer back to the notes days, weeks, or even years later.  I love that!

In class at The Crow Barn, Nancy requires you to copy down the notes she posts -- which outline everything from terminology to assignments.  I was a little perplexed by this enforced note taking, but then I found myself referring back to those notes when I had questions. 

In fact, when I asked Nancy a question early on in the two weeks, she said to me, "Well, what does it say in your notes?"  And you know what? I looked it up and found the answer to my question!

THREE: Take some.  Leave some.

Teachers are going to pass on the methods and ideas that work for them.  These are not necessarily the methods and ideas that are going to work for you.  Therefore, class is something of a balancing act. 

On the one hand, you need to be open and try to create work using the methods the teacher is recommending.

On the other hand, you need to be practical about what you're going to do at home and focus on those lessons that will make a difference to your work right now.  (After all, you have your notes and can take those other lessons when and if you need them down the road.)

In the case of The Crow Barn, before heading to the first day of class, I decided to check my assumptions at the door and surrender myself to the experience.  I'm so glad that I did!  I observed Nancy's teaching methods.  I tried things I had never tried before!  I experimented.  It was great.

As class wound down other students started asking, "Will you be back to take another class from Nancy?"  I shrugged in response.  I enjoyed class a lot -- with all its highs and lows. But, I don't have the space or time to work in this large format and really get the value out of coming back year after year.  This got me thinking about what I really needed to focus on in the last few days of class -- grayscale and composition.  These are two concepts that I can roll into my painting, art journaling, or even my doodling!

FOUR: The other students are valuable assets.

Yes, you are there to learn from the teacher.  But where in-person classes have it over online classes is live classroom!  Every classroom is humming with the energy, intelligence, and artistry of all of the people in the room.  I often find that as many great ideas come from my fellow students as from the instructor.

At The Crow Barn my fellow students:

  • gave me design ideas
  • gave me supply tips
  • gave me storage tips
  • gave me workflow tips
  • gave me courage
  • stimulated my intellect
  • buoyed my spirits
  • inspired me
  • gave me practical sewing tips
  • helped me to be my best

Some of these things are given directly to you in a conversation.  Other tips and benefits come from eavesdropping (it's okay) and observation.  The point is: don't just listen when the instructor is talking.  Listen to everyone!  I found that chatting at mealtime was really useful for reflection and gathering information.

FIVE: Failure is not a problem.  The key is to keep going.

Hustleimage source

You've heard the metaphor a hundred times.  But it's true!  When a baby is learning how to walk he/she falls down a million times.  But the baby keeps trying and keeps trying and eventually learns how to walk.  In my experience, all learning goes this way.

If you've watched my vlog or read my day-by-day posts about my Crow Barn experience, you know that I had lots of highs and lows.  There was failure and learning galore.  It's one of the many reasons that I have come to love long format classes -- i.e. more than one day. I find that the learning in a long format class is deeper because the failure (and sometimes repeated failure) has time to turn over into success!  

I think a lot of people stop after failure.  I want to encourage you (and me) to remember that failure is a bump in the road -- a detour -- not the end of the road.  The key is to keep going!


I hope you found these five tips useful.  Writing this post definitely helped me process the whole Crow Barn experience a bit more. If you've got additional tips to add to this list, I'd love to hear them!

As always, thanks for stopping by!