contemporary collage paintings
the process
Leslie Avon Miller

My life flows when I'm in my art.

Jean De Muzio

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Student of Art - Student of Life

6 inch by 6 inch untitled collage by Leslie Avon Miller
You are always the student in a one person art school. You are also the teacher of that class. – Irwin Greenberg

This is soooo very true. We teach ourselves. Oh, I have hired a number of consultants along the way; artists who so patiently and enthusiastically put on workshops to share their expertise. And yes, I have learned from these experiences. But in the end, it’s what happens when I am alone in my studio, my hands in the paint, my mind giving near constant feedback and critique that allows me to learn and grow as an artist. Purposefully I create chaos. I think about it, analyze what is going on and then I respond. I find it very exciting and engaging. I enjoy problem solving. And art is the best kind of problem to solve. There is never one correct answer, only a number of options. Plus, art is not life and death, so really the pressure is off.

A student is one who studies, investigates and examines thoughtfully. I enjoy being a student, both of art and of life. I like striving to improve. And with art, I am my own critic. I am seeking to improve from my last effort. I try to be truthful. I allow myself to relish the areas of my painting that are delightful. I try not to nit pick. I certainly try to determine what isn’t working; where the painting could be stronger. At all costs I avoid being harsh. After all, I am a student of art. A learner. And I always will be. If I ever stop seeking to improve and to grow I’ll be bored with myself.

We are always the student and teacher in a one person school of life.

I found a couple of interesting sites this morning. This links to an
Art Critique Form with good questions to ask about a work of art, and a discussion of how to give art critique by Marvin Bartel. The art of critique for photographers is discussed by Ed Zawadzki at edZstudios.


  1. What an insightful post Leslie. I cannot argue with one point you've made. I think the best artists are students/learners and problem solvers. I especially liked your comments about not being harsh with yourself,;that is an area I need to work on.

    I appreciated the links to the art critique sites. This is an area I am interested in and that I have researched for presentations while I was teaching. I will e mail you some of the information I have compiled. Eventually, it is a topic I would like to develop a post about.

  2. Excellent list of questions over at Art Critique Form! I get caught up in non-productive comments...I hate it...I love it...why??? I just know these questions will move me along in a much calmer way. Funny, I understand and have been crituqued many times but alone I digress. Thank you

  3. this all shines through in your work but its good to hear it in your words too.

  4. I wrote the comment then got excited went back to your post and lost about "problem solving"It was probably a bit heavy anyway.
    When we were little we had direction for so long it is sometimes quite arduous knowing you are solely responsible for your own decisions.(You can understand why fundamentalists are growing)
    I have certainly been freer in my art since being on my own, my husband was wonderful and truly accomplished as an artist and he would have been horrified to know that he restricted me in any way, but it was his facility which became my critic.

  5. Love the sidebar walk tally! I'll work something up for my sidebar, too! I really needed this little bloggy support.

    I just walked for three hours at the antique show. That's a start!

  6. I relish the idea of living life as a student!soaking up life, squeezing ones self out and then ready to soak up more!

  7. thanks for stopping by my blog!!
    Talk about an interesting blog, I've been perusing yours off and on for most of the day! Love your work and insights. I certainly agree that we're all students . . .

  8. I love this: "Plus, art is not life and death, so really the pressure is off."

    I am constantly trying to get across the concept of art as an enjoyable process; one in which every canvas or paper need not be seen as the precious end-all or be-all. When aspiring artist are able to relax, wonderful things happen.

  9. very true, about living as a student. and that's so great. and love the collage, very expressive, love the black lines.

  10. Lovely post, full of sound common sense - and less common insight.

  11. Leslie, every time I think I have an original thought, someone else has had it before. So I'm derivitive, right? Anyway,back in the day, my job involved mostly problem-solving, and as I learned more and had more experience in my field, I could solve problems faster and more creatively. A while ago, it occurred to me, too, that art is exactly that: solving a problem. Not necessarily quickly, but definitely creatively. So, like you, I am committed to a lifetime of learning, of being a student, of unlimited curiosity about everything. Great post, great link, great art.

  12. Aha! I knew it. I thought to myself that the "writing" on your collages looked suspiciously like Gregg shorthand and sure enough, there it is today out in the open! I recognized it because I actually know it myself! I have used it in a couple of pieces because it looks very interesting and it's kind of a dinosaur skill today. Is that piece of shorthand something that you wrote?

  13. Hello Leslie,

    Thank you for becoming a follower. But you set a very high standard!

    I always enjoy seeing your pieces and am always amazed by their sizes. I reckon I would find a small canvas less daunting (if I were ever able to create something!) You get such detail in them.

    I went for a walk today! Can't promise that the miles will be piling up as much as the pounds though!!

  14. I'm glad I stumbled upon your blog! I enjoyed looking over your collages, I like how organic they look from your use of color and marks. This one is particularly intriguing--I like the writing in the background and the texture you created with what I think is paint. Wonderful :)

  15. Margaret: I have discovered that being harsh with myself is not really productive. That took me a while to figure out! I look forward to your post on the art of art critique. I really do think it is an art form in itself!

    Mary Ann; you are a thinking painter! I bet the “I love it!” is a comment from your Intuition. A more specific comment can be more useful, however!

    Not Mass Produced: Thank you! I benefit from being encouraging to myself and others. I don’t really gain much from criticism, which is much different than critique which is more of an analysis.

    Janette: Yes, yes, yes! And what ever form your dear husband is in, he is very proud of your current creativity!

    Willow: I’m a tad sore from my 4 miles yesterday, but I’m game for a shorter walk this afternoon. And defiantly walking at an antique show counts. Thank you for joining me. I wouldn’t have done this without our bloggy commitment! And Derrick joined us on a walk yesterday too! Hurray!

    Gail: Students for life! How fun!

    Patrice: I have been known to get caught up in my own seriousness, to no good end. I do better work from a place of curiosity and openness to what is happening. You are so wise to have taught that to students.

    Luisa: I think the black lines look like an interesting fish shape. I like it!

    Dave: Thanks Dave. One of the things I enjoy about your blog is that I feel I am at a great lecture at a University. And I love learning!

    Mary: If we have a thought that is original to us, I think it counts as an original, even if other people thought of it before us. Full credit! Unlimited curiosity is the ticket to an interesting and full life. That plus cute grandkids, if you’ve got them.

    Nancy: Ah! Ha! Yes, this piece does include a page from an old short hand manual. But I don’t know short hand, so my marks are my own intuitive language. However, I think they compliment one another rather nicely. (The design guideline of “repetition with variety”)

    Derrick: Good for us walkers! I encourage you to try a few small canvases. I always have more than one going at any time. Sometimes the painting and I need a rest from each other, and I can move to the next one. I am going to fit in a shorter walk today. I have no goal; no required number of miles, no required number of times each week. My goal is to just keep moving in the direction of more movement. I’m going to count gardening hours too, as gardening season will soon be upon us.

  16. Hi Megan: Thanks for visiting! What a great collage blog you have! I added it to my dashboard so I can watch for your new posts. Yes, I use a lot of paint. I paint many of my own papers, and I add and take away paint on the work itself.

  17. I like your blog, and will certainly stop back...wish i could walk with you on your beautiful path, but i'm more into running...will wave as i pass.

  18. Hello Mr. Runmotman! I am in awe of runners! I always make eye contact and say Hi if they have enough breathe to speak. If they are gasping for air, I wave. What a great eclectic blog you have! I am enthralled with the Fish Story, and I like your header. I’ll be back to read more, and to peruse the blogs on your side bar. I *love* being categorized under your artsy fartsy heading. But now, I really must dash off to the studio!

    And Willow: Of course you may defiantly count walking at an antiques show but you also can definitely count those miles too. Okay, now I’m off to the studio.

  19. Leslie, I will be joining you and Willow on my sidebar but instead of walking I will be riding my Marcy 2000 (stationery bike). My miles add up but do remember this exercise is not as all over healthful and difficult as weight bearing (walking) exercise nor as scenic!

  20. Jeane: I missed your comment! I can see your love of learning in all that you do!

    Mary Ann: Riding your bike and keeping a blog tally is great! I think the point is to move, what ever the method. We are just heading out for a brief neighborhood walk and then back to the studio. Thanks for joining in!

  21. I also love this flipped to the left. Good composition either way, and of course I love the use of the soft, quiet color with the bold black marks. (inks?)
    Like you, I've had opportunity to learn from others,,,,and appreciated all that I brought back,,,,but it's the lessons learned all alone that I remember best, and use the most.
    Great post, thanks!

  22. This piece is beautiful.

    I got my little collage. It's lovely!
    Thank you so much.


  23. Another wonderful post! I enjoyed the two links you offered...I have to admit I am usually the one to say "I love it!" or "I hate it!" without taking the time to examine why...then again sometimes I just don't know why I love or hate something and blame it on my lack of art education...

    I think I am going to join you on your activity challenge...maybe it will help me be more consistent in my walking! Thanks!

  24. Great post, Leslie. The joy of each artwork is realizing I've learned something from it. I then carry this knowledge into the next piece. Being a student is part and parcel of this wonderful creative process.

  25. Wonderful collage! It looks to me like you are a very good student, with a very good teacher.


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