contemporary collage paintings
the process
Leslie Avon Miller

My life flows when I'm in my art.

Jean De Muzio

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Inspiration Can Be Found in the Oddest Places

Untitled 12 x 12 collage painting by Leslie Avon Miller
I love to be inspired. It’s a delicious emotional state of being. When I’m inspired, I get going, getting doing, and I enjoy it a lot. As a visual artist I am constantly looking at all kinds of things; the way a crack in the sidewalk makes an interesting line; the way a rusty piece of metal on a ferry has taken on the imprint of the door that comes up against it; and even socks can inspire me. Socks? We were shopping in our local warehouse store, and a display of ladies socks caught my eye. They were in groups, and just like a color fan of paint chips, they were arranged in a perfect array from light to dark, but with close values in the warm earthy neutrals that I love. You get to see what I mean, because of course I had to bring them home with me. And I vowed to scan in an image before I started wearing them, so I could use them for color reference.
I tear pages out of magazines; usually they are my magazines, but I have been known to ask a friend for a particular page. One page that has always held my interest is of an old armory store which has been converted into an upscale contemporary dwelling. I love the old, cracked concrete ceilings. I keep these pages in big three ring binders, which appropriately enough, I call my inspiration notebooks. I have three volumes now. Another magazine page that inspires me is a contemporary dining room. I particularly love the exposed drywall, complete with nail heads, and a perfect wash of darker paint to look like natural aging and use. It is a perfect neutral color, and one which I reference a lot to start a painting. In combination with the aged wood warm color, the stark dark black picture frames and the white of the flowers and candles it is a great starting off place for a contemporary painting.
Last weekend this painting came to a place I am calling “maybe it’s done.” That means I leave it alone for a while and see what I think as I ponder it. It occurred to me it is partly inspired by the socks, the old concrete, and the dining room set up. I didn’t look at any of those images when I made this painting, but the inspiration was probably an influence.
I am trying to become a better art photographer. I asked Kurt to look up art photography advice on the internet. He came back with a report that people use Photoshop or other image programs to adjust the colors. So I will try that. I notice that here at home on my lap top, the colors looks okay on my blog posts. At work, on a different computer my images look yellow. They are not yellow. They have warm tones, but there is no out and out yellow. So, if my header and this full photo of the painting look yellow, maybe it’s the monitor? Or what? I think issues of photography and creating digital images may have to be a whole separate post, or series of posts…. and I don’t have the answers. Do you?
Update on the four questions: People continue to respond, to send emails, to speak with me, to post answers on their blogs. I have answered the questions myself - at least twice. So I will continue to gather the responses and start compiling what has been said to create a few posts so you too can find out about what artists are thinking. If you would like to participate see the two previous posts. If you have posted your answers on your blog, please let me know. I will create a set of links so readers can find your answers as well. I hope we all find inspiration today!

These just had to come home with me.

This is great texture.

I love these colors.


  1. Hi Leslie,

    I really like this piece - and it doesn't look at all yellow! I can see the colour and texture influences of your magazine images.

  2. No yellow on my monitor either - your images look great! and I love your conversation (I feel as if you are talking to me) about inspiration and where you get yours - great post thank you so much for sharing Leslie - I always love visiting you!

  3. Awwww I love this one. I especially like all these natural tones that you use in your work and I can see the socks and decor would attract you but I think you have a wonderful tonal vision which is a gift. Thank you for sharing your ideas with us.

  4. Well, yellow is a particular favourite of mine, so I like it when it turns up, but these colours on your page look far more muted. They look like the colours I have come to associate with your work.

    Interesting as ever to read your thoughts.

  5. The four questions in your recent posts are very interesting, Leslie. I love your socks! I see why you just couldn't leave them in the store. Sometimes the Etsy "shop by color" tool is fun and inspiring to me. I am going to give the questions some thought.

  6. Leslie

    The reason your images look different on different monitors is that all monitors are in different states, primarily having to do with color balance, though often also in terms of brightness and contrast. Unless monitors are color calibrated to the same color balance (99% of monitors are not calibrated at all) images are guaranteed to vary from one to the next.

    This is one of the big problems with the rapid move to digital images used for submissions to shows, etc. You never can control how something looks on someone else's monitor. Also creates interesting situations when you sell art online - who knows how it looked on the buyer's monitor!

    I do this stuff for a living, so I unfortunately know all the pitfalls of trying to make an image look a certain way.

    BTW I might recommend Photoshop Elements as a cheaper more accessible option to Photoshop for image work. It should satisfy your needs unless you really get into more complex work.

  7. Like you, I fimd inspiration everywhere! In the most likely and the most unlikely places! And in fact have started a link on my blog called Inspiration Station, to share my inspiration with others.

  8. I like so many other bloggers come to you for our inspiration. I love the freedom and looseness you have in your paintings. It's a real art form.
    I love to see peeling paint and the build up of layers behind and seeing the way colours change when they're next to other colours.

  9. You make me feel really free looking at your work I am inspired

  10. Leslie...thanks for making your collage "clickable" it looks amazing up close.
    Like a n old weathered and worn painted wall...

  11. The bottoms of my socks would be real inspiration for you. Brown, white, black, holes showing the flesh tones. Love you collage, love the inspiration pictures. I want to live in that dining room.

  12. Lovely texture and color and so enjoyed your story of inspirational gatherings. The three ring binders must be a beautiful collection.
    There is a whole world of photo manipulation out there and it has raised questions in juried shows...I've seen ordinary work turn stunning with punching color.
    These four questions have been a delight...thank you for this open conversation!

  13. I was pointed here via Blue Sky Dreaming. THOROUGHLY enjoy your blog, your art, your comments. I have been "cutting and pasting" images in a book for quite some time. It is either that or be over-run by the stacks and stacks of magazines that I can't seem to let go of...just in case. It's kind of like your "what if" question! What if I need that image...down the road?

  14. So much to inspire me here today. For a start your sidebar is delicious!I love the orchids with your painting behind and the studio things. The shades of your brought the whole range home? I also keep ring binders full of inspiration. (One of them has 1990 written on the cover)

  15. Derrick: Thanks. Good to see you.

    Ms. R. R.: I do talk to you when I write posts. I imagine I’m talking with a friend. And I am!

    Carolann: Thank you for the compliment!

    Annie: Thanks Annie: I like yellow too; especially on daffodils.

    Wildeve: I haven’t tried Etsy shop by color. That might be fun! There is so much on Etsy its hard to find what I like….

    Bob: Thanks for this! We are getting the new Photoshop Elements soon. I took a Photoshop class – twice – but it was mainly about restoring old photographs, great for genealogy, not so great for art. I wish I knew more about what I need for my art.

    Seth: I love your idea of an Inspiration Station! So creative of you! You are one artist who has a lot of fun!

    Ro: Thank you. Inspiration happens for me when I visit your blog too.

    Janette: Feeling free: what a yummy way to approach your work!

    Jo H: Gee, I had no idea it was clickable. Click away! I love old worn walls.

    Mary: The socks I wear are much less – shall we say – pristine?

    Mary Ann: There is more to come on the 4 questions. Lots of information gathered.

    Teri: I enjoyed my visit to your blog. Every now and then I have to go through my stacks as well, and take out the good stuff.

    Robyn: I really enjoy side bar stuff. Extra little tid-bits there. At the warehouse stores one must buy in bulk. So I had to have all those socks, or none. They will last me for years……I would love to see your inspiration notebooks.

  16. for good control Photoshop is definitely the go...but the tools that come packaged in iPhoto on a MacBook are pretty reasonable for basic tweakings...
    either way your images look pretty good to me.

  17. I love the piece and your photography and inspirational pieces are to die for.

  18. Beautiful paintings and photography. Isn't it interesting that creative people excel in multiple areas?

    I used to paint but now that I am semi-retired, working for a newspaper again, I don't have time to do both.

    I had more time when I worked for a newspaper full-time.

    Retirement is overrated!


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