contemporary collage paintings
the process
Leslie Avon Miller

My life flows when I'm in my art.

Jean De Muzio

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

It’s About Time and Answers to the Fourth Question

Whispering; contemporary collage painting 6 x 6 inches, paper, by Leslie Avon Miller Collection of the Artist
I woke up early this morning, and began to think of all the things I want to do, need to do, and feel I have to do. I got out of bed, even before my coffee was delivered, and instead of noticing the very first wisps of day light arriving through the trees, and hearing the early morning bird song, I came downstairs and announced to Kurt that “I just have so much to get done, and I don’t feel like I can give all the time I want to for each thing I need to do.” And so my day started; already off to a stressed outlook. In his wisdom, Kurt pointed out a shift in my thinking might be helpful. Perhaps I could choose not to do something today. His point? Make a choice. Today, I can make a list, make choices, and let go of the stress. I can say “no”, so I can say “yes”.

When I feel overwhelmed like this I am reminded of the following story about time management. It has been around a long while. I present it here, slightly altered for creative folks, as a reminder for me, and perhaps for you as well.

One day an artist who was also an expert on time management was speaking with a group of artists and, to drive home a point, used an illustration. As this woman stood in front of the group of creative artists she said, “Okay, time for a demonstration.” Artists love demonstrations!

She pulled out a very large, wide-mouthed vintage blue glass jar and set it on a table in front of her. Then she produced about a dozen fist-sized speckled rocks, each picked up on a lovely beach, and chosen for their beauty, and carefully placed them, one at a time, into the jar.
When the jar was filled to the top and no more rocks could fit inside, she asked, “is this jar full?” and everyone in the gathering said yes.

She said, “Really?” . . . then reached under the table and pulled out a small bucket of white gravel. She dumped some gravel in and shook the jar, causing pieces of gravel to work themselves down into the spaces between the big rocks.

Then she smiled and asked the group once more, “is the jar full?”
By this time the clever artists were on to her. “Probably not,” was the answer.
“Good!” she replied. And she reached under the table and brought out a bucket of shining black sand. She started dumping the sand in and it went into the spaces left between the rocks and the gravel. Again she asked, “Is the jar full?”

“No!” the artists said, smiling to themselves.
Again she said, “Good!” Then she took a hand blown multi-colored glass pitcher of water and began to pour it in until the jar was filled to the brim.
Again she asked, “Is the jar full?”

Many in the group said yes. Others weren’t so sure, and they smiled as she took a hand carved wooden salt shaker and emptied it into the jar, as well.
Then—the artist and time management expert looked up at the artists and asked, “What is the point of this illustration?”

One delighted artist said, “The point is, no matter how full your life is, if you try really hard, you can always fit something more into it.”
“No,” the artist replied. “That lesson could be drawn from this illustration, but that’s not the point I wish to make. The truth this illustration teaches us is: “if you don’t put the big rocks in first, you won’t get them in."

Answers to the Fourth Question: What are your biggest hopes and dreams for your creativity?

Mine: I am going to be honest and tell you I’m not really going to tell you. And I suspect some of you may not have as well, the first time round to this question. Perhaps we hold these tender cocoons close to our hearts, safe where no one can poke at them. I can tell you I want to be a better artist. I want to work much bigger, and I want to be as authentic as I can be. I want my art to say something. I want my art to generate some income so I can have more time to generate art, and because art has real value. I am developing a work shop. I am very excited about that. And someday, I’ll tell you the really big dream, the one that takes my breath away and makes me levitate. The one that is a little fuzzy around the edges because I don’t have a clear vision yet. Sometimes it makes me giggle.

Blog Readers Answers:

I hope to continue to have the physical stamina and health to create
I would like to have a publication about my work, a record of my journey
To show or exhibit in larger areas
I really hope my work keeps going
I want to create something very large
I want to share with people the healing power of creating
A suitable studio space
A better balance
Enough money from my work to be earning a living
I want to be published
To make and sell my art
To have my family enjoy my art
I hope that I improve as an artist
I want to keep learning
I want the guts to stay the course
I want to keep experimenting
I want to encourage others
I want to inspire others
To experience the process wholly
To communicate my expression as honestly as possible
For my art to tell my story
I want to self publish
Good health, strong mind and heart to continue
To stay open to new ways and journeys
To encourage others by example
To express my own individualism
To continue to find new relationships between existing concepts
Joy, clarity and fulfillment
I want to enjoy watching my inner vision emerge onto a blank piece of paper
I love to write for magazines
I want to travel to teach all over the world
I want to publish books
I want to invent a new art technique or new art material
I want to dialog with other artists
I would like to have my own art center


  1. All I want to do is take the perfect photograph. Not the prettiest or the best composed, but one that will stand the test of time; one that will still speak generations from now. Some photographers call it, "Chasing the Unicorn."

    Great post!

  2. i've enjoyed reading your posts over the last weeks, just wanted to chime in; oh, and i'd love to be published someday.

  3. Hi Leslie,

    I enjoyed your story. Prioritising is something that I need to do!

    Your contributors have some very laudable goals.

  4. I think I would be happy to just continue to improve in my photography...and to become more comfortable taking pictures of other people...

    I loved this post Leslie...I've read that story somewhere before but I love the twist you have put on it...

  5. you know Leslie in daily life i'am physical limited in my movement and energy. But my wish is that I can continue to express my creative feelings and needs, because once this stops I will be really disabled. And yes that story is a great story with a suprisingly ending, love it. xDorie

  6. Leslie - what a great illustration of time - I will probably always remember this picture in my mind - thanks! - I say brava to the big rocks....:)

  7. Time management, how we all struggle with that issue. Loved your story and your answers to the 4th question...awaiting your "right moment" to share the really big dream.
    So much "heart" in these answers...may all our dreams come true.

  8. Leslie

    Thanks for sharing the story and a glimpse of your personal goals. I'm going to start identifying my big rocks right now!

    It's scary to share goals - they can seem outrageous (it's good to have a few of those!) and if you don't achieve your goals (or even attempt to!) it can be embarrassing.

    But without goals I wonder how much we'll actually get done?

  9. Leslie,
    Love your collage (love all your collages)
    ...great news you are forming a workshop, all I can say is "if only"...Joxx

  10. Giggle away, dear friend. Your talent and caring nature will insure you reach your goals.

  11. Leslie I hope you've managed to work through enough of the "must do's" so that you are feeling less overwhelmed. Boy, do I know that feeling! Great post as usual and I sense there is a brewing, boiling and bubbling of new ideas afoot.

  12. "safe where no one can poke at them".
    I relate

  13. Great collage as always! I enjoyed your story. Happy Easter!

  14. Loved your twist on this story. And always so interesting reading the responses to these types of questions. Thanks!

  15. Oooh! A dream that takes your breath away, now that sounds exciting, Leslie. You didn't need to spell it out, your enthusiasm is inspiring. That's a meditative piece above. I love the barely there, curved line.

  16. I love your words, and yoyur mood...and the story. Never heard that one, and I am a big stuffer-inner of rocks!

    MM.. workshop with you.. hope it's on line cuz then I can play too.

  17. Thank you Leslie, these words are very inspiring. I am always fighting for time to make art but now realise some things have to go to make room for the important things. It is hard to self discipline but rewarding in the end.

  18. Leslie, thank you for stopping by my blog. I find it amazing how even though we are all in our studios (or want to be) that we are all feeling or experiencing the same thing. I have received so much from the conversations about time and management. Thank you. This has been a joy reading your blog post and I will return.

  19. I love your story of the rocks and the bowl, (maybe something I might try in a class), the talk with your husband, and the list of our responses to your questions. Very thought provoking on a day off for me... there is so much I want to do, but similar to you I can't do it all... thanks Leslie for reminding me to make choices. Roxanne

  20. A thoughtful and lovely post.
    Being creative is what keeps one going I think.

  21. wonderful blog thankyou so much for sharing your journey :)

  22. It's another powerful list. 2 things strike me from coming back to read it again - the desire to continue the work and then the wish for that work to reach out and communicate with others in the wider world. Inner and outer.


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