contemporary collage paintings
the process
Leslie Avon Miller

My life flows when I'm in my art.

Jean De Muzio

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Out On A Limb

This is another scanned section of the Old Bones Painting, by Leslie Avon Miller
It takes a lot of guts for me to paint in nearly back and white, with a bit of grey, beige and brown. It takes a lot of guts to post paintings and collage on my blog that “break” so many design “rules”. It takes a lot of guts for me to follow this series along where it leads. I think my Muse has an astute wickedness about her, although she defies being defined or categorized. She is too individualized for that and she is fiercely creative and independent. And I think she laughs right out loud when I take delight and stand back from a delicious texture appearing on the surface of my work. She isn’t easy on me. And of course, I have to honor her, because I choose to and I know she has something to give me from all of this. I just don’t know what it might be.

I had a teacher in the 7th grade like that - Mrs. Smith. She really forced us to learn the parts of speech, and the elements of writing. She wasn’t very nice about it, and she was strict. She didn’t let us get away with “good enough.” It had to be correct. Remember diagramming sentences? Thanks to her, I have the skills to be able to write a decent sentence and to have the guts to also break those rules when it serves my purpose. For instance, the use of an occasional sentence fragment. For effect.

I have on occasion had the thought “I don’t use realistic subject matter, I don’t use color, I don’t use much contrast, I don’t use known, traditional compositions, and I don’t use much variety। I do use a lot of unity and texture। Could I make this any more difficult?”

It’s not like I don’t know the rules; I really do. I don’t know why the muse is leading me out on this limb….I keep thinking that this severely restricted color palette will run its course and I will move to something else, but the limb keeps stretching out before me….

I have been enjoying all the great comments and questions you have been leaving of late. So I’m going to address them in this post, rather than the pop up window of comments. After all, there is a conversational element to the enjoyment of blogging.

When I get to New Zealand and Australia with Kurt and Derrick as my traveling companions, I will definitely be up for all experiences including a secret sister Aussie initiation and a “chiko roll”, which I hope is vegan if it something to be consumed….

Mating and framing. What an issue. I had a 22 by 30 inch piece on heavy water color paper framed professionally once, and decided I better learn to do it myself. A local frame shop owner retired and we were fortunate to buy her professional (manual not computerized) mat cutter, her wall hung glass and straight edge cutter, frame tables, and other assorted odds and ends. The mat cutter lives in the mud room, protected by a cloth, and a barrier of empty cardboard boxes so no one sets anything on it. The space is too small to really use the cutter. The wall hung cutter is hung on the wall of the bedroom that was once the studio. I use it all the time to cut paper and mat board on the straight edge. The framing tables are in pieces awaiting installation in the new studio, which awaits insulation in the high ceilings and then drywall….in other words, I can’t really mat and frame yet, because the equipment is not set up. But yes, I yearn to mat and frame the small collage. The larger birch pieces, which Kurt makes for me, hang on the wall just as they are. Same with the gallery wrapped canvas he is learning to do.

Yes, there is an element here of rawness as well as darkness and light to the Old Bones and the Big Rocks. Thanks for putting those words to it. There is a lot of collage on the Old Bones piece. I don’t think there is any on the Big Rocks piece. Both pieces have been through a few incarnations in their process to be where they are today. As for textures; I have been creating textures for a long while now, and I pretty much know what I am going to get. There is an element of “accident” because it is not a tightly controlled process, which suits me, but I know which technique will give me which texture. And I do experiment and discover new things. I use a lot of acrylic paint, both liquid and heavy body. I use some water color, some inks, crayon D’arch, occasional pastels, graphite pencils, markers, and oil pastels (I love Sennelier oil pastels, as they are butter soft.) I have undoubtedly left out something in this list. Sometimes I use a lot of transfers. I put pigments on with a wide variety of techniques including my fingers, sticks of wood, bamboo skewers, rags, papers of many varieties and sometimes even a paint brush. I take some pigment back off with alcohol, sand paper, rubbing, more reverse transfers. Sometimes I work with my eyes closed, to get closer to intuitive gesture.

I don’t often varnish my work. I should explore that more. I know that Margaret had a list of how to do this at her blog, including spraying a mixture of mediums thinned down with water. I want to try that. That would keep graphite from smearing. Some times I put a mixture of cold wax and Gamblin Galkyd oil as the last layer. I have tried the faux encaustic recipe written by Golden Acrylics. I would love to find new ways to write on my work also.

I believe the Universe has great plans for us, and does smile on us. I think coaching helps us see, believe, and be brave. I love coaching. I love to be coached and the muse is clearly a fan of coaching. I believe that if you have read this whole post, you have read a lot! I’m off to the studio….the muse calls.


  1. Hi Leslie,

    The suitcase is still ready, whenever! And I have just read the whole post - so do I get a gold star for that? You talk of processes and substances of which I have no knowledge - but I'm learning!

  2. I think one of the things I most enjoy about viewing your work is how refreshingly, completely different it is from my own - and yet I relate to it in a very personal way.

    I always enjoy your wonderful writing and zest for not just art - but life.!!

  3. Your work really draws me in. I love it.

    I had a good English teacher, but she would be angry with me now because I have gotten so sloppy over the years; either that or my right brain kidnapped my left brain and has it bound and gagged, and stuffed in a filing cabinet.

    The Universe does have plans for all of us, but we need to be tuned in. Did I end that sentence right? I don't think so.

  4. Leslie dear, I so love your work... and you, too, of course! You do abstract so very well. Probably because of my former textile background I love tactile surfaces, both to touch and visually, and I'd sure like to touch the Old Bones piece. It's wonderful in detail and probably as a whole, too.
    You make me want to go to the studio and make stuff but we're at Cannon Beach this week with no studio... just a sketchbook and my watercolors when what I long for right now is acrylics and a big space on which to play.
    Thanks for being so open about your processes and your ideas. Generosity like yours returns 10-fold.

  5. Leslie - I for one love the lack of color, contrast, design and subject matter in your work! Of course, all of those things are, indeed, there - but done with such refinement. Much harder to pull off!

  6. The view of that limb from which you work is ever so inspiring!
    (I hope I worded that correctly)

    And,,,,I for one am outrageously glad that you have the guts,,,,
    Please do carry on, and thanks for the generous way in which you blog.

  7. love the composition of this one. works really well in these tones. I'm wondering about the whole piece. did you use more colours?

  8. Leslie,

    I just pop in to say how much your work speaks to me. You're an excellent abstract painter and I love that you break all the rules, for your paintings are wonderful and how can that be wrong??
    The thoughts, believings and discussions you share on your blog are highly appreciateds too, so thank you very much!

    Regina Dwarkasing
    St. Maarten DWI

  9. I still can't diagram a sentence and I was an English teacher....... but more on the creative writing side.

  10. I love the subtlety of the almost monochrome.
    I admire your attention to detail.
    And I still can't diagram a sentence even though I was an English teacher.........
    Happy Monday.

  11. loving the 'old bones'.....

  12. n2theblue.wordpress.comMonday, 20 April, 2009

    interesting post, i enjoyed reading it (twice). your neutral palette feels good, and the way you use it has tremendous appeal. and plenty of contrast. your muse knows what she's doing.

  13. I'm so glad I have found your blog. I'm crazy about your work and feel much creative sustinance (alas, no spelling muse!) here in your issues. I just want to say thank you and Namaste.

  14. Keep following your muse, wherever she may take you, and keep breaking those is all good!

  15. I'm still loving your "bones" piece...all angles.
    How wonderful to happen upon these framing materials...a great cost cutter. Keep us posted on the varnish adventures. Love to see photos of your studio when all is set up and organized!

  16. I loved reading this post. I love limited palette work and as I think I've mentioned before, some of your pieces remind me of wild walks I have taken when the weather has come down onto the hills and you find yourself in such a scene. I know you say you don't use realistic subject matter, but some of your pieces are incredibly evocative of place, be it physical or imagined. Tough territory, but wonderful. Elemental.

    Diagramming sentences sounds like something I'm glad to have missed. Now I'm checking back over my words just in case........

    Fascinated by this idea of a "mud room". I assume it's a place to leave outdoor gear to dry, but my imagination would like to think otherwise.

  17. This part of your "old bones" painting is wonderful. Yes, I think your muse is very happy. I love what you do with your questions and answers... thanks, Roxanne

  18. I also love your limited palette. There's such depth in Old Bones and I feel that I can see into it forever. My eyes are picking up whole new worlds.Microcosms...macrocosms. There's movement and busy-ness and I'm sure all the moles of Duncton Wood are venturing and burrowing, scavenging and hunting benieth the earth.....sorry I'm getting carried away but I just love this painting.

  19. Leslie, your muse is leading you down a wonderful path, or maybe I should say out on a long, wonderful branch.

    I hope to see more of these "non" colors.

  20. I have always believed that rules are there for if you need them. What takes courage, I have found, is doing something that is different for you, outside your comfort zone. You should not be having qualms, though, the quality of your creations is the only endorsement you need. Excellent.

  21. Leslie, whether you are breaking the rules or not, there is something very earthy and beautiful about this piece. I would continue to follow the muse!

  22. Beautiful and thought provoking, as are you my dear, Leslie. The painter, the coach, the observer. Much love to you! xo

  23. I can diagram a sentence, and I love fragments too. For effect.

    I read the whole post because you write like you must speak.

    And a chicko roll is the furtherst thing from Pluto away.

    And I am serious. Just hop across "the ditch" as they say and some to Sydney.

  24. Hi Leslie -

    I'm loving this series. We work very much the same way, as you've probably noticed. Even down to the switching gears between textured acrylic and small collages on paper.

    The limited palette is a wonderful thing, and a great way to see just how far an idea can take you.

    It would be so much fun to do art together. Until that time, we'll just have to visit back and forth now and then via blogs.


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