contemporary collage paintings
the process
Leslie Avon Miller

My life flows when I'm in my art.

Jean De Muzio

Monday, July 27, 2009

Art Gone Amuck

So, alright I do talk to myself. Not out loud though. That’s where I draw the line. My conversation has been running along these lines in the studio. “Gosh it’s hot!” Then I spray a mist of water in front of the fan and feel it hit my face with refreshing coolness. Misting water aside, it’s still not very comfortable in the studio. Not only due to heat, but due to feeling like I’ve gone amuck with my art making. I paint something and it looks like something I’ve painted many times before. I try something else, and then it just looks odd. Then I paint over the whole thing. Then I do it all over again….I am making myself tired and its b-o-r--i-n-g! Boring art.

I was taking with an artist friend yesterday. She said may be I need a break. Now there is an idea. I hadn’t thought about taking a break. When things get tough I usually just try harder. I put my nose to the grindstone and grind. How Zen like to step back and pause.
So this week, due to hot weather and the need for something to be different, I’m taking a break.

Of course I can’t stop thinking about art completely. I see the earthy brown colors I love in a leaf as I pick the wild blackberries that grow along our drive. I see the beauty in a feather one of the birds lost near the feeder. Last night the sky was almost red.

As I take my break, I’m writing and reading. In an old book called Water Color Bold and Free, by Lawrence Goldsmith I read “One effective way to become bolder in your work is to experience the shock of discarding your ordinary procedures in favor of a new one.” I’ll ponder Lawrence’s words about understatement – simplicity, suggestion and brevity. He asks “does the painting make its statement economically?”

And because I have no new art to show you, I’ve posted a photo of the inside of my favorite used book store, where I find great older (and sometimes newer) art books. The floors are wooden and they creak as one walks down the narrow isles. The art section is eclectic and fun to peruse. I’ve got store credit from selling my gently used books, and I’ll be in the vicinity this week. Maybe I’ll stop by and find a new book to read on my self declared art break.

So what do you do when art making goes amuck?


  1. Hi,
    I really enjoyed this post about your art and the 'circle' of creating things that look similar to other things. I have the same thing happening in my studio and the more I need a break the less likely I am to take one. LOL! You are wise and funny at the same time. I hope you enjoy your break, maybe you could go shopping for more supplies haha! I'll be back to check on you soon.

  2. WT touched my arm tonight and said, "Man, you're hot!" I said, "Tell me about it." Maybe I need a break, too! ;^)

  3. It's good to take a break....though I fight it every time. I've got the Goldsmith book too. Had it for years!

  4. One of these usually does the trick - walking, going to the beach and staying there until I know what to do next, riding out of town on the top deck of a bus, going to my plot, sitting at the piano and playing lots of old tunes, making soup - although maybe not in July! But for me, the real trick seems to be giving up and actually taking the break before I get all ratty with myself about work stuttering and spluttering to a halt in front of my very eyes.

  5. i never get enough time art making to get to this stage but if i did i think i'd do the same.

    hope you enjoy ur break and come back refreshed and revived.

    I don't think your work is boring and i'm looking forward to seeing what comes next.

    ps spraying water near a fan...great idea....if the sun ever shines again here i'll remember that!

  6. Hi Leslie,

    Of course, before one's art can run amuck, one has to be creating some - so no fear of that here!

    Your palette is soft and subdued. Why not try something vibrant to shake you up a bit?!

    Otherwise, just enjoy browsing and reading!

  7. i seek solace in my saxophone

  8. The first thing I do is try to do more more more. And then yes, I discover what you discovering. Work that is dated even though it is new. Work that is uninspired. Sometimes I force myself to create work that outright annoys me.

    It is time to take a "break". I don't think a break for an artist is the same as a break for others. I am sure that you will not be watching t.v., eating bonbons, and taking long naps. A break should be thinking, looking, gathering. Reloading.

    Enjoy your break. It will probably be much shorter than you think.

  9. ahhh...I am the 'amuck queen'...I took a break to reconsider, re-evaluate, refresh two years ago....hasn't been a good thing.
    I'm finding my way back (working on it) through photography - letting the camera explore new images...seeing what I may miss because I'm so anxious about it.
    My issue is finding the right mix between discipline and taking a break. Have you ever read Twyla Tharp's book on creativity? Her 'box' approach is really useful - to capture ideas during your break so that the incubation process is preserved.
    Good luck and enjoy the bookstore (great image)

  10. well people have to figure out what works for them I guess - we are all different - for me when my art goes 'amuck', though it's frustrating, I now know it's also a time of change for me and I just need to persevere until the new thing shows itself - I had two months of making bad art this year when I changed mediums and then it started to change - it was so hard, but I'm reaping the rewards now - I found a brand new place to come from that feels fresh and exciting and it teaching me all kinds of new things about myself :)

  11. Ah, taking a walk through a favorite old book store is very refreshing. I felt as though I was there wandering through the rows.

    Thanks for the virtual break. I agree with you that changing to a different medium can spark new work/new directions.

    Best wishes with the new art chapter!

    Wow. The word verification is "areach". Isn't that interesting...

  12. Reading and writing and thinking are all good...taking a break is very difficult for me because at some point the work needs to be worked through. For me it's hard to do awful work and trust that the new work is on its way but I have found that to be true.
    Enjoy your break, I am taking a summer slow down...I believe we must know our needs and follow them.
    Wonderful bookstore!

  13. back response to your comment over at my patch...yes of course, link away to your hearts content me dear...

  14. ...grad my camera as if it were some sort of lifeline :) and go walkabout, even if it's only in my backyard.

    The biggest support I have, is meeting up with my art group once a week. When I'm feeling stuck, it certainly helps to voice it to friends, who can help.

    Taking time out to think about things, is always good too.

    Happy book shopping.
    Jo xx

  15. I stop.
    Like you, I read. (great bookstore)
    I also seem to get revved up by viewing art online.
    And if all else fails I clean house.

  16. I'm with you in questioning what I'm up to in art? Sometimes trying harder is not the answer. I think you have done the right thing in taking a break. This usually means that your mind will be more open to recognizing the next influence/inspiration that is waiting for you.

    I am not hampered by heat, the wind is gentle, the temps are in the high teens and I am comfortable but I continually question the nature of what I'm producing.
    Have a good break.

  17. To totally clear my head I'll do a large crossword puzzle or read a novel. After that I'll visit an art museum and usually find a new technique to try/add or gleam something inspiring to stir me up again.

  18. "The floors are wooden and they creak as one walks down the narrow isles. " Places me right there.

    I find inspiration in music, literature and bad movies. I can watch Babe that ten year old pig movie anytime on cable....predicatble and untrue. Like a placebo with a real kick.

  19. Some days I announce to my partner, "It's all too much!" and that means I am just overwhelmed by all the shoulds and musts I have made for myself. Maybe it's not very "arty" but what I usually do when I fell this way is not do any of the things on my list and instead go to the video store and spend a day or days laid out on the couch watching dvds. My favorites are TV series such as Weeds or The Sopranos. I can get really immersed in the plots and characters and ongoing stories and have a great time not worrying about anything in my own life.

    I actually find that it frees up my mind and lets art ideas come to the surface. I keep my notebook handy and jot things down such as titles, little sketches, color combinations, etc. that I don't want to lose. Maybe they're insignificant in themselves but could lead to something in the future.

    When my art seems to be getting stale but I still want to stay in the studio, I switch mediums or look through old note/sketchbooks where I've noted ideas or images that I haven't developed. If my heart is still not in it, I leave and read a book, have coffee with a friend or cook something tasty.

    After all, Leslie, working in the studio is working for yourself and I'm sure you're the kind of boss who gives yourself mental health days when you need them. Relax, cool down and put your feet up. It's summertime and the livin's easy!

  20. For me it's either taking a complete break from artmaking and letting the need to make art build up until it has to be let out again, or looking at the work of an artist who is doing something very different than me but whose work fascinates me - makes me want to do something different, too.


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