contemporary collage paintings
the process
Leslie Avon Miller

My life flows when I'm in my art.

Jean De Muzio

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Mark Making in the Studio

I had several ideas but the only one that felt exciting was to make marks, so marks I made! I did marks with different tools, different colors and in a different style. No goal in mind, no judgment, just experimentation with marks. I don’t know yet how I will incorporate these marks in my work, but I am excited to continue the experiment. I can’t say for sure why marks call my name so loudly, but they do. So I answer the call. I know I like the suggestion of mystery, the idea of communication and the rhythm my hand enjoys while I am marking. I work quickly and intuitively.

I have been reading about artist Fred Otnes. He is a featured artist in the book Art Revolution, by Lisa L. Cyr. He also has a book of his own, which you can preview here.
In Lisa’s book he is quoted as saying “It’s important to remain curious and try as much as you can, just to see where it can take you. The more you do, the more you learn and the better you become. I have always felt, even now, that I’m on the edge of something new.”

His work is full of small details, layers and is highly textured. You can see more of his work here. His book is on my short list of Art Books I Most Want to Receive in the upcoming holiday season. To me the holiday is best in the afternoon, when things quiet down and I can go off and spend time with my new art book…..

I don't think it's necessary for artists to have any formal training in painting or art history, but I do think it's essential to continually experiment with different subject matter, types of paint and methods of painting. Ron Parker

You will have to experiment and try things out for yourself and you will not be sure of what you are doing. That's all right, you are feeling your way into the thing. Emily Carr


  1. Love your willingness to experiment. And I have "Art Revolution." One of my favorites for sure!

  2. The book Art Revolution is one of my favorites, as it helps open the mind and exploring new and different thoughts of how to expand ones own artistic horizons.

    The work you feature has similarities also to an artist who created graffiti based on calligraphy on city walls before turning to canvas. His site (under construction) shows his studio but for the interview with plenty of images, try this link:

    The work seen her is truly inspirational and what I love about it, is that it incorporates numerous elements, especially calligraphy that I feel should appear in more paintings.

    Thank you for sharing an have a wonderful week

  3. I really like the marks it is kind of like a jazz solo very free but has a good Rhythm.

  4. You have certainly been making marks-- good for you! I can see the joy in making them and the love you have for what you created. The rhythms create unity and balance.

  5. Love this post Leslie! Mark making is so exciting. Thanks for the link to the Fred Otnes book (now on my wish list) and all the marvelous quotes. In my household, Boxing day is for new book browsing .... wallowing.

  6. I can tell from the sheer exuberance of your marks that you had a really good time doing this, I have an image in my head of a small child let loose for the first time with crayons and plenty of paper. Thank you.

  7. Love the post Leslie!! I agree that as artists we shuld continually experiment and try new things out!! That why being an artist costs me a fortune...... always buying new stuff to play!

  8. LOVE the flow. And you landed on THE perfectly luscious background color!!

  9. Great post in every way Leslie. I love the suggestion of communication in this mark making. My favourite is the one dark line in the upper half of the work.

    I love Fred Otnes work. I saw a solo exhibition of his in New York. I was in a state going from one to the other. I didn't know how to express myself I was so overcome. I bought the book that day and I continue to look at it. I don't know Art Revolution but I will today as it seems to be a book I should have. Emily Carr was quite the individual artist in a time when women were not taken seriously. Several artists in St. John's studied at Emily Carr in British Columbia. So many links to your post today you have me all excited. Now I'm off to the gym with lots of energy.

  10. I took a class once called "drawing from the right side of the brain" and I painted with a rock for the whole class. The mark making is like a secret language of your own.

    Love what you are doing.



  11. aw, such a treat starting my week with a new post from you.
    and now art revolution is on my list, which is short, and a click away via amazon, perhaps.

    your intuition
    guides your inner rhythm
    and shares the joy.


  12. Leslie, as far as I'm concerned, you are a master at "making marks". I look forward to seeing how you incorporate these papers into future works of art. Love the links to Fred Otnes's work. And all the quotes apply to me. . . they were thinking about ME when they said those things.

  13. This is a most inspiring post. I also appreciate hearing about Art Revolution. I will check it out. I will be watching to see what you do with your markings.

    I recall a well-to-do friend from Sweden whose father was an art collector and had given her a set of four paintings which looked very much like your markings. Sorry I do not recall the name of the artist, but he was apparently well known and the paintings worth a lot of money. To my eye, your work displayed above looks just as good if not better!

  14. Leslie, I just found your blog and love your work. Do you have an on-line shop?

  15. always inspiration here - will be interested to see how you incorporate these into your work :)

  16. "I have always felt, even now, that I’m on the edge of something new." I find this so important, but I envy those that are content rather than striving, sometimes.

    Great experiments - poetry without words, dances without steps.

    Your posts always make me think...I thank you, I think.

  17. I love this blog -- thank you! It inspires me and makes me happy.

    BTW, I recently read that Robert Motherwell painted marks on a ream of pages marks every day. This is apparently documented in the book titled "The Writings of Robert Motherwell"

  18. Love the layers and varying size and color of yr marks. thanks for the intro to this new to me artist.

  19. Great idea for an experiment - I'm sure these will somehow end up in or influence some upcoming pieces.

    Sometimes it is hard to allocate one's precious, scarce time to working on something like this that isn't intended to be a finished piece itself (though I think some of these would look great hanging on the wall!).

  20. Mark-making... a favorite thing of mine, too. It looks like these were all done with your right hand; try the same thing with your left and see what happens. I don't do calligraphy but this suffices for me. I often simply make marks on a big sheet of paper, photocopy it onto Kozo, and collage it to other work. This is wonderful.

  21. This is so very "zen", if I may say so. the just making without judging, without expectation.

    I just love the passion you exude in every post. I am inspired and pulled forward by reading your blog. I wish I could join you in your studio for some of that infectious enthusiasm (no vaccination required!)

  22. Leslie,

    Your marks are beautiful, energetic and free. It will be exciting to see what you do next with these.

    I agree that formal education is not always necessary in order to become a good artist. Experimenting is a good path to finding your unique voice.

    When you have time, please read my online article, "Discovering Your Voice by Experimenting" in the September issue of Strathmore Artists Newsletter.

  23. Seth – it is a great book!

    Egmont – thanks for the link!

    Keri – good to hear what you like – gives me ideas.

    Donna – I like those elements – unity and balance. Thanks!

    Robyn – a day with new art books is a great day indeed.

    Ian – Yes, I did have fun! I can’t wait to do it again – maybe I’ll try using crayons…

    Manon - new materials can spark experimentation.

    Willow – thanks for your help with the blog background!

    Margaret – I have a real soft spot for Emily Carr- She lived and worked less than 20 miles from where I am. I’ve seen quite a few of her original paintings, read her books, and her biography. What a remarkable person she was.

    Corrine – OMG! I’m so excited – a rock! I really am going to try that my next studio day!

    Nancy – I think you will enjoy Art Revolution. I love your haiku – a perfect comment!

    Mary – Yes – they were quotes for YOU and ME and all of us! we are feeling our way into our art.

    Bonnie – What a neat story. If you do recall the Swedish artist’s name I would love to know. I think you will enjoy Art Revolution.

    Patty – Thanks for asking. People can email me at and I can let them know what is available and so forth.

    Jeane – Me too!

    John – maybe contentment with the state of striving….

    Susan – what a great warm up. Thanks for the Motherwell tid bit and for visiting.

    Suki – Thanks. Glad you enjoyed the links.

    Bob – It is difficult to step back from the linear approach to “serious productive work”, but it was so much fun I want to do it again!

    Jo - My non dominate hand has gotten pretty skilled because I have used it so much!

    Zen Dot – I like the Zen wisdom and find it helpful in the studio when I can remember it! Some day my studio space will be finished and I can have people come play…

    Georgette – my favorite topic is about authentic artistic voice – I’ll be reading your article with great interest. Thanks!

  24. Hi Leslie - love this post! So true about what you say...making one's mark can only be done by doing, after all. The more we experiment, the more we evolve as artists; the stronger our mark becomes.
    Glad you liked the intro to JafaBrit. She's wonderful isn't she? So dynamic!

  25. And sometimes the experiments are a success and sometimes they aren't.

    These succeed brilliantly.

    But then I always love an explorer.

  26. Hi Leslie, stunning works!
    You might like this two-handed painting Dalibor Chatrný (famous Czech painter).

  27. You have made some lovely marks, color and size...true gestures! They stand alone but will be interesting how you will use more mark making in new the links too!

  28. Woops typo on my email address - it

    HI Mary Ann- thanks for the visit. I'm looking forward to more mark making. Glad you enjoyed the links.

  29. Debrina - stronger marls - yes that's good!

    Barry - Gee, I love explorers too!

    Eva - I loved that link! Thank you!

  30. Inspiring and spirited marks!

    I also thought of the artist Cy Twombly when I was reading through your post. I like his work too.

  31. Leslie: Your "mark" series is quite sophisticated and has a wonderful Zen-like quality. Thank you for the book references too – I am rushing to check it out. I especially like the quote: …you are feeling your way into the thing. from Emily Carr – I would add to that:…and your way back out again.

  32. always love to see your new ideas...the scribble marks seem so effortless, spontaneous; you make it look so easy! And thanks for the visit.

  33. I've just been scrolling through look at your art. I love your work. The thing is just to keep at it, isn't it? I go for weeks without doing any painting, and then it's hard to pick up a brush again.

    You're very talented.

  34. This is such an interesting post! I'm just in a phse of experiment too, not knowing what I'm doing, but it feels like a relief to read that it's a part of the process, and it's normal... The book about Fred Otnes sounds nice, gonna look it up :-)
    Your mark are very strong! Keep experimenting with them!
    Thanks for giving your opinion on my blog.

  35. I just ordered the book, could'nt wait ;-)
    A present for myself :-))

  36. Hi Leslie,

    With advice like that, I could become an artist yet! Glad you're enjoying your experiments.

  37. Your "marks" are elegant, Leslie... what a great post... have a creative weekend... roxanne

  38. Your marks are graceful and bold. They remind me of Japanese caligraphy.


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