contemporary collage paintings
the process
Leslie Avon Miller

My life flows when I'm in my art.

Jean De Muzio

Friday, January 22, 2010

Creative Space

Collage, untitled, 6 inches by 6 inches by Leslie Avon Miller

The studio is less important than other things, like the burning desire to paint. If you don't have this disease, you can't catch it from a nice studio. ~Warren Criswell

My studio is under construction, and I’m feeling a bit displaced. To distract myself, beyond working on small collage, I thought I would see what words of wisdom artists have about their creative space.

Today I am paying a virtual visit to the studio of Cheryl Taves. As luck would have it, Cheryl has just moved her studio. Her long term plans include building a “purpose built, private studio” at her home.

In Cheryl’s words “here's a bit about my studio re-birth. Re-locating my home studio has been such an interesting and revealing experience about the close, connected relationships we artists have with our studio space. The new studio is large and open...too large for just myself, so I'm sharing the space with another artist, Maggie Cole. The first thing we did was separate the space with a free standing partition wall that serves double duty by giving us our privacy while providing us with another wall to work additional storage on the shelving installed in the returns at either end of the wall.

This new studio had everything I needed for a great working space....and interestingly....and somewhat unexpectedly, I resisted packing up and leaving my old studio for some time after securing the new one. When I did start to dismantle the old studio, I realized that most of the work I had done to date had been generated from within this space...and I was firmly attached. It felt precious, sacred and somehow tearing it apart, a betrayal. I took photographs of this tiny, cluttered, unworkable space to remember it by...and wrote endlessly about the arising feelings in my sketch book/journal. I felt unsettled, anxious and quite lost as the moving process began....and yet, strangely excited about the new beginnings to come.

I took my time and planned the placement of everything into the new space, very carefully and thoughtfully. I knew how I liked to work and what wasn't working for me in the old space could be considered and rectified in the new. I bought new things, de-cluttered and arranged, and re-arranged, everything so it was just as I wanted it. But, I wasn't working there....I didn't feel connected to the space, as yet. I'm working again now, after several weeks of settling in and attaching myself to the space. The more time I spend there and the more of myself I bring into the space, the more my connection deepens. And on those quiet days when no one is's absolutely perfect.

Through this process, what I've come to realize about my studio space is that, for me, there needs to be a perfect blend of access vs. privacy. My old studio was so integrated in to my home (situated in the loft above my living room) that there was not enough privacy at times....and yet, it was so close and easy to go to that art making could happen at any time of day or night...going to the studio meant walking upstairs. But being that accessible meant that phone calls, email, laundry and my husband could all pull me out of my working space all to easily. In the new studio, because it is a destination, I go there to work - no phones, no email and on good days very little interruptions. There is more of a mental transition that happens when I go there to work. It's purposeful and filled with intention. I've been more disciplined with my studio time as a result. But, I find that I don't go there as easily as I would go to my home studio. But when I am there, I'm there for many, long, productive hours.

So, for me, the ideal space is attached to my home, easy to get to and far enough away from household activities that I can work without distraction or interruption. It will have wonderful north facing light and lots of storage for painting supports and supplies. There will be access to the outside, as connection to the ground and garden is really important to me. It will have large walls for working on and a movable central island that will provide a flat surface for working as well as more storage. Thankfully, I have lots of time to plan this new space...and now even more information about my needs due to this recent studio change.

Our studios are such an important part of our art making...the energy of that space should align with what feels right and good for each artist...and that is a very personal thing. For me, a studio should always have a sitting area for reading, writing and contemplation. Our studios are not only for working, but a respite from the normalcy of life...allowing us to drop in to the art-making space within ourselves. I think of it like a vessel...a holding space. Upon entering, there should be a sense of transition, an opening and a quiet comfort....welcome back."

Thank you Cheryl, for allowing us to see your new creative space and hear about the process of settling in to a new space. I am looking forward to seeing your next creative endeavors!


  1. What a great prospect - setting up a studio from scratch! Have fun with it.

  2. I'm trying very hard not to drool, looking at all the sparkly space. Interesting to read about the transition from the old studio to the new one. Bet you can't wait to get back in the studio Leslie.

  3. I found that post quite enthralling - as was the image.

  4. Fascinating and very thoughtful post.

    My wife's studio is our youngest daughter's former bedroom with imperfect light and all the distractions you mentioned.

    She would be very jealous of your new studio Cheryl.

  5. Love your new collage, Leslie; and your interview with Cheryl was perfect. What a great space she has, and what a great opportunity for you to create your own new space. For me, it would have to get really messy first before I could actually do any work.

  6. What an interesting post. My studio is a space appropriated out of our large garage. My main workspace is under a north-facing window and I, too, love that light. However, the set up had to accomodate the other uses of the garage space so it is not perfect. But what is - and I am enormously happy when I am there - and if there is a pot of soup on the stove I can pop in easily to give it a stir and get right back to my creative space.

    Thanks for showing us the new studio space of your blogging artist friend.

  7. Dear Leslie, first I want to thank you for the beautiful quote you left on my blog about the passing of winter. I hope yours is passing quickly, and your studio will be done soon (how long will it be?)
    Thank you for sharing the links to Cheryl Taves and Maggie Cole, and what Cheryl wrote about her transition. I imagine you will go through a transition as well, and waiting must be so hard. But you are making me so excited to see and read about it!
    If I ever get a new studio, it will need to be part of the garden too...
    happy saturday to you, roxanne

  8. Hi Leslie,

    My first thought on seeing those photos of the studio was "how bright and clean, I wouldn't want to mess it up"!!! One thing that surely must be important is feeling comfortable and 'at home' wherever/whatever your studio may be.

  9. Cheryl's description of her ideal studio matches that of my wife (painter) and I (photographer). 10 years ago we were fortunate enough to move to the country, primarily so we'd have space to build such studios. Our studios are on our property (accessbility) but in separate buildings from the main house (privacy) and they are on opposite ends of the property (marital harmony).

  10. great post Leslie-- and not just a glimpse at someone's studio but her thoughts and feeling about her studio space-- and to see the works of two artists created in that space-- all connected so well.

  11. Wonderful collage.
    It was interesting to read about moving from a small studio space to a larger one. My move was in the opposite direction. My husband and I shared studio space in the largest, best lit space in our house. It was the first space anyone saw when they came in. As his photography interests and business grew, I decided to move my studio to a small unoccupied bedroom. I loved the colors of the walls(burnt orange)when we first bought the house, and didn't know how to use it to its best potential. Now, it is my studio. I had trouble adjusting to it at first, but I really enjoy my time in there now that I have made it my own. I still need some shelves and a comfy chair to read and reflect, but I got a fabulous light for Christmas. It is a work in progress, but it already feels good.

  12. Lovely collage Leslie!
    Thank you for this great tour and insight into the moving's a beautiful space and well thought out in areas of rest, work and storage.
    You must be getting excited about your studio construction...take photos!

  13. Great studio visits and today I wandered over your site savoring bits and pieces along the way. Loved viewing your "artists of note". My studio is an upstairs space with fairly good light - regrettably it is still painted yellow and I yearn for the time to splash up a more neutral color for my workspace. I don't feel the influence of the yellow cast until I'm ready to photo a piece and then yowee, all I can see is the yellow tinge. At any rate, again enjoyed my visit here today.

  14. Exciting collage you've created,,love seeing all the colors of white, and the wonderfilled marks!
    Fabulous being able to see Cheryl's new studio, and hope you'll be able to enjoy yours soon.
    My 'studio' is less than perfect, (light,storage)but it is mine. I don't have to share the space with other purposes, and that's not always been the case, so I am content.

  15. I also do collage work with all kinds of mediums- but most fabrics and anything fiber. Hope you come to visit my blog too. Love your work- very very nice!!


  16. I love these small collages you're doing while you wait for your studio to be completed. It'll be worth the wait. I hope you'll do a self-interview about your studio space complete with pictures, when the time comes.

  17. Leslie is exciting.
    Now the thrill of seeing the birth of other images, perhaps other spirits. There in the Mediterranean tradition that the "place" of birth of the images allow your spirit to participate in its preparation. This is what in Latin was called "genius loci".
    un abrazo

  18. Thank you for this post, I am green with envy at the thought of a spacious studio but I will console myself with the quote by Warren Criswell. Your collage is an example of the wonderful work that can be done in a restricted space.

  19. Enjoy your wonderful new space. A new studio is like moving into a new house. You'll miss parts of the old and you will relish much of the new after you settle in.

    Just make sure it is yours, yours, yours.

    I am a house freak and am always looking at house plans. I always envision turning a 1st floor master bedroom in to my studio (something that would be impossible in my house now). But then, when I go up into my attic studio, I know that, aside from the cat, others will rarely go that far to bother me.

  20. as seth said "studio envy"...BUT i adore that quote ~if you don't have the burning desire to paint, you can't catch that disease from the studio~
    interesting to hear about adjusting to a new space, and its proximity...thanks, leslie..and the little collage, just sort of floating there, catches me.

  21. What and interesting post. I've always dream of having the perfect studio, at least not a damp basement as they've always been. Now I realized in my old age that it will always be just a dream and be thankful that it's not flooded today!

  22. Feeling connected to the space is crucial. I had a nice big basement space once upon a time, but much prefer my studio in our extra bedroom with a view over the city and the comforts of home just a hallway away. If only it were twice as big. Ok, 3x as big!

  23. We've been building my studio for more than six years now ... bit by bit, using recycled materials when possible, new materials when we could afford them. It's a work of art and a gift of love, and a huge learning curve, all in itself. Not to mention a challenging exercise in patience. But it's almost done, and it's gorgeous! A few more weekends and I will finally be able to move in.
    I am totally fascinated by other people's studios, (surprise!), so thank you so much for this post.

  24. Beautiful collage, staid yet energetic and elegant. The light in the studio is to me what is most important....regards.

  25. Really enjoyed Cheryl Taves' comments about moving to new space. I experienced something similar when I moved from my basement studio to a new structure apart from our house. I had to keep reassuring my muses that they were more than welcome at the new studio. Visitors have even commented about the energy they feel when they visit. While I agree it's the passion and not the square footage, a creative space offers a boundary of access to an inner dwelling eager to unfold.
    Thanks for sharing Cheryl's link. Her work is more than gorgeous.

  26. wonderful post! And I love that quote.
    when I was in Seattle and after my son was born and needed a playroom, my home studio was converted into the playroom. And I got a studio outside of the house. It was like what Cheryl said- I went there with intention, not distracted by phone, laundry, cleaning, computer, or all the other things that need to get done at home. It was a teenytiny studio,but it became my sacred space.

    When we moved to Chicago, my studio went back to being at home. Time is disjointed here, but I just need to be more aware that I need to stay on task when I am working.

    I think my dream would be to have a studio separate from the house, but not too far.

  27. A studio space this neat and tidy just seems wrong...: ) Love the space. The first word that comes to mind when I look at your collage is 'sophisticated'. It looks very Asian to me and lovely.

  28. Guess what I've been doing these last two days? Cleaning up my art space and it still looks nothing like the one here!!!
    Thanks again Leslie for a great post.

  29. Love your new collage.......just love it.

  30. What a gorgeous space - I would spend ages in there if it was mine!

  31. Thank you for this practical and poetic post. I loved reading about how her studio impacted her artmaking and she raised some great points about location and productivity. I'll keep this in mind when we move to a house.

  32. Interesting post! I had a space in the garage that I used to use but what I found is that it took me away from the kids and it was hard to enjoy the time without feeling like I was being neglectful. I create in the lounge now,always with interuptions but strangley enough I get more done. I guess it's the ability to catch 20mins before tea or 20 minutes after homework or an hour before folding home is my studio and I've only just realised! The space in the garage just stores things I am not using now!

    Sorry to hear about your blogger friends troubles! Thankyou for sharing your thoughts also:)


Thank you for stopping by! Please sign the guest book and let me know what you think. Join the conversation. It's fun!