contemporary collage paintings
the process
Leslie Avon Miller

My life flows when I'm in my art.

Jean De Muzio

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Thinking Like an Olympic Champion

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

Watching the Olympics I am intrigued by the glimpses we get into the process of each athlete. The way they “psych” themselves up for their events; the way they handle the moments before they launch into their program or start their race; their response to winning and not winning. Obviously, these athletes have benefited from what we know about positive attitudes and optimum performance.

So what am I observing that might be of benefit to my own creative practice? This is what I see:

Celebrate and enjoy that you made it this far!

Strive for your Personal Best.

Peak performance is enhanced by

Knowing yourself
Developing a strong support team – even in an individual sport
Honing your skills and accepting feedback exclusively from very trusted sources
Replacing negative self talk with positive self talk
Being very clear about your life purpose at this point in time
Surrounding yourself with others who use positive talk
Taking responsibility
Eliminating what does not serve your purpose
Letting go of what can’t be controlled – for instance other people and their reactions and comments
Knowing that silver and bronze are beautiful
Having commitment
Working your way back after a set back
Knowing that finishing the race is its own reward
Knowing that if you fall down, you can get back up

Graciousness is appealing no matter the color of the medal. Taking time to applaud and recognize others is part of a positive experience. Being a little sassy, a lot confident, and having fun belong in your practice. Take a victory lap. Celebrate. Smile really big.

Then get back to the work you love. Some things are better than gold.

What are you seeing in the Olympic athletes that you might use in your creative practice?


  1. What a thoughtful and thought-provoking post, Leslie. That was a gold-medal moment you had, to cull all of this from the Olympics!

  2. Hi Jo: Thanks! I got so curious about it all. Those athletes are well coached and I think it shows!

  3. Great creative thinking about process - theirs and yours. I love the collage/painting!!

  4. Leslie--so many of the things you write here speak to me. I especially like the part where you said to let go of the negative, especially in people and their comments. Just let it go, right? I have recently been practicing that myself, allowing what others say to not influence what I feel about myself. I know I am better than that. I feel good about who I am. And, after reading your blog, I even feel better! Imagine what Barry has to contend with each day. Talk about a challenge. Yet, he deserves a medal for what he has endured. I guess he has that gold, silver and bronze in all of us though. We bolster him, we help him make another step toward his healing. This is a good community to belong to. No wonder we are all artists! Who wouldn't want to be one!!!

  5. I too have been having some of the same thoughts about these athletes but hadn't connected it back to art. Thanks for that!

  6. Some things are better than gold. Keep thinking those good thoughts!

  7. Hi Leslie,

    Shame on me! I haven't been following the Olympics. I guess it's not the priority it once was or I might just be eliminating what does not serve my purpose. But I have been following your blog and I like what I see. Your collage is beautiful and compelling; it requires my contemplation. I like that in art. You are a master at balancing a variety of delicate shapes, calligraphy and value, and then tie them all together with extraordinarily subtle color.

    I agree with all that you have gleaned from the Olympians. Some of these are tough for me, like letting go of what can't be controlled. But I really do believe that the more you know yourself and clarity of purpose, the more all the rest of these seem to be in place.

    Thanks for a great post!

  8. We have an Australian who won a gold medal, something very rare for us in the winter olympics, she was definitely focused. Your piece of art is certainly gold worthy.

  9. Thank you Leslie, your collage is sensational, particularly the three words the third of which I cannot read, it looks like 'future' but that doesn't make sense, perhaps it doesn't need to and it definitely makes it more enigmatic.
    Your words are inspirational, I feel better just by reading them. I lack confidence in my art as I have come to it only recently at over 70 years old and your text is just what I need. Ian

  10. grace and flow
    after all the preparedness

    gratitude for the moment

  11. lovely collage. i am amazed at all these thoughts you found in watching the olympics. thought-provoking.

  12. oh Leslie, I couldn't agree more. I was thinking the other night watching the Olympics that I want to have the same determination about my art career that these athletes have and what a difference that will make in my life. I love the points that you so beautifully laid out and the positive aspect is the key. thanks!

  13. On our flight over to Britain many years ago, the South African power lifting team was on board, on their way to the championships in Spain. We were sitting behind them and were very interested to see how they were psyching themselves for the event. We could hear snippets of team talk but the thing that caught my attention was that every team member (there were dozens of them) had a motivational book of some sort and they all spent a lot of time reading them. The lesson I got from that was that even if we are passionate about something we still have to keep ourselves positive and find ways to keep negative self talk at bay.

  14. Leslie,

    Thank you for sharing these very useful observations and for connecting them to making art. My favorite is the last one: some things are better than gold!
    Like Ian Foster I was wondering what the other word in your new collage said, but I agree it is of no importance: the collage is gorgeous and we must keep wondering I think, makes it even more interesting. Thanks also for your comment on my blog yesterday/
    Regina, St. Maarten

  15. Great entry, Leslie! The sense of focus and dedication, of drive yet humility, of individual merit yet within a team sensibility -- all motivated to excel at what one loves. Thank goodness we are reminded of these qualities every 4 years. Perhaps our politicians should take some lessons? :-)

  16. Your collages are such a delight, obviously your signature, but always new and surprising.
    I havn't watched the Olympics this year, but in years past, I have been impressed by the athletic collaborative of excellence...the quest to push oneself through years of practice and mastery to excel beyond ones wildest dreams in front of the world. While art is usually not that public, the quest of excellence is a good guiding star.

  17. Motivation and self important! This post was beautifully written and speaks so well to the creative spirit in all of us. I enjoy so many of the sports...looking forward to the ice dancing but last night loved the speed skating!
    This collage is wonderful...I like the words and not knowing!

  18. what a wonderful post Leslie-- tying the Olympics (which I am watching) into our everyday lives and studio lives-- I think what I am noticing most this time around is the grace with which some of these athletes have whether they win gold or not-- not falling into the trash talking other athletes or countries with sour grapes are engaging in.

  19. So smart to think of the Olympics and what they bring out in the trained athlete and liken it to your achievement and work ethic. Hurrah! Yes, a gold medal moment for you and it is more than the gold medal--perseverance and dedication, yes, a great support team, the desire to make what is in your heart to the best of your ability. Practice helps all. Thanks Leslie, and the collage is lovely.

  20. Oh Leslie, thank you for making this connection. We all need to strive, to pursue our dreams and to celebrate our art! sending blessings, roxanne

  21. Thanks for the pep talk!!! Off to watch the Olympics so I can answer your question.

  22. Bonnie – Thank you!

    Teri – letting go is quite powerful I think.

    Seth – you are welcome.

    Willow – thank you!

    Stan – Clarity of purpose is a touch stone. And thank you. I appreciate getting to know you via the art blog world.

    Ro – I saw the Australian get her gold medal! Congratulations!

    Ian – What a beautiful gift you have given yourself – to incorporate painting into your life. You are an inspiration to me!

    Neva – your comments – always elegant and oh so arty!

    Sukipoet – I love people, so the Olympics are a people watching event for me.

    La Dolce Vita – I really believe in the power of being positive.

    Robyn – What a wonderful story – being positive and motivated requires on going attention.

    Regina – Some things are better than gold! Thank you.

    Kelly – Oh so true and very well said! Politicians could benefit from communication and team building skills. Quickly!

    Marie – Quest for excellence – its very worth while.

    Mary Ann – I loved the speed skating too! Tonight – ice dancing!

    Donna – Grace is a lovely and attractive attribute.

    Maggie – Perseverance and dedication – could lead to a lot of great art!

    Roxanne – Yes to celebrating our art and congratulations on the publication of your new book!

    Kim – Enjoy! I will be watching too!

  23. A very thought provoking post. With the internet these days and seeing all the amazing and inspirational art of others, including yours, one can get bogged down to thinking, is mine really good enough.
    Should I be seeking a different bent.
    But in the end if one follows ones passions & focuses on what one is good at and hones those skills as you mentioned, then the course has to be the right one, and one has to be confident in that knowledge. I hope that makes sense.

    Thanks I needed that... think I will pin your entry on my wall for a few days -- just to remind me. Also, hope you don't mind I love the above composition. I am featuring a part of it in my "featured" column this week -- SO very beautiful... and it feels so much like where my head is right now (hope you won't mind?? will link it back to your blog).

    I really appreciate your blogs. Always inspiring

  25. Hi Judy - you said that so well. I have spent a lot of time talking to myself about welcoming my own art - and not trying to make someone elses art. Welcoming what shows up on the page. I try to love other people's art (well that part isn't difficult) and not compare mine to it. For me that has been a long learning curve...

    Hi Rosalind - Thanks for letting me know and of course by all means. Thank you.

  26. Hey, did you know that the Olympics used to combine events-- sports with the arts? Up until 1948. when the Olympics was held in Berlin, with Hitler, guess who won most of the gold medals for sculpture, architecture and so on? yep, Germany-- shows how subjective those medal events were. I have an article from the NY Times Sunday paper if you are interested-- very interesting history and funny at times-- some of the events like running with Deer-Single shot and sculpture-- for real!

  27. what do you think of this event?
    Quick Draw with Cross Country Skiing

  28. Great thoughts and inspiring way of thinking about the Olympics. I love the complexity of your new collage!

  29. Interesting post! And your piece is excellent, as always.

  30. Hi Leslie, I've visited your site several times now and just have not been able to "take it all in"! Wonderful resource, beautiful art and fully energized. I will be back.

  31. Oh, what a delight to dip in here! Life is full of challenges, it's how we meet them that defines who we are. I love your collage, and your thinking..


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