contemporary collage paintings
the process
Leslie Avon Miller

My life flows when I'm in my art.

Jean De Muzio

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Individual Expression

…there was a long time when I wasn’t completely satisfied with what I was doing…not that I didn’t think each collage was good, but they didn’t have the message…finally, when I felt I had the message, then I thought, okay, now.

~Hannelore Baron

Making art is like a conversation for me. As I work I converse with the piece and the piece converses with me. I hope to communicate my message through the work.

If I am lucky the work tells me what it needs. Once the painting or collage is complete, I hope the conversation continues between the work and the viewer, and on some level between the viewer and the maker.

Sometimes that awareness of the message, the conversation, can distract me from the elements that go into a work of art. The techniques, the design and the craftsmanship remain important, and I must remember that part too.

I’ve been trying to move to another level with my work, one with the message and the craftsmanship equally expressed. I have tried a number of ideas and approaches to my current subject matter. Each experiment has been worth while. I think I have found my direction, although I’m at the beginning of this series.

We make art because we have to! We have no choice but to express ourselves visually. We share our visions, our sensitivities, and our compassion. We share our agony, our wrath and our frustrations. Through our art we lay ourselves out on paper for all the world to see. When we exhibit our work, others can explore and experience our beliefs, our reactions, our biases, our loves and our spiritual beings. It takes special people to share themselves with others in such personal ways, and such people are called artists.

~Gerald. F. Brommer

These two small studies are satisfying to me. I can work from this place. The working title for the series is Story Line. The concept is solid and I know the message, at least at this initial level. More may be revealed to me as I work.

Mr. Brommer goes on to say of course our products have something to do with technique, decoration, craftsmanship, design and subject mater. But these are merely tools that help us create more effective art…help us communicate more articulately. What we express visually is what is within each of us, for that is the foundation and purpose of our art. We express reactions; we help others see more differently or more clearly; we assist in the recognizing of relationships. We explore visual dynamics and report on human events. We decorate surfaces and we express unbounded joy in the very act of creating. We create because it is an essential part of our lives. We cannot help but be artists…Regardless of the media, styles, size or subject matter, good art is determined by the quality and effectiveness of sincere visual expression.


  1. You can click on the images of the studies to see them larger. I made these on the paper from brown paper shopping bags. I love that paper for its tactile qualities and for its earthiness.

  2. These are gorgeous. They look effortless and spontaneous (although I know this is not always the case). And I love your quotes and your words on making art. This gives me something inspiring to consider as I create. Lovely post as always!

  3. Thanks ZDot. Effortless they were not, but that's a great energy to visualize.

  4. I think you went to a new place with these, Leslie. The brown paper is such a great color and texture. It works really well with black and white. I love your mark making. Very lovely!

  5. Leslie, you've taken your work to another level with these pieces. I get a definite sense of stories told .... unravelling, poetry, ongoing conversations. Absolutely stunning!
    Also enjoying "Remembering You" in the sidebar.

  6. Gorgeous!
    and I love the materials, that you used the brown paper shopping bags.
    Happy creating:))

  7. Theses are both superb, and like the others who have commented I think the choice of the paper bags is inspired. I am currently struggling with a collage but mine lacks the spontaneity of yours, maybe I will get some inspiration from studying your work.

  8. I love the first piece. I used to draw on brown wrapping paper a lot, especially liked the rough side of it. So, guess what I'll be looking for today?

  9. they are lovely ... both of them ... i can so relate to this post .. working intuitively ideas for me are the hardest to pin down - and i like strong ideas - that content is 'there' in an artwork .. whether the intent of the artist is evident or not but that 'something' filters through to the viewer ..

    great post >>> Gina

  10. Leslie I have been a quiet 'lurker' really enjoying your blog. I think these pieces and your title "story line" speak beautifully (altho I must admit I read it first as songlines - the musical lines within the pieces led me there I think). I also really like the words from Mr Brommer and his suggestion that our art helps us communicate visually what is within each of us. A perfect thought for my day! Thanks for sharing


  11. Beautiful, intriguing work Leslie. I get a sense of continuation from these pieces as if conversations or stories are in process. The format and the meandering horizontal lines add to the whole effect as do the floating central composition.

    I identified with your quotes and your reflection about where you are in your creative process. Moving to the next level is daunting.

  12. These studies are wonderful. I love the "story line" concept. Can't wait to see what this series becomes. I'm wishing you many fulfilling conversations with your work.

  13. This piece is beautifully designed and executed. It has a textural richness that's engaging. Wonderful! and a wonderful post.

  14. I esp. like the scribbled black lines and use of newspapers. when my son was little his dad brought home a huge fat and tall roll of brown paper. I used to place art supplies all around the house. We'd tear off sheets of brown paper and the kids (my son and his friends) would have a great time.

    Lovely quotes. Will be nice to see what evolves for you as you continue to explore new levels.

  15. what a great post! love the quotes and nodded and smiled through the whole read. your work is just wonderful, chewy and rich with texture and of course it talks to me!!

  16. OKAY!! i know where to come with my sticky fingers after the morning's 'collage grappling' that i began on thursday...always the reminders from you that are SPOT ON: i'll go back to it after lunch. thanks! and fabulous piece and beginning of your series...little tiny messages here. x0

  17. Great quotes (love Baron) and great personal observations but the work says it all doesn't it...good place to the beginning of a new road. As for brown has it's own magical quality.
    Both are lovely , delicate, strong with great line!

  18. Leslie -

    These pieces are so totally pleasing in every way !
    you've used some of my favorite ingredients: brown craft paper &
    black thread .
    Yum -


  19. The line work is so fascinating,,,and definitely speaks to the series title.

    Brown bagging it,,,,I used to do this myself, and I'm wondering how it is I 'forget' to try it again.
    Maybe soon.

    Perfect collages,,in conversation as well as execution. Just perfect,,and especially in this palette.

  20. i always feel inspired after a visit here .thank you!

  21. Both works are excellent. The compositions are very well balanced with many interesting details. I like the balance of color with black and white and the thread like lines, of course. Nice quotes too.

  22. Leslie,

    I like the direction you are taking your "lines" in. Line as story, line as reference to text, brown paper as a kind of parchment, a harkening back to paper as a replacement for rock and animal skin--when people first expressed their desire to record their tale.

  23. Both pieces in this series are breathtaking and beautiful. I love what you have said in this post as well regarding creating art as a form of communication. So true.

  24. Love your thoughts about making art and communicating the message you have to say. The conversation between our art and ourselves is critical for me. Beautiful works- especially enlarged!

  25. Hi Leslie, Beautiful beautiful work. Thank you for allowing us to view them large scale. I love seeing the line and texture. The are lovely and musical.

    Thank you also for the insightful information from Gerald F. Brommer. I continue my search for "the message". It is sometimes rather confusing to make work that is visually right but somehow still not emotionally right.

  26. And when I think about it, a lot that you have to say about art also applies to living and to human relationships.

  27. Leslie-- another wonderful blog post- I love the quotes- especially the Brommer quote- I know him- I took his workshop on collage many years ago and I occasionally run into him when I am out across the country teaching workshops because he is still out there teaching--you express yourself so beautifully and I love your new work.

  28. these are absolutely gorgeous!! i have been an admirer of your work for a long time and these are just magnificent! i love the wonderful quotes you've shared too -- thank you!

  29. These works are lovely 'stories' and your honest appraisal of the approach needed for the work to grow and stretch us is so well stated.
    I love the brown paper bag as media too and also the huge brown paper drop cloths used for protecting floors when painting...they're super thin like parchment...and tear with a gorgeous edge...perhaps you've tried them.

  30. These two pieces are gorgeous, Leslie. Rich and delicious. Yum.

  31. Leslie - so very poetic and the 'storyline' is a perfect example of you reaching a sensitive balance between your message and your medium. I love coming to visit your blog - always so much to reflect back upon.
    You rock!
    And the Danish artist - I think I can count that as a visit to a gallery in my 'the artists way' voyage!

  32. Your "story" pieces are wonderful and intriguing. I read the most elegant lines! (Noticed that you have used the first one for your home page photo which is perfect!)
    I love working with brown paper bags & will take a new bundle over to the studio!
    Who & where we are always shows up on the canvass, that is certain.

  33. Making art, is talking esperanto!!
    let us talk
    grtn Willy.

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  35. I like the floatiness of the white areas. Feels evanescent. A message floating on a down-to-earth paper bag. Really nice.

  36. beautiful collages, beautifully written and oh, great quotes too. Thanks for sharing, I agree with you that making art is like talking with your work, and you have to listen both within and to what the papers want to do/go. :-)

  37. I love your work and the brown paper adds a beautiful element

  38. I've been ironing brown paper bags and painting them. Great stuff for collage.

    I thank you all for your kind comments and hope your paper bag experiments are fun and fruitful.

    Thanks for stopping by!

  39. As soon as I clicked the image

    It just felt right

    all is where it should be

    and I can see how you are satisfied with it.

    I love the restraint shown, best of all.

  40. Lovely, Leslie, as always! I love your color combinations and the intriguing marks you make. The whole post is very interesting and I love the quote you've included. Collage artists seem to work all over the place as far as size is concerned and I am often surprised at how small some works are that actually have a monumental feel to them. What size are these two new works of yours?


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