contemporary collage paintings
the process
Leslie Avon Miller

My life flows when I'm in my art.

Jean De Muzio

Saturday, August 27, 2011

The Night Sea Journey

Night Sea Journey

The creative act is a letting down of the net of human imagination
into the ocean of chaos on which we are suspended,
and the attempt to bring out of it ideas.

It is the night sea journey, the lone fisherman on a tropical sea with his nets,
and you let these nets down - sometimes, something tears through them
that leaves them in shreds and you just row for shore,
and put your head under your bed and pray.

At other times what slips through are the minutiae,
the minnows of this ichthyological metaphor of idea chasing.

But, sometimes, you can actually bring home something that is food,
food for the human community
that we can sustain ourselves on and go forward.

~Terrance McKenna

A night sea journey, much like creating art, is a process. I go fishing time after time, casting my net and seeing what comes up. Ideas, solutions, images, metaphor...anything might be caught in the net.

I was speaking with a friend recently about the process, my process which is the way I find meaning in art making.

I am speaking of the being part of creativity…being in an emotionally open, thinking, non-thinking, spiritual space that also encompasses the physical, as in dance. This is letting down the net for the night’s fishing.

Creating is doubt coupled with knowing, but fishing anyway.

Process is being intuitive; responding to what is happening, being alert and aware, but meditative. It is experience coupled with non-judgment and curiosity. It is non-control tempered with knowledge.

It is being an open channel. It is being a tool. It is responding. It is being the net and the fisher.

Process is about stopping to look and look and ponder, sensing what my response is, and sensing what is coming up from the deep ocean well. It is exploration along the Way.

Process is dreaming the answer days after I have lain a piece aside for a while to await the new step. Process is a flash of knowing, followed again by the questions. It is knowing and not-knowing at the same time.

It is the moment.

The connection to the process is my connection to meaning. The meaning comes from within, and is the guide. Meaning and process are nourishment. They can be caught at night while fishing, or when working in the studio. 

You can click on the image to see the painting larger if you like. 


  1. I have been working intermittently on this painting for a good long while. (22 by 30 on BFK Reeves paper, acrylic and graphite)

    I was recently explaining my concept of process to a friend.

    Then I came upon Terrance McKenna's "ichthyological metaphor of idea chasing." They all came together at the same time - the painting, my ideas about process and this great quote from Terrance.

    So there you go. And what have you been catching in your nets lately?

  2. Oh my goodness, that is an amazing poem! And I just love, love, love everything you have to say about process. It has this wonderful patient, receptive feel to it. You have caught the essence, squirming and wriggling in your net. Thank-you so much for this inspiring post! I am putting on my hip waders now!

  3. Hi Z Dot - Me thinks we are two fishers in a pond...enjoy your catch!

  4. as always, you ...adding 'food for our human community'..
    stumbling, realizing it was just a bump.

  5. Hi Neva - the bumps do happen, yes they do. Then to seek nourishment. And begin again.

  6. Just the post I needed to read this grey Sunday morning. I bow to you! Losing myself in your writing, your painting and McKenna's words, I am ready to face the day. What a magical world we live in as creatives. I don't think I would want to do anything else other than create art and enjoy the process. Thanks my friend!

  7. LAM - great 'fish' to have caught in your net - the turbulence of the night sea is depicted with such strong simplicity. B

  8. Wonderful mental images Leslie - and such eloquent words - time to go fishing xoxoxo

  9. Yes, I like this metaphor, too - going fishing, in the ocean of "chaos" throwing out the nets of your imagination... this is the accidental part of creating art. Then your mind sets in when composing the found treasures. Without listening to the inner censor... not easy!

  10. oh so meaty and nourishing,
    this post!
    Like a protein shake,
    delicious and lush with colorful
    but so fortifying:)
    thanks....wonderful share.

  11. I so agree with Robyn's take on this post...the poem, your words and especially this image all speak of the artist journey. Approaching new or even 'set aside' work brings on one of the explanations of courage...being afraid yet trusting and going ahead anyway! This is a beautiful piece and enlarging it shows even more of your amazing touch!

  12. Wonderful energy and mark-making in this piece. Your words re process certainly resonate with me.

  13. I really get the feel of a night sea journey from your painting. it feels full of that chaos from which one might draw up a net of nourishment.

    I have always found it interesting the Dewey decimal system places fishing books next to writing books. Creating and fishing have so many things in common.

    The fisherperson stands for hours casting out his/her line hoping for a fish. Sometimes...nothing. Other times too small. etc.

    so the creative person casts out a line or net. Others look at both and say how do they have the patience. isnt it boring. what are they doing? Nothing much.

    but in truth so much is happening in the process.

    be well, suki

  14. u huh

    u huh
    u huh..

    it is elusive..and yesterday was spent happily fishing, and this morning I did wake with the problem solved...

    love it when it's like this...

    you say it so well.

  15. leslie, this comes at a very fortuitous time in my work, and right before i go back to the day job. i am very moved, and have LOTS to ponder. beautifully written.

  16. oh Leslie , I so much like the idea of comparing the creative act with fishing... and sometimes you don't find anything in your net, but that is also part of it. Strange, as a fisherman I would accept it easier... as an artist I somehow believe, that I ALWAYS need to have ideas and that it ' flows well ' ... thank you for reminding me that this is not the case :) and thank you for sharing your wonderful painting !!

  17. I had to go back and look at your painting again as I did not connect the piece with you Leslie.. my goodness you really have been experimenting and working in a new direction- to very impressive results.
    For myself, I have been in that chaos of a deep ocean floundering around this summer.. and after our discussion on process and searching this past week, I have to say that I have been finding ideas in that 'net' and trying this and that and reading your words.. and McKenna's words has helped a great deal.

  18. you make it always inspire me again with your paintings
    quotes and explanations
    many thanks for this Leslie
    I enjoy it!

  19. Hi Leslie
    Having been away from the-land-of- the-blog for the length of summer I feel like I'm 'catching in my net' the richest of feasts for my creatve table...I love 'pulling in' your work, so electically charged and the air after the passage of Irene... your words and McKenna's poem...are the dessert...a scrumptious repast.

    Thank you.

  20. Lesley - this is the most beautiful and poetic description of the process I have read. I experienced the catch today; but have often cast and pulled my net up torn and ripped. This is truly amazing and I thank you for it.

  21. Oh yes,,,I find it so.
    Casting,,,floundering,,sometimes the big one gets away. Sometimes not.
    But the joy is in the process.
    Nice piece Leslie, and very nice post.

  22. What a wonderful painting- filled with emotional creativity. Love the poem you've included in your post in addition to your words.
    Process, creativity and the reference to casting a net is brilliant! Thanks for this thoughtful post!


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