contemporary collage paintings
the process
Leslie Avon Miller

My life flows when I'm in my art.

Jean De Muzio

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Keep some room in your heart

Untitled Collage by Leslie Avon Miller

The Guest House

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they're a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.

He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

Untitled Collage by Leslie Avon Miller

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.
~ Rumi ~

texture sample by Leslie Avon Miller

I have been a guest house to a number of fluctuating emotions of late…

Sadness and feelings of loss on top of feeling adrift as I am no longer working with paints, acrylics…. I don’t know what to do. I have also felt annoyed. I don’t want to change mediums! I don’t want to go on yet another up hill learning curve. I want what I want! (See me stomping my feet?)

I also have feelings of joy and gratitude because I certainly feel much better now that I am no longer exposed to intense VOCs. Living in harmony with my physical self is delightful. There is a spring in my step. I am quick to laugh. Life is good!

Because my painting routine has been interrupted, I have found myself with more time and space, which has been freeing. I had a day of total silence this weekend to explore where I am now, with my art, my well-being, and my process as a creative individual. I simply listened to the silence. I felt at peace about it all. I don’t know where I am going; I only know where I am right this minute. 

Texture sample by Leslie Avon Miller

The painting sample above is a guide I have used in my studio for years. I think of it and the one further above as "samplers" of the textures I make with acrylic. I miss this technical knowledge, these things I know. 

Explorations with water color and collage have been engaging and enjoyable. I have no real expectations, so it’s all an interesting foray into new worlds.

Researching options for art products, techniques, and the general process of detoxing has lead to a lot of information. 

I wanted somewhere to keep this wealth of information, so I started a new blog. It’s called Detoxing My Art Practice.

As I research and try the art materials I already own I am posting my thoughts and those of the manufacturers and other artists. Today I experimented with oil pastels. I will be posting about those on the new blog soon.

Keep some room in your heart for the unimaginable.

~ Mary Oliver


  1. Oh Leslie, I just read your last post. I can't imagine how you feel but I know you will come out the other side healthier. You are a strong artist who does strong work that inspires and heals. I'm sure that will continue in whatever media you use. All the best to you in your experimenting!

  2. We never know where life will lead us if we are willing to follow and this post is filled with that sense of "willingness". It makes so much sense, your exploration, even to those of us who are unaware of the effects these toxic materials have on us. It can only be good to expose ourselves to less toxic things when it is within our control.

    I look forward to learning from your journey, doing some exploration of my own and reading your new blog. I am always inspired by your art and words!

  3. Hi Leslie. I think it's okay to allow yourself to grieve the loss you are experiencing. I've been where you are and it's a tough place. In time, if you can allow yourself to remain open to possibility, new worlds will open up to you. For now, it's okay to be wherever you are in dealing with it.

    I think the second collage is spectacular. LOVe it!

  4. Leslie, love your work, have you considered cloth? Fun to chop up and collage. layer things up, use different textures, and the stitching adds texture. Come on in the water is fine.

  5. magnifiques créations.. il ne faut pas abandonner .. j'ai travaillé avec la cire chaude durant des années sous une épaisse fumée.. j'ai changé ma façon de travailler..

  6. LAM- what a wonderful outcome - using your considerable talents to research and analyse materials and to share these with other - that is such a gift. For many years I was a landscape artist - I sold and exchanged many works - but life and work-woprk took over. When I decided to return to creating I found I could not do what I felt I could do in the past. I was so frustrated as I wanted to reproduce my earlier form - but it was not to be. So I tried entirely new mediums and in a sense gave up who I was art wise. As you know I have now settled on beating metal etc etc. So far from landscape and oils. And I have found I am enjoying creating a new me artwise that is. I do hope you find new products that enable you to continue to create your beautiful subtle images; but a talent such as yourself might also find fulfilment in a totally new world. Go well in your search. B

  7. Hi Leslie - what a journey to recovery you are on; and in such a generous and determined manner! I hope you can find some other ways to express your creative spirit; but like others, I think it's OK to sit with the feelings of sadness, annoyance, frustration, grief for a while. I enjoyed reading your other blog as well - learning lots and making me want to check my glue labels! I think all of us do better when we spend less times with chemicals and more time with plants ingredients for sure. Take care, be gentle on yourself and explore ....

  8. Hi Leslie....I'm fairly new to your blog and was unaware of the health issues you must have been dealing with connected to artist's materials. Of course, your frustration is natural and you are wise enough to listen to yourself and allow those feelings to be heard. Your work is like a natural spring and will new outlets through new materials....there's not stopping it. Such a pleasure to see....thanks for sharing it with the world! Best wishes! -- Patti

  9. Hi Leslie, I agree with what other people wrote. I can't imagine the grief you are feeling having to give up working with a medium you have spent so much time working with, finding your voice and accumulating all the technical info. I'm heading over to your new blog to follow your new path. I thought acrylics were "safe" except for cadmuim and cobalt pigments. There is a lot to learn. I read a lot of blog with bloggers posting pictures of their paint caked hands. I've been wearing gloves, but now am learning of the VOCs. I have tons of acrylics...lots of money invested, can't bring myself to pitch it just yet. I really love the simplicity of your work. The 2nd piece is wonderful.

  10. Rumi says it all. I feel so peaceful when I read his words. Thank you for this reminder from him. My thoughts are with you in this transition.

    Not sure if you've investigated these. I haven't tried them, but saw them on a blog.

  12. Mary Olivers words speak volumes but getting there is not always so easy. I wish for you a summer of turning, turning to what awaits you in art making! I like these textured pieces too!

  13. Think of it not as an ending, but a new beginning. Your 'style' lends itself to all the suggestions made before, watercolour, pencils, fabric, collage. I am an acrylic painter but find myself drawn to collage and fabric lately. New concepts are exciting!

  14. your beautiful and positive words confronted by the loss of your way of working are quite inspirational Leslie - thank you for sharing such important information - I am returning to printmaking this summer and i am always conscious of the toxic elements - however I will do some research into non toxic inks to use with my monotypes and collagraphs

  15. Your approach is to be admired greatly and I'm smiling at the thought of your present mood. Laughter, a spring in your step and an openness to whatever medium you decide to try. I love working with oil pastels combined with water colours or dyes so I'm looking forward to hearing about your response to this medium. The first collage reminds me of the work that attracted me to your blog a few years ago.

  16. I can visualize your foot stamping, and I also can feel your deep frustration.
    I'm sure it may not seem to be exciting to you,,,but for us all here, it will be quite an adventure to see where art takes you.
    Your inate talent,,,it WILL be expressed, and I expect before long quite joyfully.
    All the best to you Leslie on the new adventure!
    So glad you feel better, with a lighter step!

  17. You are on the same journey.. just a different path.. you will continue to search and you will continue to find your way.. mediums may change but your heart and soul will be your constant anchor.

  18. oh, leslie, how beautiful you are!
    thank you for allowing us into this special place with you.
    i shall pull up a chair, sip of the deep rooibos liquor in silence, and all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.

  19. you are stunning even in struggle:)
    thanks for sharing your process
    ....I'm the richer for it.

  20. Leslie, this is one of those strange synchronicities that happen when the universe seems to have a consciousness of some sort... I just 5 minutes ago hung up from trying to console a dear friend who is devastated because she thinks she can't make her art anymore. The reason? She has developed an allergy to paint. So I had just sat down to research non-toxic paint products, when I saw your icon on my sidebar and clicked it. I had no idea what you were going through.

    I so admire your bravery in dealing with this terrible and daunting turn of events, and I'm grateful that you are generously willing to go to the trouble of sharing your information with us.

    I know that you will find a way for your spirit to communicate what it must, through whatever medium. Please know that my heart is with you, and please accept a big cyber-hug from me.



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