contemporary collage paintings
the process
Leslie Avon Miller

My life flows when I'm in my art.

Jean De Muzio

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

New Year

For me, the New Year begins in the Autumn, when a new school year would start. I would have a new, fresh notebook and pencils, a new outfit, a new teacher, new subjects and a different mix of classmates. It was always an exciting time for me because I enjoyed school and being in the flow of learning and meeting new people. I love that time of year. I usually found ways to incorporate art into most subjects, especially science and social studies. If it was an assignment in biology I would include drawings (horses, of course!) I remember drawing all the different types of clouds for a science report. If it was a research project I would make a cover for my report and include a visual collage. I wrote a paper about Australia, and I made the Australian flag for the report cover. I researched England and asked my Dad to make a wooden cut out (like a puzzle piece) of the island country and mounted it on a wooden cover complete with tiny little hinges. That one was my design and his work. (Thanks Dad!) So for me the New Year in January is more about a time for a little rest from all the holiday busyness. A personal day. A little gift of time. Hopefully, I will get to create some art! Happy New year to all of you!
At the Virtual Tart site of Dale Copeland there is a new on-line collage exhibition by Laura Lein-Svencner of Darien, IL, USA, called Crow Count. Her series is in a limited color palette, and includes words, images, textures and shapes. I think this series is great work. Dale invites a different artist each month to put on an exhibition. I signed up for late 2010. I don’t have a clue what I will be making then, but I am excited about the possibilities!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Check this out

Over at Rebecca Crowell's blog She has just posted a discussion of how much a full time artist earns per year, and other facts about the life and times of working artists. If you go to read this, scroll back on her blog and find the movie that shows her working in her studio. Great stuff. She is a very kind person too, so do feel free to leave a comment and let her know you stopped by.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Collage! Collage! Collage!

I just love collage! After a day of painting I sometimes sit in the evening and make small collage on my lap. These are between five and six inches square. I gather and sort papers by color and get started. Some of the papers have been used in the studio to remove paint or apply paint in the larger works. I sort, place, consider, move little pieces around and begin adhering the papers. Sometimes I take them back to the studio for an application of paint. That’s how I got the little black marks on some of these. Sometimes I draw on them. I love to do that, but I am a little unsure of myself in that regard. An attitude of play might help me out with that. These collages may eventually be destined for the International Collage Exchange for this coming year, 2009. I like these just the way they are, but maybe I’ll add a bit of pencil work for fun.

Today Mary Ann at Blue Sky Dreaming talked about a statement of intention for her new art direction for 2009. I am inspired by her discussion. Each year I pick an aspect of design to focus on. Textures come easily to me, and are a natural area of strength. I love shapes but I could really be more assertive in this regard. And I have worked on color; particularly the aspect of value and contrast even in my high key work. I have added mark making to my focus. I have room to learn more on all of these areas, but I am enjoying playing with shapes. That little curve at the top of the gray and white stripes is part of an arch from a stencil. I like it a lot. So I will continue to play with adding more assertive shapes. I’m currently working on my communication series which is all about connection. I will continue to do so. Connecting with all of you via my blog and yours has been a lot of fun, and has provided lots of inspiration too.

Friday, December 26, 2008


This is a 9 x 9 section of a 20 x 20 work I am currently working upon, which is part of the Communication series. I have spent several intermittent days building up layers and sanding them back down again. I find I am out of my rhythm with the break for Christmas. I spent the afternoon getting reacquainted with my materials, tools and the current series. Because the new camera isn’t here yet, I put this 16 inch square on the scanner. It’s awkward, but at least you can see something new. Since the scanner is only 9 inches wide, I can only get a bit of the piece. Tomorrow we have another day of family holiday festivities. I hope to be able to work on this piece again on Sunday. This portion has good contrast despite the very limited color pallet. I want to increase the contrast in the rest of the piece.

My friend Jo Reimer has just written a new post on her blog describing when we first met, about 1996 or so. We were in Taos to take a work shop with Sas Colby. It was a Masters class, and I was a beginner. I didn’t let that stop me! I wanted to take a work shop and I wanted to go to New Mexico. So off I went, and met Jo. She kindly helped me all week to figure out what to do, art wise. We also did some sight seeing, taking photos of old doors and adobes. We looked at a lot of art. I would love to get back to Taos. It is a most magical art community and environment. We were at the Mabel Dodge Luan House. We stayed there, ate there and created art there. The keys to our rooms opened the studio door, so we could work anytime of the day or night. Sas read the greatest poetry to us every day, as part of the ambiance. It was heaven.

For anyone who wanted directions to make the little folded art book in my last post , the link is here.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Origami Birthday Book

This little book measures less than 2 inches tall. It was made by my friend artist Rita McNamara. She tells me that the page folding automatically creates a no glue, stitch-free binding. Inside each pocket is a diminutive tag and tiny antique postage stamp. On the left of each spread is a Chinese fortune, including “something special is coming your way.” I think this petite book is something special indeed. I feel fortunate to have such a lovely gift from my artist friend.

These are the last photos taken with our digital camera. I was dutifully doing a load of laundry yesterday, when I inadvertently threw both laundry and the camera into the filling washing machine. Ouch! I tucked my tail and hung my head as I told Kurt last night what I had done to his camera. Sweet man that he is, he has asked me to get him a photography magazine so he can research the replacement.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Winter Solstice

Clear and five degrees.

Perfectly still this solstice morning,
in bone-cracking cold. Nothing moving,
or so one might think, but as I walk the road,
the wind held in the heart of every tree
flows to the end of each twig and forms a bud.

~Ted Kooser
from Winter Morning Walks: one hundred postcards to Jim Harrison

I'm getting out decorations for the little tree. I opened a tiny decoration, a little mouse with a candy cane, given to me by my Mom. I cried. Right after that I opened another tiny little ornament, a bell in the shape of a little caroler wearing a red suit. My grandmother tied her on my white tissue paper wrapped package every year when I was a little girl. I smiled. I hadn’t anticipated finding these memories in the ornament boxes today. These women are gone now from the face of the earth, but still in my heart.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Savory Day

A Happy Birthday

This evening I sat by an open window
and read till the light was gone and the book
was no more than a part of the darkness.
I could easily have switched on a lamp,
but I wanted to ride this day down into the night,
to sit alone and smooth the unreadable page
with the pale gray ghost of my hand.

~Ted Kooser

I love the savoriness of this birthday poem.

Friday, December 19, 2008

The Latest Communication

I decided to add to this piece. My tendency to minimalism is always with me, so I do try to push further. I think about completion in terms of Haiku, with 17 syllables. If I can find somewhere near 17 shapes, or passages or elements, then I can conclude. I may still come back and work this again, but for now it is done, and I will move on to the next piece. It’s snowing again. I love being snow bound, as it is creating extra art time. When I get 3 to 4 days of studio time in a row, I find my creativity flows, and I am rewarded with new ideas. I feel like experimenting and finding new art discoveries. Something happened on a paper plate (I mix my paint on paper plates) that was so great I am going to tear it apart and use it as a collage piece. What fun!
I don’t have a tree up, or cards written, but I am happy. I stopped and thought about how much time and energy goes into the holiday preparation, the actual celebration and then putting everything away again. I made a choice to do much less this year. This is my gift to myself. We will still have a celebration, presents, little twinkle lights, lovely food, champagne and I won’t be stressed. And I did decorate my blog with pretty falling snow...Why did it take me so long to figure this out?

Tuesday, December 16, 2008


I am working, as usual, on a number of pieces all at the same time. I don’t have the patience to wait for things to dry, even acrylics. After working a while on one piece I need to look at something else. The painting needs to rest, and so do I. Today, I have layered paint, collaged, sanded layers, finger painted and used a bamboo skewer as a tool. I usually pick some aspect of design to focus on for a good long period of time. The last two years it was shape and contrast. While still thinking about those elements, I am also adding mark making. The series I am starting now is about communication. I have a strong value with connection to others, and communication is one means of connecting. In this particular piece, I am inspired by the layout of a newspaper page. This piece is probably not done yet. After the painting and I rest, I’ll decide.

Collage Artist

For beautiful art work to look at follow this link to Donna Watson Studios. One of my favorites is a piece called Night. Donna is a collage artist who uses neutral colors, and creates deep texture in her work. I know she will be updating her web site soon, so this is a good time to go see her current work. Enjoy!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Studio Views Sunday

Real snow, pretty to look at. And it’s snowing again as I write. We are cozy and warm, and tired, after the long night last night. There are a lot of birds at the feeders today, including a beautiful Flicker. I love the coloring of the birds; gray, soft browns, cream, orange, and black. I have started three more pieces this weekend. This is one in its initial stages of layering textures, and starting to create a design. Working on the birch panel boxes is fun. The surface is absolutely resilient. I have been sanding these pieces this morning. I love the way it allows some of the under surface to show through in interesting ways, and creates new edges. I am thinking about the six foot piece I saw in the gallery window last night. Could I work that big? Do you?

Winter Warmth

Last night walking back to the ferry dock after the concert, we strolled past Friesen Gallery. It was nearly midnight, the snow was falling, and yet I had to stop and look in all the windows. The large piece is about 6 feet square, and is encaustic. The little dark shapes are birds, but I like the effect without seeing clearly what the subject matter is. I simply must return and spend some time looking at all this intriguing contemporary art. I wanted to be able to post a photo of the skyline at night as we came in on the ferry, but my results were not as I had hoped. It was a lovely night in the city, but cold. Because of the snow, the few other drivers on the road were over cautious. We got home at 3:30 this morning.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Pray for Peace

What could you create in a world at peace?

Make the brushing of your hair a prayer, every strand its own voice, singing in the choir on your head. As you wash your face, the water slipping through your fingers, a prayer: Water, softest thing on earth, gentleness that wears away rock.
Making love, of course, is already prayer. Skin, and open mouths worshipping that skin, the fragile cases we are poured into.
Pull weeds for peace, turn over in your sleep for peace, feed the birds, each shiny seed that spills onto the earth, another second of peace. Wash your dishes, call your mother, drink wine.

Ellen Bass's fourth book of poems, The Human Line, was published by Copper Canyon Press in June 2007.
I found Ellen's poetry on line today. I asked her if I could share some with you. She was happy to have you read her work. These are just a few stanzas of her poem which is avaliable in its entirety at her web site, along with a few others.
So I have been thinking about this poem today. Yes, the Zen of feeding the birds, making love, or washing our hair is a prayer, so certainly the movement of a brush across our canvas is a prayer, as is the thought behind it. Make art, make a prayer for Peace. It’s all good.
This piece is another of my collages from last year’s International Collage Exchange.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Tuesday, December 9, 2008


My own work informing my own work is a concept I am exploring. While I love to look at all kinds of art, and do at every opportunity, I am beginning to explore my own work as a starting off place for new work. One of my goals as an artist is to develop and express my own authentic voice. I want to be the best artist I can be. Some times I see art created by other artists and I practically gasp for breath at the stunning image. Yet, I am craving the authenticity of my own voice.
Wasn’t it Andy Warhol who said everybody influences everybody? I am as influenced as everyone else. Yet there is some new energy coming. I can feel it. I am creating a space for this energy, and honoring it. This tiny piece is from a journal I started last year, which I think of as my Voice Journal. No rules. No expectations. Experimentation. Permission. How about you? Do you know your own voice? What are your creative experiments?

Monday, December 8, 2008

Creativity, Artistry and Curiosity

These are attributes of some of the most interesting people I know. They are also attributes I nurture in myself. I love to play with my art supplies and tools, and find out what might happen. I mix paint colors. Sometimes I am shocked by what turns up on my little mixing plate. Some times it’s so good I have to quickly jot down the formula in a note book. Now, when I see a great color in someone else’s work, I may even be able to guess how they got that color. I might pick up something from my work table, like waxed paper covered with paint and plunk it on top of something else. I might like it. This summer I did a lot of nature printing. I used tissue paper between the brayer and the material I was printing. I had already used that tissue paper to pick up excess paint. I ended up with a print I really liked. Accident. Randomness. Paying attention to what happens. Following the vein of curiosity. The more curious you are, the more curious you become. I would enjoy hearing about where curious experimentation may have taken you and your art.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Gallery Walk on Date Night

Saturday we went to the December Gallery Walk. My husband and I had a date night, complete with viewing art and talking about what we saw, and meeting artists and gallery owners.We saw lots of intriguing small works, perfect for the holidays. We also had a lovely meal at Galatea Cafe, with candle light, a view of the lights at the town fountain, and other gallery walkers rushing through the rain. We saw the annual and delicious Small Works show at North Wind Gallery. I was especially looking forward to meeting blogger Jeane of ART IT, who was at Artisans on Taylor along with the art she had been blogging about. Several artists were there with their work, and the place was full of energy including live music, champagne, and most of all lots of yummy art. Jeane’s piece just had to come home with me, to join in with some of my work on our holiday mantel. In this photo her art work is the smaller square, along side a piece of my work from my white series. I think of this as my winter white mantel arrangement and Jeane’s piece fits in perfectly. I love her use of dramatic texture, bold use of found items such as glass shards and wire, and her color pallet. Just perfect.

Ongoing Exploration

This image is from an ongoing exploration focusing on using a limited color pallet, mark making and texture. I am thinking about this series in terms of communication. I love the subtleties of neutral colors, rich textures, and “mark of the artist.” I am beginning to use these same symbols and design elements on a series of wooden boxes my husband has made for me. I hope I can successfully transfer from small format to larger. And with the wooden substrate I plan to be able to create even deeper textures. Don’t you just love to make art?