contemporary collage paintings
the process
Leslie Avon Miller

My life flows when I'm in my art.

Jean De Muzio

Sunday, December 6, 2009

The Art of Handmade Artist Books – Part Two

"Each friend represents a world in us,
a world possibly not born until they arrive,
and it is only by this meeting that a new world is born."

- Anais Nin

My friend Rita and I began an exchange of art on a monthly basis several years ago. We create art and exchange it, along with a letter of thoughts and happenings, poetry and quotes, and inclusions of interest. Each exchange becomes a page in on-going volumes of hand bound books. In the autumn of the year we also exchange a hand-made artist book. The editions are of two – one to keep and one to give. The world created by our exchange has enriched and expanded my life. There is an invisible path worn down between my mail box in the West and hers near the Great Lakes. Although we have never met face to face, we are the best of friends.

This year the book theme was completely open. I made my books from the papers I create when transferring paint on and off of paintings. Although at the beginning the transfers are created from totally random marks and shapes, once the paper begins to appear interesting I am more selective, and tend to the final stages with deliberate action. The Zen like quality of the marks, the quiet colors and peacefulness of the tissue pages on print making paper appeal to me. I look inward to find what will become my art. This book celebrates the new sense of freedom and authenticity I am experiencing in my work. The quietness allows me to hear my own heartbeat. I am trying to think less, and work more in tandem with the art that appears. These books have allowed me to experiment, and to push the quiet even further.

The title of my book is Stillness. I love stillness. I often work in the studio in outward silence, although I am always responding to what is happening on the surface in front of me, listening for what the work has to say. For me, stillness is about clarity, focus and purpose. It is a place from which I can create. In a bit of artistic license, I attached a very small Japanese bell to the outside of each book – a tiny single note of sound calling attention to the Stillness I suppose.

The technical parts of the books are a side stab binding of the soft pages made of tissue, BFK Rives print making paper, and a Japanese paper. The housing is a removable portfolio cover made of mat board, a commercial black paper and more tissue paper. The closure is a black cord with knots and bell.

Stillness is where creativity and solutions to problems are found.
Stillness Speaks.

Echart Tolle

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

The Art of Handmade Artist Books

Contemporary bookmaking is a wide and varied art form, and one that includes beautiful craftsmanship, artistic vision, playfulness, a message, sometimes sculpture, and always compels me to want to pick the books up and turn the pages – that is, if the book actually has pages.

I have started a list of book artist sites in the sidebar. When you visit Jody Alexander be sure to click on the link called process – it’s a fun one! Lisa Kokin makes several types of books and has an intriguing website. Robbin Ami Silverberg also runs a handmade paper mill as well as making books. Artist Shanna Leino makes artist’s book making tools by hand which are available for purchase. What a great stocking stuffer that would be! Susan Kapuscinski Gaylord has been a favorite book artist of mine for years. I especially love her series called Spirit Books. Dorothy Simpson Krause is an artist and author I have spoken of previously and has recently written a book called Book + Art Handcrafting Artists Books. Susan Collard makes books which are “architectural” and fantastic constructions. Finally on the list is the Donna Seager Gallery which features many book artists. You can see quite a selection at this site. I’ll be adding more artists to the list over time.

Each autumn I have been exchanging an artist book with an artist friend, Rita J. McNamara. Our exchange is a highlight of the year for me. First, I have a reason to stop and spend time on the concept of my own book, in an edition of two, and then I enjoy the fun of gathering my material and making the books. Although I find bookmaking to be time consuming it is a satisfying and exploratory process. Then as I package my book to ship off to Rita, I can also anticipate the fun of opening a package from her, and seeing her creation which I add to my own collection. Rita is a collage artist, a mail artist, a former weaver, and a published author, as well as a great and dear friend.

This year I am sharing our exchange with you. Following are photos of the book I received from Rita, entitled Oddments and Bagatelles. The words that follow are hers, and explain the concept of her book this year. Closed, her book measures 6.5 by 5.75 inches, and contains 10 pages, with multiple pockets, tags, and a popup page in the center. In a later post, I’ll share my book. Rita is off line, but she reads this blog on a regular basis and I know she will stop by and read your comments.

We started the Thanksgiving Book Exchange to celebrate our favorite time of year. The time when colors fade and the world strips down to its essentialness, its bones. The autumn book always feels like a distillation to me. Last year’s exchange was a Walkbook, fashioned from bits picked up along the way: feathers, ferns, twigs, a dragonfly’s wing.

This year, though, the distillation felt different. My year seemed full of jagged edges, dueling problems and conflicts, growing exhaustion. And all this played out against the larger backdrop of a long brutal winter and my ruined state, a landscape of shuttered factories and businesses, abandoned homes, and thousands of families packing up and hitting the road for some other promised land. I felt shell-shocked. Some days out in the studio I just sat there, trying to remember what I was doing and why.

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As leaves fell and days shortened, I couldn’t think of a theme for the autumn book. I couldn’t find the gate, the way in. My brain felt like a bomb site, shrapnel thoughts sifting down through the rubble. So I started there, with the chaos. I picked through the scrap box, shreds left over from other projects. I suspended judgment and tried to trust that some deeper wordless part of me knew what I was up to, what I wanted to say.

The result looked like something salvaged from a storm, picked from thorny bushes after a twister or a flood: bits of maps, old photos and stained beat up letters, fragment words like “passage” and “place” “itinerary” and “foundling,” a compass made from a labyrinth and an old watch part, a sketch showing the anatomy of bird wings, freight tags, scraps of lace.

And in the middle, the only colored page, a bright blue fold-out map of the streets of Paris. Afterwards, as I flipped through the pages, I got the message: I was lost, looking for the route, the way out, the escape hatch.

And at the center, that map of Paris. Not “real” Paris; Paris-in-my-mind. Paris-in-my-mind has nothing to do with “real” Paris. Paris-in-my-mind is an archetype, a Shambhala. In the Paris-in-my-mind there is time for everything and in late afternoon, the in-between, there is a particular peculiar violet light, la vie en mauve, and you stop for a minute, setting down the pencil or the coffee cup. You think you smell flowers, and just for the flash of a second you feel like you can really see. The life under life, all that lies between and beyond the layers of things. It glistens there like a fresh-caught fish. Rita J. McNamara

Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Pirates Code: A Tale of the Red Crayon

Mark Making Experiments

Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl


Elizabeth: Wait! You have to take me to shore. According to the Code of the Order of the Brethren...

Captain Barbossa : First, your return to shore was not part of our negotiations nor our agreement so I must do nothing. And secondly, you must be a pirate for the pirate's code to apply and you're not. And thirdly, the code is more what you'd call "guidelines" than actual rules.

This dialog from the movie has always stuck with me. Pirates have some short comings, certainly, but the attitude that the Pirates Code “is more what you’d call guidelines” is fabulous!

The scene: 2nd grade classroom

Teacher, smile on her face: “Class you have an assignment…”

Me: Hey, we had been given an art assignment! How fun! We had choices of what to draw and color! Much better than math, or one of those other subjects. So I made a choice to draw my church. I drew the building and the small town streets around it. And I colored the streets red. Yes red. Because I wanted to and I liked it! I liked my red crayon.

Teacher, stern look on her face: Class – I’m terribly disappointed. Your work is all wrong! And I wanted to hang it proudly in the hall for Parents Night. It would make me look like a Good Teacher. And you have not done what I envisioned. So now you will do it over.

Teacher, passing back the student’s work: Leslie, you know roads aren’t red. I want you to do this over again and do it right!

So, glad to have yet another opportunity to create art, I side stepped the issue. I changed my drawing and found another great subject. I carefully drew a family of deer, brown beings in the green woods. The Daddy deer had a massive set of antlers. The Mommy deer was beautiful with her shinny black hooves, and her smart black crayon outlined form. And the baby had as many spots as I could possibly fit in. And I had done two drawings and I liked both of them.

And the deer family drawing was hung on the bulletin board for Parents Night. Because I followed the rules.

There are so, so many rules developed about art – design principals, design elements, rules of particular artistic societies, rules about what you can and can not use, rules about framing, archiving, you name it- there is a rule about it! And you know what all those rules are about? They are about thinking about your art.

I want to Express myself through art. I want my art to be an expression that includes my Soul. I want to be as Authentic as I can be and I want to feel I am giving my all. Art is a dialog and a dance, a poem and a symphony – and I am only part of the conversation. The Work has a Voice and the Viewer has a Voice.

A perfectly executed set of applied rules does not interest me. Coloring within the lines earns a smile from the teacher, but it is boring! The soulfulness of the expression is what grabs me.

Do I think it’s helpful to know the guidelines – yes! Do I think it’s helpful to be a slave to them? No! The rules can get in your way, and cause paralysis. I think more art is stymied by fear and internalized judgment than any other block! Be brave – break a rule, or not. It’s your choice. Its only ART!

And of course that is why there are so many encouraging words, quotes, and teachers out there. Because there are so many lovers of rules, so many ready to offer a judgment – from their head, not their soul. Side step them, summersault away, but get out from under all that.

Know that you already know the rules. Know your soul knows what to do. And just get in there and find your flow. Make art. See what happens.

You are only given a little spark of madness. You mustn’t loose it.

Robin Williams

Monday, November 16, 2009

Atelier Robyn Gordon!

Robyn Gordon is a wood carving artist and enthusiastic creative explorer who creates totems and panels and writes the blog Art Propelled. Robyn’s blog is rich and diverse. She features her own carvings reflecting her love of nature and the land of South Africa where she lives. Robyn also blogs about the creative process and her influences. As well, she introduces her readers to art work of other artists she discovers. Robyn’s blog is like a fabulous university course in art appreciation focused on contemporary art in many mediums. Robyn graciously agreed to be interviewed for this post of Textures Shapes and Color.

When and how did you first know you were an artist?

My earliest memory is of my mom teaching me to make a crazy patchwork "quilt" with her dressmaking scraps. I was almost 3 and the woman next door was expecting a baby and this was to be my gift to the new baby. It was the most wondrous feeling handing over this rudimentary piece of patchwork which I had stitched from the scraps on the sewing room floor.

What sustains your artistic practice? What activity renews you and your art practice so you return to your work with renewed enthusiasm?

At the top of my list, being out in nature renews me for everything in life. Spending 3 or 4 days near the ocean or walking in the mountains, exploring forests and streams will replenish me for months on end. Even sitting in my garden listening to the sighing of the stream will energize me. Books, especially art books have always inspired me and renewed my enthusiasm and now the internet is boosting my enthusiasm too.... though I really do have to find the balance. Too much time spent on the internet can drain one of every ounce of energy.

What is it about your medium of wood that calls your name?

I often think of this and can't quite put my finger on it. As a child on the farm I loved the outdoors. I loved to touch and feel nature in my hands. The smoothness of acorns and pebbles, the roughness of bark, the hollowness of a birds nest, the graininess of river sand.....anything tactile under my hands. When I was allowed to use my mom’s carving chisels at a young age I found that I could create many tactile qualities in the wood myself. Magic!

And what is this about your Mom carving? What did she make?

Nothing! Poor Mom hated carving. Tried it once and put the chisels aside ... and there they were winking at me.

Robyn, did you go to art school, or are you self taught?

I'm self taught.... a process of trial and error.

If you could visit and learn at the studio of one artist, past or present, who would it be and why?

Cecil Skotnes, because he was the first sculptor I admired. He is one of the reasons my wood carving turned into a passion.

Is there one art book you would recommend to other artists?

At the risk of repeating myself over and over, I always recommend 12 Secrets of Highly Creative Women by Gail McMeekin.

What story are you telling with your art?

I suppose I am telling the story of my life in South Africa. The niche carvings hold objects that are of the land (pebbles, bones, cowries, driftwood etc.), symbols of Africa (beadwork, arrowheads, tiny stone carvings), symbols of my British ancestry (silver teaspoons, Minton china shards). The totems "speak" of the legends that have been passed down from one generation to the next. The patterns, objects, symbols are all of this land. No matter what tribe we belong to we who were born in this country belong here and make South Africa what it is.

How has blogging helped you grow as an artist?

Blogging has been like an epiphany! It feeds my art and my art feeds my blogging. It has opened my world and suddenly I know that hundreds, thousands.... millions of artists go through all the emotions that I do. The anxieties, insecurities, challenges, transitions, blocks, issues, moodlings ...... and the euphoria. It's comforting to know that I'm normal ....relatively speaking.

Thank you Robyn! If you would like to see more of Robyn’s work, images are at her photo stream here on Flicker. And if you enjoy the art work she “curates” for her blog, you might enjoy her Flicker Favorites here.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Mark Making in the Studio

I had several ideas but the only one that felt exciting was to make marks, so marks I made! I did marks with different tools, different colors and in a different style. No goal in mind, no judgment, just experimentation with marks. I don’t know yet how I will incorporate these marks in my work, but I am excited to continue the experiment. I can’t say for sure why marks call my name so loudly, but they do. So I answer the call. I know I like the suggestion of mystery, the idea of communication and the rhythm my hand enjoys while I am marking. I work quickly and intuitively.

I have been reading about artist Fred Otnes. He is a featured artist in the book Art Revolution, by Lisa L. Cyr. He also has a book of his own, which you can preview here.
In Lisa’s book he is quoted as saying “It’s important to remain curious and try as much as you can, just to see where it can take you. The more you do, the more you learn and the better you become. I have always felt, even now, that I’m on the edge of something new.”

His work is full of small details, layers and is highly textured. You can see more of his work here. His book is on my short list of Art Books I Most Want to Receive in the upcoming holiday season. To me the holiday is best in the afternoon, when things quiet down and I can go off and spend time with my new art book…..

I don't think it's necessary for artists to have any formal training in painting or art history, but I do think it's essential to continually experiment with different subject matter, types of paint and methods of painting. Ron Parker

You will have to experiment and try things out for yourself and you will not be sure of what you are doing. That's all right, you are feeling your way into the thing. Emily Carr

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Edges and Shapes and Colors and Textures

Creating art is a process of discovery. As a collage artist, I discover relationships between elements, edges, shapes, colors and textures. I discover processes and ways to make marks, ways to put color on paper and ways to use my tools. I think if I knew exactly what was going to happen when I walked in the studio, I’d be outa there, looking for a new set of experiences of discovery. It is that moment when the pieces come together, the puzzle is solved and I just know that’s It. That’s the Why of it. Then I want to do it Again.

Nobody will stop you from creating. Do it tonight. Do it tomorrow. That is the way to make your soul grow - whether there is a market for it or not! The kick of creation is the act of creating, not anything that happens afterward. I would tell all of you watching this screen: Before you go to bed, write a four line poem. Make it as good as you can. Don't show it to anybody. Put it where nobody will find it. And you will discover that you have your reward. Kurt Vonnegut

Both of these collages are 6 inches by 6 inches on watercolor paper. They are as of yet untitled, and were made by Leslie Avon Miller. Now I'm going to go make another one!

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Creative Halloween Treats

This collage is 6 inches by 6 inches on paper. It includes papers I have prepared and a few snippets of found marks from the back of an old black and white photograph. As of yet it is still untitled. There is something cozy about making small collage in the evenings. And sooner than you think it will be time for the International Collage Exchange, an event in which I enjoy participating.

Today in the studio I was seized with some sort of energy and began to paint with my bare hands on a large birch panel. I had done a bit of that in my last piece, but today I painted and painted with the tips of my fingers, the palm of my hand and with gesture. It was fun, and resulted in a more organic set of marks. It seemed to me the marks I was making were more powerful than marks I have made in other ways. I’m curious to see how I feel about the piece when I go see it again tomorrow. I have also been marking on collage papers, some of which you see in the side bar.

I have always been the kind of person who prefers a treat to a trick. Here are a few blog treats you might enjoy.

As a visual treat I invite you to see the non-objective paintings and prints of Cheryl Taves, an artist from British Columbia, Canada. Her work can be seen here .

Here are some encaustic pieces I found interesting by Caite Dheere.

Annie Dillard is a compelling writer, as you know. If you wonder what it might be like to take a writing class taught by Annie you may enjoy reading this account of just such a class. The best parts are towards the last half of this essay. “You are the only one of you, she said of it. Your unique perspective, at this time, in our age, whether it’s on Tunis or the trees outside your window, is what matters. Don’t worry about being original, she said dismissively. Yes, everything’s been written, but also, the thing you want to write, before you wrote it, was impossible to write. Otherwise it would already exist. You writing it makes it possible.”

If you like poetry and the writing life you might like this blog by Rob Mclennan full of interviews of poets and writers. The most recent interview is of Poet Joe Rosenblatt. He said of his process “A poem might begin with a fragment, a musical line running through my upper story, and then this fragment germinates and tries to link itself up with other fragments and word linkages and then slowly ever so slowly a coherent pattern emerges on the page. The poem writes the poet, not the converse. It is a strange birthing process.”

Monday, October 26, 2009

It’s a Bird, It’s a Plane, It’s Nonobjective Art!

October Winds, 14 inches by 14 inches on birch panel. Mixed media with collage by Leslie Avon Miller.

Can we talk? So if you make non-objective or very abstracted art, or alternative art how do you talk to yourself about the innocent questions or not so innocent comments people make about your work? Generally I try to only show my work to people who “get” it on some level. I don’t feel a need to try and carry on a conversation in a language I can’t speak or understand, so why would I try to talk about nonobjective art with people who look for objective subjects? Well, maybe those people are my relatives, and they asked to see my work. Or maybe they are lovely friends who really are interested because the art is mine.

What have people seen in my work? How about a rabbit standing by a rock? Or a tree, or an alien? Or a magic fairy? Oh the list goes on. I have generally learned not to show my work to people who are kindly and mildly interested. But I did it again…comments were “What is it?” And “oh…”

It’s as if I write poems in a language long lost and not understood and the rhythm, cadence and tones are not enough to know beauty when you hear it. Or perhaps I write music with no words, and the melody and the relationships between notes are ethereal and ancient, but leave the listener wondering how she can sing a catchy phrase in the shower?

Today I can laugh about it, and just keep on painting. I keep on painting because I love layers, and partially obscured marks, and I love colors and shapes and movement and mystery. I paint because I love the language. And I paint because I must. My life feels like a good fit if I paint; I feel like I am being who I am if I create. I create because that’s who I am and because I am compelled to do so. And because life is short and life is beautiful.

That’s one of the many things about blogging I find so worth while. I see work of other artists and I am thrilled to see their vision. And I see work that has pushed even further than mine and it makes me want to go down the path and find out what is around the creative corner awaiting me. I read eager words on blogs written by members of the tribe. And even if the artist speaks French, or Portuguese, and I only speak English it doesn’t matter, because we speak the language of Art.

“The artist is not a different kind of person, but every person is a different kind of artist.” Eric Gill

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Autumn Ambulation

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Seeking creative ideas, I went out walking.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Rhythm of The Day

Certain things catch your eye, but pursue only those that capture your heart.

Old Indian Saying

Rhythm of The Day
, 20 inches by 20 inches, mixed media on birch panel, by Leslie Avon Miller

After a six week hiatus during which I connected with people I love, tended to things around home and had a vacation I went back to the studio today. I had completed this painting prior to my break and forgot about it, so it was a nice surprise to find it again. I decided it was done.

Nancy Natale was kind enough to send me some information she had put together on photography of art work, so I worked with that today. Thanks Nancy. I’ve spent the day making marks, adding colors and shapes and playing more than working really. It’s been relaxed and satisfying. I look forward to creative time tomorrow. I feel a little greedy about it actually. Wishing everyone a lovely weekend.

Just as appetite comes by eating, so work brings inspiration. – Igor Stravinsky

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The Junk Drawer

I can see it now. The Junk Drawer; to the left of the kitchen sink. It was a medium sized drawer – it held bits of stuff in a jumble – keys to things long lost housed in Early Tupperware; little jars of bits, screw drivers, broken little chains – the kind that held a key ring. A small hammer, a bit of coiled wire. Some string and a rubber band. Dice. A red pencil stub. Hooks, clips, a metal measuring tape and metal film canisters with screw tops filled with things that rattled. Thumb tacks. This was the drawer of the lesser things, the useful things, and the things to which she would let you have access. Everything belonged there, and we all used the junk drawer. It was where you found what you needed.

The drawer was heavy so you had to pull hard and lift up a bit to get it open, and a mighty shove with the 9 year old body was required to close it. The white drawer itself made a noise as it opened and then the stuff in it made a collective rattle so one always knew when the junk drawer was opened or closed. It was her drawer really. She was the Constant Collector, The Keeper, and she knew the value of all things. She quietly squirreled things away, not only in this drawer but in all the little “hidy holes” around our old quirky house.

My Mom must have cleaned out that drawer sometime after her divorce. She probably sorted all that stuff gathered over the years and kept at least some of it; certainly the tools and a key ring or two. The remnants are probably housed somewhere here at my house now. Later, when she had moved away and the kitchen was gutted for a remodel, the drawer itself must have been discarded; its usefulness as a container of one of her collections no longer valued.

It’s funny – the memories that choose to be kept.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Wash Your Spirit Clean

Near dusk. Down, down, down old uneven stairs, and out to the little deck. Aerobatic flyers, silent and agile, one, two, three, and more…the bats emerge to go out on their nightly rounds.

The lake is smooth, the air is silent. A splash, a flip of a tail, and I see an otter, diving down into the nearly black lake, the reddish pink sky silhouettes his tail. Out over the lake a large being flies, flapping wings appearing black in the near darkness. A heron moves down the lake.

Off in the distance, a sound, long, low and piercing….elk. We have arrived at Quinault.

Not wanting to miss a thing, we sleep with the doors and windows of the little cabin open. We promise to wake one another if one of us hears the elk first thing in the morning. I fall asleep after looking at the bright stars and perhaps Venus in the southern sky. I wish I didn’t have to sleep at all…

Did you hear that?! Out to the deck, holding my breath listening. Yes, there it is again – the piercing call of the bull elk, perhaps challenging one another. Smile. After a few more moments of listening, coffee is made and we settle into the deck chairs to listen, and watch the sun rise from behind the mountains. The sky is purple, pink and yellow. The mountains are black in silhouette. A bald eagle flies down the lake, and I hear the call of the raven from the woods behind the cabin. A fish jumps. The splash is enticing to the fisherman, who is gathering his gear.

We head over to the next valley, driving up into the mountains. Hiking down to the river we point out mushrooms and other interesting bits to each other on the way. I set up a chair and have my bag with sketchbook and camera near by. The fisherman heads downriver, casting at each hole until he is out of sight around the bend. I settle in for several delicious hours of solitude. Although my things are with me, I simply wander up and down the bank, looking, occasionally choosing a pebble to put in my pocket. I see the berries the black bear had obviously been eating, based on the sign she has left. An elk had been here not all that long ago. Perhaps one or both would be by again this day. The sun is warm, and I notice leaves fall from the maple with each small breeze. The individual leaves tumble to the river and slowly ride the current down stream. Yellow alder leaves are caught on rocks at the edges of the small river. The sound of the water over the rocks is soothing and constant. A flicker comes by and feeds on bugs in an old snag across the river. I gather a little wild strawberry vine and weave a small offering on bleached drift wood, which I leave under a tree. But mainly I am Being, and not doing anything. The word peace comes into my mind. Hours later the fisherman returns, enough fish for a meal, having released the rest. We hear a pileated woodpecker as we begin the climb out of the ravine. As we climb, we stop to gather a few wild red huckleberries to go with the fish.

That night the rains begin to fall, sounding loudly on the metal cabin roof. After all, this is the rainforest where up to fifteen feet of rain can fall in a year. Dawn brings mists over the mountains. The rain has stopped, perhaps an inch and a half accumulated in the rain gauge. We hear the early morning elk calls, and listen as we enjoy the day’s beginnings. We plan to head up the Quinault Valley, and up the north fork of the river. We will hunt for elk, using cameras as our capture device. We spend time preparing for the day. We enjoy a leisurely breakfast on the deck, and I notice out of the corner of my eye a movement down on the lake. It’s an otter! I call Kurt and together we enjoy watching four otter dive and swirl, occasionally eat a small fish and generally have a great time playing together. The show lasts for more than half an hour. Heading up the valley, while still driving by mail boxes belonging to the locals, we have just gone less than half a mile when suddenly Kurt says "Elk!" And there they are, crossing the road in front of us. Elk are to the right and to the left of us. I was so surprised to see them this soon, I wasn’t prepared. Kurt stops the truck and we both grab our cameras and begin shooting. Several cows cross the road. Click, click, and click. Kurt notices a few cows are still on the other side. And then a sound, not unlike an Orca whale, emanates from the deep woods on the right. The bull is calling his cows. It’s absolutely primal. The cows hesitate and Kurt gets a few more photos. And then as quickly as it began, it’s over.

We drive up along the north fork of the river and stop and take pictures of giant trees, moss and ferns, always on the look out for more elk. We spy a woods grouse, but it is shy and doesn’t pose for the camera. Coming back down heading towards the cabin we stop at the Kestner Homestead Trail. It’s a short hike to the old homestead site were we take a few photos of rusty bits and old weathered things. Kurt notices there aren’t any apples under the trees, just elk sign. We start down the next section of trail, and Kurt signals quiet and waves me forward. He has found another small herd of elk, the light colored rumps standing out against the green of the fields and trees. Quietly we move towards them as they graze in one of the old fields. We take photos and move forward until the bull, a nice two point, can’t tolerate it anymore and moves his herd of cows and this years calves off into the woods. We follow for a little ways, listening to them move through the brush. The trail back is full of interesting things- mushrooms, ferns, bogs and such. The cameras click; click until we arrive at the truck.

Back at the cabin we hear loons calling – that sound like no other, wild - ethereal and peaceful all at the same time. Ducks and sea gulls fly up and down the lake, and a kingfisher is busy near the shore. While some of the birds are leisurely flyers, I’ve noticed the king fisher is a speedster; zooming from one snag to another.

Dinner tonight is across the lake at the Lodge, a stately and venerable place made famous by the visit of President Franklin Roosevelt when he arrived to determine if the place was worthy to become a National Park. We are dining in the Roosevelt dining room, over looking the lake, where we can just pick out our cabin across the way. There is a fire in the big old rock fireplace, and we enjoy a beverage prior to dinner. It’s a cozy end to an exciting day of elk hunting.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

See you later!

I love the ocean beaches and the rain forest, especially this time of year. So we are off for a little trip. There is no internet in the rustic cabin on the lake shore, so I’ll look forward to connecting with you next week sometime. I’m taking my camera, my sketch book, and plan to breathe in the Autumn air, and gather the feelings of nature. Maybe we will see Elk and deer, and certainly I will come home with pockets full of sand dollars, drift wood, fallen leaves and a rock or two. I will come back relaxed and ready to be in the studio with renewed energy. See you soon, dear bloggy friends!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Finding Beauty and Pleasure

September, 20 inches by 20 inches, by Leslie Avon Miller

I’ve been noticing how many small things bring me pleasure. The shape of a particular letter, the color of a leaf, the dots made by tiny little black seeds or a well turned phrase can make me smile. I remember once asking my mom why she liked something in particular and her studied response was “because it pleases me.”

A short while ago Nancy bestowed upon me a blog award. And while telling you seven things about me would be in keeping with the “rules” of the award, I am also pleased by breaking rules – or more to point, in finding my own way. So I prefer to list seven things that please me.

Painting this painting pleased me. I’m calling it September, after the month I find most pleasing for its afternoon warmth, not heat, and for its cool mornings, not cold. September is a time of beginnings, and gatherings, harvest and change.

I am pleased by the letter “g”, particularly in Garamond Font. I like the curves, and the space it takes on the page. I find it a letter that is a work of art all on its own.

I am pleased by the Black and White concert by Roy Orbison, and his fabulous voice singing Pretty Woman. I am pleased by a memory I have of listening to the concert on our TV, watching young rockers groove to Roy, and pushing the dining table out of the way so Kurt and I could dance on the wooden floor, sliding on our stocking feet, laughing and loving being alive.

Sepia is a color I fall in love with again and again. Not black, not brown, but a beautiful in between color that is rich and earthy. Beauty.

I love baby feet and baby sized shoes. I can’t see an image of baby feet and not smile. I can’t be in the presence of a baby and not kiss its perfect little feet.

I love the fog that gathers over the water this time of year, and the sound of the fog horn. I have listened to the fog horn each autumn, knowing it meant the beginning of another school year approached. Beginnings are another thing I love.

I love blackboards, especially old ones made of slate. Messages written and erased, over and over, creating a pattern of fleeting marks intrigue me.

Please feel free to join in and list seven things of your choice. Lists are another thing I enjoy…

Everything has its beauty, but not everyone sees it. -Confucius

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Slow Art

All images are 6 inch by 6 inch collage on paper, by Leslie Avon Miller

You have no doubt heard of the slow food movement, and the movement to slow down and counter the rushed pace of modern life. Well, I am trying out slow art. Having a day job and thinking that experience with hands on making is the surest way to establish skill, I have tried to cram as much art time in my life as possible. Early morning hours, even the tired hours after work, weekends, and holidays – all were likely art time for me. And some of that is good – after all I really want to create and I have to fit it in my life.

But now I am adding in more time to think, and clear my mind. I can see that ideas incubate best when I don’t rush them. I relate more to the work I am making and I am gaining a different sense of satisfaction.

I continue to experiment, to think about the art I am making or will be making. I am experiencing going slower with my art – finding satisfaction in the preparatory stages such as making papers, building up layers as each dries, and finding complementary elements.

This weekend I have had a walk in nature and time to connect with friends. I have cleared my mind of the every day detritus, and contemplated creating in the studio. There has been time for slow food, something we value around here. I have said good by to an elder of my family, appreciating what she told me about her life without electricity, without public transportation or interstate highways or security checks or modern day medicine. I have said hello to a brand new arrival in our family, the first of the newest generation. I wonder what he will experience in his life time.

I smell autumn approaching, and see the leaves turning. And I know that truly I have all the time I need. I am nurturing and harvesting my creative energy and noticing the beauty of seasonal change.

Slow down and enjoy life. It’s not only the scenery you miss by going too fast – you also miss the sense of where you are going and why. Eddie Canton