contemporary collage paintings
the process
Leslie Avon Miller

My life flows when I'm in my art.

Jean De Muzio

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Sensuous, Sexy Color

Contemporary collage - my current color palette

Nothing pulls me into a painting as immediately as color. Clear across a gallery my eye will instantly find the colors it loves. Books and articles abound on the subject of color and tend to use words like hue, intensity, value, temperature, cool, warm and compliments. I usually fall asleep when I try to read them, for all the good intentions of the author. For me, color is a tool I use daily, that I make discoveries about and that I experiment with intimately. While there is a science to color, my approach goes beyond scientific. The words that describe the “rules” aren’t part of my thinking process. I mix my colors using all I have; my experience, my intuition, and my sensitivity to color.
I think as I am working - deep profound color thoughts like “yummy” and “yuck!” In fact, I think “yummy” is the Nobel prize for color in my studio. Immediately after declaring a color I have just mixed to be yummy, I begin to apply it to any nearby surface that resembles potential collage material. It’s just so much fun.
I collect colors; pages from magazines, photos I have taken, color chips at the building supply stores, rocks and rusty bits brought home in my pocket. My books are full of frilly tags marking the pages where my favorite color combinations are illustrated. I am a fan of design and architectural magazines and books in which designers have produced exquisite examples of perfect edgy color use.
This week Shauna Chapman from Quail Ethical Fashion commented “I was attracted by your collages and the colours you use. Colours of chalk, charred coal, clay, ochre, burnt umber, etc...Your colours remind me of the cave paintings at the Lascaux Cave in France.” And Philip commented “I also see urban art influences by the way.” How satisfying it is to hear my influences have been communicated. Thank you both.
In my inspiration notebooks are photos of old walls, cracked concrete, windows and doors, man hole covers, bleached drift wood, pebbles, feathers, old yellowed stationary from 1940, a winter tree branch. When I am successful, these influences – natural and urban – combine in my work to create a piece that that hopefully evokes a response in the viewer. That is part of the appeal and beauty of contemporary work.
Later today Kurt and I plan to take the cameras for a walk. I know where there are bunches of bare rose hips. A perfect inspiration for red.

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Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Saying Yes to Contemporary Collage

Saying Yes by Leslie Avon Miller

Saying Yes, Saying No

A quiet satisfaction, a sense of anticipation.
Sorting, choosing, releasing.
Listening to myself.

Letting go of old ideas, paths once explored,
but now I turn back. Saying no, so I can say yes.
There is clarity in this action.
I feel the power.

Contemporary collage paintings.
Minimal softness,
textures, shapes and marks.
Non-objective mark of the artist.

Line and space.
Neutral colors of the earth
and of the rocks, of the elements.
Weather, time and thought my subject.

Deepening my voice with knowing and
the mystery of future discovery.


My possibility is exquisite expansive
breathing room – to create.
Saying no, I have said yes, and now I find myself
standing inside the room with space, my studio.

My perspective has become more certain.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Of Dots and Falling in Love

This collage is another of my recent series. I’m rather fond of it. Perhaps this will be the one I keep for myself. I feel an interest in dots coming on….finger painting is so tactile. Perhaps a dotty name for this collage will come to mind.

Dave King at Pics and Poems blog brought up a discussion about liking art. Do you need to understand art to like it? Or is it enough to know you like it? That issue was pretty well discussed at his blog. I must say, Dave is good at causing me to think about things.

Years ago, I took a week long class at Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts. It was a large gathering, with many individual classes. It was a symposium of contemporary basket makers from all over the country. The structures made by contemporary basket makers are wondrous sculptures. I’ll add some links to some of my favorite artists.

The course I took was all about nurturing and developing ones own creativity. I was really excited! Here I was flying across the country and going to one of the well known national colleges of arts and crafts, to attend a gathering of many of the best know artists in contemporary basket making. I would be part of all that creative energy!

So I looked around for examples of my teacher’s work. And I discovered that, well, it was ugly. Really, well, ugly. I thought about changing classes. Still I was so very interested in working around development of my own creativity. So I just went anyway. I told myself I could work around the ugliness of the teacher’s own work. I would just ignore that part.

The first day in the class we did a lot of exercises. We “drew” with whole arm motions in the air. We drew lines with charcoal on paper, expressing emotions and qualities such as joy, excitement, and calm. Soon we had an assignment to make something using items in their opposite function. If it was a material usually used as a fastener, then we used it as the structure. If it was usually the structure, we used it as the fastener. I wound coils of metal wire and placed metal binder clips affixed to the wire, but the clips didn’t hold anything. It was a stretch to think in opposite directions, and I could tell my brain was working. We learned about critique, which is an art in itself; expressing truth while honoring someone else’s vision and execution in making an art object. We began to learn about telling a story, about having something to say with our art.

By the evening of day two I was invested in what I was doing, excited, and really getting value from the teacher’s guidance. And I really enjoyed who she was. I stayed up late at night along with everyone else to talk about art and creativity, to share what we were doing and to be part of that intense energy. The excitement in the air was palpable. The multiple conversations created a din of noise. But still, in the back of my mind, was the knowledge that my teacher’s own work was so unattractive to me.

Wednesday morning our class went to the auditorium and saw slides of our teacher’s work and listened to her talk about her work. She had started out as a painter. Her paintings were of faces of people, somewhat abstracted in a Picasso type of style. And the faces were always in relationship, looking in a similar direction, or at each other, or away from each other. Then her path took her to making of structures. Her structures were unique, made of thousands and thousands of knots of waxed linen, and did not have a cavity as a traditional basket. She called them contemporary baskets. And her structures were usually in relationship to one another. Touching, or leaning, or wound round one another. Or very alone. She began to tell us what these structures represented to her. They were her family members, her loved ones, in relationship with her. They experienced struggles as always occurs in families. Conflicts. Love. Hate. Differences. Breaking away and coming together. These were reflected in her work. No words, no objective images, but relationship, proximity, and gesture.

During the course of that work shop and in the hours we studied our teacher’s work I began to fall in love; with her work, and with her vision. Because I learned about the artist, and about her vision and who she is, my response to her work had completely changed.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Collage and Meme

This collage is for the International Collage Exchange 2009. The lower part has more texture in the white area than shows up in the photo.
I have had a great day; I have responded to 3 memes. I signed up with the Painted Lady at Art-i-ture, with Jo Horswill at Mystory, and with Cynjon Noah at ~ ~ Varietist Muse ~ ~. So now I will rein myself in and stop, because I will be making 15 items to give away! Except as I move my studio I am finding all kinds of cool items I have stashed and forgotten about. The potential that I already have 15 items is great. I adopted the variation of recipient’s input from Painted Lady, which I changed to be input of a color.

The first 15 people who respond to this post will get something made by me. My choice, for you. BUT with some input from you... a color request.

This offer does have some restrictions and limitations:

1. What I create will be just for you
2. I cannot guarantee you will like what I create (though I can hope!)
3. You will receive your item sometime before the end of the year
4. You will have no idea what the item is going to be but you will be allowed to add one color suggestion in your original response to this post.
5. You will have no clue what the item is going to be

The catch is you have to repost this meme and make and send out *five* surprises of your own.

Its fun! What you create could be a poem, a story, a photograph, or anything else you can think of. A babble, a bead, a bangle or cookies perhaps?

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Collage and an Interview!

Between moving my studio to its new home across the driveway, working and keeping an eye on the inaugural events, I haven’t had much time for creating art. But the International Collage Exchange is due to be in New Zealand in late March, so I am focusing on making my collages for the exchange. This is one of them I have completed, but haven’t named yet.

There is an opportunity to buy collage in the International Collage Exchange during the month of April. Last year I bought the collage of Joan Schulze, an artist whose work I admire. Her collage is shown here. It is titled Long Nights. Joan states her series for the 2008 exchange is An Exercise In The Poetry of 13. I notice Joan has sent in her collage for this year’s exchange already.

I have had fun interviewing Ruth Armitage, who has a blog called Art is Truth. The link to her interview is here. Ruth is a fun loving artist who uses color and shape to express her ideas. Her work is often figurative. I particularly enjoy her piece called Shoe Shopping.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

The Copeland Collection, Part 2

I love collage so last year when my package of collages arrived in the mail from New Zealand, I was thrilled. I am going to show you a few more I received, with permission of the artists. If you are considering participating this year, the link with instructions is here. The directions are pretty clear about sending in 13 collages (or fewer or more of them), 8 inches by 10 inches, to arrive in New Zealand by March 20, 2009.

However, even though getting that many original, one of a kind collages in the mail was wonderful, the best part was the push to make 13 or more collages. (I made a few extra, one for myself, and one to share.) It really did spark my creativity, and I created collage that I might not have had I not done such a large series.

I have a few tips for you. I didn’t title any of my collage, nor did I number them. So when I got my list from Dale, I had no idea how to know which artist got which of my collages. This year I will name them, or least number them. I made the package to Dale quite nice, neat and tidy, but I wish I had enclosed each individual collage in a clear bag to protect it, such as can be purchased here. I like to work in a square format, so I made my collage smaller, and then mounted them onto 8 inch by 10 inch water color paper, which was a lovely presentation.

I found I could complete 3 resolved good collages with a full day in the studio, except when I could only get two. You know how that is. I also mailed my collage by March 1, to allow for shipping time. I am telling you this so you have some kind of idea of the time it took me.

When I received my collage from Jette Clover, Gothic Pages 10, I was thrilled to find she has a great web site. She describes her medium as art quilts, which she says is constructed like collage. She tells us her work is as much about touch as it is about vision. Believe me; I have touched the piece I received. It is rich with tactile texture; layers, stitches, and the weave of the cloth, as well as paper. I am showing you the collage I received form Jette, and the one featured in Dale’s book, The Copeland Collection. Jette’s website is rich with photos of her large and small work.
I am showing you the collage I did last year which Dale choose to keep for her collection. Of course, I was honored! It's the work with the two figures, untitled. In return I received one of Dale’s yummy collages, which I will post in the near future. Dale also choose my collage to include in her book, page 55.

Sometime next week I will do another International Collage post, and show you more from my collection, with permission of the artists.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Interview Questions from Willow

1. I absolutely love your collage style. How long have you been doing collages and how did your specific style evolve?

Thank you kindly Willow. Near and dear to my heart is the authentic, creative voice each of us has. Artists, engineers, Mom’s, teachers, kids, everybody has one. The story of seeking my own artistic voice, learning to hear my own voice, and of nurturing it isn’t linear, of course. I had a desire. I sought ways to learn. I read. I chose a few good art workshops. I was taught about and really studied design elements and principals. I worked. I worked some more. When I was stuck, I wrote, and I worked and I studied. (See #5 below, tenacity.) I worked some more. I really do ask myself the question “I wonder what would happen if I…?" And then I try it. Now I use a variety of papers I have prepared, using paints, inks and anything else, and my own techniques which have evolved from techniques I was taught. Using organic shapes, non-objective imagery, patterns and marks, and a limited color palette isn’t easy, but I like the challenge. And I have learned to give myself the gift of permission; permission to experiment, and permission to like some results better than others. It’s all good. I suppose I have been making collage in one form or another about 15 or more years, but I have been more serious about it for the past 10 years.

2. I know this is a tough one, but if you could pick just one artist, living or from history, to have dinner with, who would it be and why?

John Lennon. Because I miss him. We could have had so much more of him. I hope he brings Yoko. Wow, what a night!

But Suki,
if you want to join John, Yoko and I, I’d love to join you and Emily Carr! (I got around those directions, didn’t I?)

3. Other than your loved ones, what is your most treasured tangible possession?

I thought about this question more than any of the others. I think I am past the point of treasured possessions, although there are many things I truly enjoy. I grew up with a Mom who treasured so many things as symbols of love and of her family who were far away. I’m a bit worn out by that. I realize I will not take anything with me “but my soul” (see #2 above, can you hear him sing it?) So here is a possession that makes me smile. It is an antique mahjong set. After my Mom died we found living relatives (via who grew up with Mom. Her cousin filled me in on the mahjong set. My Mom, her cousin and Mom’s brother taught themselves how to play with this set, using the Encyclopedia Britannica, which is as you know, a precursor to the modern day Internet. I love that story, and I love the little drawers, the feel and the sound of the tiles, and the translated directions. In the directions, circa 1924, one move is described as “too regrettable to be endured.” I can’t help but giggle at that one! Once in a while my friends and I play using this set.

4. What is your greatest accomplishment?

Allowing and encouraging myself to evolve and grow, really celebrating my life, on this planet, and in this time.

5. What is your most marked characteristic?


6. What’s up with the camera?

After several days drying out the old camera began to work, just like it always had. By then Kurt had ordered his new SLR Canon EOS with a 28 to 80 mm lens. So the old point and shoot is mine, and if I am very, very good, perhaps I can take pictures of my art with the new one. Boy, does it take nice photos!

There are wonderful people who read this blog. I would love to interview each and every one of you. Please, don’t be shy! It’s fun!


1. Leave me a comment saying, "Interview me."
2. I will respond by emailing you five questions. (I get to pick the
3. You will update your blog with the answers to the questions.
4. You will include this explanation and an offer to interview
someone else in the same post.
5. When others comment asking to be interviewed, you will ask them five questions.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Consolation Prize; A Story

We were in Vancouver a year ago. On the last day as we worked our way out of town, we spied one more gallery, and Kurt was kind enough to stop so I could go in. On the short walk there, he saw a non-descript door with the name “Art Emporium” on it, and stairs leading to an upper story. I was going to pass it by, but Kurt thought we ought to go have a look. Well, what a find! It was chock full of paintings, leaning against one another on the floor, up the stairs and on the walls, and everywhere. This was in contrast to every other gallery, with gleaming glass doors, lots of clean wall space and paintings hung very importantly with a lot of space around them, even though the paintings were sort of mediocre and conceited in a way. Once up the stairs, I started looking through the paintings; almost all were objective and in a variety of styles of the first half of the twentieth century; not my usual cup of tea. The paintings could be touched and flipped through. A woman came from in back and started to wait on us. At that moment I spied a drawing/painting, sort of Picasso like. I asked her about it, and she hustled to the back to get “him.” Well, here came this older gentleman. He fussed over us bit, and started to “educate me.” What I was looking at was a print, one of 50 (#36 I recall) from a painter named Marino, an Italian painter and sculptor (1901 – 1980). Meanwhile, they are looking the painter up on line to give me more info, and I am falling for the print. I am given permission to take a photo of it. I am told the price is $2,500.00 please, American or Canadian funds, my choice. The gentleman, Torben Kristiansen, was a peach. He looked the works up and said it was worth about $4,500.00. He said if my banker wanted to sell me stocks and bonds, all I would get would be a piece of paper, but with art I got something of supreme value. And, he reminded me, there is no recession going on in the art market. He talked about his vast collection; he has been in the gallery business over 50 years. Currently, he told me, he had paintings running from $700.00 to 3 million. Wow, I thought. He pointed out the 3 million dollar painting; by a contemporary of Pollack’s. The painters name is Jean Paul Riopelle. The painting was very big, perhaps more than 6 feet tall, and maybe 7 feet long, very colorful, and busy to the point of being frenetic. He told us the story of moving it from Florida where he had purchased it, and shipping it on a plane bigger than a 747, so there was head room enough so it could fly standing up. I was amused and charmed and I continued to look about the slightly run down place, bulging with paintings. Soon, he said quietly, from behind me, “I have three Andrew Wyeths”. Oh my, but I wheeled around and said “where?!” He laughed. He took Kurt and I into the inner sanctum, pointing out works all the way; first through the back room with virtually every square inch of space hung with paintings, then through the cluttered office where his assistants worked, and then on into his office. I gasped! There were two Emily Carr’s in bright, beautiful shape, leaning against chairs, sitting on the floor and a painting from every person in the Canadian Group of Seven! And other famous works he pointed out (which were not so well know to me, a person who has self taught my own art appreciation class) and there were the three Wyeths. I have a real deep love for Wyeth; his neutral colors, his use of a lot of white space, his capture of the everyday farm life in all the seasons. Torben explained he had had an exhibition of Wyeths there at the gallery years ago; he had been to the studio of Wyeth and knew the artist himself. I stood with my nose nearly on the glass and saw the x marks scraped out of one side of the tree trunk, and painted on the other side. Wow. I would never see that in a photo of the painting. I never asked the price, but I know it was between $700.00 and 3 million! I also saw 2 paintings of a French artist, Alexandre Jacob. I loved those little paintings. Exquisite. What a gift that experience was. Alas, all the paintings and prints are still in the possession of Mr. Torben Kristiansen of the Art Emporium.

Ta Da!

Ta Da! We have a winner! And it’s A Rambling Rose, from the United Kingdom! The collage/painting Elucidation will be flying over the ocean to its new home soon.
I wished each and everyone one of you extra good luck as I wrote your names, and as Kurt drew the winner’s slip of paper. I wish you all could have a new piece of art work on its way to you. It is such fun to get art in the mail!
So please, Ms. Rambling Rose, do send me an email with your address to leslie avon miller @ (remove the spaces) and I will get your winnings on its way to you.
For all the rest of you, thank you so very much for the lovely comments, and stay tuned for the next give away, around the time of the International Collage Exchange.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Elucidation Give Away

There is reason for a celebration today….this is the one month anniversary of Textures Shapes and Color. My, but its fun to have a blog! So, to mark this occasion, there is a blog gift available. Yes. Elucidation, (7 x 7) the piece above, will be sent off to live with one of you. So even if you don’t create collage, you can have one, just like all the people in the International Collage Exchange. Simply leave your comment about this post, and next week my cute husband will draw a lucky winner’s name from a basket. (Did I tell you I used to weave organic style baskets?) I have noticed in the give aways at other blogs, the drawing is often done by cute children, or talented pets. I am fresh out of cute kids, and our three kitties, charming as they are, have seldom cooperated with much of anything. So, cute husband will draw the name of the winner on Monday evening, the 12th of January. Maybe kitties will help him. Or not.
I am going to be engaged in other activities over the next several days, so I doubt there will be any new posts from me, but I will check comments and perhaps even post a new photo or two.
Now for your reading pleasure, here is a treat. My friend Niya, an accomplished artist, designer and writer, has written a story, as have several other people. Those stories are published at Curly Red Stories here. She mentions a title she submitted to the web site What Was I Thinking (58 bad boyfriend stories). Niya’s story is entitled Jon Boy. A piece of her lovely red art work is there for your viewing pleasure as well. Enjoy!
Also, in the previous post on this blog is a lovely comment from an artist from Lisboa, Portugal, Jose Brito. He is creating some wonderful dramatic work, a series on communication. He uses a lot of darks. Do go take a peek. Perhaps leave him a comment.
Good luck in the drawing!

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

The Copeland Collection

I have just received my copy of Dale Copeland’s book The Copeland Collection 100+ collages from the International Exhibition/Exchange. There is just so much eye candy jammed into this little book! Dale said she started her collection in 2000, when she began to organize the exchange. She says of the collage art in her possession “the entire collection has been promised to the museum Puke Ariki in New Plymouth, New Zealand when I die. They’re excited about this (but far too polite to tell me to hurry up).” Personally, I want the museum to wait a long, long time for the collection because I want to keep exchanging collage with the wonderful artists who participate!
Today’s art work is by Mimi Shapiro. Her handwritten note to Dale reads: “To Dale, Through art we will one day live in a world at peace.” I love this piece for its soft color and minimalism. Mimi has a web site of her work here. With your sense of humor in hand, go take a peek at her site and look at a piece called man manz. I especially think Jeane, who loves plastic, will enjoy this work. Myself, I’m still giggling….Back to the topic at hand…..
The second piece is by Dale Copeland. Dale’s web site is a fun place to visit. I think her sense of playfulness comes across quite well. She is well known for her assemblage art. If you would like a copy of Dale’s book, you can contact her through her web site.
About the exchange: Each artist sends in 13 collages. One collage is on permanent exhibition on the internet, one is for sale, and 11 are exchanged so each artist receives 11 in return for their own collection. In Dale’s book there are images of collages from 105 artists, 15 different countries and 24 states of the USA. I have been given permission to show some of the book to you. Copyright of the images remain with the artists, of course.
I have been contacting artists to ask permission to show their work. I am starting to feel the excitement about the 2009 exchange already! I will be posting more images of work in my collection from the exchange and from the book in the coming weeks.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Exaggerate Something

I had a great day in the studio Saturday. It was fun. I did texture work all day. I started to think of it as an archeological dig, a process of discovery. I really am a process painter. I went out there with general ideas, and a desire. But it was the process of doing that became the inspiration. I keep a notebook close by to jot notes about my thoughts; sometimes words that might become a title, ideas about where I am going with the work and what I am trying to say. So I thought about archeology, excavation and layering. I thought about digging things up, altered forever by the burial process, and the unearthing process. I thought about how each thing, and each one of us, is affected by the conditions around it or around us. I thought about time. And I responded to what was happening on the painting surface.

At times when my art is feeling stuck I do keep notes, a rough journal of sorts. I read in my journal about how I want to use shape. I write about shapes. But what I do make is texture. Then I read in my notes something from artist Wolf Kahn. He said Exaggerate Something. Ah, yes. For right now, I’m going with my flow. I’m exaggerating texture. It was a lot of fun!

By the way, Wolf Kahn is an oil painter and a pastel painter. He uses lots of color, and he paints primarily slightly abstracted, simplified barns, foliage and landscapes. This would seem to be so very different than my own work, which it is. You might wonder why I would be enamored of his work. What I love about Wolf Kahn is that he is so very, very good at what he does. I love to look at the exquisite mastery of his work. A Wolf Kahn barn is a barn like no other. He does use great texture in his work. And I love to read his words, which are kind and down to earth.

“The practice of art should have an effect not only on the public, but even more importantly, on the artist himself, by enlarging his sphere of freedom. Once this is understood and becomes a profound part of artistic practice, the problem of being a mere manufacturer of expensive objects disappears; pictures are justifiable because they are steps in their maker’s artistic development. Each picture is valuable only insofar as it contributes to this development, because it enables the artist to go on in a freer, larger way to his next picture.”

I have two books on Wolf Kahn; Wolf Kahn’s America, An Artist’s Travels. Paintings, Pastels, and Text by Wolf Kahn and Wolf Kahn Pastels, the source of the above quote. This book is full of advice to artists, but in a relaxed manner. I think its time for me to re-read these yummy, visually appealing books. And I do love his use of orange and turquoise…..

These photos are of textures in process, and another small collage.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Few Words

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Today I have few words. This piece is part of a painting series I did last year.

here to Pamela Farrell’s art blog and see photos of artist studios and work.
here to see contempoary sculptural textiles; the work of Gyongy Laky. This includes installations and views of her studio. Go here to see the collage, paintings and assemblages of Roberta B Marks. Enjoy!