contemporary collage paintings
the process
Leslie Avon Miller

My life flows when I'm in my art.

Jean De Muzio

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Wish Bone Revised

Wish Bone, 20 x 20 inch on birch panel, by Leslie Avon Miller

Today I enjoyed a fun Saturday morning at home with Kurt drinking good coffee, reading your blogs, and then it was off to the studio. I think Wish Bone has come together now. I added a checkerboard which I blended in to the whole, lightened up the value of the “tide of black” at the top, and added final details. I like it. I’ll let it cure, and then if I still like it I will try the cold wax top coat I think. That will give it a very soft sheen, and depth. I like the depth of small details which go on and on in this piece. I had fun as the painting was coming to completion. It felt right somehow.

I am finding I am appreciating the strength of the birch panel. I’ll wean myself off of using paper and just start painting on the gessoed birch. I have several sizes of panel waiting for me in the studio. I might gesso up the three 36 inch by 36 inch panels so I can work larger.

I also have another Bone Painting going now, and nearing completion; called Elephant Graveyard. I like the name for many reasons. It is much more organic than the other bone paintings, as I have gone with the look of many small worlds. I will still be making small collage on paper. It is easy to do in the evenings, and I made some yummy papers as I transferred paint on and off of the Old Bones paintings.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Wish Bone

Wish Bone, by Leslie Avon Miller. All the paintings in the Old Bones series are 20 x 20 x 2 inches, on birch panel. I painted the 2 inch side section black, which makes them stand out nicely. I’ll try to get a photo so you can see. Wish Bone is still in process.
After my last post and receiving so many encouraging comments I have been inspired to continue to work on the Old Bones paintings. At first I wondered if I hadn’t just been complaining right out loud on the internet, which didn’t seem like such a good thing. But then I realized that I really had benefited from stating what had been such a challenge about this particular series. The benefit came from hearing the things you all had to say. And that’s because I am an Extrovert. As such I tend to process information based on having thoughts and feelings reflected back to me. For me, it is the process of communicating about my ideas that creates clarity. That’s how I tend to get to “oh, I see!” I need time to talk about it.
Introverts tend to come to understandings by reflecting inside themselves, thinking things over quietly and then coming to “oh, I see!” They need time to think about it. Then they are ready to talk about it.
I am continually fascinated by people and how we work. So I find this kind of stuff really interesting, and now I tend to think about how our personalities influence our art and the process of making art. If you want to know more here are a few links. This article talks about the differing communication styles of Introverts and Extroverts. This link talks about personality traits, and provides a list of questions you can answer for your self to find out your possible personality type.
Thank you all for communicating with me!

This is Old Bones, in the landscape orientation. I had originally thought the light part would be vertical on the left. I am not so sure now.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Out On A Limb

This is another scanned section of the Old Bones Painting, by Leslie Avon Miller
It takes a lot of guts for me to paint in nearly back and white, with a bit of grey, beige and brown. It takes a lot of guts to post paintings and collage on my blog that “break” so many design “rules”. It takes a lot of guts for me to follow this series along where it leads. I think my Muse has an astute wickedness about her, although she defies being defined or categorized. She is too individualized for that and she is fiercely creative and independent. And I think she laughs right out loud when I take delight and stand back from a delicious texture appearing on the surface of my work. She isn’t easy on me. And of course, I have to honor her, because I choose to and I know she has something to give me from all of this. I just don’t know what it might be.

I had a teacher in the 7th grade like that - Mrs. Smith. She really forced us to learn the parts of speech, and the elements of writing. She wasn’t very nice about it, and she was strict. She didn’t let us get away with “good enough.” It had to be correct. Remember diagramming sentences? Thanks to her, I have the skills to be able to write a decent sentence and to have the guts to also break those rules when it serves my purpose. For instance, the use of an occasional sentence fragment. For effect.

I have on occasion had the thought “I don’t use realistic subject matter, I don’t use color, I don’t use much contrast, I don’t use known, traditional compositions, and I don’t use much variety। I do use a lot of unity and texture। Could I make this any more difficult?”

It’s not like I don’t know the rules; I really do. I don’t know why the muse is leading me out on this limb….I keep thinking that this severely restricted color palette will run its course and I will move to something else, but the limb keeps stretching out before me….

I have been enjoying all the great comments and questions you have been leaving of late. So I’m going to address them in this post, rather than the pop up window of comments. After all, there is a conversational element to the enjoyment of blogging.

When I get to New Zealand and Australia with Kurt and Derrick as my traveling companions, I will definitely be up for all experiences including a secret sister Aussie initiation and a “chiko roll”, which I hope is vegan if it something to be consumed….

Mating and framing. What an issue. I had a 22 by 30 inch piece on heavy water color paper framed professionally once, and decided I better learn to do it myself. A local frame shop owner retired and we were fortunate to buy her professional (manual not computerized) mat cutter, her wall hung glass and straight edge cutter, frame tables, and other assorted odds and ends. The mat cutter lives in the mud room, protected by a cloth, and a barrier of empty cardboard boxes so no one sets anything on it. The space is too small to really use the cutter. The wall hung cutter is hung on the wall of the bedroom that was once the studio. I use it all the time to cut paper and mat board on the straight edge. The framing tables are in pieces awaiting installation in the new studio, which awaits insulation in the high ceilings and then drywall….in other words, I can’t really mat and frame yet, because the equipment is not set up. But yes, I yearn to mat and frame the small collage. The larger birch pieces, which Kurt makes for me, hang on the wall just as they are. Same with the gallery wrapped canvas he is learning to do.

Yes, there is an element here of rawness as well as darkness and light to the Old Bones and the Big Rocks. Thanks for putting those words to it. There is a lot of collage on the Old Bones piece. I don’t think there is any on the Big Rocks piece. Both pieces have been through a few incarnations in their process to be where they are today. As for textures; I have been creating textures for a long while now, and I pretty much know what I am going to get. There is an element of “accident” because it is not a tightly controlled process, which suits me, but I know which technique will give me which texture. And I do experiment and discover new things. I use a lot of acrylic paint, both liquid and heavy body. I use some water color, some inks, crayon D’arch, occasional pastels, graphite pencils, markers, and oil pastels (I love Sennelier oil pastels, as they are butter soft.) I have undoubtedly left out something in this list. Sometimes I use a lot of transfers. I put pigments on with a wide variety of techniques including my fingers, sticks of wood, bamboo skewers, rags, papers of many varieties and sometimes even a paint brush. I take some pigment back off with alcohol, sand paper, rubbing, more reverse transfers. Sometimes I work with my eyes closed, to get closer to intuitive gesture.

I don’t often varnish my work. I should explore that more. I know that Margaret had a list of how to do this at her blog, including spraying a mixture of mediums thinned down with water. I want to try that. That would keep graphite from smearing. Some times I put a mixture of cold wax and Gamblin Galkyd oil as the last layer. I have tried the faux encaustic recipe written by Golden Acrylics. I would love to find new ways to write on my work also.

I believe the Universe has great plans for us, and does smile on us. I think coaching helps us see, believe, and be brave. I love coaching. I love to be coached and the muse is clearly a fan of coaching. I believe that if you have read this whole post, you have read a lot! I’m off to the studio….the muse calls.

Friday, April 17, 2009

The Muse is Happy

Big Rocks is a possible title, by Leslie Avon Miller

Old Bones by Leslie Avon Miller
What a great day this was. I started my day fully focused on creativity. I had a number of phone conversations with artists who I admire and appreciate. I was honored to coach a few artists working in calibration with the artist. The benefits of previous sessions were celebrated, and visions even more expanded. It is truly thrilling to hear about success, and the ease with which it flows when we are working in alignment with our values, or as we sometimes say around here, in alignment with the Big Rocks. It’s like the universe steps out half way to meet us at the place of our dreams.

I feel expanded, open, flowing, enthused, and delighted! It is better than Christmas.
To be witness and co-facilitator for the expansion of creative visions and dreams, happening right now, and coming into to being as we speak, is a tremendous thrill and a gift to me.

So, from that kind of energy I went to the studio, and worked on the Old Bones paintings. I have been adding layers, and making changes to these paintings, trying to bring forth my vision. I am frustrated however, by photography. I am going to have to learn how to use the newer SLR camera. I just can’t get a good enough photo with the little camera.

So I scanned these images. Since the paintings are on birch, and measure 20 inches by 20 inches, they are much too big for the scanner. So what you see here are cropped portions of the work. I wanted to show you the deep texture that I just can’t capture with the small camera. The Big Rocks painting is the one I wrote on with a graphite pencil which I talked about in my Moodle post.

I think I should clarify my last post. I don’t actually have the ways and means to take my work shop (currently in development) to Australia or New Zealand. I am letting the universe know that’s something I would like to do. I could hold onto that idea and never make it happen. So I decided to say it out loud as an intention. It is a great dream, goal, idea, and vision. Now I am making myself accountable to make it happen.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Feeling Zest About Those Hopes and Dreams

This piece, called Dancing Fish, by Leslie Avon Miller is on its way to the National Collage Society Annual Post Card Show। 4 x 6 inches, on paper
I really enjoyed reading and hearing about the goals readers have for their creativity and art. So many juicy ideas; to be published, to take the iconic photograph, to travel and teach, to continue to create for a very long time, to have a great studio space, to say something, to be authentic. My wish for each person is to achieve their goals and then some.
When I decided to write about this tonight, I looked on line at the models for achieving goals. A lot were from the business world. Focus and concentration. Dedication. All well and good I suppose. But it all just seems so task oriented, and being the rebel that I am I tend to, well, rebel at those forceful strident marching orders.
I like the idea that my goals call to me, pull me forward, engage me and feel so natural. The element of work becomes play and following my curiosity is fun, fun, fun. I experience a flow.
I recently was at a talk on Positive Psychology. The elements needed for successful employment, so they say, are zest and hope. People also respond to autonomy, the opportunity to use one’s strengths and connection with other people.
I feel all of that about my goal of providing a high quality workshop experience for artists. I have so much zest and hope I can leap out of bed in the morning when I get a chance to work on my ideas. And since I am doing this myself, I have plenty of autonomy. I think leading a workshop would fit all of the above requirements. So I don’t have to artificially develop or enforce focus, concentration and dedication because it is already built into the goal for me. That’s why it is an activity that calls to me “Leslie, come work on the workshop outline! It is so yummy!” My goal is in alignment with who I am being, not just what I am doing.
So I see two workshops in my future; one on line and by conference call, and one face to face. A combination of art technique, art talk, artist coaching, fun, and dreaming big. And I have just decided I will take my face to face work shop to New Zealand and Australia. For starters. Who knows where else? It is all just so exciting! Zest! And Hope! I can see it in my mind’s eye now….How about you and your juicy dream?

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

It’s About Time and Answers to the Fourth Question

Whispering; contemporary collage painting 6 x 6 inches, paper, by Leslie Avon Miller Collection of the Artist
I woke up early this morning, and began to think of all the things I want to do, need to do, and feel I have to do. I got out of bed, even before my coffee was delivered, and instead of noticing the very first wisps of day light arriving through the trees, and hearing the early morning bird song, I came downstairs and announced to Kurt that “I just have so much to get done, and I don’t feel like I can give all the time I want to for each thing I need to do.” And so my day started; already off to a stressed outlook. In his wisdom, Kurt pointed out a shift in my thinking might be helpful. Perhaps I could choose not to do something today. His point? Make a choice. Today, I can make a list, make choices, and let go of the stress. I can say “no”, so I can say “yes”.

When I feel overwhelmed like this I am reminded of the following story about time management. It has been around a long while. I present it here, slightly altered for creative folks, as a reminder for me, and perhaps for you as well.

One day an artist who was also an expert on time management was speaking with a group of artists and, to drive home a point, used an illustration. As this woman stood in front of the group of creative artists she said, “Okay, time for a demonstration.” Artists love demonstrations!

She pulled out a very large, wide-mouthed vintage blue glass jar and set it on a table in front of her. Then she produced about a dozen fist-sized speckled rocks, each picked up on a lovely beach, and chosen for their beauty, and carefully placed them, one at a time, into the jar.
When the jar was filled to the top and no more rocks could fit inside, she asked, “is this jar full?” and everyone in the gathering said yes.

She said, “Really?” . . . then reached under the table and pulled out a small bucket of white gravel. She dumped some gravel in and shook the jar, causing pieces of gravel to work themselves down into the spaces between the big rocks.

Then she smiled and asked the group once more, “is the jar full?”
By this time the clever artists were on to her. “Probably not,” was the answer.
“Good!” she replied. And she reached under the table and brought out a bucket of shining black sand. She started dumping the sand in and it went into the spaces left between the rocks and the gravel. Again she asked, “Is the jar full?”

“No!” the artists said, smiling to themselves.
Again she said, “Good!” Then she took a hand blown multi-colored glass pitcher of water and began to pour it in until the jar was filled to the brim.
Again she asked, “Is the jar full?”

Many in the group said yes. Others weren’t so sure, and they smiled as she took a hand carved wooden salt shaker and emptied it into the jar, as well.
Then—the artist and time management expert looked up at the artists and asked, “What is the point of this illustration?”

One delighted artist said, “The point is, no matter how full your life is, if you try really hard, you can always fit something more into it.”
“No,” the artist replied. “That lesson could be drawn from this illustration, but that’s not the point I wish to make. The truth this illustration teaches us is: “if you don’t put the big rocks in first, you won’t get them in."

Answers to the Fourth Question: What are your biggest hopes and dreams for your creativity?

Mine: I am going to be honest and tell you I’m not really going to tell you. And I suspect some of you may not have as well, the first time round to this question. Perhaps we hold these tender cocoons close to our hearts, safe where no one can poke at them. I can tell you I want to be a better artist. I want to work much bigger, and I want to be as authentic as I can be. I want my art to say something. I want my art to generate some income so I can have more time to generate art, and because art has real value. I am developing a work shop. I am very excited about that. And someday, I’ll tell you the really big dream, the one that takes my breath away and makes me levitate. The one that is a little fuzzy around the edges because I don’t have a clear vision yet. Sometimes it makes me giggle.

Blog Readers Answers:

I hope to continue to have the physical stamina and health to create
I would like to have a publication about my work, a record of my journey
To show or exhibit in larger areas
I really hope my work keeps going
I want to create something very large
I want to share with people the healing power of creating
A suitable studio space
A better balance
Enough money from my work to be earning a living
I want to be published
To make and sell my art
To have my family enjoy my art
I hope that I improve as an artist
I want to keep learning
I want the guts to stay the course
I want to keep experimenting
I want to encourage others
I want to inspire others
To experience the process wholly
To communicate my expression as honestly as possible
For my art to tell my story
I want to self publish
Good health, strong mind and heart to continue
To stay open to new ways and journeys
To encourage others by example
To express my own individualism
To continue to find new relationships between existing concepts
Joy, clarity and fulfillment
I want to enjoy watching my inner vision emerge onto a blank piece of paper
I love to write for magazines
I want to travel to teach all over the world
I want to publish books
I want to invent a new art technique or new art material
I want to dialog with other artists
I would like to have my own art center

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Nothing Like A Good Moodle

Typewritten Painting 12 x 12 by Leslie Avon Miller
Collection of Seth Apter
So you see the imagination needs moodling-
long, inefficient, happy idling, and puttering.

Brenda Ueland

A good, long two day moodle. I always try and resist it, but the moodle wins, every time. I took my thoughts with me to the studio. I picked up this piece, that piece, and put them down again. I looked at work in progress. I sorted papers. I mixed paint and didn’t know where to put it. I sighed. I picked up a graphite pencil and began to write those thoughts, jumbled as they were, on a larger painting. I wrote and wrote and wrote. Then I knew where to put that paint – on top of the partially obscured words. Perhaps these are the Old Bones I am seeking to move into a new white series. The old bones of thoughts, past and present. Old bones buried under paint, gnawed at, left to dry in the sun, bleached and washed clean by the elements. Old bones clumped together in a pile, old bones scattered about leaving a trail and telling the story.
The next day, relieved of some of the jumbled thoughts for the moment, I rested. I sunk down into the quiet. Silence held the space open for something new, evolving, and still unknown. Occasionally thoughts of what I could be accomplishing came to mind; art, writing, progress, at least laundry, or a pot of soup. But resting in the silence won out. And today, the sun shines, my thoughts are flowing again, and I greet the day with renewed energy, enthusiasm, and appreciation. I go on.

Here are the answers to question #3 What gets in the way and frustrates you in your efforts to create?

My answers: Limited time. Tedious obligations. Sometimes the inability of my hand to create what my mind can see. That part is getting better. Once in a while falling in love with someone else’s work can get in my way for a time. That’s getting better too. Fatigue. After a long day I need to rest, when I might like to continue. The fact that no matter how much I want every weekend to create, sometimes I have to tend to other things. It’s all a dance, and I keep moving in the right direction. I don’t always care if I get the laundry done….

Readers answers: accepting my self and my art
long list of “have to’s” and “shoulds”
being a task master and pushing too hard = stress
letting less important things keep me from the studio
physical stamina and health, repetitive stress injuries, exhaustion, fibromyalgia,
limited opportunities to show my work
interruptions; the buzz around me
lack of the right kind of studio space
wanting to treat art as my job, but not doing that
I need a wife
loss; family members illness and death
need to expand my market
scheduling my time
finding a new audience
negative voices, inner critic
my task master production work ethic
validation from family and friends; they don’t
making a living
inner critic
day jobs
very high expectations
recharting my creative compass
how to stay motivated and inspired
negative thinking
expressing my individualism
lack of inspiration
self care; everyday problems
marketing; something that will sell that I want to make

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Question #2

Laughter and Silence 6 x 6 collage by Leslie Avon Miller

What is it that you give to your creativity?

These are my answers: Curiosity. Reverence. My time, my energy, my resources, my attention, my love, my respect. Connections with other creative people. Looking at things, everywhere. My blog! We built a building that is one half studio and one half wood shop. That was really a big commitment for us. It feels like a gift every time I walk over there. It is a project still under construction. Being creative is a state of being but it is also a relationship - me and my creativity.

And blog readers wrote that they give

Being open
Going different places, walking, looking, reading, talking
I write lot
I write snippets for artist statements
I collect quotes
I give my all
It’s all I think about
I make a commitment and get into the flow
Intention and willingness to explore
One voice joining with others
Showing up
Seeing a project through
Willingness to listen to my soul
To keep my heart open
My heart and soul
I am willing to put the fruits of my creativity out there
I give my closest attention
My time
My passion
I study
I practice