contemporary collage paintings
the process
Leslie Avon Miller

My life flows when I'm in my art.

Jean De Muzio

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Exploring Again

I am feeling the need to explore; specifically I want to explore shapes and line. While I am completing a few more Bone Prayer paintings, I have also decided to start in a different direction. I have been thinking of this new direction for a while. Today was the day to begin because I had some left over paint mixed up and needed a place to put it. Kurt had made me some birch panels sized at 12 inches by 24 inches, which is a nicely exaggerated rectangle. Paint plus panel equals a start.

I am showing you the very first layer of the many I am sure I will add to this piece. I am also showing you a page from my art notebook, where I tried out the ideas after I had already started the painting…I suspect this will be a series, and go in directions I don’t even envision yet. I like funky, loose drawings, so I did these with my non-dominate left hand.

I’m still working on meaning; vessels as a metaphor, and Joseph Campbell’s talks about the Native American concept of the “long body.” My stage in life where the view back to the beginning is longer, I think, than the view out to the future…. experiences poured in, and poured out, weathering and firing, the polish of time.

In the past I have made pots and bowls on a potter’s wheel, and woven baskets from natural materials I gathered. I used to dream about the feel of wet clay spinning under my hands. I have entered natural cathedrals of tall trees and moss covered under story in the rain forest while seeking cedar roots, and left them all there because the sense of place told me it was too sacred to touch…..Now its time to explore the same shapes in collage and paintings.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Studio Time

Mixed media painting by Leslie Avon Miller, 20 by 20 inches on panel

I love long weekends – with time to create, think, write, relax, experience life at a more human pace. Lovely. I have finished the painting I wanted to make for our mantel. I’m going to share my inspiration. I saw these “woman-kins” in a book I have called Pottery Barn Living Rooms. I also saw the white and grey painting with some warm tones in the same book. I have had the page with that painting ear-marked for years. I like it a lot. So combing those two sources of inspiration I made my painting, which is 20 inches by 20 inches on birch panel. I also happen to have two woman-kins to which I added paint and ink to make them look aged and interesting. With luck, they will be displayed on the mantel as well. If I am pleased with the way my mantel make over project turns out, I’ll post a photo.
Tomorrow will afford me more studio time. The second coat of gesso is dry on the 36 inch panel, and I have started four more Bone Prayer paintings. I also made some collage papers.
Studio time is like a health tonic. My life is so much more comfortable when I get some on a regular basis. I can’t think of a better way to spend a holiday weekend. I wish everyone a great weekend. Everywhere in the world its spring or fall – the most tender of seasons.

Saturday, May 16, 2009


Destination Series #11, By Donna Watson

By Laura Lein-Svencner
I write this post with dried white gesso on my finger tips. This week has been life, interrupted. Kurt had a foot surgery (and is doing fine, thank you), which has affected a real change in our routine. Which affects my art creating patterns. Which has been like being in another world – you know the one – ginger ale and ice packs, crutches and needing to watch movies. More than we watch typically by far. The best one to date has been Australia, with Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman.
So this evening, an unusual time for me to be in the studio, I was able to spend some time in my creative space. I have felt the sense of completion from the Bone Prayers, and was anticipating starting in a slightly different direction. But I have been out of the studio long enough that I have lost my place, so to speak. I know where I intended to go, but I’ve lost my flow.
So to get back into my groove I decided to make myself a painting for our mantel. I’m feeling the need for a change. I love homes that are decorated with great arty objects and arrangements. I looked at one of my decorating books, got some ideas and went for it. I’ll probably finish it tomorrow, and I’ll show it to you.
But it is time to get going with a new series. I have ideas. So I applied gesso to one of the big (for me anyway) panels, the ones that are 36 inches by 36 inches. That is a nice amount of space to work in. And I added a second coat of gesso to some other panels. That isn’t very exciting, but what happens for me when I do the repetitive work of brushing on gesso is that I realize I am in a state of incubation. The ripening kind. I can feel the anticipation as I lay the groundwork, and I think about what is to come.
This week the much anticipated collages from the International Collage Exchange arrived in my mail box. So I’m sharing a couple with you here. They were both a testimony to presentation – finished edges, crisp white paper support and care from the artist. One is by my friend Donna Watson, and one is from a collage artist whose work I enjoy, Laura Lein-Svencner.

Friday, May 8, 2009

I Am Complete

The four Bone Prayer paintings are done. These were satisfying to paint. When I put the black gesso on the edges of the birch panels this afternoon, the work just looked complete. Earlier today when I was working, the largest Hawk I have ever seen flew overhead, and just now, as I began to write this post, an Eagle was soaring over the ravine, circling. No doubt it was looking for supper.

I wrote a lot of thoughts on these pieces, writing that is now buried under paint, with just bits peaking out. As I worked I held memories of women in my life who nurtured me – my Mom, my Gram, a dear friend, and me. I decided to include myself in these prayers of gratitude as I strive to be a good friend to myself. All of the love is perfectly imperfect. This work is as personal as I can imagine being in my art, this remembering and honoring what was and what still is.

A while ago I ran across a Statement from an artist I admire – Lenore Tawney. She said in part “Creation is a defiance of ordinary verbal communication. Its origins lie in the ineffable part of one’s own being….Art is always just beyond language.” That is how these Bone Prayers are – ethereal and just beyond words. My satisfaction comes from having expressed myself this way about a topic that is too big and multifaceted for me to put into words.

You can see the web site where I found Lenore’s statement here. Click on the statement tab to read From Scraps of Memory, her statement in its entirety.

At the closure of a gathering I attend, we speak in turn, and close by saying “I am complete.”

Monday, May 4, 2009

Meanwhile in the Studio

“Nothing determines the success of your creative life more than doing it.” – Ian Roberts
Don’t you just love to make art? My current small pieces are Bone Prayers. They are 8 inches by 8 inches, and on birch panel. The panel is ¼ inch thick plywood that Kurt mounts on a box he constructs. (I promise more details this weekend, when I can get him to tell me about it, and take photos.) The birch panel itself is very smooth. I apply two coats of gesso prior to beginning the painting or collage. All four of the prayers are in the final stages. I am calling this one done …but you know how that goes…if it is in the studio it is subject to alterations. I’m happy with it, so I will try and focus on the others and leave this one alone.
I create the texture by applying paint, taking some back off with a variety of techniques, sanding between layers, adding transfers, writing with graphite, and using crayon d’arch, a high quality water color crayon. It is all sealed with acrylic medium. I really enjoy the process, which extends over several studio sessions to allow drying time and time to ponder the direction the piece is headed. I kept the design simple, so the textures and organic shapes could be complex. As I work, I think about my subject matter, and personal meaning. These prayers are humble, and are about the connections I have experienced in the past with my loved ones. Love is the skeleton of a relationship, and hence these are Bone Prayers – of gratitude and appreciation.

Friday, May 1, 2009

The Bone Series Continues

Old Bone Prayer

Painting Detail
“Own your creativity. You are a creative being by nature, and your creativity is one with the unending energies that flow throughout the universe. The question is not whether you are creative “enough” but whether you will free yourself to express the creativity that is uniquely yours.” – Ian Roberts

The Bone Series continues. This is a smaller piece on birch panel, measuring 12 inches by 12 inches. I have four more small ones in progress in the studio. I remember that in the past I have been told my work invites one to come up close. That is apparently how I am currently creating – a lot of small details, an invitation to come close, eye to painting as it were.

These pieces have personal meaning for me, and are containers or vehicles for rich awareness and “beingness”. I’m beginning to think about the artist’s statement I will write for this series.

I haven’t forgotten that I said I would post about the birch panel fabrication process or the cold wax final coat for the paintings, but family duty calls this weekend, and I suspect it will be next weekend before I get time to put that information together.