contemporary collage paintings
the process
Leslie Avon Miller

My life flows when I'm in my art.

Jean De Muzio

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Wisdom of the Bloggyhood Community

So today I was on a work road trip, and thinking about all the responses to my post about Art Gone Amuck. What a fabulous group of folks you all are. Thank you all so much for your helpful comments. I decided the wisdom list should be shared, so I listed the ideas you all suggested for artistic renewal. The list is already 28 ideas long!

So far I have been enjoying the break from the studio. I have walked, gathered things in nature with shapes, textures, colors, line and pattern. I see inspiration in all of them. I did make it back to the bookstore, and have “new” books on an artist I did not know, a how to watercolor book with great examples of color and shapes, a vegetarian cook book, and a book of photography. House cleaning was suggested. I cleaned our coffee maker – with a toothpick. I don’t play music, but I have listened to music that felt right. I have been reading, writing and thinking. I’m sure I will explore some of the other ideas before my break is over. I had envisioned a one week break, but that is open ended.

Sometimes a blog post will resonate in a profound way. That happened for me yesterday. I went to the blog of India Flint - Not All Who Wander Are Lost. I was so touched by her words, I asked if I could let you know about her post, and she agreed. The link is here. I’ll start you off with the first bit of her post:

“the older I become and the less time it seems likely I shall have on this beautiful earth the more I realize the importance of taking more time to be slow about the things I do
and to engage with the whirled
to take time to appreciate that string of pearls that is “the moments of now” that scatter like raindrops on a river as we wander our life journey”

This blog links me to my art group – all of you. And I appreciate our time together.
Here is your wisdom:

take a break
go shopping for more supplies
go to the beach
ride out of town on the top deck of the bus
go to the garden
play the piano
make soup
try something vibrant
browse and read
find solace in the saxophone
do photography
try Tyla Tharp’s “box approach”
persevere through the frustration and change to a time of reward
go walkabout with a camera
meet with your art group
view art on line
clean house
do a crossword puzzle
read a novel
visit an art museum

It was high time I took a studio break, and already good things are happening.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Art Gone Amuck

So, alright I do talk to myself. Not out loud though. That’s where I draw the line. My conversation has been running along these lines in the studio. “Gosh it’s hot!” Then I spray a mist of water in front of the fan and feel it hit my face with refreshing coolness. Misting water aside, it’s still not very comfortable in the studio. Not only due to heat, but due to feeling like I’ve gone amuck with my art making. I paint something and it looks like something I’ve painted many times before. I try something else, and then it just looks odd. Then I paint over the whole thing. Then I do it all over again….I am making myself tired and its b-o-r--i-n-g! Boring art.

I was taking with an artist friend yesterday. She said may be I need a break. Now there is an idea. I hadn’t thought about taking a break. When things get tough I usually just try harder. I put my nose to the grindstone and grind. How Zen like to step back and pause.
So this week, due to hot weather and the need for something to be different, I’m taking a break.

Of course I can’t stop thinking about art completely. I see the earthy brown colors I love in a leaf as I pick the wild blackberries that grow along our drive. I see the beauty in a feather one of the birds lost near the feeder. Last night the sky was almost red.

As I take my break, I’m writing and reading. In an old book called Water Color Bold and Free, by Lawrence Goldsmith I read “One effective way to become bolder in your work is to experience the shock of discarding your ordinary procedures in favor of a new one.” I’ll ponder Lawrence’s words about understatement – simplicity, suggestion and brevity. He asks “does the painting make its statement economically?”

And because I have no new art to show you, I’ve posted a photo of the inside of my favorite used book store, where I find great older (and sometimes newer) art books. The floors are wooden and they creak as one walks down the narrow isles. The art section is eclectic and fun to peruse. I’ve got store credit from selling my gently used books, and I’ll be in the vicinity this week. Maybe I’ll stop by and find a new book to read on my self declared art break.

So what do you do when art making goes amuck?

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Buried Treasure No. 2 - It’s About Time and Answers to the Fourth Question

It’s About Time and Answers to the Fourth Question

The author of Art Revolution, Lisa L. Cyr, the new art book I recently reviewed stopped by the blog and left a comment about her book. I have placed it in the side bar of my blog. She said writing the book was a real labor of love.

This is another round of Buried Treasure – a blogging event sponsored by Seth at The Altered Page. It has been a lot of fun to meet more bloggers by participating in this event! I notice Robyn of Art Propelled has reposted one of my all time favorite posts of her’s – about the Elephants in Africa.

I have reposted here the story about Time Management for Artists. Along with that I am sharing with you a collage I did – for fun – from vintage photos I collected. I did it with scissors and arranged these folks on an old Telegram. I use the image when I want to send a card to someone from a group.

In this re-post are blog reader’s answers to one of the questions I asked about art making. These answers are to the question #4 What are your biggest hopes and dreams for your creativity?

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.

How we spend our days of course is how we spend our lives. – Annie Dillard

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

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, July 19, 2009

Artist Book – The Beginning

Artist books
are wonderful places to explore, confirm, and celebrate one’s art. I usually make a couple of books each year in late summer and early autumn. I find I spend a lot of time on them – about three months from the start to the finish. Some years I made them of brown paper bags, creating a pocket for extra pullouts; some years the pages were made from nature prints I had done; and some years the pages were each an individual collage picturing a theme.

I’ve been thinking about how perfect my tissue paper transfers are for the pages of this years book. So in the past few weeks I decided on a format. I am going to use a simple Japanese side stab binding. The pages will be 11 inches wide (about 28 cm) and 4.25 (about 11 cm) inches high, of BFK Reeves paper which is a favorite of mine. The binding on the left short side will take away about .5 inches of the page. Therefore I have put the most interesting part of the tissue paper composition on the far right edge.

I am thinking of these as visual haiku. The appeal for me is the natural minimalism of the papers and the haiku format. I’m not sure what I will do with the opposing pages; perhaps some words, or fragments of poetry, a nature print or something found in nature. Each of these tissue paper pages will have added mark making of some kind to complete the composition.

I enjoy the process of book making. For me, a simple form is the best, allowing me to focus on the content which I find most engaging. I like to add a semi-transparent paper as the first and last pages. I have done transfers on heavier rice paper and can use that as covers. I have 14 pages started so far, and anticipate at least that many more. As I continue to work on these I will post updates over the coming months. I find there is a meditative quality to making artist books, repetition of the page format, thinking ahead to the over all content and theme, and the tactile quality that is afford when one picks of a handmade book. My books almost always serve as a means for me to celebrate my favorite season – Autumn.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Buried Treasure

Today is Buried Treasure Day. Seth at the Altered Page has proposed that bloggers re-post something from the past. I started blogging in December. Looking through my past posts, this one was a nice reminder to let go of some uses of our time, so we can focus on the things that really matter to us.

This image is a collage from the 2008 International Collage Exchange. I’ve begun exploring the use of the color brown again. This collage is inspiration for me to strive for good rich browns, a color of the earth, in my current work.

For a complete list of Buried Treasure participants I have placed a link on my side bar. Enjoy!

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.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Humming in the Studio

Several large works are coming together in my studio, and I am contemplating some companion pieces in a smaller size. The work is evoking mood and thoughts of stillness, and of the evolutionary movement of continents and islands. I continue to create deep layers of texture and marks, exposing parts of each layer to compose the whole. I find that my methods evolve naturally, and the work is deeply satisfying, engaging and also challenging. Making art is doing good work.

I have started reading a new art book, Art Revolution, Alternative Approaches for Fine Artists and Illustrators, by Lisa L. Cyr. The imagery is compelling and rich. There are 20 contemporary and cutting edge artists represented in the book. As delightfully enticing as the images are, I am even more interested in the messages about contemporary art as it exists now, the interviews of each artist, and the encouragement the author provides for all of us to be authentic, innovative and content driven.

Lisa provides a summary of the history of contemporary art, a snapshot of where we are now, and a call for high standards as we move forward. She points out the almost homogenized aesthetic that results from formula driven art. In the chapter titled Content Drive Approach, Lisa says “To move forward, artists must adopt a success-based work ethic. They have to be willing to strive for greatness every time, refusing to compromise and settle for the mundane. This means doing their best in every aspect of their work, regardless of the rewards or accolades that may or may not come from their effort….Visionary artists don’t limit themselves. They are always thinking ahead, seeking new ground for their work. Even in the face of adversity, artists who are determined to succeed do not give in to fear and anxiety or accept a state of defeat. They see the uncertainty of a situation as an opportunity to try new things, reveling in the potential it can bring for upward mobility. Instead of trying to fight adversity, they embrace it and use it as an incentive to move forward. Some have described the feeling as riding the wave of life. “

She also says “They need to innovate, embracing entrepreneurial thinking and authorship as a way to penetrate the complacency that exists. They must seize the opportunity to turn the tide of mediocrity. To create a more vibrant and robust cultural exchange, artists need to become inventors of their own content, asserting a viewpoint all their own.”

Her book combines techniques demonstrated by the artists, and thoughtful writing designed to inspire each of use to put forth our best efforts. “As an artist grows and matures, the work evolves naturally in a free and almost effortless way.”

In the interest of supporting that entrepreneurial call for artists, I can also recommend the July/August edition of Art Calendar, the business magazine for visual artists. The issue is devoted to marketing art in the digital age, including web design, using social media, targeting your market, boosting your web site’s search engine positioning, and protecting your images on the web.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Artist Date and a Book Report

Untitled by Leslie Avon Miller

Paint was flung, dripped, sprayed with alcohol, spattered, transferred and sanded. We painted flat and upright, and we collaged. The floor of the studio was covered with transfers drying on every available surface. When we were tired we looked at art books and always liked the same things. I had a great holiday weekend in the studio with an artist friend. It was all art from morning to night. What a lot of fun! I have several pieces nearing completion, and am really enthused to keep working. That’s what artist dates are all about!

I also want to let you know about a new art book that just jumped off the bookstore shelf into my hands and came home with me. It is titled Book + Art, Handcrafting Artists’ Books by talented artist, Dorothy Simpson Krause. I love artists’ books, and have several books on the subject. This one however, is rich with images, art technique and goes beyond other books I have in my library on the subject. Dorothy is a painter, collage artist and printmaker who incorporates digital mixed media into her art. She is a professor emeritus at Massachusetts College of Art, where she founded the Computer Arts Center. And she is a fantastic artist.

Under the topic of Inspiration and Perspiration Dorothy writes “Do whatever you can to give yourself the time to work. Don’t wait for inspiration to strike. Start looking for visual or narrative components that relate to an issue of importance to you. Think about the message you want your work to communicate and how you can communicate it simply and effectively…What makes a book interesting is the relationship between content and form, and how it functions to entice and engage.”