contemporary collage paintings
the process
Leslie Avon Miller

My life flows when I'm in my art.

Jean De Muzio

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

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Dictionary of Marks, Scratches and Symbols

Investigation and studio work continue. I am well into a series of exploratory collage, where I am playing with marks. Brush marks, finger marks, lines as marks, found marks, drips, scratches and spatters. I have used a piece of wood, a scrap of mat board, a brush, a bamboo skewer, and of course my fingers to make marks. I think of these collages as a dictionary of my personal marks. I may place these collage in an artist book, like a dictionary, or they may have some other landing place. The point is to freely experiment – a lot.

Marks can be lyrical and suggest a rhythm. I have made marks while listening to the male quail keep his brood informed. Cluck, cluck, cluck. Cluckcluckcluckcluckcluck. I’m going to incorporate those marks into a collage and see what that does. And I am going to keep listening and looking at marks in nature and anywhere else I find myself.

I hope to use these mark making experiments to spring board into working with gesture, which I think of as really big marks, made with the whole arm in conjunction with a brush, not just using my fingers and a tool. Marks occur in a space of course so I am also paying attention to my use of the two dimensional space of the surface. I am finding it helpful to slow down, look at elements one by one, and realize I have all the time in the world to find my way.

If you like mark making here are a few resources. I have recently discovered two blogs of mark makers, Jacob Albablank from Spain and Imbi Star of Australia. Jacob has a Flicker set of marks which also show his lovely studio space. Of course Cy Twombly is a masterful mark maker. A collection of his work can be seen here.

In my exploration I can across this quote, connected with Phillip Guston and John Cage. “When you start working, everybody is in your studio – the past, your friends, your enemies, the art world, and above all your own ideas – all are there. But as you continue painting they start to leave, one by one, and you are left completely alone. Then if you are lucky, even you leave.”

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Reading the Road Map

8 inch by 8 inch collage on paper

There is a richness to the process of sorting out where I have been and where I am going with my art. I’m settling in and starting to look forward to this process of considering what I have already done and where I might be going, although of course I can’t see around the bend in the road. As you can imagine I am writing a lot about my art – past and present. I’m collecting notes about my use of space, shapes, lines, gesture, marks, passages, color. I’m collecting what I have written about the meaning behind my work. I’m trying things out, and wondering what might happen. I’m thinking of my notes as my personal dictionary of symbols and imagery, a kind of road map. I find all kinds of art from my previous efforts and I sit down and look at it in a new light. What is there that might still be interesting and useful?

And because I have a near constant need to create I am working with papers and paint in my artist book and on small collage. I am looking around me for marks and lines and textures, which are everywhere really. I have started a small collection near the entry door of my gatherings- a leaf or two, an interesting small rock, a feather. There is plenty of room for what ever else I might find. Photographically I have been gathering marks, numbers and textures.

My motivation is to be a better artist, and to work more authentically. I feel I have been authentic, but there is always room to grow, find new avenues and create in ways I may not be able to imagine right now. I am having fun slowing down, pausing and looking around at where I might want to go.

I found an interesting list on an art educational site. It’s about learning to think like an artist. It is a fun list, and one that applies to a lot of the creative people in blogland I would guess. It sums up an attitude of curiosity, perseverance, and playfulness along with passion to work hard.

How to Think Like an Artist

looking at things more closely than most people do.
finding beauty in everyday things and situations.
making new connections between different things and ideas.
going beyond ordinary ways of thinking and doing things.
looking at things in different ways in order to generate new perspectives.
taking risks and exposing yourself to possible failure.
arranging things in new and interesting ways.
working hard and at the edge of your potential.
persisting where others may give up.
concentrating your effort and attention for long periods of time.
dreaming and fantasizing about things.
using old ideas to create new ideas and ways of seeing things.
doing something simply because it's interesting and personally challenging to do.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Meandering, Contemplating and Visioning

I feel like an explorer, or an archaeologist, or a botanist. I have been exploring and am focused on patterns in nature. A swath of weeds standing in a staccato pattern attracts my eye, as do the wavy marks of an insect eating its way through tree bark. I have been digging through my past creative endeavors to find my personal patterns. I do tend towards vertical movement and lines. I have a pattern of diving space nearly in half; an even and equal division. And I am – once again – focused on the beauty of fallen leaves as they make their way from living thing to skeleton. I find myself walking slowly, gaze on the earth in front of me, scanning for beauty. I find irregular circles, curly lines and little speckles. I hear patterns in the bird calls. The male California quail with his persistent call to his brood as he watches over them from a high perch strikes me as an auditory pattern. I wonder what it would look like if I drew his call.

And I am wandering through the blogs of creative people everywhere. I think to myself how much more “real” this is than the mainstream media “news”. The creativity in the world is astounding and causes me to feel optimistic and peaceful. I am drawing – mark making and pattern creating. I hold the delicate tissue papers I have created and find small worlds and patterns that mimic nature and I am well pleased. I love the minimalism and softness of these papers. I continue to create individual pages for my artist book. The work is slow and that’s okay.

In other news, my friend collage artist Donna Watson has joined the blogging community and has her blog here. I am excited that she has started blogging. I know she is a committed artist who is authentic and generous. Her work always stops me in my tracks. She sure knows how to put together a collage!