contemporary collage paintings
the process
Leslie Avon Miller

My life flows when I'm in my art.

Jean De Muzio

Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Pirates Code: A Tale of the Red Crayon

Mark Making Experiments

Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl


Elizabeth: Wait! You have to take me to shore. According to the Code of the Order of the Brethren...

Captain Barbossa : First, your return to shore was not part of our negotiations nor our agreement so I must do nothing. And secondly, you must be a pirate for the pirate's code to apply and you're not. And thirdly, the code is more what you'd call "guidelines" than actual rules.

This dialog from the movie has always stuck with me. Pirates have some short comings, certainly, but the attitude that the Pirates Code “is more what you’d call guidelines” is fabulous!

The scene: 2nd grade classroom

Teacher, smile on her face: “Class you have an assignment…”

Me: Hey, we had been given an art assignment! How fun! We had choices of what to draw and color! Much better than math, or one of those other subjects. So I made a choice to draw my church. I drew the building and the small town streets around it. And I colored the streets red. Yes red. Because I wanted to and I liked it! I liked my red crayon.

Teacher, stern look on her face: Class – I’m terribly disappointed. Your work is all wrong! And I wanted to hang it proudly in the hall for Parents Night. It would make me look like a Good Teacher. And you have not done what I envisioned. So now you will do it over.

Teacher, passing back the student’s work: Leslie, you know roads aren’t red. I want you to do this over again and do it right!

So, glad to have yet another opportunity to create art, I side stepped the issue. I changed my drawing and found another great subject. I carefully drew a family of deer, brown beings in the green woods. The Daddy deer had a massive set of antlers. The Mommy deer was beautiful with her shinny black hooves, and her smart black crayon outlined form. And the baby had as many spots as I could possibly fit in. And I had done two drawings and I liked both of them.

And the deer family drawing was hung on the bulletin board for Parents Night. Because I followed the rules.

There are so, so many rules developed about art – design principals, design elements, rules of particular artistic societies, rules about what you can and can not use, rules about framing, archiving, you name it- there is a rule about it! And you know what all those rules are about? They are about thinking about your art.

I want to Express myself through art. I want my art to be an expression that includes my Soul. I want to be as Authentic as I can be and I want to feel I am giving my all. Art is a dialog and a dance, a poem and a symphony – and I am only part of the conversation. The Work has a Voice and the Viewer has a Voice.

A perfectly executed set of applied rules does not interest me. Coloring within the lines earns a smile from the teacher, but it is boring! The soulfulness of the expression is what grabs me.

Do I think it’s helpful to know the guidelines – yes! Do I think it’s helpful to be a slave to them? No! The rules can get in your way, and cause paralysis. I think more art is stymied by fear and internalized judgment than any other block! Be brave – break a rule, or not. It’s your choice. Its only ART!

And of course that is why there are so many encouraging words, quotes, and teachers out there. Because there are so many lovers of rules, so many ready to offer a judgment – from their head, not their soul. Side step them, summersault away, but get out from under all that.

Know that you already know the rules. Know your soul knows what to do. And just get in there and find your flow. Make art. See what happens.

You are only given a little spark of madness. You mustn’t loose it.

Robin Williams

Monday, November 16, 2009

Atelier Robyn Gordon!

Robyn Gordon is a wood carving artist and enthusiastic creative explorer who creates totems and panels and writes the blog Art Propelled. Robyn’s blog is rich and diverse. She features her own carvings reflecting her love of nature and the land of South Africa where she lives. Robyn also blogs about the creative process and her influences. As well, she introduces her readers to art work of other artists she discovers. Robyn’s blog is like a fabulous university course in art appreciation focused on contemporary art in many mediums. Robyn graciously agreed to be interviewed for this post of Textures Shapes and Color.

When and how did you first know you were an artist?

My earliest memory is of my mom teaching me to make a crazy patchwork "quilt" with her dressmaking scraps. I was almost 3 and the woman next door was expecting a baby and this was to be my gift to the new baby. It was the most wondrous feeling handing over this rudimentary piece of patchwork which I had stitched from the scraps on the sewing room floor.

What sustains your artistic practice? What activity renews you and your art practice so you return to your work with renewed enthusiasm?

At the top of my list, being out in nature renews me for everything in life. Spending 3 or 4 days near the ocean or walking in the mountains, exploring forests and streams will replenish me for months on end. Even sitting in my garden listening to the sighing of the stream will energize me. Books, especially art books have always inspired me and renewed my enthusiasm and now the internet is boosting my enthusiasm too.... though I really do have to find the balance. Too much time spent on the internet can drain one of every ounce of energy.

What is it about your medium of wood that calls your name?

I often think of this and can't quite put my finger on it. As a child on the farm I loved the outdoors. I loved to touch and feel nature in my hands. The smoothness of acorns and pebbles, the roughness of bark, the hollowness of a birds nest, the graininess of river sand.....anything tactile under my hands. When I was allowed to use my mom’s carving chisels at a young age I found that I could create many tactile qualities in the wood myself. Magic!

And what is this about your Mom carving? What did she make?

Nothing! Poor Mom hated carving. Tried it once and put the chisels aside ... and there they were winking at me.

Robyn, did you go to art school, or are you self taught?

I'm self taught.... a process of trial and error.

If you could visit and learn at the studio of one artist, past or present, who would it be and why?

Cecil Skotnes, because he was the first sculptor I admired. He is one of the reasons my wood carving turned into a passion.

Is there one art book you would recommend to other artists?

At the risk of repeating myself over and over, I always recommend 12 Secrets of Highly Creative Women by Gail McMeekin.

What story are you telling with your art?

I suppose I am telling the story of my life in South Africa. The niche carvings hold objects that are of the land (pebbles, bones, cowries, driftwood etc.), symbols of Africa (beadwork, arrowheads, tiny stone carvings), symbols of my British ancestry (silver teaspoons, Minton china shards). The totems "speak" of the legends that have been passed down from one generation to the next. The patterns, objects, symbols are all of this land. No matter what tribe we belong to we who were born in this country belong here and make South Africa what it is.

How has blogging helped you grow as an artist?

Blogging has been like an epiphany! It feeds my art and my art feeds my blogging. It has opened my world and suddenly I know that hundreds, thousands.... millions of artists go through all the emotions that I do. The anxieties, insecurities, challenges, transitions, blocks, issues, moodlings ...... and the euphoria. It's comforting to know that I'm normal ....relatively speaking.

Thank you Robyn! If you would like to see more of Robyn’s work, images are at her photo stream here on Flicker. And if you enjoy the art work she “curates” for her blog, you might enjoy her Flicker Favorites here.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Mark Making in the Studio

I had several ideas but the only one that felt exciting was to make marks, so marks I made! I did marks with different tools, different colors and in a different style. No goal in mind, no judgment, just experimentation with marks. I don’t know yet how I will incorporate these marks in my work, but I am excited to continue the experiment. I can’t say for sure why marks call my name so loudly, but they do. So I answer the call. I know I like the suggestion of mystery, the idea of communication and the rhythm my hand enjoys while I am marking. I work quickly and intuitively.

I have been reading about artist Fred Otnes. He is a featured artist in the book Art Revolution, by Lisa L. Cyr. He also has a book of his own, which you can preview here.
In Lisa’s book he is quoted as saying “It’s important to remain curious and try as much as you can, just to see where it can take you. The more you do, the more you learn and the better you become. I have always felt, even now, that I’m on the edge of something new.”

His work is full of small details, layers and is highly textured. You can see more of his work here. His book is on my short list of Art Books I Most Want to Receive in the upcoming holiday season. To me the holiday is best in the afternoon, when things quiet down and I can go off and spend time with my new art book…..

I don't think it's necessary for artists to have any formal training in painting or art history, but I do think it's essential to continually experiment with different subject matter, types of paint and methods of painting. Ron Parker

You will have to experiment and try things out for yourself and you will not be sure of what you are doing. That's all right, you are feeling your way into the thing. Emily Carr

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Edges and Shapes and Colors and Textures

Creating art is a process of discovery. As a collage artist, I discover relationships between elements, edges, shapes, colors and textures. I discover processes and ways to make marks, ways to put color on paper and ways to use my tools. I think if I knew exactly what was going to happen when I walked in the studio, I’d be outa there, looking for a new set of experiences of discovery. It is that moment when the pieces come together, the puzzle is solved and I just know that’s It. That’s the Why of it. Then I want to do it Again.

Nobody will stop you from creating. Do it tonight. Do it tomorrow. That is the way to make your soul grow - whether there is a market for it or not! The kick of creation is the act of creating, not anything that happens afterward. I would tell all of you watching this screen: Before you go to bed, write a four line poem. Make it as good as you can. Don't show it to anybody. Put it where nobody will find it. And you will discover that you have your reward. Kurt Vonnegut

Both of these collages are 6 inches by 6 inches on watercolor paper. They are as of yet untitled, and were made by Leslie Avon Miller. Now I'm going to go make another one!