contemporary collage paintings
the process
Leslie Avon Miller

My life flows when I'm in my art.

Jean De Muzio

Monday, December 27, 2010

Art Is My Teacher

My work is loving the world.
~Mary Oliver

Paying some attention to what my art has been teaching me, I have noted a few thoughts. Like all lists, and all awareness, it is in flux, incomplete and evolving. I'll share my observations with you here.

Go with what is happening. Art will teach me what it needs.

It is good to ask "I wonder what will happen if I..."

Swooning is allowed when seeing another artist's work, but feel my feet firmly planted on my own art path.

No matter how much has been mastered, remain a student of everything and of something - photography, on-line presence, or new technology. The world will always evolve and I must also.

We shape clay into a pot, but it is the emptiness inside that holds whatever we want.

~Lao Tzu

When in a growth phase, protect incubating ideas. They may be shy. Retreat from scrutiny, like a snake that is shedding its skin. Emerge fresh and ready to shine.

Attend to nature, the original muse.

I learn, yet again, to see, really see.

Share with other artists. They get it. Encourage others as I am encouraged.

Experience gratitude.

The answer is almost always "keep working."

Happy New Year!

What is your art teaching you?

The first image: Untitled, 12 inches by 12 inches, watermedia on birch panel. By Leslie Avon Miller

The second image: Untitled, 30 inches by 22 inches, watermedia and collage on watercolor paper. By Leslie Avon Miller

Readers are adding:

  • patience
  • resilience
  • curiosity
  • exploration
  • discovery
  • renewal
  • the value of looking within
  • to be more brave
  • go to work!
  • follow any leads
  • always allow time to experiment
  • the beginning
  • letting go
  • dare
  • now it's good
  • look carefully
  • be brave
  • have an open mind
  • look closely
  • be excited
  • be open
  • share
And more words from you:

    • nourish the spirit
    • be kind to myself
    • Play and explore
    • Celebrate life
    • Be present
    • Push
    • Feel
    • See the light within and in the world
    • Keep pushing the envelope
    • You can’t win if you don’t play
    • Allow
    • Accept
    • Sustain
    • Stillness/action/aloneness
    • Share
    • Acceptance
    • Reflection
    • Perseverance
    • Connection
What a rich and fabulous list. I'll keep adding to the list as you share your thoughts. Thank you all!

Friday, November 12, 2010

I tell you, we are here on Earth to fart around...


I want to make art. I have time.

Walk and take photographs.


Flat efforts.

Tidy working space.

Look at my art.

Tidy living space.

Look at other people’s art.

Read about other people’s art.

That’s what that’s about?

Look up the word oeuvre.

That’s a big word.

Not in size. In meaning.

Read poetry.

Read more poetry.

Organize poetry collection.

Stumble upon rich quote.

Laughter and gaiety.

Thinking, thinking.

Feed the cats, and find comfort in the


See the daylight begin to fade.

Realize what it’s about for me.

Make a list of words.

A map for my work.

It’s all ok.

I kind of know what I am saying.

I am exploring, seeking, finding.

Choosing. Integrating. Releasing.

Look up the word imbue.

That one will work.

I’ve found the door to get

back in

my art.

The poem:

On Becoming the Poet You Were Meant to Become

(note to self)

Many poets are not poets
for the same reason that
many religious men are not saints:
they never succeed in being themselves.
They never get around to being the particular poet
or the particular monk they are intended to be by God.
They never become the man or the artist who is called
for by all the circumstances of their individual lives.

They waste their years in vain efforts
to be some other poet, some other saint…

They wear out their minds and bodies in a hopeless endeavor
to have somebody else's experiences or write somebody else's poems.

There is intense egoism in following everybody else.
People are in a hurry to magnify themselves
by imitating what is popular—
too lazy to think of anything better.

~Thomas Merton

The quote:

I tell you, we are here on Earth

to fart around, and don't let

anyone tell you any differently.

~Kurt Vonneget

They mean the same thing.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Artists Books and Some Things To Like About Art

My intrigue with artist’s books goes back to the second grade, when I fell in love with my teacher’s grade book. It was a truly magical book with multiple interior pages of different widths.

All our names were entered down the left hand column. Each interior page flipped to show our grades for a variety of subjects, the column of names on the left remaining constant. The beautiful Miss Monroe entered marks in blue, red or black ink, creating a random pattern of visual interest. The weight of her entries made an impression that created depth to each page. I was truly enthralled.

No other book I experienced had any handmade marks –books were stored on shelves, pristine and sterile. It was sacrilege to make a mark in a book, except for the teacher’s grade book. When ever my BF and I would play “school” I would always start by making an elaborate grade book, with pages of differing widths, filled with columns and rows. Heaven!

I seldom make a model book – I may as well just make another book. But I knew a model would help to test the weights of different papers and how they interact with one another. I used tape to secure the papers since this was only a model. But now I like the model book, so I may add content and hope the photo quality permanent tape will hold for sometime.

To add interest I used some of the paper I do warm ups on when I am starting a studio session. My warm up papers are like a sketch book of ideas. I hang a large piece of light weight paper on the studio wall so I can work on ideas in larger format. I also practice making gestures and marks.

I like a lot of things about making art. I like to work with my hands. It’s something that occurs right here, right now somewhat within my control. I can’t have much of an effect on world peace, but I can make art.

Do you know what I mean? I work out thoughts and responses to being human, especially the parts for which I can’t find deep enough words.

I like to see what happens when I create. I’m just so curious about the whole process. I’m always finding new ways of doing things. One day I may make marks with a stick dipped in paint, and the next day I may use a razor blade to scratch out lines and marks. Curiosity is real fuel for studio time.

When it comes to art, I get to do it my way, and create my vision. No one else is making the decisions, or setting the course. It’s all mine. As said in Art and Fear – art is about “a rolling tangle of choices.” We have to make our choices. And then roll with it.

What are some things you enjoy about making your art?

Speaking of rolling tangles of choices, my new life coaching for artists web site is up and running. So I’m offering a new session of the popular course for artists called Re-Fresh Your Creative Practice. The dates are Tuesday, November 2nd to Tuesday, December 7th. If you like you can participate in a complementary call to find out more about it on Tuesday, October 6th. Head over here and also sign up for my newsletter to find out more about it. The next time I offer this course will be June, 2011, or thereabouts.

If you have signed up for the newsletter and haven’t gotten your complementary gift, check your spam folder. Once you confirm your subscription, an email will be sent to you with your gift. The spam folder is no place for your present to be!

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Old Papers, Insects with Wings, and Stencils.

Collectors are happy people ~ Johann Goethe

Old papers, insects with wings, and stencils.

What is a collector? It’s an innate trait. We start as children, collecting leaves, or stamps or stones and, as we get older, teens collect friends, CDs and, as an adult it can be anything. ~Edgar Paulik

Vintage photography paraphernalia.

Post office stamps, beyond their original usefulness.

Collecting seems to bring out that primitive instinct for the hunt in some of its devotees, who stalk their prey with skill. ~Alicia Faxon

Did I mention leaves with spots and dots?

Bulldog clips and every kind of vintage office item.

I have yet to meet a collector who feels bad about his collection. Collection is also about the story – the story behind how someone found it and purchased it. ~Edgar Paulik

Of course, keys.

More, I have so much more…to be continued from time to time.

What do you collect?

I have a new coaching web site here. The small collage above is by Leslie Avon Miller. Thanks for stopping by!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Black and White: The Yin Yang of Colors

Neither Completely Black Nor White 1
Leslie Avon Miller
mixed media collage
5 x 8 inches

My art is created intuitively as I seek to visualize and share this very moment on the continuum of time, just as it slips into the past.

Yin and yang energy are in constant motion and cause everything to happen.

The Nature of Things 1
Alan Bates
45 x 45 cm

From the Dockside series. Alan explains the resources that informed his work in this series; the jangle of boats, slipways, boat sheds, wharves, and old rusted hardware lying in shipwrights yards provided the colours and textures which held my interest.

Yin and yang are the foundation of the universe.

There Are Many Different Sounds
Mirjam Pet Jacobs
mixed media

The art I make is slow art. It is a response to the fast moving, technical, impersonal age. I make unique objects, created with dedication, passion and love.

Yin and Yang are two parts of the whole.

Burnished Double Walled Bowl
Jane Perryman
Saggar fired
23 x 19 x 19 cm

For many years my work has investigated the vessel through traditional techniques of hand building, burnishing and smoke firing. Recently I have developed ideas which allude to the timeless vessel form as well as referencing contemporary urban structures such as buildings, walls, and bridges.

Yin is not completely black.

Tiny Treasure
Noela Mills
ink and mixed media

My art is now almost entirely consumed by the concept of "wabi sabi" - the Zen Buddhist philosophy of finding beauty in things old, worn, incomplete, imperfect and common place.

Yang is not completely white.

Virtues Undiscovered
Bridgette Guerzon Mills
6 x 6 inches

I am drawn to the inherent beauty and spirit of the natural world, and my artwork is a personal dialogue that reaches into the stillness of that spirit. Through both imagery and medium, I create organic pieces that speak to the cycles of life, growth and decay, memory and the passage of time.

Yin and yang cannot exist without each other.

Donna Watson
hand painted rice papers and small scroll
12 x 12 inches

I view my work as an ongoing process of search, and self examination. I am interested in the passage of time, and what remains.

Together yin and yang form the harmony of the opposites.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Brown Paper Bags and Rust

Archive, Leslie Avon Miller
11x14x1.25 on panel

Today is a wonderful day. I'm moving into my new studio! I am more than excited!

And today at the Virtual TART site, I have the pleasure of exhibiting Brown Paper Bags and Rust. My thanks to Dale Copeland who is a tireless advocate for collage and assemblage artists. Not only does she coordinate the International Collage Exchange each year, (a monumental task) she also provides on line exhibition opportunities for collage and assemblage artists.

Following is my statement for this series of work. You will be able to see all of the pieces at the Virtual TART site. This series features papers I have altered in many ways including rusting and painting, as well as mixed media and found objects.

Life is full of common and everyday objects and processes. In my work as an artist, I have been selecting and gathering commonplace artifacts of my generation and the generations that preceded me. This series of Brown Paper Bags and Rust honors the simple objects and processes of living that might go mainly unnoticed, but for me have beauty of texture, graceful form and patina of history.

As a mixed media artist I explore the process of creating and altering materials much as an archeologist or scientist explores remnants of the past or chemical reactions. Beginning with admiration for familiar objects, I slowly built up a collection of papers including brown paper, found vintage autograph book pages, washi papers and vintage packaging. Each paper has been altered, painted, stained, rusted and marked to make it my own. This process takes time, repeated applications and the curiosity of an explorer. There is no map.

The small objects placed in these works include family items such as old piano roll ends, collected items such as common office supplies, and worn out rubber stamps from my town's post office. Egg shells, rusty hinges, bamboo and waxed linen all appeal to me for their simple and familiar utility. Yet, when altered, combined and seen from a new perspective they create patterns and textures that please the eye and document the journey. The metaphor of this process with the process of living does not escape me. Explore, select, collect, alter, be altered, evolve, honor, combine, be beautiful, decay and become herstory.

My attempt has been to honor the pedestrian and the everyday, and to mark their place in the stream of life. I have also honored my own process of exploration, of creating and of marking my place in the same stream.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Dieties and Divas by Janet Jones

College study by Leslie Avon Miller

There must be as many ways to depict the human figure as there are humans. I am always drawn to abstracted figurative work. I find edgy work most intriguing. Janet Jones has done a figurative series of very unique Deities and Divas. Janet explains her series below.

Titania by Janet Jones

Several years ago an American friend living in Japan sent me a Japanese paper doll in the style known as ningyo, and this may have been in the back of my mind when I began this series. I'm sure I was also influenced by local museum collections of Oceanic and African sculpture, ethnic textiles and historic costumes, as well as natural history museum exhibits.

by Janet Jones

I sculpted faces and hands in white clay, and folded papers I'd mono-printed or collected, then added small objects, bones and insect specimens. I've presented them in black shadow boxes that look like specimen cases.

by Janet Jones

While Janet and I were discussing her series, she filled me in with more interesting facts about the birth of the Deities and Divas.

by Janet Jones

Here is the back story on the Deities and Divas; I'd wanted, as I say on my website, to make some little costumed figures mounted in shadow boxes, after a Japanese tradition, but when I had done a few they looked like paper dolls, and I decided the ladies needed a little edge. I'd heard of a shop in Berkley, across the bay, called the Bone Room. After a fascinating visit I returned home with little baggies of tiny bones, one labeled by the staff "most of a rat." On the way home I stopped for coffee, and the young woman in the shop asked "How's your day going?" I said fine, and her next question was "What have you done so far today?"

I ask you, how often does this happen in real life?

by Janet Jones

Janet has just started blogging. Her blog is called Foot Notes Odds and Adenda to the web site of Janet Jones. While Janet is not taking comments at her blog, you can easily contact her via her website. Janet's website is a showcase of innovative art which is unique and captivating. Thanks Janet, for taking part in this series on figurative art. And welcome to the blogging community!

by Janet Jones

In my last post on figurative art many of us commented that we would like to turn the pages of Noela Mills' Fabric Book of Life Drawings. Kindly, Noela has taken images of each page and posted a link on her blog, Wabisabiart.

by Janet Jones

The first image on this post is a study I did for my series called Brown Paper Bags and Rust. You will be able to see the series at Dale Copeland's site beginning August 1st.

The studio update is very exciting- the projected move in date is this Saturday! The floors are painted, and the floor trim is ready to go in. I understand strong men will be here this weekend to move the heavy items like my framing tables and desk into the space. The lightening is full spectrum florescent which still needs to be hung. While the window trim won't be installed yet, I don't think that will take long and I am feeling great anticipation. I am staying calm until it actually happens, but i. c.a.n.t. w.a.i.t!

Thanks for visiting! I hope you enjoy Janet and Noela's work as much as I do.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Creating in Our Own Authentic Voice - Buried Treasure

One day not so long ago I was walking back to the house from the studio, a walk of about only 80 feet. It had been a pretty good day in the studio. I had been making collage, painting papers, tearing edges, arranging shapes, and gluing pieces down.

What was appearing on the paper was something I had never seen before, and it looked good, really good. And it was unique. And I knew that through my work I was speaking about breathing room, and calmness, and the state of being. The work I did that day was fresh, clean and strong. I was feeling very satisfied.

As I walked back to the house I was carrying my bucket of dirty brushes in one hand and my tea mug in the other, as the studio is unfinished and has no running water yet. I suddenly stopped and had an epiphany. I was truly speaking in my own authentic creative voice! Gosh, I thought, this feels so good, why would anyone try and speak in someone else’s voice?

That was when I decide to really zero in on the process of becoming an artist and creative person with a unique and very authentic expression.

My curiosity about the whole process of becoming someone who can and does express herself uniquely, and from her own truth was piqued. Hence my current focus is on authenticity in the creative process.

How do we get there? What is the process, and how can we enhance that uniqueness, that authenticity in our expression? What is the value of authentic expression?

What ever it is we are currently doing it is a step on the path. What ever it is you and I are creating today, it is the way we deepen own unique creative voice. Michelangelo said David was already in the marble, the artist just chipped away the excess to reveal the statue.

As well our voices and our authenticity are with us right now, we just have to tune in more clearly, and allow the flow.

This post was originally posted on my coaching blog, Create Your Best Life Coaching. It is my contribution to Buried Treasure, "an online, collaborative project that invites art bloggers to go into the depths of their blogs and dig for buried treasure. Each participant was asked to repost one (or more) or their favorite posts from their own blog. There are so many brilliant artists out there but so little time to explore all their work fully. This gives us all an opportunity to see highlights from posts we may have missed from so many of our favorite bloggers!" Buried Treasures is hosted by Seth Apter, the creative voice of The Altered Page.

If you read my blog from time to time, you might wonder about the reference to working in my studio. In 2009 when I wrote this post I was working in the studio on a temporary basis. I had a piece of plywood set across two saw horses which actually worked out very well.

Today's update on the studio construction is that the walls are all done! They look sharp in the new coat of fresh white paint. Next, Kurt will hang the ceiling fan.

This weekend we plan to paint the floor and then I will possibly be able to move back in. The trim and a few other details will still need to be done, but I can work in there while that is completed. I'm containing my excitement in the event something else needs to be done that will delay the process, but I also have my fingers crossed!

This collage is one I recently made. Thanks for visiting!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Seized with Creative Vigor

Being seized with creative vigor can result in fabulous art discoveries. And a few other things can be discovered too.

Here is a discovery. If you are concurrently doing the laundry while creating interesting collage papers, and you leave the lid of the clothes washer open it will not drain out all that fresh soapy water.

Then sometime later when you meander by, feeling all pleased about your new papers and notice the machine, you can add the clothes and no one will ever know you were a distracted laundry lady. You may wonder how I know these things…I’m not telling!

Are you interested in some tips for collage paper preparations? I know some people have all the technique they need, and some folks are open to trying more. If you have created papers that you find too dull or too bright, or too intense, or too ugly, might I suggest you assume an explorers mindset. Get those papers out of the drawer and on your work surface. Contemplate and consider what you have at hand. Then begin!

I usually work atop a piece of plastic such as a new white or clear garbage bag that has been softened to remove the sharp pleats and fold marks. I put the plastic bag in my clothes dryer with a wet load of laundry. I turn on the dryer for about 60 to 90 seconds and then retrieve the plastic bag. It will be nicely free of fold marks. If you want, you can then turn the dryer back on to finish drying the clothes.

If you don’t have a dryer, you do have an option. Crumple up the plastic bag and place it next to your warm skin. If you are female you have two pretty good spots under your shirt for two bags, one on each side. If you are male you’ll have to think of your own spot. It’s a bit itchy, but after a while the bag will be soft and the fold creases gone. A tip of the hat to Eydi Lampasona who taught me that technique.

Put the side of your paper you like the most face down on the plastic. This technique is for more porous papers like washi and tissues, not watercolor papers. I often find it’s the “B” side, the underneath side I like the best. If you enjoy mark making this is a good time to try some on your paper.

If your paper is too bright apply something to calm it down. Apply your problem solution – what ever it is – ink, paint, what ever you can think of and wait for the magic to happen. I leave each sheet of paper on its own plastic until it is completely dry. I don’t try to move the paper without the plastic support.

If your paper is too dull, how about a nice time flinging paint, or dripping ink, or transferring paint from one surface to another? Let dry, and repeat. That is literally how I create my best collage papers.

My next experiment involves cherry tree bark. I am taking my inspiration from India Flint, who uses eco dyes on cloth. Her work is stunning. I am waiting for the library to let me know her book Eco Colour is available for me to read. But since I am in the mood for exploration, I am just going to plunge ahead and try some things and find out what happens. Its only paper…

I attended a great non art work shop recently on human brains and learning. I love that kind of stuff. The fellow who taught it is John Medina, a developmental molecular biologist, researcher and really funny guy. He knows a lot about how humans, especially babies, learn. Did you know the ideal student to teacher ratio is 1 teacher to 5 students? That is how many students the teacher, or more accurately, the teacher’s brain, is actually able to attend to.

The new studio space is tantalizing now. It’s all bright and white. The ceilings sore above the open beam and light streams in through the skylights. The scaffolding is moved out. The space is open and inviting. I could give in to temptation and move in before a floor covering and trim work are completed. I will try to resist, at least until there is a floor. Kurt says he will go investigate flooring options tomorrow. He must sense my patience beginning to melt now that moving into the studio is so close. It’s been five years in process.

I can envision the new studio space having ample room for 5 students and one teacher to work, even with the framing equipment in place. I can envision a 4 day class about collage and creating papers. A little exploration, a little collage paper making and creativity coaching…I love visions.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Expressive Figurative Art

Empty-handed I entered the world. Barefoot I leave it. My coming, my going -- Two simple happenings that got entangled.
~ Kozan Ichikyo

And between coming and going? Make art!

Continuing with the blog post series featuring figurative art I present here life drawings by Australian artist Noela Mills. Noela’s blog is called wabisabiart. Her blog features creative experimentation and a whole spectrum of her own art from jewelry to collage and from paintings to textile art.

Noela’s life drawings are oh so exquisite, using sensitive line, powerful shape and a splendid color palette. These drawings were part of the International Collage Exchange this year, but unfortunately I didn’t get one of them! Noela has also used life drawings to construct a most intriguing artist book. Oh, how I would love to hold that book and turn the pages! Noela is an innovative artist, who loves textures, color and shapes, so of course I feel we are kindred spirits. Noela tells us about her long time love affair with textures here.

When I was about eight years old, I went on a school camp. I borrowed my mother's bellows camera and took photos of rocks, bark, patterns in the sand, reflections, and only one or two of people. My love affair with texture had begun. Over the next fifty years, I explored all avenues of life and the visual arts, becoming an art teacher, a traveller, a ski instructor, a mother and eventually a professional artist. My art is now almost entirely consumed by the concept of 'wabi sabi' - the Zen Buddhist philosophy of finding beauty in things old, worn, incomplete, imperfect and common place. I work with rust paint on canvas, barbed wire in jewellery, antique kimono silks in scarves and teabags in almost everything. My personal mantra is HONEST, SIMPLE and NOBLE. I still take photos of rocks, bark and reflections.

I am a devoted fan of artist Robyn Gordon. You probably know her blog, Art Propelled. Robyn curates delicious on line art exhibits of all kinds including collage, paintings, textiles and anything else that strikes her keen artistic eye. Opening a new blog post at Art Propelled is like opening a birthday present in beautiful kuba cloth wrapping tied with native grasses and decorated with seed pods. But Robyn is best known for her own wood carvings. Robyn takes figurative art and totems to a whole new level. I am fortunate enough to have one of Robyn’s small goddess carvings. It has a place of honor on my windowsill alter of inspirational Very Cool and Arty Things.

Robyn’s carvings make statements about her love for her native Africa and art and her deep sense of compassion. Robyn’s reply to the question “What story are you telling with your art?” follows.

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.

I am so thankful for the art blogging world. From my little town in the Pacific Northwest of the US I can experience the art, the creative explorations, musings and processes of artists from around the world. Thank you Noela and Robyn.