contemporary collage paintings
the process
Leslie Avon Miller

My life flows when I'm in my art.

Jean De Muzio

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Thinking Like an Olympic Champion

untitled, collage by Leslie Avon Miller, 6 inches by 6 inches

Watching the Olympics I am intrigued by the glimpses we get into the process of each athlete. The way they “psych” themselves up for their events; the way they handle the moments before they launch into their program or start their race; their response to winning and not winning. Obviously, these athletes have benefited from what we know about positive attitudes and optimum performance.

So what am I observing that might be of benefit to my own creative practice? This is what I see:

Celebrate and enjoy that you made it this far!

Strive for your Personal Best.

Peak performance is enhanced by

Knowing yourself
Developing a strong support team – even in an individual sport
Honing your skills and accepting feedback exclusively from very trusted sources
Replacing negative self talk with positive self talk
Being very clear about your life purpose at this point in time
Surrounding yourself with others who use positive talk
Taking responsibility
Eliminating what does not serve your purpose
Letting go of what can’t be controlled – for instance other people and their reactions and comments
Knowing that silver and bronze are beautiful
Having commitment
Working your way back after a set back
Knowing that finishing the race is its own reward
Knowing that if you fall down, you can get back up

Graciousness is appealing no matter the color of the medal. Taking time to applaud and recognize others is part of a positive experience. Being a little sassy, a lot confident, and having fun belong in your practice. Take a victory lap. Celebrate. Smile really big.

Then get back to the work you love. Some things are better than gold.

What are you seeing in the Olympic athletes that you might use in your creative practice?

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Ring the Bell for Barry

Untitled as of yet, 6 inch by 6 inch collage by Leslie Avon Miller.

Sometimes I am drawn to different blogs for a variety of reasons. One blog I love is An Explorers View of Life, the blog of Barry Fraser. Barry and I both look at the world from the point of view of an explorer.

Barry writes beautifully and tells a good story. So I’ve been following Barry for a good while now. Then one day Barry and my husband had the very same medical procedure on the very same day, but clear across the North American continent from each other.

My husband Kurt’s results were fine, he just needed some treatment. Barry’s results were, frankly, shocking. Barry was diagnosed with cancer. But Barry is a special guy. Throughout all of his treatment, the ups and downs, and life style changes (would you call it a life style change Barry?) Barry has shared on his blog.

Not only have we read about the progress of his medical treatment and the new things he has explored and learned such as meditation and vegetarianism, we have laughed and cried with Barry and his family. And beyond that, I have learned from Barry how to really, really live in the face of cancer. How to embrace the days. And it’s a gift I shall always cherish. Live today, live it fully. Stay curious. See the humor. Cry. Love.

This is what Barry plans:

High on the wall next to the exit from the Chemo Day Care Centre at Princess Margaret Hospital a bell is waiting for me. As I mentioned in my post a week ago Friday, there is a ritual at PMH that those patients completing their last treatment of chemotherapy, ring the bell as they leave.

And whenever it rings the nurses and volunteers and other chemo patients pause for a moment and applaud.

When I finish my last injection of chemo, on Thursday February 18th at about 2pm Eastern Standard Time, I'm also ringing that damn bell!

As loud and as long as I can!

My cancer may not be cured. I may find myself back there again sometime, but for now, at least, I'm declaring victory. After all, you don't have to win the whole war before celebrating victory in battle.

Today Barry completes his chemotherapy. And on his way out the door of the hospital he is ringing the bell. And in his honor, I am ringing my bell for him. God speed my friend. Thank you Barry, for being you.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Studio Space

Untitled Collage, 6 inches by 6 inches, by Leslie Avon Miller

I think of my studio as a vegetable garden, where things follow their natural course. They grow, they ripen. You have to graft. You have to water.

~Joan Miro

Some more progress has been made in the last two weeks on my studio space. Although the physical progress is small, we continue to work on the logistics of the process – who, when and how being our primary questions.

We unloaded two pick up truck loads of sheeting. That’s 72 sheets of wood; 72 trips up and down the stairs. Can you see my biceps flex? Me neither, but I feel powerful having helped with that task! This material (called OSB) will be used for walls and ceiling. The equipment that will assist with this material installation, called a sheet rock lift, has been delivered and assembled.

I appreciate all the good wishes for a quick finish to the studio, but since we only work on this project weekends and we take some weekends off to do other things, I suspect the earliest the studio will be finished enough to move in will be late summer or early fall.

As the project unfolds, I’ll post a few photos. Today’s image is from a couple of years ago when the building was first constructed. My studio is the top floor, this end. Kurt’s woodworking space is on the top floor of this building at the other end.

I added some links to artist studios on my blog side bar. I love to see how other artists arrange and use their space.

It is my pleasure to share with you another art studio tour. This time we are visiting the studio of Rebecca Crowell. I have included here a video of Rebecca working in her studio. When I first saw this video, I knew we were kindred spirits when Rebecca pulled out her whisk broom and used it to create texture. I love to do that too!

It is also interesting to me that Rebecca’s studio and mine are similar in a couple of ways. They are separate buildings but just a short walk away from the house, and they are nearly the same size. We both live in the country and have views of nature out the windows.

Rebecca tells us I love my studio and want to be there almost every day-- and sometimes even in the middle of the night. I am fortunate to be able to work full time as a painter, so I spend a lot of time there.

It's kind of shockingly messy and disorganized to anyone else's eye--although for me it's fine, it's comfortable. (It is a mystery to me why a messy studio is OK with me when I like my house to be neat.) When I'm working I leave a trail of stuff everywhere, and usually have no interest in picking it up.

I have a lot of work in progress at any one time; piles of panels, stuff scattered on various tables and stacked along the walls. I feel engaged as soon as I walk in, so I guess there is some energy in the disorder.

What works best for you about your current studio space?

It's large (about 850 sq. ft.) and well lit with daylight fluorescents. There is one long open wall that I can spread my work in progress out across, then I can back way up for the long view. It's a separate space from the house, but close enough (just across the back yard) to be there in no time at all. We live in the country so there is beauty all around, including a sweet little rock garden just outside the studio door.

What one thing would you change about your current studio space?

I'm going to say two things, because one is already in the works--which is better heat. For over 20 years I've relied on a wood stove in the studio that has to be constantly fed in winter, and it takes quite a while to heat up the space to a comfortable warmth. However, the studio was built with coils for hot water in the cement slab floor...we have not had the resources so far to get the whole system going (which includes a wood-fired outside boiler.) BUT that is going to happen in 2010, or I'm moving to Arizona!

The other thing I would like are proper storage racks for older work--right now it's all just stacked and piled in the back of the studio.

The studio is no more or no less sacred than any other place where people work at what they love. But it is certainly more private than many. My studio feels uniquely mine--coming in to the studio does trigger a shift in awareness towards what I think of as my true, inner self. When other people come into the studio, I am happy to have them yet I do feel slightly nervous and over-exposed.

Rebecca's web site has more information about her work, and her blog has even more images of her studio.