contemporary collage paintings
the process
Leslie Avon Miller

My life flows when I'm in my art.

Jean De Muzio

Friday, March 19, 2010

Artistic Legacy

This piece is from a series I did called In Lieu of Flowers, I Remember You. It’s about discovering the stories of family I never knew.

If I know a song of Africa, of the giraffe and the African new moon lying on her back, of the plows in the fields and the sweaty faces of the coffee pickers, does Africa know a song of me?

Will the air over the plain quiver with a color that I have had on, or the children invent a game in which my name is, or the full moon throw a shadow over the gravel of the drive that was like me, or will the eagles of the Ngong Hills look out for me? ~Isak Dinesen (Karen Blixen) Out of Africa

Karen Blixen, played by Meryl Streep, is so eloquently and poignantly asking if she has created any legacy as she leaves her beloved Africa. Has she made a mark upon the land she so loved? She seems to hope to be remembered in some small way to have been a part of it all.

KwaZulu Natal, South Africa, photo by Robyn Gordon

Legacy goes beyond a set of assets left to our heirs. Legacy is a bit of influence, a mark made, an impact of some kind, or a physical bit of evidence that we were here, and we created.

As artists we create our work, we make a statement, we leave evidence – our art becomes a body of work, our blog posts and artist statements become a record. Have you thought about creating something that reflects and records your creative endeavors? Do you want to be the one to tell your story, or do you want to leave that for others, or do think your work will simply dissipate into the ethers?

Have you yourself received a legacy from a creative relative? Have you found value in learning from artists that have gone before you? Do you have a role model or role models in the artistic sense?

I have spent time interviewing my elder relatives, and recording their stories, and the stories they can tell me of their contemporaries, now passed on. I have written the stories and passed them on to other relatives. I do this out of love – for the stories of the past, for the recording of a life beyond a set of dates. I do this because the story would have been lost. Many people in my family were “makers” working with their hands, creating something useful or beautiful. My work is never done in regard to recording the stories.

Ancestral Voices, carving by Robyn Gordon

It gives me pause to think how my story might be told. And I think I want to have a say in how it is recorded and how I am remembered. I don’t want to be just a line on a family tree record, with dates and kinships being the solitary notation of my existence.

I know artists are using all kinds of new software, and developing books to tell their stories, to share their body of work so far, and to leave a mark on this earth. Blogs can be printed and bound in book form. What else is possible?

I plan on several more decades of creative endeavors, but I certainly could collect a set of images and words, and put together a record to date. (Titled Zen, and the Art of Collage, as suggested by Denise at the blog grrr+dog a while ago)

This piece is another from a series I did called In Lieu of Flowers, I Remember You. It’s about discovering the stories of family I never knew. Each piece contains hidden words I wrote about the feeling of connection I have with the work, and the people I heard stories about all my life, but never knew.

Another part of my legacy will be the encouragement I have given to the creative young people in my family, and for my steadfast belief that creativity is important, it matters and it will continue to be a positive influence in the world. That won’t be something to put in book form, but it is meaningful to me. It is that kind of legacy that Karen Blixen is speaking of when she asks “does Africa know a song of me?”

I’ll just mention that in my upcoming coaching group we will spend some time looking at Artistic Legacy. If you are interested in taking part, send me an email to coach leslie@ (remove the spaces). There are still some spaces open in the group.

Do you think of your work as a legacy? Does it matter to you how you and your work are remembered? What are you doing to create a record of your work? If you decide to write about this on your blog, please let us know by leaving a comment here. I am interested in your thoughts.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Studio Construction Update

Dispatch VI, mixed media collage, by Leslie Avon Miller

The work on the studio facility continues. It is so very exciting to see the progress. It echoes in the space now. I guess walls and a ceiling will do that! We were just talking today about how to finish the floors. Someone suggested a good material if I didn’t get too much water on the floor…I work in water media and boy, do I ever get water on the floor….back to the drawing board.

On the art front, my collages for the International Collage exchange have arrived in New Zealand. As I write this 94 artists are taking part. If you would like to see all of my collage for the exchange, you can find them at this link. When the work from all of the participating artists is posted, I’ll provide a link. It is a great online exhibition reflecting the state of collage art today.

Earlier this week I held a creativity teleclass. We discussed that being compelled to create is just the opposite of a creative block. We talked about the passion for creating our work, which can make the world disappear. In support of our creative passion we identified some means of dispelling our inner critical voice.

Passion pulls us towards something we can not resist. What is pulling you forward?

Because of the creativity call I am getting to know even more artists, some of whom are joining the creative coaching group, Re-Fresh Your Creative Practice currently forming. Some deeply committed and powerful artists are taking part in the group which begins March 23rd.

If you want to join us, or want to know more about the group agenda, send me an email to coach leslie @ (remove the spaces).

Wishing all of us a creative weekend!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Studio Update and Artist's First Aid Kit

As I work with creative people and artists I find that many of us face similar challenges when it comes to creating our art. One challenge often mentioned is negative self-talk. You know, that little voice of doubt, or that bigger voice that says - well you know what it says.

Nearly every artist can benefit from an artist's first aid kit, starting with a tool to dispel those thoughts, and turn them around into honest appraisals of where we are now and where we want to go.

I used this tool myself just yesterday when I painted in my temporary studio for the first time. "I can't paint in there" I said to myself. "It's too cold, and it's too dark."...I turned those thoughts around. It worked!

I got past my own negative self-talk and remembered how much I love being an artist. It wasn't long before I was deep into the paint and enjoying the process of working on small studies for my next series. The time just flew by, and I never even noticed that I was in our garage. Oh, how I love to paint!

If you would like to learn a simple tool for getting those thoughts out of your way so you can create to your hearts content, then the complementary teleclass happening this Tuesday at (4 pm Pacific, 7 pm Eastern) may be just the ticket for you. If you can't attend live, I will send you a recording if you sign up for the event.

If you are curious about creativity coaching for artists and creative people, or you just want to know the tool for quieting your inner critic, then send me an email to coach leslie @ (remove the spaces) and I will send you the details about participating in this complementary event. It's my gift to you. We will have some laughter and some insight. It's going to be fun!

Meanwhile, this week two very competent individuals, my husband and his son, will spend the entire week hanging the walls and ceiling of the new studio and wood working shop.

If they get that done, they will proceed with more work on the building. I am soooo excited!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Today You Get A Telegram

Heart Beat, collage on watercolor paper, 6 inches by 6 inches, by Leslie Avon Miller

Today began like many others. A list of things I want to accomplish waited for me. Sitting down with my warm mug, about to begin, I felt suddenly compelled to find a poem I once knew - about broccoli and sunlight - two things I love.

I’ve spent a pleasant morning hour reading poetry, this new task at the top of my list made easier by the internet search function. I found the poem which I share here with you.

Down near the bottom

of the crossed-out list

of things you have to do today,

between "green thread"

and "broccoli" you find

that you have penciled "sunlight."

Resting on the page, the word

is as beautiful, it touches you

as if you had a friend

and sunlight were a present

he had sent you from some place distant

as this morning -- to cheer you up,

and to remind you that,

among your duties, pleasure

is a thing,

that also needs accomplishing

Do you remember?

that time and light are kinds

of love, and love

is no less practical

than a coffee grinder

or a safe spare tire?

Tomorrow you may be utterly

without a clue

but today you get a telegram,

from the heart in exile

proclaiming that the kingdom

still exists,

the king and queen alive,

still speaking to their children,

- to any one among them

who can find the time,

to sit out in the sun and listen.

Tony Hoagland

I want to let you know that you are invited to a gathering of like minded people, of creative souls who love art and, most probably, poetry.

You are Invited to The Greatest Creative Year of Your Life (so far)

What: A complementary one hour Creativity Renewal Teleclass - my gift to you

Who: For Creative People who want more

When: Tuesday March 9th

7 pm Eastern, 6 pm Central, 5 pm Mountain, and 4 pm Pacific

Where: From the comfort of your own home.

Why: If you want to turn up the heat on your creativity or you need a creative boost this call is for you. If you are a life long learner who loves your creativity, then this call is for you. We will explore the things that compel us to create so we can tap into the energy that pulls us forward. And we will touch on dispelling negative energy like self talk that does not serve our purpose.

How: Simply send me an email to coach leslie @ (remove the spaces) and let me know you want to participate. I’ll send you the details. If you can’t be on the call live, I will send you a recording.

My list is still here, and I still have time to accomplish these things today. The birds are singing and I am refreshed by touching in with the poets. What beautiful word will you write on your list today?

Monday, March 1, 2010

Studio Visit with Bob and Susan Cornelis

Untitled (as of yet) Collage, 6 by 6 inches, by Leslie Avon Miller

Susan Cornelis outside her lovely studio.

Interior of Susan's Studio

Interior of the Photography Studio of Bob Cornelis

Interior of the Photography Studio of Bob Cornelis; another view

This week we are visiting the studios of a husband and wife team of artists; Bob Cornelis who is a painter, blogger, photographer, and all around interesting person, along with his lovely wife Susan, who is a painter, blogger and instructor.

I asked Bob what works best for you about your current studio space?

The fact that the studio is separate from the house, though on our property, makes it extremely convenient yet private. Another critical factor is that it serves 3 purposes: I run my fine art printing business there, it acts as a gallery and as my photography studio.

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

While the multi-purpose nature of the space is a plus in many ways, I would actually prefer it if my business were situated elsewhere. Since I am there 9-5 everyday working on the art of others, sometimes it is harder to want to spend even more time there working on my own art. I would prefer a space dedicated just to making my own art. It would feel more of a refuge and a place to escape to. Instead, when I walk in I am confronted with work I know I need to do the next day. This situation does have its pros and cons (see below).

“For some artists the studio becomes a temple, a place invested with a sacred energy. You walk in and your thinking changes…It is your temple, the place where you focus your energies to express yourself. Your creative home base.” – Ian Roberts, Creative Authenticity

Would you care to comment on that?

I do feel there is an energy in my studio and it is related to artmaking. But I have to take a larger view of it to feel comfortable. For the last 10 years I have worked probably 50-60 hours a week making art in this space. But most of that time has been spent working on the art of others. So if I just reflect on my own efforts, I can feel a little frustrated that I cannot just focus on my own expression. On the other hand, when I think about how much wonderful art has passed through these doors over the years, I can feel that it is a temple with a sacred energy. I have surely benefited in my own work by helping others with theirs. It is a space I share with many in that respect.

One unusual aspect of my studio which must seem very strange to painters is that there are no windows. The first thing I did when I built the studio was to board up the 2 six foot windows, one of which looked out over a wonderful landscape. But this is essentially a photography darkroom and I require lighting that I can completely control. This helps with my photography work but I do miss natural light on a day to day basis. The things we sacrifice for our art!

Susan's studio is just the opposite - flooded with light from skylights and one entire wall of large windows overlooking the valley. Must be why she has a cheerier disposition!

Susan responded to the same questions:

What works best for you about your current studio space?

My studio is just a few yards from the house - separate yet close enough to reach in just a moment. I love that the light pours in from all directions and that it is surrounded by gardens, apple trees, a chicken coop, bird houses, and in the summer, bees and butterflies!

It's also just big enough that I can hold classes here.

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

It is just one big room. I wish I had a storage room that was separate, and I definitely wish it were bigger. When I hold classes I have to put away paintings I've been working on and clean up my messes, and often I misplace things in the process. While I'm wishing, I might as well wish for a room for classes and a separate room to paint in.

“For some artists the studio becomes a temple, a place invested with a sacred energy. You walk in and your thinking changes…It is your temple, the place where you focus your energies to express yourself. Your creative home base.” – Ian Roberts, Creative Authenticity

Would you care to comment on that?

It is definitely my experience that my studio is my temple, my sanctuary. In my studio I am surrounded by the things I have chosen, from arts and crafts to books and a boundless array of art supplies. So it is both a comfortable and comforting and stimulating environment. I usually have a variety of projects out on every surface, new art materials, paintings in progress, my sketchbooks and art books lying around. I often turn on music when I enter, choosing the playlist which matches my mood. When students are coming I generally prepare the atmosphere by placing flowers on my altar, putting on soft music and preparing a meditation for them. The private space then becomes a space of shared creativity, and the air sparkles with that energy after they leave.

Thank you Bob and Susan, for inviting us to tour your creative spaces!

Continuing on the creative theme, I found a very creative video allowing us to walk around inside Vincent Van Gogh’s painting, Starry Night. You can see it here.