contemporary collage paintings
the process
Leslie Avon Miller

My life flows when I'm in my art.

Jean De Muzio

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.