Lila Miller Art

Visual & Expressive Arts

Expressive Arts ~ Art Therapy — October 17, 2017

Expressive Arts ~ Art Therapy

Carl Jung had a nervous breakdown when he was 37. In response, he spent days on the shoreline of his Swiss lakeside home ~ just stacking rocks.

Art therapists and Expressive arts facilitators implement the psychological concepts of Carl Jung in their work.  The ideology is that creative expression is a way to heal the psyche – the inner self.

The act of making and creating art is a calming, focused and meditative process.  But in a different application, Expressive Art allows suppressed emotions to be released.  Blocked feelings that are unable to be verbally expressed come out in different ways via: Dance, Sound, Sculpture, Drawing, Poetry and Paint.

Changing gears in Expressive Arts is refered to as – switching modalities.  When a person is intent on working on an issue, a problem or a blockage – they express it in as many ways and means possible.

Example: In processing grief.  A person may write a few key words on a page to express how they are currently feeling.  They may paint a scene, draw an image, or simply use smears of colour to convey whats inside of them.  Next, they may create a sand tray sculpture building a diorama to view it from above (gaining a different & objective perspective).  When that method of art making is done, but there is still more grief to express, they will switch to a different art form like sound: slowly drumming out sadness which may get louder and stronger then return softly back into drumming their loss… The next modality used may be expressive dance to allow the body to demonstrate how it feels, then finally close the expressive arts experience with spoken or written key words to express how they are now feeling, after experiencing the release.

In the process there is a beginning – a middle – and an end.

Closure is very important.  It allows the psyche to understand when the deeply emotive phase is over, complete and done.

It is like releasing water from a dam that is about to break, then closing off the dam again when the pressure has been released.   Another analogy of the process would be:

  • Opening a door to a locked room in the basement of the mind.
  • Letting out the stale air.
  • Opening and cleaning the windows to let in the light.
  • Surveying whats in the room.
  • Getting rid of things (unhealthy and/or toxic thoughts, behaviours & feelings).
  • Sweeping and mopping the floors.
  • Closing the door when the clearing out & cleaning is done.

 I am not a psychologist, I am an artist – but I know that Personal Development and Self Improvement is vital to our growth and progress in life.  I have participated in group Expressive Arts experiences and have personally witnessed individual breakthroughs, little victories, inner realizations, release and relief.  A connection to nature is also healing – whether it is sitting in a forest, building a mandala made from natural objects or, stacking rocks.

The premise is simple.

Know thyself ~ Heal thyself






Labyrinth Making — June 7, 2017

Labyrinth Making

My latest outdoor art installation is a classical 3 circuit Cretan labyrinth.  I chose the 3 circuit vs. 7 circuit (path), because I have a small suburban city sized lot and an 11′ circumference was the maximum size I could aesthetically accommodate into the backyard without dominating it.

My last house was in the country with plenty of elbow room where I built a large 33′ wide Baltic labyrinth using a turf and trench design and it showed up on google earth from the sky.  The turf and trench design is ideal when you have a lot of grass to deal with and it is far easier to create the circuits by cutting them into the grass vs. removing all of the grass.  The trench is created by cutting a sharp “V” into the ground and then laying rocks or bricks in the trench to form the lines.

The story of the Labyrinth is an ancient one.  It is a circular path found in many cultures.  It is not a maze – it has a way in and a way out.  It is used for meditation and prayer the most famous being at the Chartres Cathedral in France.  A labyrinth is used as a walking meditation for personal introspection healing and growth.  Its is a way to release the old and welcome the new.   Release ~ Receive ~ Return… is the premise of letting go and setting intentions while you are walking the labyrinth.

The how to’s are pretty simple you just need a shovel, wheelbarrow, a good pair of boots, a pile of rocks or bricks and some good energy.

  1. Get your coffee, a pen and paper and choose a design.  Theres some math involved here so have a calculator handy and figure out your sizes.  You should decide how big you want it to be and how wide the circuits are.  2′ circuits are good, 1.5 are OK and 1′ circuits are a little tight for walking the labyrinth.  Also include the calculations for the width of your lines, where the trenches or rocks will be placed.
  2. After you have made your calculations, its time to sketch it out on the ground.  I use a stake and rope to find the centre and a few rocks to lay out the quadrants North South, West and East.  If you are satisfied with the layout, you can proceed to mark out the circuits using the rope, a measuring tape or stick cut to the width of your circuits as a guide.  If it looks wonky you can always make adjustments.
  3. Start cutting in the circuits (allowing 3″- 4″ for each trench or line of rocks), then lay down your rocks or bricks.
  4. The circuits or paths can be filled with crushed stone or pebbles, or planted with any low ground cover plant such as clover or creeping thyme.
  5. Decorate it with any sculptures, objects, painted stones or solar lights as you see fit to personalize it ~ or just leave it plain, zen like, and meditative…

Here is the 33′ Baltic turf and trench design.



This is the 11″ 3 circuit classical design, planted with white clover seed.

(footnote: ~ the white clover grew tall, took over the labyrinth and covered up the rocks.  Creeping thyme is much better: it grows & lays flat, makes little purple flowers and smells lovely when you walk on it…)



Elora Plein Air Festival May 18-21 — June 5, 2017

Elora Plein Air Festival May 18-21

Painting outside is challenging at times…  a lot of the time.  But the rewards are immense.

Only an Artist’s eye can capture and interpret a scene in ways that a camera cannot.  The Artist knows & sees the full truth whereas the camera can only tell a partial story.  The camera will pose, distort and portray what its lens can see and relay it, in a fractional moment of time – click.  Also, a camera can never capture the breadth and scope of colour and light that the human eye can see.  Have you ever taken a picture of a glorious sunset and been disappointed by the results of the photo? – thats the difference.

An artist being physically present on location can absorb an appreciate the visual atmosphere and prismatic mood of the moment.  Standing feet on the ground in all kinds of weather and ever-changing light, an artist observes the myriad of true colours, the soft or sharp shapes and lines, the brilliant hues and deep dark tones.   Also, the sounds, smells and feelings of the surrounding environment impart their sensory impressions into the artists palette, as do the time of year and time of day.

The paint outs I have done in the past have been completely different in comparison, with each location an unique visual experience.  From Parry Sound to Niagara Falls the visuals abound in an endless smorgasbord of delectable sights to take in and consider for a painting.

Elora, Ontario is another example of endless possibilities for painting locations.  The Grand river flows through a spectacular gorge attracting many sightseers and visitors to the area.  The charming town boasts many historically significant churches and homes with fine architecture.   Many of the old stone houses in Elora were built by Scottish stone masons who built the neighbouring town of Fergus as well.  The main street in town offers quaint boutiques, cafes and shops.  Elora is surrounded by beautiful rolling hills, meadows and farmland.

With so many options it was difficult to choose a location, but I love water and rock – so down into the gorge I went.  I wanted to paint a variety of pieces, but in hindsight, I realized that I had made the mistake of bringing large canvases: 16″ x 20″‘s and an 18″ x 24″ vs small easily portable 8″ x 10″ boards.

I knocked off my first 16 x 20″ painting in the morning without a hitch.  It was a scene of a bubbling spring flowing out of a limestone wall along a path that followed the river at the bottom of the gorge. I titled it “Well in the wall.”

For the second piece, I chose to paint a cedar grove at the the top of the gorge in Victoria park.  Here’s where it started to get challenging:

It was mid- day, full sun, hot, sticky & humid, so I set up my easel in the shade under the trees at a picnic table. What a lovely spot!  An hour into the painting my phone sounded.  It was a weather alert, a severe thunderstorm warning had been issued for the area.

Enter the first round of explicit language…

“Oh sh*t !!!  I looked up to the sky and saw huge, monster, billowy white mashed potato clouds slowly sliding by.  Then a gust of wind came.  I start painting furiously and was rudely interrupted by something biting the back of my leg at the picnic table.  I slapped at it with paint brush in hand.  Bye, bye new Columbia pants, you are now smeared with green and yellow.

Whoosh – another gust of wind.  The trees rained down little sprinkles of black stuff and wee branches onto my wet painting.  Did I mention that I paint like a millionaire? Oils are expensive, but I like to lay it on thick.

I started picking the bits and pieces out of the wet colourful muck and then touched up the scratches and gauges with more paint.  As I turned to grab another rag to wipe the debris from my brush, whoosh!  Another gust of wind came, but stronger.  It lifted my canvas off the picnic table into the air and bonked off my forehead.  It flipped over my back and landed on the forest floor – yes of course – face down.  Just like a piece of toast and honey always hits the kitchen floor wet side down.

Insert more explicit language here…

I carefully picked it up by the edges, laid it on the table and start methodically picking debris out of it a second time.  That thing started biting the back of my leg again.  I ignored it and kept painting.  Finally I finished it off, only this time I had the sense to clamp it down to my french easle and turn it sideways, so it could not catch the wind like a sail.

I take a break.  I am done painting number two, and like a happy idiot I decide to take a selfie by the gorge.  I stand beside the chain link fence at the edge and lift my phone up to get a shot of the gorge below.  Whoosh – the hat flips off my head and over the fence landing 3 inches from the edge of the cliff.  Oh no!  There goes my souvenir pirate cap that I got in Tortola when I went sailing the caribbean for my 40th birthday aeons ago.  I started to climb the chain link fence and as I swung my leg over the rail I stopped myself.  Wait a minute here silly… think about it, let common sense prevail.

I had not had the best of luck in the cedar grove and I was feeling kind of hot, tired and clumsy.  I hadn’t been to the bathroom or had a drink of water in hours and I was getting impatient, but through the impulse to retrieve the hat, it occurred to me that perhaps maybe, there was a slight chance that I could turn my ankle and roll off the edge into the gorge below.  I looked down at the hat and sighed.  Goodbye old friend.

My phone alert sounded.  I couldn’t find my glasses.  Through blurred vision I recognized a red banner, thunderstorm watch, or warning? #2.   OK time to pack it up & head into town.   I fired everything into my back pack, put away my brushes and solvents, snapped french easel shut, folded the tripod legs in and tightened down the screws. I collected the oily rags the wind had blown about on the ground and threw them into my garbage bag.

Searching for my glasses, I wandered left and right scanning the forest floor.  Then I saw a glint of metal.  I had found my glasses and – yes of course – I had stomped them into the ground with my hiking boot.  I scooped them up and gingerly tried to twist the frame back into shape.  I put them on and kind of tilted my head in line with their new angle. They would never be the same.

Insert more expletives here.

Sweating profusely, I slung my backpack and french easel, one over each shoulder and grabbed the garbage bag.  Pack it – in pack it out: its the hikers creed, you know?  I walked through the forest and through the park to the path to the parking lot while balancing two wet paintings – one in each hand through gusts of wind like a tight rope walker over the falls.

Big fat drops of rain started to fall as I loaded my gear into the back of the car.  I reached into my trunk, pumped a big blob of hand cream into my palm and rubbed my colourful hands together as I leaned against the car and thought about lunch at 3PM.  More drops fell.  I wiped my hands off with a rag and looked up to the sky.  The mashed potatoes were now a menacing a dark purple wall that was approaching.  I slammed the trunk shut and bolted across the park through the rain drops back to the picnic table. I paced back and forth along the chain link fence and looked at my hat still sitting there precariously close to the edge – then I had an idea.

I went to a cedar tree, reached up on tip toes and snapped a long dead branch off the tree.  I leaned over the fence and poked the tip of the branch thru the hole and hooked it under the sizing strap at the back of the hat, I lifted it up and over the fence, grabbed it off the end of the stick and stuck it back on my head.

Insert sound of thunder here…






Stendhal syndrome — May 4, 2017

Stendhal syndrome

Klimt Pallas Athene 1898

If you haven’t heard of Stendhal syndrome, neither did I, until I experienced it one day at the National Gallery of Canada.

The purpose of my annual pilgrimage to Ottawa was to see the Gustav Klimt Exhibit.   As an artist and art lover, I had been to many galleries and big exhibitions and over the years and I have seen many exquisite works of fine art ~ but this time was different…

The gallery was very busy because the Klimt show was drawing in large numbers.  Walking into the Klimt exhibit, I saw large groups of people standing in front of each painting waiting their turn to view.  I was a little put off by the crowds because when I am in a gallery, I like to flit about from piece to piece instead of filing into a regimented viewing procession, but the room was full, so I got in queue.

Later on when the crowds dispersed and there was an opening in front of a piece,  I would go back for another look because when I view a masterpiece – I want to really appreciate it – sometimes with my nose inches from the painting, taking in the all brushwork, minute details and choice of pigments.

As I made my way through the exhibit piece by piece, I saw some really beautiful and amazing works by Klimt, but when I next came face to face with his Pallas Athene ~ I was floored.

It is still hard to describe, but my body and mind came to a full stop.  I froze.  My mouth hung open, my eyes were wide and vacant seeing nothing but the beautiful spectacle in front of me.  The figure seemed alive.  The stance was fierce,  the gold mail armour glowed, the powerful watchful eyes gazed into my eyes.

Eventually, I noticed that I had stopped breathing.  I pulled my head back, drew in a deep breath and blew it out.  I was still stunned – oblivious of who was around me, or how long I had been standing there.  I began to blink a little and stepped back from the painting.  All I could think was “Wow… What was that?

And now years later, every time I see an image of Klimt’s Pallas Athene, she takes me back there, to our first intense and enraptured meeting.

~ LilA

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Stendhal syndrome, Stendhal’s syndrome, hyperkulturemia, or Florence syndrome is a psychosomatic disorder that causes rapid heartbeat, dizziness, fainting, confusion and even hallucinations when an individual is exposed to an experience of great personal significance, particularly viewing art. [1]
Copy Cat — March 16, 2017

Copy Cat

Naide_after_LaTour.jpgNaiade – by Lila ~ after Henri Fantin Latour

There is a common occurrence of emerging artists copying other artists work and/or style.  They try their hand at copying a famous work, and produce their own little copy of Van Gogh’s Sunflowers for their kitchen. I created my own copy of La Tour’s Naiade, for myself, as shown above.  She has never left my dining room.

Copying, in this case, it can begin innocently in an art workshop where students are taught to how to paint a canvas from start to finish.   They follow along, painting in a step-by-step fashion in order to produce a finished piece that resembles the instructor’s work.  But when does the copying go too far and who draws the line?  (no pun intended).

Here’s an example:

I saw a painting up for sale in a gift shop/gallery in a small town.  I have a photographic memory and I recognized the cornfield scene and the style to be that of a well-known local art teacher.  It was a pretty good copy of his work, but the colours did not compare.  Looking more closely, I noticed that the piece was created by one of his students, whom I knew as well.   There was a problem.  This student had put the copy of his painting up for sale to the public without the statement “after John Smith”, which should have followed the student artist’s name.  She presented this copy of his painting for sale – as her own.

If you are an artist and you copy a painting, or even a photographer’s scenic landscape shot from a wall calendar – you must give credit where credit is due.   The original artwork is the vision, composition and creation of the original creator.   When you sign that copied work, it must state after _________” ,  the original artist.

If you teach art, your will invariably will produce clones of your artwork and painting style.  Because all of those student clones have been learning, copying and creating compositions in your style, there are going to be a lot of similar paintings out there.

The problem is a student flogging that copied work for sale – as their own. Copied work put up for sale is not only morally and ethically wrong,  legally, it is misrepresentation and also a violation and infringement of the original artist’s intellectual copyright.

Here’s how tangled up it can get…

What about a customer who walks into the shop and likes the painting?

Will they think it is an original work of art?   Yes.

If they find out it is a copy of another artists work will they be angry? Yes.

Will they want their money back?   – Yes!

Where does the shop owner stand on this? – Ignorant of the facts, due to non-disclosure by the copy-cat artist.

Will his reputation be tarnished as an art seller? – Yes.

If discovered, who will the artist owe an apology to? – The purchaser, the shop owner and especially the artist whose work has been copied and sold.

My message to that student artist is: Keep that forgery in your kitchen, and for goodness sake don’t try and sell it.   A fellow in England went to jail for that, but he was really good.  His stuff sold at auction for millions as true masterpieces.

For more information on artists copyright and intellectual rights:

Canadian Artists’ Representation/Le Front des artistes canadiens (CARFAC) is a non-profit corporation that serves as the national voice of Canada’s professional visual artists.