Saturday, August 7, 2010

What Is A Coach? Leslie Avon Miller Shares Her Insights

Rhythm of the Day- Leslie Avon Miller
24" x 24" - Mixed Media Painting

Last week I presented the work of artist Leslie Avon Miller. Like most people, Leslie wears more than one "hat" and this week I want to share something about Leslie's role as Coach Leslie.

Some time ago I overheard a conversation between several artists who expressed confusion over what coaching was about and why an artist would need a coach. No one in the group that day acknowledged having worked with a coach, but all had attended workshops dealing with design and technique. Today I would say that anyone who has made art for very long realizes that the pursuit of making art isn't just about the medium or techniques you use, it is about who you are and how you deal with life and the challenges that life presents. Somehow we didn't voice that knowledge and the conversation ended.

Fast forward a couple of years. I found an article written by an artist I admire personally and professionally, discussing her experiences with Leslie Avon Miller and her "Re-Fresh Your Creative Practice" course. The article outlined the many ways this course impacted her life and her studio. I was intrigued.

After reading more about Leslie on her blog and seeing her beautiful work, I decided to participate in one of her courses. The course was excellent. Leslie was excellent. It was great hearing from other artists dealing with all of the multitude of issues we deal with in maintaining a studio and building a career.

So: What is Coaching?

Interview: Leslie Avon Miller

Terry: What is a Coach? What is different or unique to the process of coaching as opposed to other approaches to professional development?

Leslie: Great question Terry. Someone said "if life is a ball of tangled yarn, therapy helps you untangle the yarn. Coaching helps you knit a sweater."

A coach is a person who is passionate about life and people. A coach is someone who has completed specific coaching training. A coach knows how to really listen to you. A coach does not have your answers - a coach has the curiosity to ask powerful questions that lead you to your answers.

A consultant would provide answers for you. A teacher would impart knowledge. A therapist would help you go back in time to find the causes for certain issues, and work to heal wounds. The art of coaching helps you move forward and live the kind of life you desire.

In a series of coaching sessions we focus together on identifying and moving forward to an achievement or change you want to make in your life. You might want less of something. You might want more of something. You might not know what you want! We can find out what you truly want.

For instance, an artist may want to increase the amount of time he spends in the studio. We identify why this is important, find ways to make this happen, and the artist completes actions he has chosen toward that end.

An artist may come to realize a barrier to creativity is her self talk. She may want to decrease the power of her own inner critical voice. Together, a plan is made and the artist puts it into place, one step at a time. Coaching is a perfect means of identifying the change you want to make, making a plan, and sticking to it.

Coaching is unique because it is very personalized. The coach does not have answers for you. The coach helps you zero in on your own meaningful answers. You decide how to approach your desired change, and you identify how you will fit this change into your life, with the coach right there to support you.

The best way to find out what coaching can do for you is to try a free sample session.* * Like myself, many coaches offer complementary sample sessions. I suggest you get to know several coaches through their website, newsletter and blog. Contact the ones who seem like a possible fit and schedule a sample session. Then you can decide if coaching is right for you and which coach you want to engage.

Terry: What options are available for coaching?

Leslie: I offer one-on-one individual coaching sessions, usually done in a series, perhaps 3 per month. Change takes time, so I suggest you make a mental commitment to yourself to stick with it for at least 2 months. The cost for a session is about equivalent with something like a massage.

I also offer group coaching for creative artists. My most popular program is called Re-Fresh Your Creative Practice.

One of my clients described the benefits of the program best. "Before starting the Refresh Your Creative Practice Program I thought I would learn some useful tips in getting myself back in the studio. It was so much more than that. The program has given me the tools and connection with self to be able to set up a creative practice that is sustainable. And the sustainable part is the key. Working with Leslie I discovered insight into how I work and how I view my creative self. These insights helped me to design a creative practice based in who I am really and my life as it is (not some utopia version of life).

I would recommend this group to anyone who is stuck in a rut, whose work needs a jolt of energy, thinks they are blocked or just wants a little more life in their life."(Quote used with permission)

I also publish a monthly newsletter filled with inspiration and news about coaching opportunities. You can sign up to receive my newsletter by clicking the link on either of my blogs. Links are located at the top right hand side of each blog. Very soon, my new website will be launched and you will be able to sign up there as well.

My coaching blog will soon be hosted at my new website,, which will be up and running in about two weeks.

Terry: Why have you chosen to work with artists?

Leslie: The moment I chose to work with artists was very beautiful and life changing for me. I was in a coaching class in Vancouver, Canada. The positive flow of energy in the room was remarkable. One of my colleagues, a creative writer herself, told me she was going to coach with creative writers.

I had an "ah ha!" moment. Oh, I thought, how fabulous! And of course I will work with Artists! I've never looked back. Art and artists are my passions, as is coaching artists. On the days I conduct a session of Re-Fresh Your Creative Practice, I wake up and my feet can hardly hit the ground fast enough!

Terry: How can you coach someone without being with them face to face?

Leslie: It works very well to do this work on the telephone. I'll let one of my clients tell you about her experience.

"What has surprised me in this work is how soon a connection with someone half way across the world was made and allowed us to just begin. Magical as it may sound, the conversation contained all the nuances pregnant pauses and laughter that would have occurred if we had been talking in the same room. It felt like the most natural conversation in the world. In addition, the power of this work has shaken and energized me into stepping forward, at ease with myself." (Quote used with permission)

Coach Leslie

Terry: Do you have a coach?

Leslie: Yes, I work individually with a coach and I have completed several group coaching programs. I also occasionally volunteer to assist at coach training sessions, where beginning coaches get a chance to practice on me, among others. I love being coached. All kinds of insights occur, and I get very excited to move forward with greater clarity and focus. I develop a sense that "yes, I can do this!" Coaching is about turning up our internal pilot light. We become brighter human beings.

When I was working with my coach about starting a coaching blog and still keeping up with my art blog, this is what came up. "Having the two blogs is like two pages in an open book." I loved that! The "two pages" image sustains me as I write for each blog.

Terry: What should a person expect to gain through working with a Coach?

Leslie: This will vary of course. Each person brings their unique self and agenda to coaching. Again, I will let a coaching client of mine explain what she gained through the work she and I did together.

"Since my coaching sessions, I have felt quite simply, more myself, happier, more content, lighter, brighter, more consistently optimistic and also more generous with myself and others. My creative work has been as prolific as at the best of times. I have just had one of my most demanding and busiest weeks ever yet have still found spaces for my projects, creative doodling, daydreaming and walks on the beach. I like how threads from the sessions wove through the homework tasks and spun out into the fabric of my days." (Quote used with permission)

Thank you Terry, for allowing me to express my passion for coaching with creative artists. The world is a better place because of art, artists and coaching! I know you to be a dedicated supporter of artists and their work. You make the world a better place through your art and your interest in artists.

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Thank you Leslie for sharing your gifts of coaching and information about coaching in general. You can find Leslie on Facebook at:

**For any readers interested in exploring coaching further, the best way to pursue that is through a free sample session. Leslie offers complementary mini coaching sessions so you can meet her and get a feel for how it works. Write to Leslie Avon Miller at: to arrange a time.

Thank you for spending time at Studio24-7 and I appreciate your comments!


  1. Oh, I'm glad you did this post on the value of coaching. In the past, I have engaged coaches to help me navigate through various transitions in my life, and also seen the benefits of "art coaching" in helping artists friends get un-stuck, and move into a new phase of creative flow.

    I appreciate Leslie's explanation of the difference between consultant, teacher, therapist and coach. Good to know when you are ready to seek some help. Some thorny issues may require a complete team... ;-)

  2. Thank you Leslie for your supportive comment! Yes, I think there is some confusion about what types of coaching are available and hopefully this helps. Coach Leslie is a wonderful and supportive person and I felt I gained some excellent insights working with her.

  3. Thank you both Terry for providing the forum and Leslie for explaining what coaching is about and how it differs from other sources of assistance. I think I know more now and appreciate what you do, Leslie. I'm sure you must be a great coach because you are always positive and encouraging.

  4. Thank you for commenting Nancy. My workshop with Leslie was an excellent experience.

  5. Dear Terry,
    Thank you very much for sharing these interviews with us. I have printed it out and plan to read it over my morning coffee tomorrow.
    I am glad to hear that the coaching was a positive experience for you.

  6. Thank you April. Leslie is a wonderful artist and an excellent coach!