Thursday, February 22, 2018

DPW Spotlight Interview: Steve Miller

Each week we will spotlight a different DPW artist who will give away one of their best paintings. To enter to win Steve's painting, "Across the River" go to Daily Paintworks and click on the link at the top of the page announcing their interview.

From Steve's DPW Gallery:

Steve was born in Texas in the late 50's, but spent most of his early and teenage years in Georgia and Tennessee, and later coming back to Texas. Steve begin drawing in those early years, later developing God's gift through various visual media. Steve has airbrushed vans and T-shirts in the 70's, painted murals, signs and illustration in the 80's, created computer animation and digital illustration in the 90's and into this millennium we are currently in. Steve has won several awards in local and national art competitions, including being selected twice as a finalist into the Hunting Art Prize in Houston, Texas.

Steve says "My goal as an artist is pursue leaning - learning more about light, color and form as I attempt to portray this incredible creation God has made, always pointing to Him. With each passing day, I find I am more and more in awe of the world God has made."When traveling, Steve takes along his plein air easel and camera, to either squeeze in a painting or two as time permits or shoot reference photos for later studio works. He and his wife have traveled across Texas, New Mexico, Georgia, Louisiana, Alabama, Tennessee and Maine. Recently, while in Hawaii, he painted several plein air works on the island of Oahu. (click to view gallery)

Tell us a bit about how you first started painting. 

I believe the first time I created anything in color was in art class in High School. We were given assignments to create paintings in oil and watercolor. But, I really stayed away from any work related to color until I was in my late twenties. I did many works in graphite, which I really loved. But in my late twenties I began selling some artwork to a wall plaque company and they had to be done in color, so I created many works in Acrylic. They seemed to buy the good, the bad and the not-so-beautiful. For two years I painted and sold these acrylic works to the company, which they put on wall plaques. It was a great time of learning, and I was able to pay the bills as well. As is the case with most artists, if I see any of those early works, I’ll play dumb as to the name of the originator of the painting and say, “Who the heck painted that?"

Did you have any stops and starts in your painting career? 

Many stops and starts. One of the difficult things many artists experience, whether the art is music, sculpture, visual or anything else, the difficulty or “rub” is figuring out how to survive, pay the bills and still carve out time to paint. Add to that other obstacles that make pursuing art, not impossible, but difficult, and the “stops and starts” seem to be ever present.  I remember at one point we were living in a small space and in order to paint, I built an easel that folded down from the ceiling, so that I could fold it up, painting and all, when we wanted more space in living area. I started a decent sized painting on canvas and not too far into the rendering I came to a motivational snag. I folded the easel up into the ceiling, half painted canvas and all. It stayed there for two solid years. One day, perhaps after some strong coffee, I had acquired a dose of motivation and determined that I would finish the painting. I swung the easel down to its working position and finished the painting, which I was blessed to sell.

Across the River
(click to view)

Enter to win by clicking on the link at the top of the DPW home page announcing Steve's interview.

What mediums and genres have you experimented with?

As alluded to above, I began with pencil as a kid, loving to draw black and white images, usually on typing paper (people once used typewriters). I hated crayons as a kid, and still remember my 2nd grade teacher trying to make me use crayons instead of pencils. As I mentioned, I made forays into color in High School, followed by quite a few acrylic paintings, mostly on paper, some on canvas. Although it is not considered “fine art”, I airbrushed vans, motorcycle tanks and fenders, as well as T-shirts. That was followed by a stint working as an illustrator at a publishing company. For a couple of years, I used nothing but concentrated Luma Dyes and Black Ink to create detailed illustrations for home school curriculum. About fifteen years ago I jumped into the pool of Plein Air, and felt like I was drowning. But I began to love it and it has been an excellent experiment in all things related to painting, as well as a teacher in color and value. A few years ago, I also begin working in Soft Pastels, mostly on Ampersand pastel board. I really like soft pastels on sanded surfaces.

Which ones have "stuck" and which ones have fallen away?

It has been years since I have touched graphite, watercolor or acrylic, or even the airbrush. However, oils and pastels are two mediums that have “stuck”, and I continue to learn and work with them. There are basic similarities between these two mediums, as well as vast differences. Sometimes they both seem to lean on the other, crossing over at various points, especially in relation to color and value. 

The Overhang
(click to view)

Which ones are you looking forward to exploring?

I wish I had room to journey back into watercolor. I would also like to work in charcoal on various surfaces. Maybe at some date in the future.

Who or what inspires you most? 

The “Who” would be the Creator of the universe - the God described in the Bible - Who not only created all we see, but also the design principles, rules of composition and the magic of light and color. The “What” of inspiration would be His creation and the world that is, both seen and unseen. My crippled attempt to create artwork that portrays this beauty and design is an ongoing learning process, a journey into the world of design, light and color. I believe mankind was created in the image of God – this inspires me to also not just paint nature, but people and the things people create. Back alleys, classic architecture, an old barn in a field of baled hay – all equally intrigue and inspire me to paint. And, they all tell a story… stories are a great source of inspiration as well. On an horizonal plane, I have been inspired by many painters who have traveled this creative path and are far ahead of me in the journey. If I started a list of these “inspirers”, the list would be very long. The work of accomplished painters are a great source of inspiration and study.

The Green Door
(click to view)

What does procrastination look like for you? 

Some have said that procrastination is birthed in the fear of failure. There may be other issues involved, but I would have say that this may be relevant with me and procrastination. This real or perceived failure may be many things – failure in executing the mechanics of a painting, failure in the financial aspects of this artistic endeavor, failure to get past known weaknesses and failure to get over hurdles or road blocks that are evident in my work.

What techniques work to ensure that you make time for your art? 

Coffee. From the bag, to the coffee maker, to the cup(s). Very helpful technique. Seriously, for me, the whole trick is starting a piece. Once started, I am better able to carve out small sections of time, which is usually all I have available.

September Morning
(click to view)

How do you generally arrive at ideas for your paintings? 

Most everything sparks an idea for a painting. Then I look for a story, or hint of a story, how color and value will enhance or better tell the story. While participating in plein air everts, the ideas are usually constrained to what is within the painting boundaries. Things like a back door in an alley, an old truck, a landscape. All are rich in intrigue for me. This carries over into studio works, usually painted from photo reference, but perhaps more complex than the plein air works.

How do you keep art "fresh?" What techniques have helped you avoid burnout and keep your work vibrant and engaging?

Have I mentioned coffee? I enjoy a trip to Barnes & Noble for coffee and a slow look through some of the current art magazines, seeing the work artists are painting, looking for what I like, thinking about how it was done, trying to understand how they arrived at the image in front of me. 

Texas and Pacific - Across the Tracks
(click to view)

What do you feel you are learning about right now as an artist? 

Maybe three things: I have been limiting my palette in an effort to learn more about mixing color and the relationships between various colors. It seems to be an excellent tool for fine-tuning color and it allows for much experimentation. The other thing I hope I am learning is Value. I have recognized that I have a weakness in that area. I am learning to more quickly render the proper values. The last thing is perhaps learning to see and fix problems in a painting. Artist are sometimes blind to their own error. Problems in the drawing, problems in composition or incorrect values. Learning to STOP and fix problems is an area I am working on as well.

What makes you happiest about your art?

If I succeed in creating a work of art that is well done, tells a story and points to the One who made it all, then I am good with that. The other side of that same coin is creating a painting that provides a service to someone. This “service” may simply be to support those in my family. Or, it may give someone joy in the viewing, perhaps stimulate a thought or memory of what is good. I have noticed that I, at times, get wrapped up in what I want (this is the “twisted” side of human nature) and forget that the gift God has given should perhaps serve…

Thanks, Steve!

© 2018 Sophie Marine

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