Featured Artist: Eric Miller

Editor’s Note: The Hanover Area Arts Guild has artwork displayed in our Artist’s Corner until the end of June 2021. Shelby Pizzaro, our art wall guru, conducted the following interview with guild member Eric Miller. – KLG

What is the source of your inspiration?
Inspiration just kind of finds me. I’ll be looking out a window, walking through my yard, or driving somewhere and I’ll see something that begs to be painted. I’ll photograph it, and later decide how it can be translated into a painted image. Another source of inspiration is my wife, Julie, who offers valuable opinions about my work. She’ll also occasionally tell me to get out of the house and go work in my studio. I sometimes need that kind of encouragement.

How would you describe your art?
My paintings can best be described as representational or realistic. I show my subjects as I see them.

What do you enjoy most about creating new art?

The best part of creating new art is that moment when I can sit back, look, and know I’ve accomplished what I set out to do. If the painting captures the subject as well as I hoped it would, that’s the reward that keeps me moving ahead.

How do you start new work? Is your process always the same? If not, how does it change?

My process starts with a drawing based on a photo (or photos) I took. I sometimes use elements from multiple photos to create my compositions. The drawing is transferred to watercolor paper, or whatever surface I’m using. I usually limit my palette to several primary colors, mixing all the greens, violets, oranges, browns, and blacks from those few pigments. My goal is a sense of great unity in color throughout the painting. I’ll build up thin, transparent layers of overlapping color to create contrasts and depth, finishing with the darkest values and details. Even when I occasionally work in acrylic or oil paints, I’ll use a similar process.
Do you have a favorite or “go to” technique when starting a work?
See above.

Do you have a favorite medium? Has your preference changed over the years?
Early on, I focused on oil and acrylic painting, and colored pencil work. In the     mid-1980’s I finally figured out how to successfully use watercolors. I fell in love with the medium and never looked back. It’s still challenging, and for me, that’s part of the allure of watercolor. Plus, I love the overall “look” of a good watercolor.

Do you ever experience a creative block? If so, how do you rejuvenate your creativity?
I do get creative blocks. I try to get over them in several ways: One is to focus on something else for a period of time, like gardening, or a book. Another is to play with different media, subjects, or techniques in a sketchbook. I just bought a new set of colored pencils that I’ll use this year to make plein-air drawings of trees and plants that grow & bloom in my yard. I find that doing these kinds of things will inspire paintings and get me focused on going back into the studio, where I do my best work. And, of course, getting out of my comfort zone often results in new ideas. I can always learn something new.

How have you managed to stay creative during the COVID-19 Pandemic?
For me, staying safe in the pandemic resulted in more time to do art, since I wasn’t tempted to go out and do other things nearly as much as before. I found that I was quite comfortable being a homebody working in my studio, and I came to appreciate even more the wealth of subjects found around my home base.
Do you have a favorite/inspirational quote?
It’s a statement made by my watercolor instructor at Millersville during my college days, the late, great Robert Lyon. He would occasionally look over students’ shoulders and say “Every artist should be two people – one to paint, and another one to hit you over the head when you’re finished.” If you didn’t respond to him, he would take the brush out of your hand. I think about that every time I get close to finishing a piece and I’m in danger of overworking it. Knowing when to quit is an important part of the process. Thank you, Bob Lyon. I know you’re still watching.
Do you have any current or future projects you’d like to share?
I’m currently in the middle of a series of paintings of Scotch Highland cattle. The Hanover Arts Guild arranged a “field trip” last fall where we were given an up-close tour of Apple Hill Farm, which specializes in this unique breed. I love the way they look, and it was amazing to be able to stand among them and take photographs. They’re really shaggy, they have lots of personality, and they’re challenging and fun to paint! I’m hoping for 6 – 8 good paintings to come from this project.
If someone is interested in your work, how can they reach you?
Email me at [email protected]