Ian Miller

Ian Miller

I'm just enamored totally with Ian Miller's paintings, which are bright and inspired by 80s and 90s imagery, graphic design, and the influence of space on object and vice versa. 

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First, I'd love to know a little bit about you! Where are you from, and where are you based now? What first interested you in making art?

I am a painter currently based in the Twin Cities, I actually grew up here as well, but I lived and studied in Chicago for about five years and spent half of a year in Brighton, UK before moving back to MN. I'm not sure how long I’ll stay here, it's a nice place to live and everything, but i've been interested in California, both for grad school as well as a place to stay longer term, potentially. I've always been interested in art I suppose, as cliche as that may sound. My parents were always really good about bringing me to museums and they both had an interest in the arts as well. When I was younger I was really into skate graphics and animation, so I was always drawing graphics, logos, and characters and the like.

What has your art education been like so far, whether formally or informally?

I graduated with a BFA in studio art / painting in 2015, since then I've been constantly pushing my practice in whatever way I can, be it experimenting with new techniques and subject matter or trying to get my work out and into more galleries and shows. I think that both in and outside of university, there's an aspect of self-teaching that's important to develop and that should always be present, I think you have to constantly be learning and experimenting on your own to really figure anything out.

You primarily work in oil -- what do you like most about the medium? What challenges you about it?

One of my professors, Ann Toebbe, who is an amazing painter, taught the first two painting courses I took, and she initially instructed us with oils. I instantly fell in love with the medium. The viscosity of the paint and the innumerable varieties in which it can be applied and mixed really worked well stylistically with what I was and am trying to achieve through painting. I paint super smoothly, avoiding pretty much any sort of tactile surface. I aim for the final paintings to look almost digital, but to still retain the presence of my hand, just enough to tell it was executed in the physical realm. Oil paint seems to lend itself to this kind of style quite well. I like the interplay between contemporary technologies and classical painting techniques / materials.

Your compositions are bright and bold, incorporating elements that appear to be influenced by advertising, illustration, early computer graphics, and I'm sure more! Can you elaborate a bit more on your interests?

All of those are definitely influences! In addition to those, graphic design has always been a big influence and I have recently been really interested in interior spaces and "background" objects and signifiers as well. With a lot of the newer paintings I have been working on, I am focussing on the setting and contributing factors to a scene or location in which any given action takes place, as these things subtly, or not so subtly, make a big difference in the way events and actions are both experienced, and later, remembered. 

What is your process like?

I usually start by laying / mapping out my compositions in photoshop, compiling imagery from photos i've taken with the occasional public domain or stock image. From here I do a significant bit of editing and warping of the original imagery, cropping in / out, changing colors, arranging the composition. I usually go through multiple drafts and versions until I find something to settle on.

What kind of research or preparation do you do before, or in the process of, making your work?

As far as research goes, I'm always looking through books and scrolling through blogs; a lot of artists my age are doing truly incredible work, so I often look to them for inspiration as well. In addition, any given piece might incorporate certain objects or symbols, so I always do a good bit of research on the items themselves and try to make clear, at least to myself, what it is i'm referencing and why it's significant.

How would you describe your studio or workspace?

I haven't had a consistent / concrete space in, well ever really, nothing more than a year, as i've been moving around a bit. At the moment my space is the front room of my apartment, although it's on the small side, I am able to work in it comfortably. I generally work on multiple pieces at once so I am able to facilitate that relatively well. The other positive aspect of having a in-home studio is the ability to work at literally any time throughout the day.

Do you have any routines or rituals in the studio, to get you into the mode to create?

I usually just brew a pot of coffee and get to work, sometimes i'll do a bit of reading beforehand or scroll through blogs to get a bit of inspiration and extra motivation.

What do you do if you find yourself at a creative standstill?

As I mentioned earlier, I'm usually working on multiple pieces at once, so if I get stuck, I can always bounce over to another piece. Although sometimes, in the process of laying out and drafting up new pieces, it's easy to get stuck, a kind of loop of moving things around and swapping out imagery in an attempt to get an idea out / down. When this happens, It's a bit of trial and error and stepping away from the piece for a while.

What do you feel is the most challenging thing about pursuing art, either creatively or professionally? 

I think, as with most anything, getting your feet on the ground and getting your work out there takes a lot of time and patience. Another kind of strange aspect about pursuing art professionally is the reactions you get from those not involved in the arts, as most artists know, you end up facing a lot of skepticism and doubt. But, you just have to ignore them and surround yourself with those that get it and who are supportive. 

What is the best piece of advice you've received?

I have been lucky to have received lots of really good advice from a number of professors, colleagues, and friends, but one of my professors, McArthur Binion, another incredible artist, helped me to understand that one really as to focus on their own practice, to take inspiration from other artists and those around you, but to not try and be them. To make the work that you want to make, and only that.

What are you working on right now?

I recently had my first solo show "One Foot in the Grave & the Other on a Banana Peel" at Leisure Gallery in Denver, CO. So, i'm now working a new body of work, kind of using the work present in that show as a jumping off point. I'm also starting to experiment with installations to accompany / interact with the paintings themselves, so that's been both exciting and challenging.

Anything else you would like to add?

I'd like to thank you again for the interview and for running such and inspirational and important platform!

Find more at ianthomasmiller.com and on Instagram @iantmiller!

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Katherine Tzu-Lan Mann

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Bartholomew Beal