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Yellow Nasturtiums (oil, 20×24) by Nancy Bea Miller was a finalist in the Still Life category of the 23rd Annual Art Competition.
Background in art: “My parents met at the Art Student’s League, so I grew up in a very art-friendly atmosphere and I just did what came naturally. When I graduated high school, however, my parents were very against my becoming an artist as a profession, knowing first-hand what a difficult field it can be in which to make a living. They encouraged me to go to a good liberal arts college instead of art school. I chose the University of Pennsylvania and planned to double major in art and some other (parent-approved) field.”
”I did take several art classes at Penn, both in studio arts and in art history, but felt the studio experience was disappointing, and the history angle interesting but not my future career path. I continued to draw and sketch and even did cartoons for the campus newspaper but dropped any formal study of art. I graduated from Penn and worked in a non-art related field for about a year, becoming increasingly despondent. To cheer me up, my boyfriend (now my husband) suggested we take an evening class together in oil painting at the Fleisher Art Memorial. Walking into the classroom that first night and smelling the air, I instantly realized what was lacking in my current life, quit my job and applied to art school. I was lucky enough to be accepted at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine arts, from which I received my four-year certificate.”
Art for a living: “I landed a great job right out of art school, working part time for a firm that did art appraisals and restoration. It was the most perfect job imaginable for a newly hatched artist, and I learned an enormous amount about the history and the craft of painting from working there, which I did for over 10 years. In the meantime I had married and was raising twin boys. When I found I was expecting another child I finally, sorrowfully quit that wonderful job in order to focus more on my family. I still kept painting, however. I always managed to squeeze in small amounts of studio time. (Having my studio in the house is a great help with this. I will run up and paint even if it looks like I’ll only have, say, 40 minutes. Everything is all set up and waiting for me.) By this time, too, I had gallery representation in Philadelphia and having deadlines, even just the occasional group show, was a great motivator to keep going. My children are still young, but they all now attend school during the day so that I have much more time to spend in my studio.”
Medium and genres: “I work only in oils and I do still life, portraits and landscapes. I think of myself a contemporary genre painter, painting scenes and objects from everyday life, as it is lived right now.”
Inspiration for this painting: “I adore the nasturtium’s lily pad leaves, the funny face-like shape of the blossoms and their distinctive scent. They seem very personable to me, almost like little people. I grow them in many forms and colors. Starlight mints remind me of my grandparents, who would keep them around their house for visitors, in small dishes. My mother did not allow us to have candy at home, but it was OK to eat candy when you were visiting someone else! So they have a nostalgic value for me: the unconditional love from my grandparents mixed with the pleasure of ‘forbidden fruits.’”
Vignette: “I was working on a painting of my oldest son, Peter. His twin brother, Henry, has autism and is non-verbal. Henry came into my studio and when he saw the painting of his brother he got down on the floor (it was leaning up against the wall) and kissed it on the face! I knew I had caught Peter’s likeness pretty darn well for that to have happened. It was like getting the kiss of approval!”
To see more of Miller’s art visit www.genrecookshop.com/nbm.
Martha Newfield is an artist/instructor living in Cincinnati, Ohio.