Eleanor Miller explores her relationship with nature through the act of painting. The primal world drives her work and brings meaning into her life. Based in landscape, her paintings are not about landscape per se, but what comes and goes and depends up on it, a composite of all the life within it. Her work addresses the spiritual potency of nature and celebrates the fragile balance of the natural world and the developed world in which we live.
* 'Forest Sky' pictured above.
How did you get started as an artist?
Always having an affinity for drawing, I elected to be an art major in my high school which had an amazing program. Coming from a pragmatic family, studying fine art in college was not encouraged so I went to FIT in New York to study Advertising Design. This was a path that I could make a living. But as I matured there was something missing in my life. I was interested in drawing and painting and played around with it, but was consumed as a commercial artist. Thus I went back to school at 25, enrolling at Connecticut College in New London, CT for my BA in studio art. Three years after graduating from CC I was accepted in the MFA program at School of Visual Arts in NY. This is when I became thoroughly engaged in painting and dedicated myself as an artist. After graduating SVA I found a live/work space in Brooklyn. Thus, there was much soul searching and trial in finding my direction and vision for my work. But gradually I put together a comprehensive body of paintings. After a determined effort approaching many galleries, I found representation at Dillon Gallery then located in Soho which was the onset of my career.
What are your biggest influences?
Italian Renaissance painters such as Botticelli, Bellini, Fra Angelico were an early influence. I went to Italy to see the art first hand and be amongst the great works and that beautiful country. The way spiritual icons were depicted and the light of that period appealed to me. I’m also influenced by Turner, Rothko, Ryder, Martin Johnson Heade, O’Keefe to mention a few. Contemporary people include Darren Waterston and Joan Nelson.
Then of course there is the world around me with which I live. My life is surrounded by birds, woods, opens fields, the wild landscapes. The place I call home, this natural world is always showing me something new. This is where I find my passion for nature.
What five words best describe your work?
Ethereal, realism, botanical, tactile and translucent.
Tell us a bit about your technique.
I figure out the composition with thumbnail sketches. I do not have a perfect plan of a what a painting will become, but certainly a loosely drawn idea is necessary for starting. Surface plays a big part in my work so I start with building thin layers of tinted oil medium onto the canvas. Gradually this becomes the background for the dominate imagery. Once I am into the heart of it many things can happen. I get looser with the paint allowing the medium to take over with wet into wet dripping or splattering. This enhances the representational image. It’s juxtaposing tight rendering with playful mark making and happy accidents. Using a pallet knife and brushes builds up the surface further. This creates depth, light and space.
What is a typical workday like for you?
Generally I start mid-morning. Sometimes I am in the thick of it with a piece and get right into it if I have been working well consecutively for several days. But there are also days where I will putter around, sweep the floor, sit with a book, talk with my dog and find my way towards painting. It's not always easy figuring out the work. Its an up/down experience so some studio days are more challenging than others. Inner discussions go on, decisions are made, a problem gets solved, and then I can go forward. To have progress I must always be working on 2 to 3 canvases. I can go to one or the other depending on what's happening with the work. I never want to be held up waiting for something to dry, or because I am thinking something over about a painting. I am good for working until mid to late afternoon. Then I move onto something else. I love to get outdoors after a day in the studio.
What is your favorite thing about being an artist?
Being an artist has given me an interesting, diverse life. I feel personally enriched by my art. There is not much that compares to the immersion of creativity. Painting has me in the moment and I am making something beautiful that has meaning. It keeps me exploring, investigating and interested in the world. The observations I have made for the work has taught me about the connectedness of everything. I have taken the closer look at things otherwise passed by. I don’t know how the work will be received when it is finished, but when it's on a good note I am very happy. Great to think that something I made can make a difference to someone.