Ian Thomas Miller is an artist from the midwest working primarily in illustration and painting. His work is a mixture of isolated moments, objects and gestures of his intimate observances of day to day life. His use of vivid colors and distortion creates ethereal moments in time.
Where did you grow up and how did your early environment influence you?
I grew up in the suburbs of Minnesota. A lot of suburban imagery is pretty heavily incorporated into my earlier work. Specific places, events, and objects certainly had an influence on me growing up and introduced specific ideas & tropes that still popup throughout my practice.
Where do you currently live and work now?
I currently live in MN again after a five year stint in Chicago and a brief time in Brighton, England. I work out of my apartment at the moment, seeing as another move is on the horizon.
What is your background in art?
Like many, I started drawing at an early age, I drew a lot of knights and swords and stuff like that when I was little. In my early teens I was really into logos and skate graphics, so that ultimately sparked my interest in design, which is another significant part of my practice and day-to-day work. Eventually I moved to Chicago for undergrad, where I started off studying design & illustration, but ultimately switched my focus to studio arts, specifically painting.
You also shoot in film. How does photography come into play with your paintings and other work?
Unfortunately I haven’t been shooting film as much lately, most of the reference material I shoot is now shot with a dslr, for editing and pragmatic reasons. Although I did recently pick up a new roll of film and am excited to be working with a film camera again.
I really appreciate how intentional one has to be when using film, each shot feels much more significant and (hopefully) impactful, so when I do end up with an image I’ve shot on film that can also double as a portion of a painting, it definitely takes on another layer of meaning for me.
Who and what are you inspired by?
Tons of artists, young & old, always shifting. Emily Mae Smith, Alex Gardner, David Salle, Julie Curtiss, and Sierra Montoya Barela are a few I’ve been looking at lately. I’m inspired by the conversations that I have with people who are passionate about their practice and their interests, whatever they may be. Cleverness and surprising & amusing juxtapositions are things I always keep an eye out for in my day-to-day. I love a “good” pun.
How do you describe your process to painting/creating?
Over time I’ve shifted to a more digital-sketching and organizing of ideas. I usually start with a pretty loose concept / idea and then refine it as the piece progresses. This process incorporates the creation and inclusion of reference photos I’ve taken & sketches I’ve done, in addition to the occasional screen grab / crop / reference to a film or product photo, etc... Once I’ve got an idea more or less mapped out, I jump into the actual painting process, which is most often oil on paper, panel, or canvas. Though I have been dabbling with installations & sculptural work as well a bit, which is exciting.
What themes and concepts do you investigate in your work?
It’s always changing, but as of late
I’ve been less interested in large narratives and more interested in specific / isolated moments and ideas. My work changes as I change, so in undergrad my work dealt heavily with “youth culture” and my lifestyle at that time, a lot of that has lost its appeal to me & I’m much more interested in the juxtaposition of seemingly mundane objects, gestures, realizations, and the way in which those combinations can create something refreshing, exciting and succinct. Glimpses of places, personalities, interactions, problems, successes, etc...
I don’t really stick to one specific idea or over-arching theme, the work changes as I do, so ultimately it just deals with the things I observe, interact with, or read about day-to-day.
That’s the kind of work I’ve always been drawn to - work that reflects an individuals’ experiences and interpretations of their immediate surroundings. So many ideas, opinions, and influences are behind any given piece of work, and seeing how one takes all of that and turns it into something that’s honest and reflective of themselves and their world, whatever their circumstances may be, is what excites me, and is what I hope to achieve in my own work.
What are you currently working on?
I’m currently working a on a batch of new paintings that I’m really excited about, I think they’re some of the most stylistically unique (for me) pieces I’ve ever done and they feel very fresh. I’m having fun with them and trying to be a bit less tight (but like stylistically tight, not as in, like, coolness, ha h a...)
What’s in your forecast for 2017?
Earlier this year I had my first solo exhibit “One Foot in the Grave & the Other on a Banana Peel” which was at Leisure Gallery in Denver, CO. That was very exciting and really sparked / furthered my drive to continue creating as much new work as possible. I also have a painting up in a group exhibit called “San Escobar” at Gildar Gallery, also in Denver, CO. I’m hoping to be in a few more exhibits still yet this year. Otherwise, just painting as much as I can.
What’s your favorite Instagram account of the moment?
Oof, I can’t pick just one, but here’s some i’ve been following closely for sure:
One book and one film recommendation?
I’m currently reading White Teeth by Zadie Smith
As far as movies go, Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo & Juliet is an all-time favorite.
Follow Ian Miller