Artist Jeremiah Miller

February 12, 2019

Nestled in a dense woodland forest in Belews Creek, artist Jeremiah Miller feels right at home among the focus of his paintings.
Though many of his paintings feature trees like those seen around his home, Miller often enjoys painting scenes from Hanging Rock and the different rock formations that surround the area, as well as other scenic areas.
While he enjoys painting mother nature, that hasn’t always been Miller’s focus.
Miller grew up in East Winston’s City View area and graduated from East Forsyth High School with the first graduating class. Having enjoyed art since he was a baby, even stealing his mother’s lipstick to draw a mural on the baseboards, he attended the Ringling College of Art & Design, where he received a Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) and later a BFA and Master of Fine Arts from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. He also served four years in the Navy as a photographer.
“When they saw that I was an artist, they gave me a camera,” he said. “After I got out, I became a self-employed artist.”
After Miller received his master’s, he went back to Key West, having been sent there while serving in the Navy, and focused his art on his surroundings.
“I got my start down there,” he said, noting that he mostly drew people at that time.
In 1976, Miller returned to NC and built a log cabin in Belews Creek, which he said was meant to be his studio, but then decided to move to Washington, DC to be a “starving artist.”
Drawing him back to nature, Miller got the chance to get into the NC Visiting Artist Program as Artist-in-Residence at Blue Ridge Community College in Flat Rock, NC and at Wilkes Community College in Wilkesboro, NC, as well as Artist-in-Residence in Camden, SC.
Miller shared that it was while he was living in the Blue Ridge Mountains that his interest in painting figures moved to painting nature.
“I realized not having a model sitting for me was liberating,” he said, adding that he painted his first mural landscape for the YMCA in 1981 in Hendersonville. Because it was painted on the walls of the YMCA’s pool, he had to use epoxy paint and could only paint for about two hours at a time because of the humidity.
Miller said he and his wife, Sarah Johnson, a violinist, were married in 1983 and shared the residency in Camden.
“We were there for one year. She took a position at the School of the Arts and we moved back to (Belews Creek),” he said.
When they moved back, Miller said they settled into the cabin he built, which one could imagine being a romantically unique home with a bedroom loft that could be featured on a Tiny House TV show.
Now, instead of having the log cabin as his studio, Miller had to build a new one on the property, one that he has since added on to eight times.
“I started with an 8 x 16 foot building to store my tools, then I built a painting room…,” he said.
While Miller said Sarah was tolerant of living in the home, it wasn’t until a skunk made its way into his studio where she stored her concert gowns that she “put her foot down.”
“The law came down from on high to build a house,” he chuckled.
Walking from his larger custom-built home to the log cabin and then over to the sectionally crafted studio, sipping on a miniature cup of espresso, Miller showed me his various rooms filled with wood framed art.
While there were what seemed like hundreds of both miniature paintings with equally larger ones, Miller said he averages about 40 – 48 paintings and 35 hours a week, painting about 50 large paintings a year, and 300 – 500 of the smaller ones a year.
For the small paintings, he uses thick paint and paints quickly, usually two to three at a time, while the bigger ones are more detailed.
“From a distance, the big paintings invite you in,” he said.
Miller explained that his larger paintings look abstract to the eye up close, but from far away are like a window to reality; therefore, when he is painting on a large canvas, he often has to paint a little and then walk back from it to look at it from a different perspective and then walk back up to the painting.
Miller said what he likes most about painting is the physical application of the paint, and noted that he uses oil paint, but sometimes will use acrylic for the underpainting.
“There is a pleasure like a kid painting with cake icing, and I want people to be able to look at my painting and know that it’s mine,” he said. “I rely on my education and experience, and the feeling and process of painting takes over and it becomes a marriage of the subject and emotion. It’s like poetry with painting.”
When he finishes a painting, Miller said he feels a sense of confidence.
“I have a feeling like I’ve been honest with myself. I’m never completely satisfied but I reach a point when it’s an honest attempt,” he said.
To learn more about Miller and see more of his artwork, visit www.jeremiahmiller.com.

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