artist spotlight: william brian miller
Can you tell us a little about the most recent works that you have on display here at the gallery? Was there any particular inspiration behind these pieces?
Currently, I have four still life paintings and four landscapes in the gallery. In terms of inspiration, the still life work comes from simply liking the look of certain objects. I did a painting of pears a couple of years ago, and I now know that type of pear is the only type, so far, I have any interest in painting. There is something human about their appearance, and the drawing of them is not unlike life drawing. In doing still life, the other things I pursue are atmosphere and to give the objects character.
The landscapes on display are a departure from my usual work, in that they are based on loose ideas of landscape without initial structure, looking for accidents, which suggest elements rather than representations of actual places. The painting of Girvan Harbour has aspects of this but in a more representational way. I think this is something worth developing.
Can you tell us a little bit about your process?
My process starts with selection of the subject. In still life, I will experiment with arrangement of objects, lighting, viewpoints and scale. At times, this may result in a small picture with only one object at almost life size. Once the arrangement is decided, I will carefully prepare a board or canvas. I am quite particular about the painting surface. I do not want to have to fight against the canvas texture or find that the paint behaves in an unpredictable manner. I have always been interested in the craft of painting and spend time experimenting with various mediums and grounds. Once the canvas is prepared, I will do a careful drawing, not in such a way that it cannot be changed, but one that establishes the relative scales and positions of the objects, and their rhythmic relationships: a bit like the elements of the human figure. Drawing completed, I start to work out tonal relationships, usually with a limited palette of warm and cool colour. I build up layers of opaque and translucent paint, allowing each to dry. For landscape painting, the initial process starts with sketches and the taking of photographs, followed by the development of the composition. The rest of the process is the same as with my still life paintings.
Where do you prefer to work and why?
In terms of landscape, I like to experience the environments that I paint, sketching and taking photographs. However, ‘plein air’ is not my thing. For the completion of a picture, the studio is my favoured environment.
Watch a short video of William's studio here.
What are you working on at the moment, or what will you be working on next?
At the moment, I am working on a copy of a painting by Abbot Henderson Thayer called Roses. This came about after a discussion with [fellow artist] Jonathan Mitchell. I believe he may be producing his own replica at some point. Other than the Thayer Roses painting on display at the moment, I have not painted copies before. They are considered by traditional academic painters as a useful exercise. I am not sure how useful this is, but I am enjoying the experience. As it progresses, I am noticing areas where I am diverging from the original, but I hope the completed painting will pay tribute to Mr Thayer. I should say that I admire the original painting very much.