From Pat Eby Special to mailing
A boy walks in the protective cover of his father’s footsteps as they plow forward through a sea of grass. Bright cut-outs swirl around their heads to celebrate this everyday moment captured for all time in Yard Work. Artist Amy S. Miller’s narrative, figurative, and colorful paintings are just one aspect of her art. She creates illustrations, murals, stickers, greeting cards and prints.
“I added the ‘S’ to differentiate myself from other artists named Amy Miller,” she says. It’s a tip she picked up as she set out to learn how to make art for a living. She had worked professionally in creative fields, first as an interior designer after graduating from William Woods University in 1998 and later in the picture framing industry, eventually owning her own business and also doing art consultancy.
“When I had my own frame shop. Every day I had to do something and it never stopped,” she says, “but I wasn’t happy,” she says. “At the same time, a health crisis in my family made me realize that money isn’t everything.”
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Thirty out of 30 • Miller knew it was time for a change. “I’ve always had hobbies,” she says. She had taken painting classes in college and they liked her. She decided to pick up her brush again. “I decided to paint 30 pictures in 30 days and I was hooked,” she says.
“I was still doing artistic consulting, and when I was traveling to North Carolina for a job, I decided to make a detour to the Biltmore mansion in Asheville,” says Miller.
Her planned outing changed the trajectory of her life and work. She discovered the River Arts District and met nationally renowned basket weaver Matt Tommey. She began her journey to becoming a full-time artist with Tommey’s workshops, books and group mentoring as her guide.
colour, shape and history • Another piece of her art world puzzle came together when Miller met an artist family, the Milans, at a Toomey event. She enrolled in a family workshop in Milan and started her narrative art painting with new skills in mixed media including oil, a medium she loves.
“They gave me the tools I needed for mixed media and oil painting, but the most important thing they gave me was confidence,” she says. “If I can picture it in my head, I can figure out how to do it. If I don’t have the skills, I will get them. I’ve learned that if you move on, you don’t go backwards.” And she did.
Show and tell • Miller’s burgeoning art career in St. Louis collapsed with the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, but she insisted. “The timing of COVID worked in my favor in a very strange way,” she says. She made contacts with art organizations and participated in juried exhibitions. She set up her website, applied to shows, and learned how to sell her work to a wide audience.
She offers affordable stickers and greeting cards in series featuring wildflowers, plants and pollinators, adorable bunnies, and an adventurous raccoon and his giant panda friend. She offers prints of her original paintings in various sizes. Her custom work includes pet portraits and murals.
Thanks for the reminder • Miller’s narrative artworks tell true and grand stories, often based on family connections. “My brother and I grew up in suburban Arnold, but we lived with our grandparents for a week every summer,” she says. “In the summer we played at my grandparents’ farm in Bonne Terre by the stream, went into the big barn and sat at the picnic table at night with watermelons from the garden that tasted so sweet and big stars overhead that we had never seen in the city” , she says.
As she painted her memories, as in the painting titled Summertime, she discovered that the personal in art exhibitions has a universal appeal. People commented on remembering the starry sky while driving in the country, navigating a creek, or hiking across a field. Her work made connections.
to make art • Miller has built a good business for her art over the past three years. “I have found many little things that make me happy. I love the freedom to work on my art. It’s terrifying and awesome. I love seeing people’s reaction to my work and it’s cool to think that something I’ve done could bring them joy,” she says.
This month she received an Artist Advancement Grant from the Regional Arts Commission of St. Louis. “It will provide funding for some tools and equipment that will make studio life more productive, organized and efficient,” she says. “I can barely wait for it.”