Artist Spotlight Series: Sarah Gee Miller
My latest Artist Spotlight Series feature is a pure delight.
Her graphic work is totally mesmerizing in bold palettes that pull me in.
Enjoy getting to know
Vancouver, British Columbia
What is your training?
I’m self-taught, and also got a very late start when it comes to art making. I’ve always loved art and have been a creative person, and after graduating university I worked at minimum-wage jobs for years without any direction. Later, I started an interior design/reclamation furniture business which introduced me to the concepts of modernism and honed my ideas about design and beauty, how we live in our environments and the things that make us feel secure and happy, and when that business ended in acrimony in 2013 – it was very painful – I began to take those ideas and make artwork that brought me joy. I threw myself into learning everything I could about art-making, art criticism and the history of the movements.I just worked really, really hard. I mean, thousands and thousands of hours of teaching myself how to paint. I painted when I didn’t want to, when I ran out of money, through all kinds of failures and a few (very few!) successes. It rolled on from there. I’m still learning, still going, seven days a week.
What inspires you and your designs?
There’s nothing I can point to in particular. Images and ideas come into my mind on a whim, I think. Something from what I’ve read, or a flash from nowhere. I love looking at what other artists are doing and see what resonates with me. I wish I had a stable source of inspiration, it would save a lot of “what now” distress on my part!
What is your favorite piece?
That’s a hard one! I think, of all my work, “Bloom” (2019) comes closest to what I’m trying to say. It’s from the “Compression” series, which is about anxiety and release. It’s one of the more minimal paintings I’ve ever done, but it’s got a killer gradient in it and I’m happy with its simplicity.
and because I just can’t choose one, I really like “Big Blue”, mostly because it was such a challenge to paint and I’m not sure I’ll ever try anything like it again:
How has the your area influenced your work?
I live in Vancouver, in one of the most beautiful cities in the world, surrounded by mountains and forests and the Pacific Ocean, and I’m immune to all that. I couldn’t care less about nature. I mean, I like it, and I want it protected and I enjoy a walk every now and then, but it doesn’t make me think art. I’m inspired by the inside rather than the outside, the struggle to rationalize and order our chaotic emotions, to make sense of the insensible. I’m also interested in the idea of utopia, what it means and if we can imagine it. When people look at my work I want them to feel calmed, to feel like someone has ordered their world and made it more survivable.
What is your favorite restaurant in Vancouver?
For diner-style hangover style food, we have a great place here called Congee Noodle House. It’s chaotic and noisy and a bit rundown but the congee, a Cantonese-style rice soup, is heavenly.
For a date night I would definitely choose Bao Bei, an Asian-fusion place in Vancouver’s Chinatown. It’s elegant without being fussy, and the food is incredible.
What is your favorite cocktail?
I love cocktails of all kinds! Vancouver is a great city for unusual, beautifully composed drinks with an Asian flair. Anything with lemongrass and ginger and sour plum I would enjoy. One of my favorites, though, was a very expensive tequila and blood orange thing I had at a now-closed Mexican restaurant that was so good I think I hallucinated it.
How do you balance personal life and work?
Art is all-consuming to me and I’m awe of those who have children and still pursue an art career. I’m not sure I could do it. I’m lucky to have a supportive husband who works at a demanding day job to supplement my full time work in the studio. We’re great partners in all things. He loves the wacky art world I live in and happily socializes with artists and attends art openings and drives me everywhere since I don’t drive. And he’s a part-time musician and I go to his shows and enjoy his scene too. We support each other wholly and understand the pressures of our lives. And because I’m an introvert it’s important to force myself to go to events and visit friends – I never regret it once I’m there, I just have to be talked out of a “pajamas at 6 pm” mindset!
I take my dream trip every day – it’s the ten feet from my back door to the garage I use as a studio.
To be honest, a dream commission is no commission at all. I don’t know why, but the minute I’m told what to do I just freeze, and the whole project becomes a chore. Maybe free reign, and a hefty deposit? That would be very nice.
Your favorite host / hostess gift to give?
If someone’s nice enough to invite me somewhere I’ll make them something, like a loaf of bread or chutney or something from the kitchen.
Who is your style icon?
Anyone who dresses how they want to without worrying about convention and being judged – I tend to wear the same paint-splattered t-shirt and leggings every day. Specifically, I love EVA & ADELE (they insist on the capital letters and ampersand, hilariously). They’re a joy and a delight in this often dour, conventional world. They make or modify a lot of their own clothes, love art, love each other, and live life to the fullest.
Your favorite up and coming artist?
Even though he’s just beyond the “up and coming” stage, Bernhard Buhmann, a young painter from Vienna, is a terrifically talented new artist. I also love the integration of sculpture and painting in the work of the Australian artist John Nicholson.
What is your most treasured possession?
Oh that’s a hard one. I’m assuming I can’t call my cats possessions, so I’ll go with a painting we bought some years ago by Canadian painter Jeff Depner. It brings me happiness every day to look at it.
What are you reading?
I’m currently reading “My Dark Vanessa” by Kate Elizabeth Russell. It’s extraordinary, gorgeously written, surprising and very timely. I read a lot, mostly things that get me out of my “art head”, plot-driven literature of all kinds, especially if there’s a mystery involved.
What are you listening to?
My husband is a musician so I’m the lucky recipient of all his finds – he’s always seeking out great new music. I’m really loving the new Bon Iver album, it’s emotional and beautiful and surprising. I don’t listen to music while I’m in the studio, for some reason it pulls my attention in a way that doesn’t serve me; instead I’ll half-listen to podcasts, usually true crime or sciency stuff that tricks me into thinking I’m learning something. It’s nice to hear stories during the long solitary hours at work.
What are your favorite blogs / publications?
I love The Jealous Curator. Danielle Krysa has become a friend as well as a mentor and an inspiration. She has a great podcast attached to her website and blog as well.
Sight Unseen is where I go for design inspiration.
Take a look at Sarah’s portfolio and follow her on Instagram.
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