3 min read

A Conversation with Drawing Instructor Liz Miller


Your practice is rooted in painting. In what ways does that sensibility translate to your collage-like drawings and large-scale installations?
I have undergraduate and graduate degrees in painting, but it's been years since I've painted in any traditional sense. That being said, my works are always concerned with some of the very basic concepts of painting - edge, color, illusionistic space vs sculptural space. I think I approach my works on paper and installations in a very painterly way - nothing is permanent. I work from a place of intuition, but calculated intuition. I try to have a plan... but in the middle of the process, I might deviate from it wildly; the same way that one might start a painting anew by painting over 95% of it. I think a strong painting background has allowed me to be spontaneous in my work, in ways that those with more formal training in areas like sculpture or installation might struggle with. Sometimes I wish I had more of the technical background in 3D that some of my peers have, but I try to embrace my limitations and use them to my best advantage.  
What are you currently working on in the studio?
I'm currently working on three separate installations for solo exhibitions this fall in Colorado, Wisconsin, and Maine. I tend to alternate between works on paper and installations. I imagine that when I finish the trio of exhibitions this fall, I'll return to works on paper for a bit. The installations and works on paper tend to feed off of one another, but I have a difficult time working on them simultaneously.

My current installations are incorporating a much wider range of materials - I just came back from a fabric shopping expedition with some awesome textured vinyls and patterned upholstery fabrics. I am interested to see how these play out in the forthcoming installations, and how they show up in the works on paper.

Although my work often explores tensions between imagery that has its roots in beauty and imagery that has its roots in violence or destruction, lately the forms have become far more ambiguous. At this point in time, I'm less interested in specific sets of imagery and more interested in calculated ambiguity that creates a strong psychological or emotional response. It's a difficult shift. For so long, I relied on the works being tied to specific source material. I am letting much of that go. I am now interested in elaborate fictions that can be conveyed in a very non-objective way.
How does your practice impact your teaching philosophy? And vice versa?
My studio practice leaves a lot of room for deviating from the plan - I like to be able to respond to something exciting in my work and not worry about the plan! Of course, improvisation requires a ton of practice. It's harder to do in my teaching, because I have an audience full of expectations and I don't want to let them down! That being said, now that I've taught college for over a decade, and taught in quite a few other settings, I feel that one of the most important aspects of teaching is knowing when to steer away from a set plan to explore something else. Often, the experience and the results are even better than I anticipated.
What are you most looking forward to during your time teaching at PenArt?
I am thrilled to finally visit Door County! Although we live in Minnesota, I've never been to that part of the Midwest and I've heard rave reviews. I'm also excited about the short and focused format that the workshop will offer. There's something so terrific about having that kind of intensive time, both as an instructor and as a student. Life often forces us to bounce from one thing to another without really being able to become engrossed in the task at hand. This is an opportunity for everyone to really immerse themselves in the experience without the usual distractions.
How can we find you and your work on social media and the web?
My website, www.lizmiller.com, is currently undergoing a big transition, so I don't know if it will be up to date by the time of the workshop. It shows examples of past works, but not as many current works. The best place to follow me in real-time is on Instagram @lizlenoremiller. I post often about art...and if you follow me, you'll also have to tolerate a few posts about poodles and making juice. 


Liz will be teaching Drawing Redefined: Methods and Materials August 10-12, 2017. Learn more about her workshop here.

Topics: Faculty Drawing

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