Saturday, November 18, 2017

What teaching means to me

I was a bartender for 17 years to support my habit as an artist. I still painted more than most people I knew even though I worked 20 - 40 hours a week. I worked nights so I could paint all day. I had the energy so I persevered.

      During the later era of my bartending years, I was able to convert a two car garage into a studio. When it was done, my dream was to have an artist's night where we would paint and trade ideas to lift each other up and also to network. It was so much fun to schedule and host these evenings. I would hire a model and invite artists to come and paint together for the fun of it. During these nights I became close to a lot of these artists. One of them kept telling me I should become a teacher. I should try and spend some time teaching people. I am not sure now what finally made me stop and give it a try. I didn't have the time and I didn't think I knew enough, but I did finally did give it a try.
     The first few classes were really tough. I drew back on my years as being a student and thought about what really helped me when I needed it as well as what I thought was missing in my years of training. There was, in my mind, a lot of faking it. But I found I loved it. And even though I might have thought I was faking it, I really knew what I was doing and my found my passion. I tried to give my students every thing I ever learned and all the things I wanted to know. If I didn't know it, I read from my favorite books till we all memorized it. "Alla Prima" by Richard Schmid was my all time favorite. But there were many more I loved. Before long I could recite from these books. My time at  an atelier, my experience as a plein air artist and my knowledge of the fundamentals helped my students progress at a great speed.
     I have now been teaching for many years. I am so grateful to where this profession has taken me. I have met some of my best friends through teaching. I have traveled to some of my dream locations in the world on workshops with those wonderful people. I have the best hours too. I teach in the mornings which give me the whole rest of the day to paint. And teaching has taught me more, in all my years as a student, about painting. I learn as much from them as they do from me. And now, I don't need to bar tend any more.
     There is no greater joy than seeing the lights come on in a students face. I always say, you might want to punch me in the face at the beginning of the class, but you will want to kiss me by the end of my class. How they sometimes look frustrated or angry until they finally get it and then I see their lips curl into a smile....
     I teach every morning. When the weather is good, plein air "alla prima" (outdoors in one shot) in our beautiful seaside communities sometimes adding a live model, some days inside with still lifes. I find that still life helps with technique because you can control the set up, you can work on it longer and without the distractions of the outdoor elements, bugs and people. Figure and portraiture helps to improve your drawing abilities because if it is off just a little, you can see it. And painting outdoors helps to make you paint faster, see color and to understand how important temperature in your colors to create depth in your work.
   Next sessions classes start January 19, 2017. Please go to www.diannepmiller.com to see the schedule.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Painting the Sagrada Familia in Barcleona

Each year, I design a trip to Europe with a group of artists to go and paint. This year I chose Barcelona, Spain. We had 5 artists and myself painting together all the amazing and beautiful sights. A collector friend of mine saw that I was going and asked me to paint the Sagrada Familia for an anniversary present for his wife. So the day we visited this architectural wonder by Guadi, we brought along our paints. We walked around the church trying to find the best composition until we found the perfect spot behind a pond that was in front of the church. It was the perfect amount of nature to offset the splendor of the cement. 


We set up our easels jockeying for the best spot with the crowds of tourists trying to use the same place to take their pictures. It was truly the best place to be to see this church. With 6 of us painting, there wasn't a lot of room left. We were bumped and blocked many times, but we persevered! After about 2 hours we gave up and packed up our gear. But I was happy with the sketch I had done and could use as a study for the larger piece I was about to do. We all visited the inside of the church afterwards and was totally inspired. What a masterpiece. You really have to see it to understand it's grandeur.

   When I began the larger piece I used my photos and painting to construct the church on my canvas in the best way to highlight the large steeples from the main part of the church. I worked on it as soon as I got back so I could rely on my memory and inspiration from my visit. I visited my friends home to see the exact size that would fit in the spot he wanted to hang it. 
    This was quite a feat to get it on the canvas accurately. I used my sight to copy it. I didn't trace it. When I was pleased with the arrangement, I began to add color. I blocked the whole thing in before adding any detail getting my values and color correct. When that was done, I began to put in the detail. And what detail that was!!! It took me much longer to finish than I thought it would, but I learned so much in the process. Being able to look at each piece of the many details to add to this painting was awe inspiring. What an incredible genius this Gaudi was. 

   In the end, I believe this is one of my favorite paintings. I was able relive and own the memory of being at the Sagrada Familia and was proud that I was able to do it.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Painting the Figure Outdoors




I just finished this summer's session of painting the figure outdoors with the North River Arts Center in Marshfield, Ma. On this last day, my friend and fantastic artist Nancy Sargent Howell offered her beautiful property to paint on and her beautiful self as our model.
  We all traveled to the Third Cliff in Scituate and unpacked our gear for a lovely day considering it was the end of July. Nancy's house is perched on a hill overlooking the North River in Marshfield. The view is so heavenly, it is a wonder she gets any work done!!! I think it is one of the best views in Massachusetts! She has a majestic tree on the edge of her property, so we placed her comfortably in the shade lounging on a chair with her figure heading into our scenes for a great composition.
   Everyone was in a great mood because of our location and gracious host. I gave a quick demonstration showing how to simplify the scene. My students were all set to go! Because we were in the shade with plenty of room for each student to set up with a great composition, my students were ready to get going!.
   After two + hours, everyone had a wonderful painting to show. I saw smiles on everyones face. They worked hard and learned a lot!


In each class, I try to set up an example to help my students grow. In the first class, we did a simple portrait. This way, when we worked on figures, we would know how to map the face into our figures. We did that for a few classes till everyone understood how to do it. The next session was a little more difficult. I had the model lay on the ground. This helped the student to map in the model using discipline and skill to get the figure accurately on the canvas. They had to really paint what they saw not what they knew to get this down right. It was a fantastic class. I was surprised how well everyone did.

The next few classes were setting up models in ordinary and mundane ways. We always had great scenery around. I always tell my students, "even though you may do a lousy job, you are painting in these very beautiful spots!" You have nothing to lose!"


In my classes, we have beginners to advanced. Everyone always ends up with a smile on their face! So if you are afraid to take a class. This is one you should really try! I will show you how to begin and continue at your speed. I will conquer your fears and help you move in a disciplined way. If nothing else, you will have a lot of fun with some great people!
New classes start in September. There is something for everyone! Still life helps you with technique. Landscape helps you with color and painting quickly and portrait and life drawings are important to learn drawing. Tackle your fears and take a class with me. See my schedule at www.diannepmiller.com


Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Taking a Class with Dianne

Due to the cancellations from the many snow storms this year, some of my classes are starting a little later than usual. My Duxbury classes are starting this week. Take an evening course or come out with me in beautiful Duxbury to paint the many incredible scenes this historic town has to offer.


 In the morning class, I come early to the town to scout out where we will paint. Depending on the weather and the tide, I see where we could learn something new and a place where the students won't be too intimidated by all that nature has to offer. Once I have decided on the location, I meet my students in the parking lot and direct them to our beautiful spot. Once situated, I begin talk about what is in front of us, contemplating what would be the best thing to paint and why. Where is the sun, how will it change things, what would be our center of attraction and so forth... I then begin with a short demo explaining color harmony, composition and technique. The students now have a good idea of how to begin and work on their own pieces. I then go around to each student to help them move forward in a disciplined way. I point out what they are doing well, and help them with what they need to work on. When they are at a stand still, I show them how to move forward by working on their piece until they are ready to move on. We are usually very happy with our outcomes!


In the evening class, I set up enough still lifes so there won't be any crowding. I try to set up scenes that are interesting to paint and possibly sell. I use different color harmonies in each set up. I try to add items that will challenge the student. Different shapes, sizes and textures help the student to improve with each painting. 

My classes are great for people who have never painted before to the most advanced student. Once we all get started on our own pieces, I help each person at what ever level they are at. The classes are a lot of work but are so much fun as we all are there to help each other improve and inspire.

Please go to http://diannepmiller.com/other1 or www.duxburyart.org for more info.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Painting LIVE at Weddings and Events

I have heard that it was Eva Longoria who came up the the concept of having an artist paint live at her wedding. Since then, I have seen more and more painters showing off their work from weddings. I have since started the trend over five years ago.

This is not for the faint-hearted artist. It is a long, hard day of very stressful painting. But it is not without it's rewards. You have to be able to stand for long hours and be able to talk while you are painting. The lighting may not be good, the weather conditions can be challenging. You have to be ready for everything. In the painting above, it had rained for a couple days and the sun was just beginning to come out. I was standing in an inch of water! I have painted in a tent and froze. Unlike the guests, I am standing still while they are dancing and enjoying themselves. But when it goes well, I am like a family member for this wonderful event. I get to meet everyone that comes to the wedding. I let the guests paint on my painting and educate them about the life of an artist and what it feels like to put paint down. I am working in some of the most beautiful settings. I really enjoy it.

My process is to go to the event early and paint in the scene that was previously designated by the bride or party that hired me. When the bride and groom arrive, I paint them in. I finish the painting in front of all the guests. I am usually met with stunned looks and begin to get to know everyone when the come by and see the finished painting. The first painting is usually 11 x 14. I have to work small to get in all the details quickly. If it were larger, it may take too much time.




Once the ceremony is over I run over to to the reception and set up my gear to paint the first dance. You must be very organized to get this done quickly. I don't need a lot of space so I fit in quite nicely. Since I use odorless turpentine, there is no odor to get in the way of the delicious food. I just need a place to plug in my lamp so I can see. When the guests arrive, they are able to see me work from a white canvas and see the finish painting appear in front of their eyes! This time I am working on a 
16 x 20 canvas.
Again, I am quickly adding in the room's details waiting for the moment when the bride and groom arrive and dance their first dance. It is a very tense time for me. By this time, I am already standing for three or four hours. I want this painting to be brilliant!
When the couple arrive and begin dancing, I quickly sketch them in and then take as many photos as I am able, to capture details I may use later when I am back in the studio. Since I like the energy and looseness in these quick sketches, I rarely touch up my paintings when I get home. 
Once the dance is over, I begin to relax knowing I have plenty of time to finish while the guests are eating and dancing. Once my painting is in the finish stages, it's my turn to enjoy myself. I love interacting with the guests and have them add a stroke or two to the painting to make the painting more intimate and personal. This is usually a big hit. Since this is fairly a new trend, most of the guests have never heard of this. They love to feel the brush in their hands and get into the idea that this painting will be on the newly wedded couple's wall with a few of their own stokes.

What the bride and groom get is their very first heirloom. A timeless work of art showing their most special day. Sometimes they keep both paintings, other times they gift one painting to their parents and keep the other. It is fun to see them arguing about who gets what!

I also paint at LIVE events and fundraisers. It is a wonderful way to educate people who would not ordinarily see artists at work. I make myself accessible to answer any questions they may have. It is a great community awareness from the companies that hire me. People may be inspired to donate more at fundraisers knowing they will bring a beautiful piece of artwork home with them.

If this sounds like it is for you, you have to be confident and fearless. You must be able to mingle with the guests while you are working. You have to be able to stand for long hours. And you have to do a good job.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Hosting a Workshop in January

     Normally, you need to schedule a workshop months in advance. Scheduling for January is always tricky. Especially on Cape Cod. Is anyone around in the deep of winter? If so, will they be willing to come out in the cold weather? Will it snow and get canceled?
    The ride down the first day had snow in the forecast.... great! I took my husband's truck with four wheel drive and made the trek down there. Snow turned to rain. I saw a spin out, but with not much traffic on my side of the expressway, I made it there in no time without incident.
     I was pleasantly surprised to find out that my workshop filled at the Cape Cod Art Association. I had a bunch of nice ladies joining me to work really hard for two days.
     Each day, I started the workshop with a demo giving out a ton of information. The first day was longer and more involved than the second, since I wanted them to have more time to work on their own portraits. After stopping for a quick lunch, we all came back and the students all began their own portraits.
     Day one, we had Joanna sit. She was a Ann Hathaway look alike. A dancer, she held the most delicate pose. Unfortunately, I had to ask her to sit looking straight ahead to make my instruction clear. I added a black back round to offset her very light completion. It is easier to paint a lot of contrast than very subtle differences. Everyone stood as close to the model as we could manage and began using a limited palette.
   Everyone seemed to catch on pretty quickly. Questions asked were perfect to make my instruction more clear. By the end of the afternoon, everyone did a great job for only painting for 2 hours.
   The next day was sunny. I was so happy having to drive such a long distance....until I found the sun blaring right into my eyes, made worse by the glare from the wet road! I was happy to arrive!
   This time, we had Cherise sit. A jazz singer and polar opposite from our first model with a beautiful olive completion and stunning dark hair. I changed the back round to a lighter grey.
   I started with a shorter demo, repeating much of what I said the first day so it would set in or they would catch something they missed before. I wanted to have everyone work most of the day to finish this portrait. I made sure everyone took a different spot to insure no one stayed in the best/worst spot both days. After experiencing the first day's painting, the students knew what I was getting at and all began painting.
   Again, it was a successful day of painting. Not a bad portrait in the room. Everyone was beaming. It was worth the stress of coming out in the deep of winter. Everyone learned a lot and they all told me they were pleased with the workshop. I was tired when I left, but relieved it all went so well. I was leaving for Florida the next day and could begin to think about it.
   So the next time you are wondering if you should sign up for a class in the middle of winter, ask yourself what else would you do? Go for it and spend a weekend with some great people and learn something!

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Cold Weather Plein Air

November is not a month you plan on taking your class outdoors, but this month has been fairly warm enough to go outdoors. With each class, I wait till the night before to decide whether I will take them out or not. Each morning, I would wait for complaints from my students if it was near or below 50 degrees. Each time, I was happy my class was hardy and no one ever complained. We were never too uncomfortable and always did some really exciting work.



I just returned from a short trip up to Ashland, New Hampshire for a quick painting trip with a few of my friends.The forecast was COLD and getting COLDER... I was apprehensive about going since I am not a spring chicken anymore. I was worried I couldn't handle the cold like I used to. But we ended up doing two paintings one day and one more the next before heading home. We dressed up with many layers and found some nice spots and hunkered down. Each day was in the low 40's and the second day was windy to boot. After each painting session, we were definitely chilled, but we got almost three hours in each time. We were somewhat happy about our outcomes...



I have found that if the weather is 40 degrees or higher, it is very manageable to paint outdoors. Unless there is wind. The wind will go through you very quickly. My limit is 20 degrees. I have found that any cold than that is not worth it to me. A friend of mine was painting in below zero weather and got frostbite. That will affect her for her whole life now. Now even though the temperature is not perfect or it may be too windy, I might paint in my car. That will help and I won't lose a great painting day.

When you plan on painting outdoors, you just have to be prepared. Many layers of clothes and good boots will get you through. Now there are heated vests, boots and gloves you can buy. Or those little heated pads you activate when you open them will help as well. The first thing to go cold on me is my hands. I can bundle up everywhere else, but if my gloves are too bulky, I can't hold my brushes. So I use a thin glove and my hands will feel it. I use latex gloves over them at times to cut any wind-chill, but it is difficult for me especially because I have arthritis in my fingers. I have a pair of Cabela boots that I can survive in below 145 degrees, so my feet are the last thing to go cold. A hot thermos doesn't hurt to warm up your insides.

When I have my students out on a cold day, I want to show them how doable 40 degrees can be. In my area, a lot of the winter is 40 degrees, so there are many opportunities to paint outdoors. I love being outdoors in the winter and it certainly makes it go by faster when you can get out there. The scenes are much more subtle and there is less details to paint with a thick snow so you can get a lot done in a little time. I am never disappointed when I go through all that trouble. The trick is to just DO IT and not think about what you have to do to prepare for it. If I think to myself that I have to put on long johns and find my boots and wear all of those layers, I will talk myself out of going every time. If I am disciplined and force myself out there, I am always glad I did it. It is so fun to see your new work next to paintings from other seasons too. I love to compare the color harmonies and differences in the values and compositions I choose.