SHIPMENTS MAY BE DELAYED DUE TO THE NEGATIVE IMPACTS OF COVID-19.

INTERVIEW WITH IAN THOMAS MILLER

Imagination and the power of Boredom: Dullness leading to fullness.

THE INTERVIEW WAS DONE ON

25 SEPTEMBER 2020

S.M
"Tell us a little bit about yourself."

I.M

"I grew up in Minnesota and spent most of my life in the midwest, but I recently moved to the west coast.


I primarily make paintings and drawings. Lately, my work has focussed on objects and/or situations that may initially be perceived as insignificant, but when uniquely paired, divergently utilized, and specifically framed, take on new meaning."

"I think many of us have a propensity to imbue inanimate objects, nature, animals, etc… with what we consider to be human characteristics and traits. I think on one hand, this speaks to our inherent narcissism and insecurities, but on the other, it’s a way for us to relate to the world and the interactions around us in a more comprehensive way, and ultimately (hopefully) from a place of understanding and empathy. Like seeing smiley faces everywhere, we’re constantly looking for ourselves in everything."

S.M
"Did you paint from a young age? What led you to pursue a career as an artist?"

I.M

"I've been drawing since I was young. I would often draw scenes from stories I was reading (I drew a lot of elves), or I'd try to come up with designs for skate brands I liked. 


In college, I initially pursued training as an illustrator and designer, but in my sophomore year, I took a painting class taught by Ann Toebbe, it was the first time I had really made any serious attempt at painting, and although my initial paintings were by no means any good, I quickly realized that studio arts and painting were the points where many of my interests converged. I've been actively / consistently making and painting ever since."

S.M
"Why Oil Painting?"

I.M

"For me, painting has proven to be a useful method for observing & thinking things through.


As a medium, oil paints are what we initially learned to paint with in class, and I liked the look and feel of them, so I just continued to use them. I've experimented with other paints and mediums as well, but oils still seem to work best for the style and the speed at which I currently paint (my speed being on the slower side)."

S.M
"What was college like? And life in Chicago?"

I.M

"I learned a lot at college, I had some great professors and classmates. That being said, I definitely wish I had had the wherewithal to better utilize the facilities and to take every extra opportunity to learn more while I was there. I don't think I really had much of a grasp on what I was trying to accomplish, make sense of, or really say with art and painting at that time, so I didn't really know what questions to ask. I suppose that's kind of the point of school in the first place, to figure things out. But hindsight is 20/20 and if I could do it again, I would ask a lot more questions and I would spend way more of my free-time time in the studio.


There's always something going on in Chicago. There's a lot of excellent artists based there and some great spaces/galleries. Tons of music out there, too."

S.M
"Speaking of music, what sort of music do you listen to?"

I.M

"It changes all of the time, but lately, I've been listening to Sassy 009, Yves Tumor, You'll Never Get to Heaven, and Bill Evans Trio."

S.M
"Your recent work seems to capture unique, yet somewhat ordinary and comforting scenes of daily life. Tell us what you’re inspired by?"

I.M

"I've worked from home for about four years now, so as familiar as I am with the spaces I'm often in, I'm always looking for unique arrangements and occurrences that either come about organically, or that I see as vehicles/opportunities for exploration (a pairing of objects, etc..) I think moments of boredom, and allowing yourself to be bored, is important, as those are often the moments when ideas start to surface. Dullness leading to fullness."

S.M
"Boredom. Would you say that this is something that fuels your imagination? Kind of like daydreaming?"

I.M

"Definitely. Going on walks, trying to fall asleep, waiting for someone or something, etc… Those moments when it’s just you and you’re able to follow your thoughts where they take you."

S.M
"The paintings have this peaceful quality but also feel playful and youthful sometimes (like the boxing glove). Is this atmosphere something you intended to create?"

I.M

"For sure. I think a lot of the work is playful, a bit funny, a bit mundane, but I think there is a layer (though sometimes subtle) of severity or unease within a lot of the paintings. Ultimately I don't want them to say or be just one thing. There is an intention, but a certain ambiguity to a lot of the work. I think a lot of situations, interactions, and moments are funny and sad, known but unknowable. I'm interested in those dichotomies."

S.M
"One of our favorite paintings is "What’s in a gesture?”(first image of the article). Can you tell us a bit more about the piece? What's the story?"

I.M

"That painting feels very topical right now, given the pandemic, but it was completed well before the pandemic began. So although I was thinking about protection, it wasn’t in relation to the disease. I was thinking about vulnerability and gestures, the barriers that many of us put up either intentionally or unintentionally. The focus is on the gesture, on the heavily padded and shield-like motorcycle glove, and not the bouquet itself. The scenarios in which a bouquet could be offered are numerous - out of love, gratitude, condolence, etc… I wanted to look at what can be hidden behind a gesture. It’s kind of a physical representation of something that would otherwise be internal."

"It’s easy to get stuck in a certain mode of creation, or style, but I think it’s useful to acknowledge this as an essential step towards the next thing. The boredom that’s necessary for the existence of excitement and discovery. You can’t have one without the other."

S.M
"In general, what is your process like? You know...from the idea to finishing a piece."

I.M

"Lately, I've been starting with / working from photos or videos I've taken. Sometimes they'll be images I've pre-planned and staged, other times they'll be random discoveries made when looking through the photos at a later date. Then it's a matter of drafting - digitally cropping, arranging, editing, maybe some sketching (digital or traditional). The process varies a bit piece to piece, but ultimately, a good portion of the piece is pre-planned and laid out in this way before I actually start painting (in the traditional sense) with the oils. That being said, the image shifts and takes on, what to me, are some of its most important attributes, during the painting process - intentional and unintentional modifications and decisions, the "imperfection" of the human hand, the look and feel and implications of a painted image, etc..


My process is a fairly technical one, but the tactile brush-to-canvas part (which happens to be the most time-consuming part) is where I feel I'm able to sort out and push and pull on the image a bit more - not just in a literal way, but in more of an analytical and critical way as well. Spending a lot of time with any single image pushes one to explore what is often tangential and unexpected avenues of thought and interpretation."

S.M
"What is your daily routine? Any rituals or things you do to get the creative engine running?"

I.M

"I usually wake up around 7ish, have some coffee, do some design work, and then get to painting as soon as I can. I don't really have a specific thing that I do to get the juices flowing. It's more so just a matter of getting started. Once I've started mixing paints, or working on drafts, etc.. I'm in it, but as with any creative endeavor, or really any type of endeavor at all, it can often be intimidating just to start. "

S.M
"What do you do outside your life as an artist?"

I.M

"I also work as a freelance graphic designer, which, that being said, I believe graphic designers can be artists as well - just wanting to be clear about that! I think there can be a lot of overlap there. There are plenty of discussions about what is ‘art’ and what is ‘design’ and everything in-between, but I think those definitions can end up being relatively pliable. I just approach the two practices differently within my own work, so for me, they feel separate. But I know for others, both practices kind of ebb and flow into each other, which is always really cool to see as well.


I don’t know if I really answered your question there, haha. Additionally, my partner Sylvia and I have been trying to get into bird watching lately, we know virtually nothing about it yet, but It's fun."

"It’s important to always think critically about the subject matter one is dealing with. There are complex and layered histories wrapped up in everything. Flippancy is often destructive. We all make mistakes, but learning from them, growing, and changing is essential. We’re not born with all of the answers, and it’s important to remember that we’ll never have all of them either."

S.M
"A Graphic Designer/Painter hybrid is such a modern thing...and we love it. What’s your view on the rapid advancement of technology?"

I.M

"I think a lot of artists, including myself, incorporate technology into their practice in one way or another - and not always / necessarily as a way to make an overt statement about the intersection of traditional methods of making and modern technologies (although that perspective/argument can, of course, be made). Lately, at least in regards to my own painting practice, technology mostly feels like another tool in the tool belt.


I think technology in general, at both micro and macro levels are, and always will be, a double-edged sword. There are tons of pros, of course, but those pros are intrinsically linked with their cons. Like anything, it’s important to be cognizant and actively critical of the things we’re consuming and engaging with."

S.M
"Some would say that painting is a dead practice. Since you’re a skilled painter, assuming you disagree, what’s your view on painting…as a form of artistic practice."

I.M

"I think as a practice and as a definition ‘painting’ is extremely malleable. I believe it will continue to shift and grow, and there will always be new painters with fresh voices and ideas. So if you look at it with these things in mind, it can’t really die, right?"

S.M
"Have you ever considered trying other mediums? Like sculpting, etc."

I.M

"I have! I've dabbled with installation / readymade-esque works a little bit, but I've been wanting to try my hand at ceramics (or something of that nature) for a little while now."

S.M
"2020 has been a strange year with a lot of time to reflect. Covid-19, Black Lives Matter Movement, etc. What was it like for you so far? Did you make any discoveries? Or have any specific thoughts about the world?"

I.M

"Injustice, systemic racism, sexism, inequality, and hate continue to run rampant in our society. The continuous bombardment with tragedy and violence, with suppression and oppression, with social and ecological disasters, and systemic/structural inadequacies and failings, has undoubtedly resulted in heartbreak, and in turn, an ongoing push for essential and well overdue change. I've been listening and learning as much as I can, continuing to try and find ways of being a better ally. 


In regards to your question about discoveries, It was recommended that I read Carceral Capitalism by Jackie Wang, I recently did, and learned a ton. She talks about parasitic governance, predatory lending and policing, and much more. I'd definitely recommend it to anyone interested, as well.


As far as Covid-19 goes, I hope everyone continues to wear a mask, to look out for one's at-risk neighbors, friends, and family members. Remember that everything isn't about oneself and that we have to look out for each other."

S.M
"Yeah...It has been a dark time. But it certainly gave us more time to learn more, reflect, and work together. Finally, what sort of advice, or suggestion, would you give younger artists."

I.M

"I would say...It's never easy, but just keep trying to find ways to make work about what is important to you in a way that feels right to you. "

"I think many of us have a propensity to imbue inanimate objects, nature, animals, etc… with what we consider to be human characteristics and traits. I think on one hand, this speaks to our inherent narcissism and insecurities, but on the other, it’s a way for us to relate to the world and the interactions around us in a more comprehensive way, and ultimately (hopefully) from a place of understanding and empathy. Like seeing smiley faces everywhere, we’re constantly looking for ourselves in everything."

"It’s easy to get stuck in a certain mode of creation, or style, but I think it’s useful to acknowledge this as an essential step towards the next thing. The boredom that’s necessary for the existence of excitement and discovery. You can’t have one without the other."

"It’s important to always think critically about the subject matter one is dealing with. There are complex and layered histories wrapped up in everything. Flippancy is often destructive. We all make mistakes, but learning from them, growing, and changing is essential. We’re not born with all of the answers, and it’s important to remember that we’ll never have all of them either."