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Check Out Matt Miller’s Story

Today we’d like to introduce you to Matt Miller.

Hi Matt, can you start by introducing yourself? We’d love to learn more about how you got to where you are today?
The simple story of how I became an artist goes like this: About six years ago, I was going through a pretty tough time and started self-medicating with art therapy. I ended up getting addicted to painting.

I’m being tongue-in-cheek when I describe it that way, but I’m making a very serious point. There is something special that happens to your brain when you are absorbed in creative work. Because you are devoting so much brainpower to the task at hand, you don’t have any cognitive resources leftover for stress and worry. It can even be euphoric, just like a runner’s high or a yoga session. Once I noticed that painting had this profound effect on my mental well-being, I committed to making it a part of my life.

Eventually, I got hooked on live painting because it’s such a thrill. I started out by painting live bands at nightclubs in Denver. Then I started traveling to Ironman triathlons to paint scenes from the racecourse. And over the last year or so I’ve been painting at weddings.

The thing that I love about live painting is that it’s like a sport. There is a lot of mental preparation (and nervousness) leading up to the event. You have to be in a peak state to perform because there are time limits and no do-overs. And there are spectators watching and wanting to ask questions (and sometimes critique your work).

Not every artist would be thrilled about having to complete a painting under such challenging conditions. But it puts me in the zone. Painting in a high-pressure scenario helps me get into focus and makes me feel confident. It’s quite a thrill.

I’m sure you wouldn’t say it’s been obstacle-free, but so far would you say the journey has been a fairly smooth road?
When an artist decides to “go pro” that means that his artwork has to play a different role in his life. And there is this tightrope he has to walk.

Here’s what I mean: As an amateur artist (one who creates for pure enjoyment) the creative process is more like a hobby that makes the artist himself feel good. As a professional artist (one who creates to make money) the creative process becomes work that must contribute value to others.

The trick is to find that sweet spot where the amateur and professional overlap.

This doesn’t mean that you have to make compromises about the kind of art that you create. A better solution is to improve your marketing and find the right people who will appreciate the art that you love to make.

This is easier said than done, of course. Especially for an artist who isn’t a natural at marketing and sales. After six years of pursuing art professionally, it is still an ongoing struggle to find that sweet spot.

Alright, so let’s switch gears a bit and talk business. What should we know about your work?
I love to paint from life. My specialties are (a) live painting and (b) Plein air painting.

Several years ago, I began live painting at Denver nightclubs, creating depictions of live bands while they played on stage. Eventually, I started doing live paintings at sports events, such as the Ironman triathlon and even some NCAA games. And recently I’ve been working with event planners to do live paintings at weddings and corporate parties.

At this point, I’ve completed hundreds of live paintings in a variety of settings across the country. I still get nervous. But I also feel proud and confident knowing that I’ve put in the time to develop my craft.

“Plein air painting” refers to painting outdoors scenery from life. It can be just as challenging as live painting, but it’s a little more peaceful. It’s one of the most intimate ways that you can connect with nature because you have to be immersed in the scene, aware of the shapes and colors, and lighting conditions.

And because Plein air paintings are created rapidly in one session, they tend to have an energy that can’t be replicated in a studio painting. This is especially the case with my own Plein air paintings because I work on much larger canvases. Completing the painting in time is a strenuous and athletic ordeal.

Sometimes my shoulders get sore from aggressively slapping paint on the canvas. And that motion can be detected in the style and texture of the finished work.

We’re always looking for the lessons that can be learned in any situation, including tragic ones like the Covid-19 crisis. Are there any lessons you’ve learned that you can share?
Because I had put so much focus and energy into live painting (at crowded events), this pandemic situation has been particularly tough for me. But it has forced me to think creatively about how to adapt. My entrepreneurial muscles have been working hard, leading me to try out lots of new ideas and projects.

Not all of them have worked out so well, but it has expanded the range of work that I’m capable of doing. Even though the business side of things has been frustrating, I can see that I’ve leveled up in my skills as an artist.

And there are some positive changes that I’m working on. For one, I am stepping up my online presence with video. Additionally, I am exploring the role of teacher – or “coach” – who can introduce others to the wonderful experience that is painting.

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1 Comment

  1. Matt Miller

    November 23, 2021 at 6:33 pm

    Thank you VoyageSTL for the opportunity to share my story and promote my work!

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