After coming across the drawings and paintings by Tanya Miller we had to find out what makes her tick, her inspirations and the story behind her superb surrealistic artworks. So we tracked her down to ask her some questions.
When did you move from Russia to the United States?
I was born in Khabarovsk, right next to Russian-Chinese border. When I was 3 my family moved to the opposite end of Russia- Kaliningrad, right next to the Polish border. After school I studied in The Kaliningrad University for three years and in 1999 went to study to a Christian college in Iowa.
What were your inspiration and influences growing up that led you to become an artist?
First, my farther is an artist and he loved art so genuinely that I got infected with this wonderful disease called “art”. Second, I loved to read, ( still do): books gave me so many ideas , and emotional excitement that I needed to pour them out somewhere . Art served as best means for that purpose. Nothing was better for me than to come back from school , take a book ,cover myself with a warm blanket, and read, read and read Books transported me to other countries, other times. I could live through different experiences and feel different emotions. Reading helped me to develop my imagination and gave a lot of inspiration in art.
When did you start painting/drawing?
Probably, as many children – at the age of 3. But I fell in love with art when I was around 10. It was more interesting for me to do something with my own hands than anything else in the world. I would sit for hours painting my hand-made small sculptures, drawing with ink, or sewing some strange animals and then embroidering them with different designs. I would say, making art relaxed and hypnotized me, so I became an “art addict” at a very young age.
Who are your favorite artists? Why?
I love all ,completely all artists that have ever existed in the Art History. They all are my favorites. I have a large collection of art books. One day I enjoy looking at Velazquez , second day at Picasso, third day at Canaletto. I love every artist I can learn something new from. I really like to learn and try new things. I love Rembrandt for his freedom in drawing and genuine emotions behind his artworks. I love Vermeer magnetic and mysterious paintings and the feeling of eternity they transcend. I love Picasso for his playfulness and vigorous energy. I love Bruegel for his humor and philosophy. I also love Daumier, Bellini, Mantegna, Dore, Magritte, Pietro Della Francesca…and many, many more.
How would you describe your artwork to someone who has not seen it?
I like to try and learn new things , so my artworks are very different. Some artworks are just playful , some are allegorical and have a meaning. But whatever I make, I try to correspond some kind of emotion or mood. For example in “Underwater” I wanted to create a feeling of serenity, contemplation, calmness. All my works start with an emotion and only after that I materialize them into “physical” images.
Specifically, your Self Portrait (2007)…the focal point is a woman sitting in a chair while chaos surrounds her…(my observation.) Can you give more insight into this piece?
It was a very intense and difficult time in my life because my children were very small (I have two kids). The daily routine and all the family duties I had to do reduced the time for making art to a minimum. I felt so much energy and inspiration inside, but I could materialize only a few things. The tension inside of me was growing and I felt very miserable and torn apart by my inner desires to create and reality of daily “life struggles”.
In the “The Happy Tree”…please describe why this tree is happy and what is going on in this painting?
I felt happy at that time and wanted to make something joyful, carefree and….happy. People in this piece are just enjoying themselves: drinking tea, dancing, relaxing , doing funny and carefree things. In normal life we are so stressed out and tense that we usually loose this feeling of “spontaneous” happiness without reason. In the “Happy Tree” people are surrounded by the necessary and daily needed things. They have everything at hand, just put a hand “out there” and you have it. Isn’t this happiness? No rush, no hurry, just joy and carelessness. The clocks on/in the tree is a reminder that time is the king and queen of everything. Everything has its beginning and its end, and happiness, of course, too.
What disciplines do you employ when setting about to paint? Where do your ideas come from?
My ideas come from my subconscious. First, I visualize images in my head, then I transport them into my sketchbook. Sometimes I can sit for two – three hours on the sofa, daydreaming the pictures. When I come up with something interesting I take a sketchbook and draw the image. It does not always come easy and playing with images in my head needs a lot of concentration. Only one out of 20 ideas in my sketchbook comes to life. I have to live through everything I want to paint or draw, otherwise, it is not interesting for me materialize “dead or doubtful ideas”.
Which medium do you enjoy working in most? (oil or watercolor, etc.)
I love all the techniques. Usually, I like to change them, for example: make a painting, than a drawing, and after that an etching. But drawing is the basis for every other technique be it a painting, watercolor, or an etching. For me drawing is at the top of my priority list. Usually before making a painting or an etching I do a monochrome ink drawing.
If you could spend the day with any artist, dead or alive, who would it be?
(Hieronymus) Bosch. I would want to learn more about his life philosophy, his relationship with religion, people, art. He had such a complex mysterious worldview which I have always been curious to learn about. I also cannot help but name two other artists that I would have a very strong desire to talk to: Jan Van Eyck and Vermeer. So little known about them and such mysterious, magnetic, hypnotizing paintings. Behind those artworks stand some really grandeur personalities. They possessed some secretes, knowledge and understanding of life that I would want to learn about.
Name 5 items you could not live without.
Curiosity, faith in miracles, creativity, emotions and sense of humor.
‘From the life of furniture‘
‘From the life of fruits and vegetables‘
‘The Birth of Flora‘
Tanya Miller has had her work exhibited in several galleries in the United States and abroad.