Fine Artist and Designer Rose Miller’s paintings are playful and bright, taking inspiration from iconic design, fashion and pop culture moments throughout history. Jenna Templeton chats to Rose about her unique style of art that gives a respectful nod to the past and to childhood wonder.
I create figurative oil paintings that have vintage-retro fashion and design references, but with a contemporary edge. The brighter the better I say, as this reflects my own personal style – colour makes me cheerful and happy, and that’s how I want my viewers to feel. These works are so much fun to paint and they’re my creative sanity while at home looking after my kids. Because of my limited time to dedicate to my art career, these paintings are quite small in size. There’s an intimacy in all of the fine detail in each work. Every brushstroke is lovingly placed on canvas to create the illusion of realism.
Rather than aim for photo-real, I want my paintings to look more illustrated. It’s not perfection that I want, its personality.
I do love the anonymity of painting portraits without their faces in view. These fantastical and made up people within the portraits allow the viewer to become more engaged with the artwork by allowing them to imagine who this person could be. I want the viewer to have their own personal narrative to the painting, rather than just presenting them with pretty picture where all is revealed and predictable. And also, I just have so much hair envy! I do love a good hairdo, so I figure why not highlight that part of the head and appreciate the beauty of a well primped coiffure.
The paintings of the children feature real kids I know of. But with the portraits of the women, they’re mash ups of found images from all different media sources. For instance, I may find a fabulous hairstyle on Pinterest, or a face or pose that interests me from a magazine. I then take all of these particular elements to create my own complete image that I then use to paint from. This is the most fun part of creating a painting, as I am unlimited in the outcome of the image. For instance, I can create a portrait of someone who doesn’t exist by taking bits and pieces of different people and making them into one, so I have the choice to be totally fantastical in how they’re portrayed visually.
I love painting children’s portraits because I genuinely do love, enjoy and appreciate being around them. To me, all children are visually beautiful, and it’s a pleasure to be able to capture their beauty through my artistic process. As for my paintings of the well coiffed and sassy women that I create, again it’s a fantasy of everything that I find fun, pretty and charming.
I’m really just a big girly girl who wants to play dress ups all the time, but I can do this with paint.
I take inspiration from the past and revamp and update them for a contemporary audience. For me, this method of mashing up the eras creates a feeling of timelessness. I hope my artworks’ overall feel and design stand the test of time to be relatable to future audiences. I also have a faithful muse, my beloved and ever loyal toy poodle Wolfgang. He’s sat with me with every painting I’ve ever created since becoming an artist, and that’s a good 15 years. Wolfgang worked with me around the world including eight years in France. He’s my good luck charm.
I’ve featured my children in my work, but most of the paintings I do of them are in my own collection that I don’t display out of my home or on social media. I guess for me these are my own personal recollections of them – private mementos for my family. When I do paint them, there’s a deep connection that surpasses the visual aspect of painting someone.
When painting my children, I’m painting my heart and soul, and for me that’s a very personal experience.
My seven-year-old son William is such a huge supporter of my art, he understands that this is not only my job, but being an artist is part of me as a person. He’s very proud that my paintings are in people’s homes and on display. He does wish I painted more boys in my art, as well as superheroes. My daughter Madison also loves to be involved with my work, she likes to sit next to me and paint, but in reality this is pretty much a messy and unproductive painting time. But it is nice when it happens!
My husband John and I were so busy with our careers that we never thought of having children and if we did, it was something we’d leave for a few years later. So when I fell pregnant, I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. It came as such a shock and I was not prepared at all. The unpreparedness of motherhood was tough on my career. It’s taken a long time to blend the two worlds together. It’s still a daily struggle, but I’m ever so grateful I can have both.
Emotionally, I’ve learnt I’m a lot more resilient and tougher than I thought myself to be, as I’m pushed to my limits both physically and emotionally every day. Having said that, I feel so much more vulnerable. I’m constantly thinking about my family, worrying about them and trying to protect them. It’s like my heart has left me and now walks on many legs that are out of my control.
When I was a child, from early on I found great comfort and enjoyment in drawing and spent most of my time copying the glamorous pictures out of magazines. My mum would buy me the latest issues of Vogue as a child, as she knew that would keep me busy for the month. Although they were encouraging with my art, they didn’t want me to be an artist as they didn’t think it was a financially viable career, but this only made me work harder and be more dedicated to making it work.
My Wolfgang & Rose brand is very different to what I was painting before having children. After working in the fashion industry after school, I left that career path to study art. Luckily my work appealed to the art world and I was taken in by a very prominent art dealer who guided my career successfully. I moved to France, where my art sold well enough to keep me working full-time, which is a luxury for an artist. These works were much darker in context both visually and conceptually and were also quite large in scale. My market was towards the academic, high-end art world and to survive in that field you have to produce or perish.
I tried to keep up within the industry, but with a baby in tow that needed me, I eventually left the game. I was devastated, but in the end I could never give up that precious time with my baby to keep painting. Also I felt creatively lost as what I used to paint didn’t connect with me anymore as a mother…my interests and priorities had changed. Fast forward a few years after my daughter came along, I set up Wolfgang & Rose art, which is a redesigned career path for me. I have a totally different creative ethic that I better connect with. These brighter and lighter paintings reflect my lifestyle and are true to who I am. I’m no longer committed to galleries to produce work for them, but rather I now paint when I have the time to fit in with my family. I may not be taken as a serious academic artist now, but I’m definitely happier and creatively freer.
I do have a creative studio space; it’s a tiny room in my house. Although I’m rarely in there, it’s my little sanctuary to be creative on my own. My creative process is not very glamorous as I do lots planning in my head by daydreaming about paintings and ideas. I could be pushing my daughter on the swing at the park, or doing the ironing. These little moments when I’m not so hands-on are my little escapes from reality. It’s naughty as I should be more emotionally present with my kids, but I do need that creative flow release and time to think. So when I do get time to paint, everything is already worked out in my head to put those ideas into paint.
Is there anything you’d like to share with other mums who may be trying to combine their lives as creatives and caretakers?
Make sure you set aside your creative time as part of your home time, as it’s easy to skip this when the chores build up. If this means locking yourself in a room to do your work and putting the telly on to babysit the kids, don’t feel guilty about it.
Motherhood is a roller coaster, so you need your creative sanity to balance out the chaos.
You and your children will benefit from your creative happiness, and it will also inspire them to seek out what they find enjoyment from.
We’re all about celebrating Australian motherhood and creativity on childmagsblog.com. What does it mean to you to be an Australian creative, who’s also a mother?
In reality, it’s tough being a creative as well as the caretaker at home. I’m always thinking about my next artwork and ideas. When I get like this around my kids, I feel guilty that I’m not emotionally present around them. When I do get time to myself to work, I’m too exhausted to even lift a paintbrush. It’s a constant battle for me that I’m still trying to achieve balance. Having the opportunity to have both worlds in my life is something I’m truly grateful for. I know my kids benefit seeing me living my dream as an artist and I believe it makes them feel secure and confident in me and within themselves. Being creative is an unlimited freedom to discover and explore new ideas and I want my children to benefit from this way of life.
Even though I’m limited for time to work while caring for my children, I know when they’ve grown up I can take on bigger projects that’ll take more of my time and push my creativity further. The most wonderful thing about being an artist is sharing my creativity with my family, sharing the excitement and fulfillment of making art brings us closer together.
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Entries close midnight 31 May 2016. Good luck.
Big thanks to Rose for allowing two of our lucky readers to win one of her delightful art prints.
Rose Miller, 40, her two children, William, 7, Madison, 2, and partner John live and paint in the beautiful city of Sydney, NSW, along with her poodle ‘muse’ Wolfgang. When not covered in Rose’s children or paint, you can find Wolfgang and Rose smelling flowers, eating cake or laughing at funny cat videos online. Head on over to her website to see her collection and online shop and you can follow Rose’s creative process via her blog and Instagram.