Scroll down to see “Sycamore Farm,” which has received an Honorable Mention in the 47th Annual Open Art Award Exhibition at the Lancaster Museum of Art, juried by Victoria Donohoe, Art Critic for the Philadelphia Inquirer for over 30 years. An opening reception for the show will be held 5-8 pm, Friday, June 5, at the museum — 135 N Lime St, Lancaster, PA 17602. Awards will be announced at 6 pm.

Calla Lilies

May 18, 2009

Calla Lilies 5.18.09

“Calla Lilies,” by Kevin Miller, 20″ x 24″ acrylic on canvas, May, 2009

29″ x 32″ framed and ready to hang

Peaceful “Calla Lilies” seemed like the perfect thing to paint while I was down with a springtime cold or allergies for a week. Introspective, lyrical and spiritual, calla lilies have always captivated me, as they did Diego Rivera, who painted them frequently. I return to them for refuge, as I do to prayer or meditation from time to time. Their unfolding spiral design centers me. Calla lilies impart peace.

I finished “Calla Lilies” Saturday evening at 6pm and enjoyed a drink up in the Tree House Deck overlooking the pond, watching the koi leap and thinking about the future. I made chicken and vegetable fajitas with refried beans on corn tortillas for dinner. It was a warm evening. A thunderstorm was approaching, so I opened all the doors and windows in my rickety old temporary house to enjoy it. A car full of young people drove by on my dirt road and shouted “WHITE TRASH!” I felt a surge of pride to know that after a lifetime of hard mental and aesthetic work, worldwide travel and high level work with scores of Fortune 500 companies, and other richly varied experiences, I had finally earned this label.

However, this morning it occurred to me that I probably could have arrived at this same place without devoting so many decades of my life to commercial concerns, just by squatting in a shack in the woods somewhere and painting. But there are no mistakes in life. I had, and continue have so much to learn. The commercial arena has been an excellent school for absorbing needed lessons and balancing my natural hermit tendencies with activities among people in the “real” world.

Still, it feels really wonderful to spend at least some time painting again. As long as I can pay essential bills and feed and shelter myself and my animals, I’d rather paint any day than count a mountain of money.



“Aix-en-Provence,” by Kevin Miller, 24″ x 24″ oil on board. (SOLD) In 1970 this was Kevin Miller’s first “Provence Style” composition

In 1969 I was a dirt-poor 20-year-old art student in Aix-en-Provence, France, attending classes at the “Ecole des Beaux Arts” and the “Institute des Etudes Francaises pour les Etudiants Etrangers” — the foreign students’ division of the “Universite d”Aix Marseille.” My long hair parted in the middle, wispy goatee, and wire rimmed glasses made me an easy object of ridicule for the sophisticated French students. I trudged through the streets in my long trench coat, enduring their cool sarcasm while reading Jean Paul Sartre in the original French and sketching furiously in a black book I carried. I still have that sketchbook to this day, 40 years later.

My dear old landlady was Madame Marbain, from whom I rented one room overlooking the “Place de l’Opera.” Her artist father had known Matisse, and she recalled sitting in the great master’s lap when she was a little girl. Eventually she married an artist herself. It was my great good fortune to find myself in her home, because she was well connected at the “Ecole des Beaux Arts,” and insisted that they admit me, when she discovered that I could draw.

One day I drew a very earnest self-portrait and showed it to her. She laughed uproariously and finally said, “Is that how you really see yourself? Well… It is the serious young men, like you, who grow up to be FUN old men!” She was uncommonly intelligent and had the infallible eye of a professional art critic. I always showed her my drawings and paintings, because in an instant she could put her finger on the weakness that still needed work, while acknowledging the strong points in the pieces as well.

 Madame Marbain could not pronounce the name “Kevin,” so she approximated the syllables with two French words and called me “Coeur-vin,” which means “Heart-wine.” She was my confidant, my teacher and my landlady, but she treated me like “Coeur-vin,” and I benefited enormously from her guidance, her discipline, and her love, all three in equal measure.


“Old Tree Town,” by Kevin Miller, 2003, 11″ x 14″ acrylic on canvas. (SOLD)

I was taking a sculpture class from a friend of Madame Marbain’s who was a professor at the “Ecole des Beaux Arts.” Our assignment was to copy a great mask by the French master Poussin. The 4’6″ tall professor seemed pleased with my work on the mask after her 10th tour of the class during which she offered critiques and advice to the students. So I decided that my copy work was done and it was time to alter the mask and make it my own. I deepened the eye sockets, added luxuriant hair and full lips — I romanticized it. The next time Madame Professeur came around, she flew into a screaming rage when she saw my mask. “How dare you presume to improve upon the great master Poussin!” she roared, and ripped off the nose. “Do you think you are better than one of the greatest artists who ever lived?” and she gouged out the eyes. At first I could barely breath for the shock, but then I found that my facility in French suddenly tripled in an instant and I had plenty to say to her. However, I don’t remember a word of it, because her very top student, a stunningly beautiful, tall, cool, young French woman, sauntered over to the scene of violent wreckage and conflict, looked down upon the little professor, and said matter-of-factly, “What are you doing?… His mask was better than Poussin’s.”

Then I made one of the biggest mistakes of my life: I left the class and never went back. I never went back to that sculpture class. I never went back to the figure drawing class where I had shocked the French students with my photo-realistic nudes. I never went back to the “Ecole des Beaux Arts.” I was young and stupid. I did not know what a remarkable opportunity I was privileged to enjoy. I did not understand the value of abusive criticism and I certainly did not yet know how to transform it into thick skin and inner resolve. But Madame Marbain and her friend the short professor and all the classes I took at both institutes, offered me the best and most intensive education of my life. Everything I experienced in Aix-en-Provence and Paris changed and influenced my life forever, and for the better.


“Victorian House,” by Kevin Miller, 2003, 11″ x 14″ acrylic on canvas. (SOLD)

One beautiful day I hiked out of town and sat down on a hillside to sketch the Provence countryside. When I returned to the United States I painted the oil painting, shown at the top of this posting, from that sketch. It was the first of many paintings in this style, which owes so much to Aix-en-Provence itself, and to Cezanne who lived in that region and became the father of cubism, in my opinion. Everyone likes to insist that Picasso and Braque invented cubism. But the roots of cubism are clearly visible in the landscapes of Cezanne, painted in those same hills that I was privileged to roam.

Decades later, my beloved octogenarian father surveyed the many paintings I had done over the years in this style and proclaimed it to be my “Provence Style.” The label has stuck, and I am happy with it. The painting shown above has hung in my parents’ living room for nearly 40 years and it still does.




“Sycamore Farm”

April 21, 2009

Here is “Sycamore Farm,” finished just an hour ago.


“Sycamore Farm,” 20″ x 24″ acrylic on canvas by Kevin Miller

29″ x 32″ framed and ready to hang 

Many sprawling sycamore trees grow near the lower Susquehanna River where I live. The Amish and Mennonite farm buildings in this area are often painted white.

Today I will finish my 18″ x 24″ Provence Style painting, “Sycamore Farm,” which owes a lot to Cezanne and Picasso and Southern France, where I studied at L’Institut des Beaux Arts many years ago. Below is an example of another painting in the “Provence Style.”

11" x 14" acrylic on canvas board

 “San Clemente Hills,” 11″ x 14″ acrylic on canvas by Kevin Miller. (SOLD)

Loosely based on my former home in San Clemente, California