Paintings that make you smile
Britt Miller is a software product manager by day and an artist by night. Having painted for the better part of a decade, you can see her work in galleries all over the Philadelphia area, but most notably hanging on the set of the CBS 3 Talk Philly show.
I sat down with Britt for an afternoon and she was gracious enough to take me on a small tour of all the awesome places her work has ended up; we talked about the niche she’s carved out for herself over the past few years.
Who are you and what do you do?
My name is Britt Miller and I’m a product manager at a software company by day and by night I’m an artist. I primarily work in acrylic on canvas and do paintings of Philadelphia, bright flowers, and anything fun or bright that makes people smile.
How long have you been painting?
I’ve been painting for so many years it’s hard to pinpoint an exact starting date, but I would say I became really focused on it in 2004. When I was in college bought a bunch of canvases and supplies and just started painting. People really loved my work so I started giving paintings away and that progressed into selling them and that progressed into gallery shows which turned into what I have today, so it’s definitely been a long process.
There’s a lot to think about beyond just creating the piece itself if you want to promote yourself as an established artist.
What artists inspire you?
I love Monet, especially the Water Lilies. I visited Giverny while I was in France and that was a very cool experience to be standing in a painting.
What made you get started?
I had always been artistic growing up, taking art classes in school or summer art classes where you would just sit and do art all day long. It’s always in my nature, so it was really just a matter of getting the drive to go out and buy the supplies to start doing it.
Do you have any formal training?
I took a couple of art classes in college. I was an International Art minor which was a mix of studio time and art history. I also took a pastel class in Italy which was a lot of fun. So I had a handful of studio art classes that I attended, but it was in one of my international art classes I had a teacher that encouraged me to start showing my work off to the public and that started me down the path.
How would you describe your work?
That’s always been difficult for me. I guess I would say it’s bright and vibrant, maybe a little bit abstract. Hopefully something that makes the viewer happy when they see it or reminds them of Philadelphia. I’ve had a lot of people from Philly who have moved to other cities buy my paintings and they always say they get so happy when looking at my work because it reminds them of home.
You self-identify as a business and tech geek, is art a way to bring balance to your life?
I’m very into both business and tech, it’s what I’ve chosen to do for a living, but I’m also equally as passionate about art and the art world. I think there’s somewhat of an overlap between them as well. Working in the product field calls for some degree of creativity for how an end user interacts with a system or software while art calls for a certain sense of business savvy in terms of dealing with clients, booking shows, accounting, and other small business tasks.
How long does a typical painting take?
The length of time to complete a painting really depends on a number of factors: the size, of course, and the content. I like to work pretty quickly, which is why I work with acrylics and do a lot of thick paint and layering. It’s hard to give an exact span of hours or weeks but if I had to ballpark it I’d say six weeks from start to completion. That’s not working all day every day on it because I have a full time job, friends, family, running, and other activities so while trying to work the balance of painting in it usually takes about that long.
How do you know when it’s done?
I can tell a painting is done when it feels done. That’s a horrible answer but you just take a step back, you look at it, and you feel okay with all of the components of it. Once it all seems to fit together, you just kind of know.
A lot of your art features prominent Philly landmarks, what’s your favorite among them?
It’s not really a landmark per se, but I love painting the Philly Skyline. It’s pretty iconic and people from here or have visited at some point really connect with it quite a bit. I also really like the Ben Franklin Bridge, which isn’t a traditional Philly landmark but I run over the bridge while training so I connect with it that way. As far as the more common landmarks, I really like painting the Love Statue and Rittenhouse Square.
Are there any specific location paintings you do that are particularly popular?
I almost always get positive feedback quickly when I post something new that I’ve worked on, which is great, but more often than not it leads to a commission where someone says they love the painting but want it in blue to match their home.
It can be a little intimidating sometimes, but if you network you’d be surprised how willing people are to show off your work in their space.
I know that for my type of work, mainly video, I’m always going back and tinkering to improve things here and there. Do you ever get a similar feeling with your art or can you let it go pretty easily?
I tinker a little bit. I’ll get to a point where it’s done and I’ll take pictures of it, put it up on my website, and then I’ll look at it critically. Sometimes I’ll say “That might look better if I outline that a little more” or “Maybe I should make this part more defined”. It doesn’t happen for every painting, but certainly for a few. After that I don’t touch it again, if I keep going back it’ll just become a muddy mess.
Where’s the coolest place you’ve seen your work?
That would probably be on the CBS3 Talk Philly show. I started working with them when the show first kicked off several years ago and my artwork has been up in their studio ever since. It’s really cool to see it on TV every day and the famous people on the show standing right beside something I’ve painted.
What’s one piece of advice you would give to other artists struggling with their craft or having trouble connecting to their audience?
Really work to get yourself out there. It can be a little intimidating sometimes, but if you network you’d be surprised how willing people are to show off your work in their space.
Also, always remember that you’re your own self-run business. You’re an artist or a designer, but you’re also trying to market and sell your work. You’re also the finance department having to worry about invoicing, accounting, and taxes. You’re also the marketing department doing promo pieces, updating social media, and maintaining your website. You’re also the legal department making sure that your work is appropriately copyrighted and drawing up licensing contracts for people who want to use your work. There’s a lot to think about beyond just creating the piece itself if you want to promote yourself as an established artist.