To the tantalizing tastes of Beautiful Bizarre Magazine readers, fine art wildlife painter, Nathan Miller, speaks one on one with writer and contributor Tahirih Juliette Pettersen about his beautiful paintings. Step into fine art painter, Nathan Miller’s, unique artistic realm, ideals, and inspirations. Contemplate the perspectives he commands through colorful brush strokes and a beautiful interpretation of our world and its citizens relationship with nature. Illuminate your creative frame of reference and investigate the idealization behind these colorful fine art paintings.
Organic materials, wood, and canvas hold fast the rich colorful paint stroked upon their surfaces with dexterity. Full of compassion and love for wildlife, animals, and the people who contribute to their health, Nathan spreads his message with determination and beauty in every brushstroke. He shares his unique life experiences and the spiritual journey that brought his work to the beautiful shores of Saint Petersburg, Florida.
The colors of nature
During our interview, Nathan inquired if I might sit as a subject for Nathan Miller. Having prior experience with such collaborations, I warmly agreed. This piece was later named “Free Spirit”. Reserved for the New Year this exclusive dialogue presents personal favorites of Nathan Miller’s artwork, as well as those of my own colorful favorites, with our readers.
To show support to inspiring artists, purchase or donate to local art masters or galleries to honor their diligent handiwork. Welcome to the world of Nathan Miller. Discover the abundance of colors, wildlife, and wisdom that resonates within this collection. Discover the mind behind the brush.
When you paint you bring life to an empty 2-D surface. When you strive to perfect your art you are communicating with something bigger than yourself.
How did you become a fine art artist? Where did you get your start?
I had always been an artist but I didn’t start painting professionally, within the fine arts until I moved to Nosara, Costa Rica in 2012. I thought about pursuing painting as my major at the University of Florida but chose, instead, to pursue Graphic Design. That choice would later take me to Houston, TX, where I worked as a Graphic Designer and Web Designer for five years. I think it was a smart move, because I found work, and was able to save enough money to be able to make the decision to pursue art full time.
While living in Houston, of all places, I had fallen in love with the outdoors. Houston is the 4th largest city in the US. Drawn to the parks and surfing in the Gulf where the surf wasn’t very good, but it was manageable, it gave me a craving for the type of surf you could find in a place like Costa Rica. In Houston, I became more distant from my art, life was interfering with what I felt I should be doing so I took a surf trip to Tamarindo, Costa Rica. I fell in love with it. It was then that I chose to make the move – to surf and to paint.
I sold all my belongings, brought a big duffel bag of art supplies and another bag of the bare necessities and found a place to live in Nosara, Costa Rica. Nosara was a quaint, beautiful surf and yoga community a couple of hours south of Tamarindo. I chose to live in an apartment made completely of wood, which sat directly above horse stalls and surrounded by mango trees frequented by howler monkeys. It was kind of like living in a barn. It definitely had character.
For a year, I developed a body of work primarily inspired by wildlife in the region. And once that year came to an end, I had an art show in the beautiful Tierra Magnifica Boutique Hotel on top of a hill overlooking the ocean on one side and forest-covered mountains on the other. Many amongst the community attended the event and, while modest, success was slow. It would ultimately come as the town got to know me. I would later put my work in the Hidden Garden Gallery in Liberia, a city a couple of hours away. In my third year, members of the Nosara community began to commission me to paint for them. I am forever grateful to the people of Nosara and for the Gallery in Liberia for helping me get my art career up and running.
When you strive to perfect your art you are communicating with something bigger than yourself.
Do you find a sense of spirituality in creating art or painting?
Yes, there is something spiritual about creating art. I don’t think it’s always necessarily a spiritual experience as I often paint while watching TV. During those moments I do more listening than watching; it’s a way to counter the monotony of tedious detailing. There are times I will turn music on and it’s more of an active, engaging experience. When you paint you bring life to an empty 2-D surface. When you strive to perfect your art you are communicating with something bigger than yourself. There’s a quote by Abdu’l-Baha that I appreciate. He said, “When thy fingers grasp the paintbrush, it is as if thou wert at prayer in the Temple.” I think that’s true. It’s meditative. It’s an act of creation. There’s definitely something spiritual about that.
What does fine art painting mean for you?
Art has such a different meaning for everyone. To me, it’s a way to capture and venerate beauty. It’s a way to weave together aspects of our world in a unique way. And it’s also a way to say something without saying a word. Each person creates differently, and that’s part of what makes art so intriguing. Somewhere deep inside every artist, there is a masterpiece. The artist just wants the chance to manifest it.
I love to paint both people and animals. Both have personalities and share similar traits. I like to paint what is conscious, what feels, and what is able to be expressive. So, my favorite subject is the person or the animal that reveals a deeper reality.
Did you grow up in a creative environment or with creatively inclined parents?
My parents were always very supportive of my inclination towards fine art. My mom loved art and had her own art studio in our house. I had plenty of opportunities to be artistic, whether at home or in school. Through travel, I was able to come into contact with a number of historical works of art and architecture. At fifteen, my family moved to Israel, where my dad worked as the Jerusalem Representative from the Baha’i World Center to the Israeli government. Jerusalem was full of history, art, and architecture. We knew a couple of professional artists there as well. And my high school, the American International School of Israel, had the most inspiring art teacher, Paula Benveniste. She didn’t force us to paint, draw or sculpt in a particular way. Instead, she helped us discover what we were capable of. And her enthusiasm for art was contagious.
You have many pieces containing wildlife, what is your favorite subject to paint?
I love to paint both people and animals. Both have personalities and share similar traits. I like to paint what is conscious, what feels, and what is able to be expressive. So, my favorite subject is the person or the animal that reveals a deeper reality. I find that people require much more time to depict in my paintings than wildlife. Perhaps that’s why, for me, it actually feels more rewarding to bring a painting to completion after capturing the likeness of a person. But there’s also such beauty in nature, with vivid colors and extraordinary patterns. I guess, my favorite subject would somehow combine both people and animals.
What is your favorite piece?
My favorites usually require a lot of thought and preparation. Each depicts a person interacting with nature. Forest Dream and Voice of Nature depict the same model. The young woman has her eyes closed in both, in one she sleeps outside upon leaves clothed only in a blanket, while the other is more surreal, her hair creeping upward like vines. In both, they are one with nature. Another is, “Where do we go from here?” depicting a child standing with animals of the forest feet pressed into the soil with uncertainty. The raccoon and the fawn look to us, reminding us we hold the power to impact their future. The last piece, a portrait of Vickie, a docent at the James Museum of Western and Wildlife Art, my first western painting. For her, it was a way to connect with the natural beauty of New Mexico.
I felt connected with nature, both on land and in the water. I’d wake up in the morning and have coffee on the patio outside surrounded by jungle, with howler monkeys sitting in the mango tree, and colorful birds showing up every day. My five years in Costa Rica awakened creativity in me while giving me the peace and quiet necessary to focus on my art.
Which places in the world do you feel moved to be your most creative self?
I’ve been lucky enough to travel to a number of places that have inspired and awakened creativity. When in high school, I traveled to Kenya and Uganda, both places had a huge impact on my art. For a number of years, the only thing I wanted to paint was the African figure. At the time, my style reflected African styles, with bold lines and patterns and more of abstract realism. It didn’t look anything like my work today. Years later, I traveled to Rome and Florence where I found inspiration from the art of the Renaissance. I had studied Art History in school. My art teacher, Ms. Benveniste, was also my Art History teacher. She encouraged my love of art, and she made art history come alive. So, when I was able to stand face to face with the work I had learned about in school, it was like standing in front of celebrity and divinity.
I was fully awake in those moments, and it impacted the direction of my art. And, of course, Nosara, Costa Rica, was where it all began. It was during this time that I experimented and struggled to find my style. I already had a love of animals, but my immersion in nature brought out my desire to portray wildlife in my work. It was more laid back and peaceful there. I felt connected with nature, both on land and in the water. I’d wake up in the morning and have coffee on the patio outside surrounded by jungle, with howler monkeys sitting in the mango tree, and colorful birds showing up every day. My five years in Costa Rica awakened creativity in me while giving me the peace and quiet necessary to focus on my art.
You spoke about the human figure and how you gain inspiration from this. Can you explain this further to our readers?
“Yes, among the subjects that inspire me the human figure is definitely one. While in school, at the University of Florida, I took figure drawing, figure painting, and figure sculpting. Before these classes, my primary focus was on angular, abstracted, and stylized figures from my own imagination. But if there is one thing I learned while taking art in school, it was how to better portray the human form from life. Years later, I would be giving life drawing classes under a pavilion, surrounded by nature, in Costa Rica.
The human form is beautiful. The shapes, the lines, the light and shadows, the warmth, the softness… when you bring all that to life on a 2-D page, it’s quite something. Portraiture takes it even further, going beyond physical attributes and capturing the essence of a person”.
What are the messages behind your paintings?
An idea I am exploring is that humans and nature are connected. Often artists choose one or the other and rarely do we see the two completely immersed together. Either you’re a portrait artist or you’re a wildlife artist. In my case, at least for now, I’m exploring both. Humanity is far removed from nature, in the artistic world, and within the confines of society. So, I’m hoping to find a way to bring us closer together.
Do you find inspiration in every form of life or only in nature?
I think it’s all connected. In fact, part of the reason I depict nature in my work is because of all the harm being done to it. Witnessing the loss of habitat and the rise of development, as we do here in the state of Florida, reminds me of what’s being lost. So, strangely, I’m also inspired by the opposite of nature, because it reminds me of what’s wrong, and it makes me want to do whatever I can to remind others to not become completely disengaged from nature.
I am inspired by spirituality; raised in the Baha’i Faith, which taught me to see all people as part of one human family. During my high school years, I lived in Haifa, Israel, which is home to the Baha’i World Center. It’s sort of a paradise with the most beautiful gardens and a very diverse international community working together in peace. So, the perspective of being one with nature is not removed from the concept of being one with humanity. At the Baha’i World Center, you will find the two very much aligned. You can see this concept play out in three paintings I did, which are intended to be seen together, called “The Oneness Series“.
I’m also inspired by masterful works of art, like those I saw while visiting Italy, or those I see through Beautiful Bizarre Magazine. Today, through social media, we can be connected with so many of the greatest artists of our time. Were it not through avenues like this, I may have been misled to believe, that art in contemporary society fell to oblivion with the rise of glorified wall accents. But fortunately, there are many incredible artists who continue to take art to a new level.
Nathan Miller Awards
1st Place – 2012 Art for Trees Costa Rican National Art Contest by Fundacion Fundadeico
Best of Show – 2018 Gulfport Art Festival
Friends of the Museum Award – 2019 Gasparilla Festival of the Arts
Award of Excellence – 2019 Manatee Festival of the Arts
Award of Merit – 2019 Dunedin Art Harvest
Best of Show – 2020 Fine Arts Festival of Manatee County
To commission your own customized painting, or locate upcoming events from Nathan Miller, visit his official artist website at Nathan Miller Online Gallery.