GETTING TO KNOW: BRIANNA MILLER
Known for her nostalgic multi-layered artwork, ILYSM commissioned artist Brianna Miller on an exclusive run of heel pads.
When you hit your website, the viewer is immediately greeted with an illustrated icon that says "welcome 2 briannanus world" - which I find totally appropriate. I love how your work feels like a brain portal into your subconscious - as a viewer we get to comb through so many layered nostalgic details - things that look familiar at first glance but are actually somewhat distorted - when arranged with other tropes and iconic figures, they are given new meaning and context. Do you find your creative process more organic in terms of references linked together, or do you find your process to be more deliberate in terms of characters and context presented?
My creative process definitely varies, especially in relation to my sketchbook. Sometimes ideas will happen as I'm working on a drawing and other times I have specific references I want to include. Inspiration comes to me at random times. When watching a movie or walking around my neighborhood, I'll see something or make a connection and make a note to include that in a future drawing. I treat my sketchbook compositions more like little experiments where I push the limits of how and what I draw. It's an extremely freeing exercise to layer illustrations and draw over certain elements. That idea was daunting to me at first. For example, I'll work on a detailed colored-pencil portrait of an actor like Robert Deniro and then draw right over his face with a doodle of an old Fleischer cartoon with a bold marker. Similarly to how I feel like I'm falling into my drawings as I work on them, I find even more connections and coincidences within the pages after I finish them. I aim to have my work speak on many layers, comparably to how the brain functions with layered thoughts and memories.
I'm curious how your work has evolved since being a teenager? What was Brianna Miller like in high school?
Since grade school, art has always been a therapeutic outlet for me. Art classes were always my favorite & even in other classes, I was drawing. I was pretty quiet and shy, feeling most comfortable when I was sharing my artwork with people. I felt like my voice was most clearly heard through art. My early artwork has always had a sense of humor. One project I did in a painting class was a parody of a classical renaissance work with E.T. and Yoda. Portraiture is another subject I've enjoyed doing since high school. Artmaking and creativity helped me get through school in a lot of ways. I knew I wanted to pursue art in some form after high school, which led me to the Pacific NW College of Art in Portland, Oregon.
Have you noticed any unintentional recurring themes in your work over the years?
For the last five years, I've been really into VHS collecting. I love finding 80s horror movies and I get a lot of drawing inspiration from campy films, such as Demonwarp or L.A. Crackdown Part II. When I draw, I like to find a balance of including elements of music I'm listening to, movies I've recently seen, and nostalgic cartoon characters or products. Reality television (pretty much anything from early 2000s VH1 or TLC) is another recurring influence in my work. My sketchbook has kind of become a journal documenting interests I have at the time or something happening in current pop culture. Since college, my work has been focused on memories, consciousness and shared human experience which I find still pertinent in my work today.
How has the pandemic affected your work, have you found yourself more productive or blocked?
Throughout the pandemic, I have found myself in an ebb and flow of increased productivity and creative slumps. Without a doubt, it's been hard to focus on artwork with the difficulties we are constantly faced with. Despite the challenges, I still feel most calm and at peace when I'm drawing and connecting with people through art. I am looking forward to planning art and music events again with my friends sometime in the future. I really miss public community art events and can't wait to be involved in a physical show again.
I read that your series "PEACHES" was created while you were a PrattMWP Artist in Residence. What is the story behind "PEACHES" and are there any programs or residencies you would recommend to other emerging artists now?
From 2016-2017, I was a PrattMWP Artist in Residence & Community Arts Instructor. During my residency, I presented a lecture of current work, taught classes & held an open studio and joint exhibition of new work. For the exhibition, I created a short story on a spa-inspired character I designed named Peaches. Along with the booklet, I made a life-size plaster sculpture figure of Peaches as part of the installation. Through this program, I interacted with the creative community surrounding PrattMWP while developing a self- directed studio practice. This interaction included meetings with PrattMWP undergraduate students and teaching experience within the School of Art’s non-credit program. The classes I instructed included Stop-Motion Animation, Zine Design & an Animated Gif workshop. It was a really unique opportunity to have a year solely focused on making art in a new community. The experience was a crucial part in strengthening my independent work process. I recommend the MWPAI art residency to any creator looking for a longer opportunity to work on a project.
As an artist, what was it like collaborating with ILYSM and translating your aesthetic to something not only commercial but practical?
For the ILYSM collaboration, I designed heel pads with accompanying packaging. I was excited to discover that Alice Wang has a similar appreciation for dollar store toy packaging and used that aesthetic as inspiration for the heel pads packaging design. We were also looking at Lisa Frank product packaging from the 90s as a reference. The heel pads, themselves, are patterned with my sketchbook illustrations. While working on this project, I realized that the heel pads are more of a personal product because the person wearing them may be the only one that knows they are inside the shoes and related this to how my sketchbook is a very personal object as well. The wearer of the heel pads is wearing them for themselves and can find joy in knowing that there is a cool, special detail adding comfort and style to their shoe. It was really fun to work on this product with ILYSM and I am excited to collaborate on other potential projects in the future.
What's next for you and how can the ILYSM community continue to support you?
Currently, I am working on a couple of books. One is a printed archive of compiled sketchbook drawings from the last few years. I will be working with a local print cooperative to produce the book. The other project I am working on is an illustrated story about dogs, and I hope to have that finished by the end of the year. You can follow my progress and artwork on instagram @briannanus or on my website at www.briannanus.com. I look forward to connecting with you all in the ILYSM community and appreciate the support!
Want your own pair of Brianna's heel pads? Click here to be notified!