Meet Emily Miller, a talented illustrator and undercover street artist who shares her art with the world where you least expect it. Growing up in Illinois, now a Nashville gem, Emily's illustrations are whimsical yet wise, heartfelt and warm. There is a truth to her vision, a beautiful world she creates plastered onto our sometimes stark reality. Spotting an Emily Miller illustration around town, halts time for a moment, just long enough to put a smile on your face and a desire to find more.
Who are you and what do you do?
My name is Emily Elizabeth Miller and I’m an illustrator by day and a street artist by night.
Where are you from? What’s your background?
I grew up in a teeny, tiny town in Illinois, where the amount of animals outnumbered the people who populated my town. I think growing up in rural America really fostered my imagination. I left to go study art in Memphis, and then moved to Nashville.
When did you become interested in illustrating?
I’ve always drawn things, but I especially love illustration because it helps tell a story or explain something. I remember drawing dog breeds or types of rocks as a kid, but I eventually went to school and got a degree in Illustration at The Memphis College of Art. Now, I’m working in Nashville, mostly with small businesses helping them tell their story.
Where do you get your inspiration from? Any important influencers we should know about?
There’s a noticeable theme with your work, are animals important to you? Does each one have a name or character story it identifies with?
There is something really pure about animals, something innocent. I think they are great story-tellers, like Aesop’s fables. Some of them are just meant to be humorous and surprising; finding them where you would least expect them. Some of them are messages of hope, showing life and growth in places that are forgotten. But they all have their own story to tell.
Tell us more about your street art. When did you start doing it? What was the first one you ever made?
I’ve only been doing this for two years. My first piece was this raccoon holding two slices of pizza that I put up in Germantown. I started doing them as promotions for shows that were happening in town, because I figured there were enough posters stapled on every corner in Nashville and wanted to make something that would stand out. Being outside and working in the middle of the night (maybe illegally) was really exhilarating. I fell in love with the process, and the pieces have grown out of that.
What’s the process like? What’s your favorite part? What’s the biggest challenge you face?
Everything starts as a little drawing, and then gets blown up and printed really big. I paste them onto a wall somewhere with a simple flour and water mixture. My favorite part is their temporary nature, I love watching each piece with time. Some pieces get taken down by people, some get worn by the weather, and some just hang in there magically. It’s out of my control once they go up. Their duration and decay become part of the piece. I also love starting with a small drawing with lots of detail printed large, most of them are bigger than me. They seem to take on their own life that size. It can be a challenge when the pieces I put up come down so quickly, since so much work goes into them, but it lights a fire to always create more.
Do you scope out specific places to put your work, or does it happen organically?
I love old buildings and forgotten spaces, so my art let’s me explore that more. I always have a list running in a notebook of places I see while I’m out driving or riding my bike. But sometimes it happens organically, I try to keep pieces and paste in my trunk at all times to be ready when needed.
What’s the most important, best, or favorite piece you’ve done so far? Which one are you most proud of?
My favorite pieces have all been for people. I put up a horse behind the Basement, as a good luck charm to my boyfriend before one of his shows. Or this bouquet of strawberries I put up for my mom. I like the pieces living in communities. Something that’s a part of someone’s daily commute. I want my art to be as accessible to everyone as it can be.
Any galleries or secret spots in Nashville we should know about?
I’m really excited about the Elephant Gallery in Salemtown. I admire the work Alex Lockwood is doing in Nashville. And all of the work artists and craftsman are doing in that neighborhood (Salt Ceramics, Annie Williams, etc.)
Any favorite collaborations you’ve done recently?
I’m getting a chance to work with some really great musicians in town. I just did Cale Tyson’s and Charlie Whitten’s album art for some upcoming vinyl, and Grand Palace is printing them. I’ve always liked having a tactile and visual experience when listening to a record, so it’s fun to play a part in that.
What do you have coming up?
I have my first solo show in Memphis in March!
Where can we find more of your work?
Anything else you’d like to share?
I'm really stoked to be doing an Illustration for your Pioneer Prints series! Thank you so much!
FOUND is a monthly series by Original Fuzz Magazine. We aim to discover visual artists from every corner of the world, no matter the background or creative vision. We believe it's not just what you do, but how you do it. All art is as important to our culture as music, words, news, science, even religion. FOUND celebrates the visual and those who create it, serving as a platform for the creative pioneers who embody Original Fuzz and our products.
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