“You have to persist doggedly and believe in yourself”
American artist Daniel Miller was born in North Carolina and began drawing from an early age. His military family moved frequently and he lived in various US states, Germany and Japan. After high school, he pursued his artistic instincts and became silversmith, goldsmith, painter, sculptor, designer and even art director.
Miller’s art keeps evolving and he never stops learning. He created sculptural elements for many major films and became popular in Hollywood. Daniel also has sculptural installments in South Africa, Tokyo and even Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. He also taught himself computer 2D and 3D skills and made contributions to films and video games. Now, he is more focused on his own creative concepts through oil painting.
In this Q&A artist Daniel Miller shares with PoseSpace how he became successful in Hollywood, what life experiences influenced his work, who are his favorite living artists and more:
When did you first know you wanted to become an artist?
I cannot even remember that there was ever any other choice for me. I was so fortunate to have parents that were creative and supportive. I began drawing seriously and regularly around third grade and painting in oils at ten years of age.
You created notable sculptural elements for many major films. Could you tell us more about this experience? Do you have a favorite one?
This was the period of my life that I refer to as “my creative prostitution”. I became successful in Hollywood as the go to guy for “Super-scale” set sculptures, meaning simply the biggest. In those days before digital arts, most set pieces had to be physically present. While this work was challenging and financially rewarding, it was about bringing my creative energies to bear for the realization of someone else’s vision. I put my own art on the back burner. So, commercial art, right?
The first examples of my “super-scale” sculpture was for “Honey I shrunk the Kids”. Most all of the giant objects, from twenty foot stalks of grass to immense cheerios were designed and created by my crew, mostly carved out of various types of polystyrene and urethane foam. From there many other opportunities came my way, including “Cone-heads”, “Stargate” and “True Lies”.
I think my favorite experience was on “Chronicles of Riddick”. I was given significant creative control over the design of the sculpture on this film, and there were many cool figurative pieces. By this time I had developed my digital skills in 2D and 3D modeling. I believe I had an industry first in that there is a scene in that film that features both my physical sculptures in the foreground and my digital sculptures in the background as a “Matte Painting” set extension.
What life experiences have influenced your work?
Certainly travel. Being born into a military family, I lived in both Japan and Germany as a child. I believe this exposure to other cultures was key to my early commitment to being an artist. I confess to being something of a vagabond, at last count I have lived at more than thirty-two addresses, from Mexico, Canada and Africa plus nine US states.
What do you think of PoseSpace? Do you have a favorite model?
Well, PoseSpace is a great resource of course! I was so pleased when I discovered it. Funny this, but I created a motorized turntable for photographing models about seven years ago. This was mostly for capturing the figures form and details to use as reference and texture mapping for digital models, so for the most part, the “T” pose.
I love what PoseSpace does with the efficient accessibility of so many models through the pose tool. Usually I have a predetermined idea of the pose I want when I turn to PoseSpace. However, I have found while searching, that often the lighting on a particular set of photos is so beautiful as to inspire the creation of a concept for a painting in its own right. My favorite models are Becca and Vaunt.
What has been your greatest artistic success?
In 2015 I started an extended series of paintings of the homeless in Las Vegas. I wanted to call attention to this marginalized population that we find so easy to ignore. That series has been in five gallery exhibits and the Las Vegas Library District toured it through their various branches for a year. I donate a significant percentage of sales revenue from that series to Homeless Outreach organizations. But the thing that makes it the greatest success for me has been the feedback from the viewers. I feel like I have made a difference in awareness of this crisis to some.
Do you have a favorite living artist, whether famous or completely unknown?
What advice would you give to young artists just starting in their careers or creative practice?
Be determined! You have to persist doggedly and believe in yourself. Creative work is like body building, you must work those muscles to succeed and even when you feel defeated and lost, keep at it. The more you work the better you will get, and stay true to yourself.
Tell us one thing you thought you knew, that it later turned out you were wrong about.
I have spent so many years painting and sculpting the female form. It has never ceased to attract and inspire me. In recent years though, I have been made aware of how important it is to consider the context of this pursuit. The objectification of women in our culture is so ubiquitous that it is easy to miss or just accept. The “male gaze” and all of the patriarchal baggage attached to it has become an issue for me. I love figurative art and cannot imagine it not being a part of me, but I now consider it my quest to uncover a direction and voice that supports the female form without exploitation.
Daniel Miller’s website: https://danielmiller-art.com
Interview by Andrea Miliani