The VC Art Gallery
A series of articles showcasing the work of VoiceCatcher6 artists. Each artist shares her work, her sources of inspiration, the “why and how” of what she does, and a challenge for you to use her work as a springboard for your own. We hope this series will prompt a lively dialogue between and among authors and artists that will expand creative possibilities for everyone.
Curated by April Bullard
About the artist:
Essentially self-taught, Elisabeth Miles leans toward realism, depicting objects as close to nature as possible. Until recently much of her work has been graphite pencil and pen-and-ink illustrations. In college, her art teachers were caught up in the Abstract Expressionism movement. She found it unsatisfying so she changed her major from art to biology.
Using the detailed scientific drawings in Scientific American as models, Elisabeth developed her own style of scientific illustration, rendering work for biologists, horticulturists, and archaeologists. After many years, computer-generated drawings and photographs replaced such hand-drawn illustrations in publications. So Elisabeth turned to playing with color and texture. She enjoys the challenge of making somewhat realistic renderings of vegetables, flowers, insects, and other subjects working in colored pencil, watercolor, and other media.
“I started drawing,” Elisabeth says, “as soon as I could hold a crayon. My first works were usually murals, though they weren’t always a rave hit with my parents. Once I learned to read, I started writing and produced a number of illustrated stories. Fortunately, my mother saw the merit in some, including a little booklet which she kept until I was old enough to appreciate my earlier works—like when I had kids of my own. I still have it.”
Favorite mediums: “As an adult I have used several media, including colored pencil, watercolor, pen and ink, acrylic, and oil sticks. Pen-and-ink scientific illustration appeals to my need to control and be realistic. But I allow myself to ‘lose control’ with watercolor and just splash vivid color on the paper with a cavalier brush. With colored pencil, I have the control of careful, realistic rendering while using all those rich hues.”
“While I was illustrating a horticulture textbook in pen and ink, I broke away from it to work on a colored pencil piece for a show, and used my illustration as a subject for the colored pencil piece. This one was published in VoiceCatcher6.”
“I had a bazillion photos of hot air balloons from living in Albuquerque, home of the Balloon Fiesta in October. So I used several to compose the colored pencil art.”
“I do a lot of setting up of still-life compositions of fruits and vegetables for painting/drawing subjects, and take several photos from several different angles. I choose one of the views and start working. Since colored pencil is a slow medium, I usually need the photos to refer to in order to finish the piece.”
Where to find Elisabeth’s work: One of Elisabeth’s murals appeared in the Oregon City library, but it got torn down to make way for OC’s new Safeway. Two others may still be displayed in North Carolina, and a couple are in private homes. As Elisabeth says, “The only mural left is in the Museum of the Oregon Territory, on the second floor. It is actually on a piece of masonite. I guess technically it isn’t a mural. It depicts horses and is in the Native American area. The Molalla Indians brought horses to the Willamette Valley from the plateau.”
Elisabeth’s work has been published in The Best of Colored Pencil 2 and 4, and in her own chapbooks, Siftings, Under the Tropic Moon and Dances with Words.
The Artist’s Challenge:
One of Elisabeth’s pieces is called “Reflections on the Difference between Apples and Oranges.” Write your own reflection piece based on differences between unlike objects. For example, the difference between an anemone and duckling.