Artwork by Bruce Miller
Growing up in Germany I was exposed to oil painting at a young age ~11. My mother had a friend who painted in oils. I was fascinated and when my mother told me that this was NOT “Paint by number” I replied that I knew that, as I could see the blending of colors to form shapes. I subsequently was able to start a few “lessons” with this woman. My first painting attempt was of a ceramic penguin as part of a still life under this woman’s guiding eye. My fascination with painting continued through high school where I arranged not to “waste time” in Study Hall sessions but instead was able to spend 2-3 hours several times per week in the art room, in addition to my regularly scheduled art classes.
I learned how to use rabbit skin glue, prime canvases, grind pigments etc. One time I had worn one of my father’s best white shirts to class. Clearly, it was way large on me and as might have been anticipated I got oil paint on one sleeve. Knowing I could not return the damaged shirt home and face him I cut the back panel out, made stretcher frame, sized it with rabbit skin glue and gessoed it. I did a painting on the “special linen” support that I gave him. I never learned if he suspected it was his shirt being returned albeit as another form, but he did say he liked the painting.
During those high school years attending a military family high school in Germany, I fantasized about attending the Art Students League in New York. In the end, my father was of the generation where “Real men” did not do art! So I was dissuaded from following painting as a career path and pursued the sciences.
Art has always been a huge presence in my life. Growing up in Germany (10 years there) I had a plethora of museums within reach. I was greatly taken by the German Expressionists after seeing paintings and prints in one of the nearby museums. When I traveled to Amsterdam and visited the Rijksmuseum I sat for nearly half a day in front of the Van Gogh paintings in a near trance enraptured by the beauty of the placement of the paint on the supports.
When I returned to the U.S. after high school I stepped away from painting to pursue zoology as my undergraduate course of study I could not escape my desire to paint and do art. I continued to dabble in painting in a hit or miss approach during my undergraduate years. During my first run at graduate school, I pushed my graduate advisor to approve a printmaking class. What a wonderful experience with litho stones, etching, and engraving. I dropped out of graduate school shortly after.
After spending more than a decade working in zoos with the captive management of endangered species I chose to head back to the field. In the mid-1980s my wife and I move to Belize, Central America to work on rainforest conservation. During that time I took up watercolor painting, read books and sold a few painting at local shows and had a week-long one-person show at the Bliss National gallery. I also entered a miniature show 3 separate years at the Del Bello Gallery in Canada. Sending my small works (3″ x 4″) by mail. My last year’s entry I received an honorable mention for a triptych.
During the later years in Belize, I returned to painting with oils, where I first began as a child in Germany. It was a struggle for a few years to regain some basic brush handling skills. This was concurrent with conservation research and field work that took me from Mexico to Bolivia and Cuba. I also returned to graduate school and completed my PhD. in ecology at the University of Kent, Canterbury, U.K.
As part of our non-profit NGO supported conservation work in Central America we were granted an annual home leave to the U.S. for 30 days for medical check-ups and visiting family. On one of our trips back to the U.S. I became aware of Plein Air painting and decided that like Van Gogh and others alla prima outdoor painting was what melded my love of art and nature.
After 25+ years of non-profit conservation work we permanently returned from the tropics and live in Michigan from spring through fall. I joined a number of plein air groups looking for guidance and hoping to hone my painting skills. Unfortunately, most of these were hours away and the closer one is no longer are around. We do travel south in our small 16’ travel trailer to escape Michigan winters. I continue to paint as we travel from Southern California, Arizona, Georgia and Florida as we visit national and state parks.
I have sold a few paintings over the years. Most recently a plein air painting at the 2017 Light Chaser’s annual show in Sarasota, Florida.
My challenges are that I still am in need of basic “core” training. I have no shortage of creative ideas for painting and alla prima plein air. My sketch books are filled with creative ideas and rough compositions for paintings. I feel I am still lacking sufficient skill to carry out most of these concepts. I am now ready to move back to semi-full time painting.
What I want to learn simply put are the classic core skills of painting
It appears that the Old Masters Academy is an ideal opportunity for me to refresh and gain the necessary skills I need on my own schedule and not travel to far venues for workshops. Regardless of what representational painting I continue to do the core foundation skills offered by the Academy will be critical to my progress.
Why I want to win tuition: Having spent a career in conservation ecology in the field, then in zoos for some 20 years followed by another 25+ years of living and working in Central America with minimal support through conservation NGOs I do not have the financial liquidity/ability to pay for the course. My wife and I lived with less than $15-$18K per year for personal support for both of us for much of this time in the Neotropics. We loved what we did, she worked on big cat conservation and research and I on bat conservation and research. We both worked on protected area planning and conservation corridor development. I still mentor graduate students in bat biology as a pro-buno effort to help the next generation carry on.
I believe people should vote for me because I dedicated my life to the conservation of species and habitats but retained my drive to paint. As I move into “Chapter three” of life I want to translate my passion for both painting and nature and participate in plein air events. I am confident I will be able to continue conservation education by providing unique plein air paintings depicting nature and its beauty.
With the Old Master’s Academy training I am confident my work will be advanced to a level where collectors will be moved to hang my paintings on their walls.