Even when she was a child, Bonnie Miller tinkered with colors. They sparked her imagination.
“I liked coloring books, but I didn’t like to draw,” she said.
Miller’s dad was a landscape architect, and both Miller and her sister drew with all of his colored pencils.
“He was very attuned to art principles like color combinations,” she said.
As an adult, she found an outlet for her creativity when she became a writer. Her focus was on stories and books about artists.
It was only at a later stage of life that Miller stumbled onto painting.
Known throughout Puyallup as an accomplished painter, Miller, 68, has 23 pieces of original artwork hanging in the city hall’s gallery. Miller recently sat down with the Puyallup Herald for to answer a few questions about her life as an artist.
Puyallup Herald: When did you discover your passion for painting?
Miller: When I was 55. My background was literature, and I taught writing at Highline Community College, but I got tired of writing. I read “The Artist’s Way” by Julia Cameron and worked up a course on it and taught it at Pierce College.
The book suggested that frequently people are holding themselves back from becoming an artist because they are afraid. My students were moving forward and I thought, “What is going on, Bonnie? You need to apply this to yourself.”
When I taught at Highline, I shared an office with the art director, and they let me take free basic drawing classes. I tried blowing glass for a time, but I always gravitated to colors. When I finally got to oil painting I said, “Oh, wow! I really love to paint!”
PH: What medium do you work in?
Miller: I use oils. I consider myself an abstract painter. Usually figures are not abstract enough for me. I like drawing from my imagination. I get too tight, and pretty soon I’m putting eyelashes on a duck, and that is way over the top, but I just can’t help myself. However, for this show, I had some big canvases and decided I did want to do some figures.
PH: When was your first show?
Miller: A little group of artists were supporting each other, and we had a show at the library in their glass cases, and then I had one at the chamber of commerce. I was already involved with Arts Downtown doing writing for them. I loved interviewing the artists. I published two books on glass artists, but I was getting tired of writing.
PH: Is selling your paintings important to you?
Miller: In a way, it is. It is a validation, of sorts, but I don’t do it for the money. I love the fact that the paintings can find homes, and sometimes I donate my art because it accumulates.
PH: Puyallup has a wide variety of art in the community. Tell me about that.
Miller: I love the people in Arts Downtown and the people connected with Valley Arts United. Both groups have done so much to promote art in the Puyallup community.
PH: Is this your first show at the city hall?
Miller: This is my second showing at the city hall. The 23 paintings in this show are all new work. I didn’t want to come into the show with anything I had shown previously in Puyallup. This is my hometown, and I didn’t want people to say, “I’ve seen that.” I worked on the paintings from January to June this year.
Curators from Valley Arts United make decisions about what artist’s work is displayed, and they hang the work, Miller said. A reception to celebrate Miller’s showing was held when it opened, and visitors got a chance to visit with the artist.
Miller’s art can be viewed at the fifth floor gallery in city hall during regular business hours. To enter the gallery, go to the city office’s door and ring the bell.
Miller suggested standing back from some of her larger paintings to capture a better view. The exhibit runs until Aug. 23.
Miller takes a particular delight in captions for her art. With names like “Jack and Rosie take a day out,” “Wi Fi not not” and “Bird Bird Bus,” gallery guests get a sense of Miller’s whimsy.