The world of color and how it speaks is what painter Bernadette Miller is all about. Her latest
exhibit of vibrant landscapes in eye-catching hues of aqua and green and mauve is at the Urbana Library hall gallery. New Market resident Miller has been an artist all her life, and her progression to abstracts mirrors how she refers to her paintings … the beginning of a story.
The work in the Urbana show is a series made to be cohesive. “I was pushing myself with the colors and, as I went on, I’d get to my next thought. One idea to the next to make a collection,” she said. All of the pieces were inspired by photos and natural colors were replaced to show depth and interest.
Her art life began with a degree in graphic design and progressed to work in the field, but she felt it stifled her creatively. When her children came along, Miller decided to stay home with them and eventually began painting on commission, mostly murals, kids’ rooms … trendy stuff popular at the time, she said.
A part-time stint with an interior designer allowed Miller to move on to fine art commissions. Once she started to get her feet wet with painting, she decided to go back to school and get a teaching certificate so she could teach art. “I love teaching art. … I’m very drawn to the studio,” she said.
Miller teaches painting, drawing, mixed media, digital photography and AP art studio at the high school level at St. John’s Catholic Prep School in Buckeystown. “I feel lucky at school—they appreciate me and love that I work in the community. Students love it and other teachers are very supportive.” In her art classes, she teaches students to break down a photo or image with value and then abstract it by applying color to different values to get to abstract forms. They work on color theory, contrast and how to pick colors.
“I did exactly what I taught them,” Miller said of her recent work. “I broke it down … loved the process … turning into things I felt were a natural progression for me with color and palette.”
About three years ago, she created Cedar Street Designs to showcase her work. After exhibiting in a faculty show at the Delaplaine, she applied for a solo exhibit and was accepted. Last year’s show featured paintings depicting childhood memories, where she grew up, women in her life and role models. “It was hard to show in the beginning,” she said. “Getting the show at the Delaplaine gave me a boost of confidence.” That show and selling some pieces at a store in Frederick “told me that I wanted to keep working,” she added.
More kudos came last year when her design was chosen to represent Frederick in “The Holidays in Historic Frederick” event series sponsored by the Delaplaine and Celebrate Frederick. She was awarded the first place Judges’ Prize and the People’s Choice Award for her entry, “Warming Up.” It will be the featured artwork to promote the program this year with a reception at the Gardner Gallery at the Delaplaine on Dec. 4. The drawing was “different from her usual,” she said—colored pencil and gouache. She did what she always encourages her students to do—break out, “don’t always stay in the same genre.”
Miller plans to continue with her abstracts, working in acrylic, oil and mixed media, and is preparing to begin a commission from landscape photos.
“Finding Color” features vibrant mountains, a landscape of blown paper, several diptychs including two at Lake Linganore and “Colorway 1 and 2” with its lavender sky and mountains, long converging roads, big skies and rolling fields. A favorite is also the striking “Colors of Carroll Creek.”
Stop by to admire the strong autumn-like colors of Miller’s work on view at the library through the end of October.