ADAM MILLER

Interviewed in April of 2013
Adam-Headshot.jpg

ADAM MILLER

Hometown: Dracut,  MA

Current town: Parts Unknown

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1.) Tell us a little about where you’re from, where you grew up and how that influences the type of art you’ve found yourself making?

I was born in Massachusetts and moved to California when I was a kid. My parents were young and they were lean times for my family, we bounced around the state for 5 or so years before returning to New England, where we bounced around some more. We eventually settled in Dracut, Massachusetts for my formative years. Dracut is blue-collar Middle America, like a John Mellencamp song only less romantic. It was oddly surrounded by comic-book shops. There were three different stores within a short drive and two other hidden spots that always had stacks of comics on hand. I grew up during the 90’s when the comic market exploded- and it was all around my coming-of-age mind. I was also lucky to have very supportive parents and a group of close, art minded friends. Comic books and basketball, Michael Jordan and Todd McFarlane, those were some of the the best parts of my childhood. Friends, family, and comic books really drove my art world growing up. My mother taught me the golden rule, my father taught me imagination. I use both every day.

2.) Are there any specific locations here in New England that has had a profound meaning to you and your art?  Do you ever pull from your schooling or childhood memories as a place of inspiration?

I’d say more than places, it’s faces. The people that I’ve met growing up, through school and through art, have really helped form my way of thinking and how I tell stories with pictures. Even though I’m a bit of a gypsy and can’t help that need to travel, New England is home to me. It feels like home. I like L.A. just fine, great weather, great art scene, but at the end of the day I’m an east coast guy, and at the heart of it always will be. There’s something about the winter that makes you a little hard, a little miserable, for better or worse I think it creates a binding attitude to the area. A subtle toughness becomes ingrained in you. You can’t help but to pull from those important surrounding elements in your life, whether you find them on a map or in personal relationships.

3.) Dream client? Go.

It has to be Marvel Comics. Since I was a kid they were the key to escape for me. We were pretty poor growing up, but no matter how poor, my dad was always able to scrape up 75 cents for a comic book. They’ve kept me company through years of ups and downs. Regardless of where I’m at with the comic book industry it will always be a hope of mine to have some small impact on the Marvel Universe. If it’s going to be a dream client- I’ll dream big. Honestly though- getting to work with any of the four major publishers would be a dream come true- I’ve been fortunate to meet and collaborate with some really talented people in comics and I’m grateful for that, but I have mixed feelings about much of that world after a couple of years of grinding in it- I’ll guess we’ll see where I decide to go with it all, or perhaps more accurately, where it decides to go with me.

4.) Workplace or studio; a disaster or super organized?

While creating, my workspace is pretty frenetic. I tend to work in binges, lots of long hours on full blast. I’m guilty of getting tunnel-vision when I’m set on finishing a piece. My concern becomes the work and the rest falls where it may. Ever since I was a kid, lying on the floor in my bedroom drawing, you could see what would resemble a chalk outline of debris around where I was working. Not much has changed- My chair and where I sit becomes the eye of the art storm. When there is not an illustration taped to my desk, my studio is pretty neat and organized. I’m fairly anal about visual things- art books and graphic novels neatly organized; frames hung “just so” on the walls, paint brushes and various supplies all in their place. Depending on the day you walk in, you’ll see creative chaos or perfectionist’s pop culture. Your guess is as good as mine.

5.) Music while working? Anything you’re listening to now that is pushing you or inspiring you?

I listen to tons of music- I’m all over the place. My default position is old outlaw country- Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash and the like. Ryan Bingham is probably my favorite living musician- he has kept me company all over the country and on many adventures. I’m a huge Elvis fan too. I like old-school hip-hop, you can’t go wrong with A Tribe Called Quest. As far as new stuff- the Lumineers record is fantastic. On the heavier side I love Baroness and The Bronx, I also can’t get enough of the Bronx’s mariachi music (Bronx el Mariachi). My most recent, new favorite band is out of L.A. They’re called Two Gallants and I love them, they write all the lyrics I wish I would have. It’s amazing stuff. Like I said, I’m all over the place.

6.) What medium or product is your sweet spot? Even down to the brand name, color, materials, found or purchased?

I work in a pretty non-traditional way. I have an all-hands-on-deck approach to making images. I’m not fussy and invite almost any water based medium to the party. Acrylics, water colors, inks, coffee and white-out, it’s all welcome. I use cheap crap like glue sticks and wall-mart spray-paint, and pricey stuff like Arches 300lb cold pressed watercolor paper. I’ll go off the beaten path with everything from finger-printing to xerography. Also, all my work has some photographic element to it. My first love was photo and I’ll never leave it behind. Lately I’ve gone as far as to focus almost exclusively on photography. I pride myself on getting the job done and improvising as needed. I’m not picky on what I use- it’s just figure it out, and try to make it kick ass. Or at least get over the B.S., leave the excuses at the door, and do my best to try to make it kick ass. They aren’t all great- but I never want it to be for lack of effort.

7.) What’s been the most challenging part of building a career as an artist? How hard is it to balance things like family, money, time, inspiration, & networking?

The most challenging part is the grind. People don’t really understand how hard it is. Unless you are an absolutely exceptional talent (which most of us are not) or unbelievably lucky (which we are also probably not) or more likely both, it’s a grind. You have to be obsessed with it. If money is your biggest motivation good luck. If you are a person that needs security- you’re in for an up-hill battle. I don’t think that even some artists get it- I know really talented, solid artists that think they are working hard and they just flat out don’t do enough. It’s a hard pill to swallow but it’s real. My father once told me “The reward for doing more, is doing more” It’s 100% true. There is no “too tired”, no “too busy”, no “I worked all day”. Not “I can’t get to the studio”, “the game is on”, “there’s a party”, “I don’t feel good”. There is no “no”. I say yes to everything. Not because I’m cooler, or smarter, or better than anyone. Hell, I may just be too dumb to know any better, but if I don’t say yes someone else will. That is not to sound like a martyr, or to come off as self important, or to scare young artists or any of that. It’s just what I believe and how I approach art as a career. Any traction or success I’ve ever had has come because of that attitude. It’s real- and just because you’re doing more than your friends doesn’t mean a thing. Do more- then do more than that. At the end of the day- if it doesn’t work out, and you die an insurance salesman; at least you know you gave it your all. I couldn’t sleep at night at least not knowing that.

8.) You can have one of your pieces displayed anywhere in the world,
where does it go?

The Jonathan Levine Gallery would be pretty special- I know who shows there and how many of my art heroes have shared those walls. I’ve been a fan of what he does for years, since his space was in Philly back in the “Tin Man Alley” days. I have a soft spot in my heart for the Le Luz De Jesus Gallery in L.A. too. Other than that (and this will come off as sappy but I’m fine with it) anytime someone likes something I created, enough to hang it in their space, I get a rush. To me it’s just cool as hell knowing that someone was moved by a piece of art I made. Especially, in a way that has them plunk down their hard earned dough to take it home. That feeling never gets old.

9.) Who was/is the most important person in your life guiding your
direction as an artist?

I look to my peers, friends and mentors for guidance. Jamie Head is an amazing designer and close friend who I look to for help all the time. I admire his work ethic and spirit, he really gets it. My editor Keith McCleary is brilliant. He understands how I work and makes me better. Josh Morrissette and I share an art brain; I trust his eyes like my own. Haig Demarjian is a former teacher of mine who I’ve become great friends with. We’ve worked together on several projects now and I still see him as a mentor in many ways. Lindsay Smythe is my sister from another mister. She’s an amazing friend and sounding board. In a broad sense, I look to friends in and out of art that lead by example and lead by doing. I’m drawn to that quality in people and can’t ever have too much of it in my life. I get by with a little help from my friends; we’re all in this mess together. If I’m being painfully honest though- it’s the guy in the mirror who has to motivate and guide me. If he can’t, nobody else should bother.

10.) Knowing you’re an admitted caffeine junkie, is it Dunkin’ Donuts, Starbucks or neither? What’s your perfect cup of coffee before sitting down to get to work?

I recently had the opportunity to travel to Seattle and the Pacific North West, which was amazing. The problem, however, with going there was that Seattle proved the coffee life I had been living was a horrible lie. It essentially ruined coffee for me- at least it ruined 90% of the coffee you can get in New England. I hate to be a snob about much of anything- I genuinely try to find the good in most things, but I’m telling you straight, you have not had coffee until you’ve had it in Seattle. You get real BBQ in Memphis and Texas. You get real tacos in New Mexico and California, you get real seafood in New England, and you get real coffee in Seattle. Luckily I’ve found a few oasis’s in the arabica dessert out here. I look to local cafes and coffee shops for caffeine salvation. My favorite cup of joe is at the Atomic Café in Beverly, MA. next to my Alma mater. And if you can find a place that serves Stumptown Roasters coffee (based in Portland Oregon) you will be a happy coffee drinker.

11.) Who is the most underrated artist out there that’s ready to take over the world?

There are a few under-the-radar artists that I’m really responding to right now. Rafael Grampa is one; his re-imagined versions of established, iconic characters are original, raw and awesome. Nathan Fox is another, his book “Florescent Black” had me looking and looking and wanting to paint everything. A young photographer that absolutely blows my mind is a kid named Alex Stoddard, he’s a photographic prodigy. At 18 he’s taking the kinds of pictures people push their whole life to take. His work is stunning and he’s only just graduated high school. He is a special talent. Lastly, I’ll let you in on who’s the best kept secret in comics today: Farel Dalrymple. His creator-owned work “Pop Gun War” is one of my favorite books of all time. It’s the personification of imagination and it affected me like few other works have. If you haven’t seen it, find it on Amazon, read it, and thank me later. It’s pure.

12.) What’s next for you, any future projects or clients you’re excited about? Where can people see your work?

After I graduated I spent years working the Fine Art angle, promoting exhibits and showing in galleries throughout New England. As the economy dipped, I switched focus to the publishing world, spending two years as Creative Director for the NY based comic book company Terminal Press. While there, we co-created what became their flagship title, The ZombieBomb! Comic Anthology. After that run, I came back to Boston looking to switch gears and get plugged into the art scene closer to my roots. Since then, it’s been a little hectic. On the comic book front, I just finished a Cover for a Graphic Novel titled “The Mick” for Red Handed publishing. I’m also doing a variant cover on “The Adventures of Super Inga” #2 for Zombastic Productions. Another potential project I’m excited about is for Studio Rodeo, an over-seas publisher that may finally allow me and good friend Ken Knudtsen a chance to work together. Outside of comics I wear several art hats right now, all based in Massachusetts, one as a creative consultant for a start-up company in Lowell, another as Gallery Director for Visionspace Gallery in Lynn. I teach at a private school on the North Shore, and am the acting Coordinator of Comic Affairs for Montserrat College of art. I’m a freelance illustrator and art-director. I’m also an admin for a national photo group. Basically, I write, teach, speak and photograph my way through the art world year round. It’s not always perfect, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

13.) Who wins in a fight to the death?
Anything goes- two men enter; one man leaves.

Obi Wan Kenobi or Spider-Man?

Oh man, here we go. This is not an easy question. First of all- they both have to be in their primes for this to be fair. When I’m dissecting this match-up, I find myself focusing on the two worlds they’re from and looking at their respective adversaries. My guess is that Spider-Man faces tougher competition on a consistent basis, there’s not much he hasn’t seen. Nothing Obi-Wan throws at him is going to be a surprise. Spidey has fought all the heavy hitters and lived to tell about it. In its simplest form, A Jedi master is a telekinetic super-ninja with a really cool sword, badass, but limited. No super strength, no invulnerability, no flight no energy projection. I guess there’s just not enough there for me to pick Kenobi over one of the most durable, versatile, and gutsy superheroes of all time. I think Peter Parker is a stud; his spider-sense would really diminish how affective the use of the force would be against him. He can lift over 10 tons; he’s super agile, can stick to everything like glue and has offensive tricks up his sleeves with webs strong enough to stop a train. Also he’s of genius-level intellect and very battle-tested. Obi wan is no pushover, he’d give Spidey fits and would surely be able to defend much of his attacks, but he’s not a gritty as Spiderman. The Jedi stays as far away from the dark side as possible, if he had to, Spider-Man would turn to his and use it as strength. He is completely free of evil and temptation. He is not afraid of power or responsibility and understands the importance of the balance between the two. I’m going with Spiderman- final answer. Fear leads to angeranger leads to hatehate leads to suffering...and suffering leads to getting your butt kicked by a guy with the proportionate strength of a spider. ‘Nuff said.**