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Check Out Nancy Miller’s Story

Today we’d like to introduce you to Nancy Miller.

Hi Nancy, thanks for joining us today. We’d love for you to start by introducing yourself.
My name is Nancy So Miller, and I was born in South Korea and moved to the U.S. when I was four years old. Moving to Boise, Idaho, during the ’80s was a bit of a transition for my family due to the differences in culture and language.

However, we learned to adapt to it, and as a young child, I found solace in making art. I loved drawing and took every art class available at my high school. I decided to spend my college years studying illustration because I read an article by Fred Brenner on illustrating children’s books in my senior year. He was a renowned children’s book illustrator and shared his illustration process, and I became hooked!

That lead me to get my B.F.A. in Illustration at the Savannah College of Art and Design. I ended up staying in the area. I then spent a decade as a graphic designer and freelance illustrator. After becoming a mother, I decided on a career change and got my art education certificate to become a K-12 art teacher. I spent eight lovely years teaching elementary art at Stilson Elementary School in Bulloch County, Georgia.

After that, I got the opportunity to teach high school animation and graphic design. I decided to pursue my M.F.A. in Illustration at the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) during the pandemic. My hobby outside of creating art has been podcasting. I enjoy connecting with other creatives and art educators on the My Creative Life Podcast.

I’m sure you wouldn’t say it’s been obstacle-free, but so far would you say the journey has been a fairly smooth road?
It’s been a struggle juggling freelance, family, and teaching.

But, over the years, you learn to forgive yourself when your house looks like a tornado has hit it and your family has been eating frozen meals all week.

I learned from other busy working artists/parents how they do the work-life balance and make a commitment to their art practice. It was comforting to hear their stories.

Appreciate you sharing that. What else should we know about what you do?
I create tiny worlds that capture the magic and joy of childhood for the viewer.

These worlds are made of hand-painted illustrations and cut paper, allowing the viewer to feel as if they are part of that moment in time. I place my cut paper pieces into a three-dimensional space like the Victoria paper proscenium stages. The use of physical space allows me to create a sense of depth in my work that looks believable to the viewer and tells a story.

I illustrate subtle narratives and emotions on cut paper. The character’s gestures and facial expressions are drawn on paper and cut out. My relationships with friends and my family’s Korean heritage inspire my characters, and I capture the familiarity of my interactions and memories of the people that matter to me in my life. These relationships inspire my children’s book stories and self-directed illustration projects.

My process keeps evolving, and I challenge myself with continued experimentation with the sense of depth in the final photograph. The marriage of traditional and digital techniques has been an essential part of the finished illustrated piece.

The infinite combinations I attempt with the lights and camera settings continue to excite me as an artist. Finally, there is the personal satisfaction that I get from knowing that I’ve carefully orchestrated every step of the process of creating these tiny paper worlds.

Who else deserves credit in your story?
I’ve been fortunate to have my husband and his understanding of my need to be creative.

He understands how important it is in my life to write and illustrate my stories. Also, my dear friend Elizabeth has been cheering me along for the past twenty years. She has been a second set of eyes on my children’s book stories. In addition, she has offered me her perspective on being a mom and educator.

I also credit some generous teachers. R. Gregory Christie has been outstanding, and I had a fantastic experience being his intern. He’s an award-winning illustrator with over sixty children’s books credits. He was kind enough to share his perspective as an illustrator and his extensive knowledge in children’s book publishing.

Yev Haidamaka was instrumental in encouraging me to pursue my interest in the cut-paper technique. She is empathetic and understands how to offer the proper guidance for the needs of her students.

My community of fellow artists has been a huge compliment to the work that I create. Keith Lee, Via Li, Tiffany Gordon, and Gillian Mallory have been excellent. We collaborate and offer each other suggestions. They are in different states and time zones. We make it work through the magic of Zoom.

Technology and social media have been a great way to stay in touch. We’ve been collaborating on the My Creative Life Podcast, and we hope to have a print component of it available soon to share the work of some fantastic artists. It’s been an amazing journey so far, and I’ve learned so much through my community of family, friends, and artists.

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