STREET ARTIST LORELLE MILLER
SHARES HER VISION OF NATURAL BEAUTY
Lorelle Miller is an award-winning artist who expresses a lifetime of developed technique and personal investigation in her works that comprise oils, pastel, marble sculpture and other mediums. Evidenced in her artwork is a unique sensitivity for mood and emotion, which offer a glance into the deeper wells of her experience. Lorelle shares her vision of natural beauty and the intensity of the human experience through her paintings, sculpture and street art. She utilizes a broad yet finally tuned spectrum of media, each of which contributes to her expression and visual art.
IN THIS EPISODE
[00:48] On what she’s most passionate about
[01:35] On her childhood
[02:28] On studying art formally
[02:59] On being a street painting artist
[07:24] On places she’s traveled as a street artist
[08:47] On inspiration for her street art
[11:59] On how street art has changed her life
[13:53] On the reactions she gets from people who see her street art
[16:26] On collaborating on street art pieces with other artists
[21:10] On how has COVID impacted her work
[22:50] On her non-street art work and teaching art
[27:23] On what she likes about teaching art
[29:24] On the most challenging part of being a street artist
[30:36] On advice to a young woman who wants to follow her passion for art
Passionistas: Hi, and welcome to the Passionistas Project podcast, where we talk with women who are following their passions to inspire you to do the same . We're Amy and Nancy Harrington and today we're talking with Lorelle Miller, an award-winning artist who expresses a lifetime of develop technique and personal investigation in her works that comprise oils, pastel, marble sculpture, and other mediums. Evidenced in her artwork is a unique sensitivity for mood and emotion, which offer a glance into the deeper wells of her experience.
Lorelle shares her vision of natural beauty and the intensity of the human experience through her paintings, sculpture, and street art. She utilizes a broad yet finally tuned spectrum of media, each of which contributes to her expression and visual art. So please welcome to the show, Lorelle Miller.
What are you most passionate about?
Lorelle Miller: My strongest passion, and it may just be one thing, but it's basically, I love nature and my art. So those are probably the two things that I love and I'm most passionate about and feel happiest being involved with.
Passionistas: But it seems like you've managed to tie those two things together.
Lorelle: Yeah. I've always been somebody who loves to work outside. So a lot of my things that I do artistically, I'm happiest when I'm outdoors in nature or outside, I suppose.
Passionistas: Did you grow up in nature? What was your childhood like?
Lorelle: My main growing up years were just in the San Fernando valley, but I think I always took sort of, you know, I had sort of a, a calling towards being out in nature.
I used to backpack. Yeah. So camping and, and all of that sort of thing. And I'm an artist, you know, I've always loved to draw and paint. So I don't know. Nature's always been a kind of a soothing place for me, even as a little girl, you know, I'd find a hiding place up in a tree or something.
Passionistas: Were you always an artist?
Lorelle: It seems like I started, yeah, super young because of that back in the day of, you know, growing up, if there weren't all the electronics and stuff, when I was young. So, I guess I'm sort of mechanical. And also I like to draw. It started probably when I was like eight or nine years old.
Passionistas: Did you study art formally?
Lorelle: I went to Cal State Northridge and I have a bachelor's degree from there. And then, um, I started a master's degree there also, but that didn't finish because I ended up having children. Like that kinda got carried away and I've studied with many master artists after that, just on continuing education going on in various areas. And I've learned a lot just on the street, literally.
Passionistas: What do you mean by that?
Lorelle: Well, I'm a street painting artist, which is a nice segue, I suppose, I guess as a little kid, you know, one of the first mediums that I worked with was pastel. I mean, cause they're so forgiving actually. And I had a lot of private art lessons, luckily, cause my mom saw a lot of potential in what I did and I got a lot of accolades growing up in school. Like even in with meeting my friend, Gayle who nominated me for this, I used to be pulled out of my normal class to go into a special artist class — like for gifted kids. I did a lot of pastels at that time. And so, years later, you know, when the street painting idea came up, you know, there was something that came about in my community for that. It sort of seemed like a natural thing to try, kind of took off from there.
Passionistas: Tell everybody what street art is in case they don't know and how did you get started in that?
I've always done painting and drawing and sculpture and I wasn't in 3d sculpture before it was 3D, like on a computer. Yeah. You know, that sort of thing, but I always did pastels. And so I think I was judging an art contest for my local artists association. And I was, I still remember this sort of weird, we were all judging these like high school students paintings or whatever.
And I remember they mentioned this thing that they were having this event in the community called the Bellavia, which. Uh, street art. It was going to be a street painting or a street art festival. And I mean, street painting is something that's been going on since like the 1500s in Europe and so forth.
And I actually had seen a street painter. I went to Europe like three times before I was 20 years old by some miraculous manner. I don't know a lot of different circumstances that I actually saw street painter. But at this time when they were talking about this event, I thought, you know, I really ought to try it.
It just was like, it's like, I heard it. And it was just like, crystallized, like, you know, you really ought to try it. You just need to go see what this is about. Like, it rang in my head. It just like, you know, some things you just don't pay attention to, but it was like, yeah, I gotta see what this is. So they did this terrific event here in, I live in Santa Clarita and they had this event called the Bella.
And they invited these more experienced GE painters. And then, you know, other people were able to apply and so forth. So I applied and I, they, I got in to the street painting festival and I just started out with like a, I think a three by four foot square. And I was really nervous cause I had not really done that before.
Basically what street art is. You asked me to tell you what that is, is that you. Um, usually asphalt or like the street and you create artwork on the street that is, you know, either classical renditions or something that your system, original composition or whatever it is that you're doing. And people basically walk, can walk by and watch you create the art.
Because a lot of times when artists are working, they're in their studio. So this is a public art form. And then. They can watch you. And then, you know, when they, you take a break, you're down on the ground, they're above you looking down at it. And so when you stand up or take a break or something, you know, people can ask you questions and interact with you.
It's had a far reaching effect on my life. I got to tell you, so that's what it is, but that's where it started because I did this piece by Renoir called the dance of bocce ball. I think. I'd done it in oils. And I thought, well, I know this painting well, so I did this painting and then a scout, there was a talent scout going around and picked me up for another festival, which was down like towards Irvine.
And then it snowballed because I've traveled all around, doing this, barely traveled to festivals around the world.
Passionistas: So what are some of the places that you've done work
Lorelle: I've gone to Mexico to a place that's on the other side of the bay from Puerto Vallarta, it's a festival called Bucerias. And that was really neat because just the experience of being in a small town in Mexico and cross cultural types of things.
And we worked with children like children from the orphanage there. Teaching them about street painting. And then I went to Norway. Also. I have family in Norway and my sister-in-law. She had a friend who had an octillion in a little town called Harmar. And so she asked if I would come and produce a street painting for her and expose the kids to street art in Norway.
And I actually had one circumstance. I went to a middle school in Norway and I did a demonstration there and there was kids from Somalia, Russia, all these exotic places. And then the teacher was, I think the teacher was from Scotland and I was from America and we were doing the street painting thing in Norway. It's like that happened. It was just amazing.
Passionistas: How do you decide what work you're going to do? Where do you draw your inspiration? Or did they have themes for the different events?
Lorelle: They sometimes have themes and sometimes it's just something that hits me. I can't even explain it. It's just like, you know, artists, how do, how do you pin down their muse?
You know, it's just an inspiration that strikes you. Like I did this big project, like in 2019 called the garden of Eden. It's probably the biggest thing I've ever done, but I, that inspiration was because I like to play an air paint and I go around to different gardens, my husband and I love to go walking and gardens and stuff.
And so I created this, the street painting. That was huge, enormous thing that was done by a collaboration of, I don't know how many artists all worked on it. Maybe about 15 artists. We all worked on it and created this botanical garden. As a street painting installation, but that was what the inspiration came from, was me traveling around and just doing my watercolor painting. And then I thought, wow, that would be like a cool street painting idea. That's one example.
Passionistas: So it seems like street painting has evolved recently. You see the things on the internet of someone sees a building with a crack, and then they turn that into, you know, this dark hole that you look like you can walk through. Do you do that kind of street painting too? Or do you mainly concentrate on your own style masters and the masters and things like that?
Lorelle: I kind of do all of it really. I mean, I worked for, I think I kind of still do, but there's a company called We Talk Chalk. They did a many commercial, like big commercial projects. And I would come in and these were not just made out of chalk, but were done on canvas and painted with acrylic paint because they have to be sent out to like cores or all the different commercial, you know, Kia, all these big commercial companies wanted to use that art form to promote businesses. So I got involved in helping produce those types of things for them, which was really wonderful. And I've done many 3d things on my own as well. I don't think it's my strongest suit. I like doing it and it's fun for me, but I think I love a lot of the classical kinds of little. So sometimes it's impressionist.
So, you know, I'm not one of these. It's really hard for me as an artist. Cause I kind of migrate. That's probably one of the, I don't know if it's a good thing or not, but I migrate to different, but I do. I love class, very class, whole looking things too. And I do the 3d. I was like a moving target. It sounds like you continued to study.
I just wrote something to one of my artists, friends. I said, you know, artists, I don't know my exact quote, but it was kind of like, you're always walking around the next bend to try to sort of see what's there. It's not, it's not like you're never done. You're just always kind of seeking and curiosity pulls you around that corner to see what's next.
Passionistas: You know, you said that doing street art has had a far reaching effect on you. How has it changed your life?
Lorelle: I suppose it's just the connection to so many various artists that I know all over the world. I have actually met them. They're not just virtual friendships that have gone to a street painting festival in Florida for about 10 years or more than that now, and this festivals international festivals.
So they bring people in from everywhere. Ukraine, Australia. Mexico everywhere. And these are all people you create. You've got a community suddenly, you know, you've got a community of people who you've known each other. You kind of come back to the same place every year. And so we really connected in Italy.
I've a lot of friends in Italy and that is huge because we all, we help each other when we need, and we support each other. If there's questions. It's just a terrific and amazing thing. And it's sometimes it's been in very funky situations where, you know, I mean, cause you practically are living together sometimes, you know, and like these artists just imagine what you would think and still almost like a community or commune of artists that are, you know, eating together and talking and doing, you know, just whatever it is and talking about your ideas are creative.
So I have that, you know, that community that's grown over the years and that's just one festival, but it's many. So it's almost like a circus that's kind of travels around together. Yeah. Sort of thing. And then, um, the effect that it has, I think just the travel and the community. And then, and then also the effect that see that it has on people as they're looking at what you're doing, the public effect is, is a really big deal.
Passionistas: What kind of reaction do you tend to get?
Lorelle: It's all different. You know, I was in North Dakota two years ago and I got invited to come back there again pretty soon. So that's going to be interesting. I dunno. I just, I, you know, I, for that festival, I kind of was thinking about that. It's a little town called a Putin and, uh, Industry there, how to do with the trains.
Like it was a big train community and my husband more, and his mom was Frank from St. Paul and her father worked the train. And I connected with that thought how cool it would be to think about the trains and going there and doing some that speaks to their community. And they have the bison there. They have big Buffalo bison and combining those images.
And I did this piece that meant a lot to me. I just felt like it showed the power of the animal and the power of that iron, you know, train. And, you know, even though it didn't really talk to every single person that came by, but there was somebody that came by. Whose whole family was, had been historically in this train, kind of, that was everything that their family was, you know, from his historically.
And they really got it. You just, without even saying anything, they were just like, you could tell that they connected with it with the imagery and stuff. So it ranges from the very emotional response to something as silly as like I made an anamorphic snow cone for one project. That was out in Cerritos, California, and you know, it was the anamorphic.
So it was this huge thing that was like 20 feet long, but you could stand there and hold it. And it looked like you were eating a snow cone and people are goofing around with it and kids were having fun. And so, you know, there's such a broad range, but it can be a very emotional one too, just silly.
Passionistas: We're Amy and Nancy Harrington. And you're listening to the Passionistas Project podcast and our interview with Lorelle Miller to learn more about her art. Visit LorelleMiller.com. And be sure to save the dates for the 2021 Passionistas Project Women's Equality Summit being held virtually this year for August 20th through August 22nd. For details, go to ThePassionistasProject.com/2021Summit.
Now here's more of her interview with Lorelle.
Before we started recording, you were telling us about a collaborative piece in Pasadena. Tell us what that is and how that works. How do you actually do a piece with other people?
Lorelle: I wasn't really instrumental in bringing that about at all, but basically what happens like what's going to happen with that one is that there's a, a big image that I told you. It was a Norman Rockwell that was suggested and everybody thought it was cool. It was a good image, but they basically break it down into sections, like, like long triangular sections. And then everybody works on their section and it kind of comes together. Now I've worked on many collaborations. I've worked with another big influencer for me was a very, very famous, um, street painter named Kurt winter.
I've been actually involved in like two or three of his projects. Two of them were in the Guinness book of world records, but the one in Pasadena, we're all doing individual sections. When I worked on a big piece that I did for Kurt winter, if you look up the garden of wonders on YouTube, you'll see this giant anamorphic shark.
I think it was like 27,000 square feet. It was in the Guinness. And then my little garden of wonders that I created was off on the side of that. You can see it just kind of kept adding to it because that was on a runway in Florida. Then as Florida, we took over an airport runway and created these huge installations.
So it's really interesting, but so sometimes it's done in sections like collaboration. Sometimes people will do sections and then sometimes they work in layers like Curt Winter would have. Do a layer and then other artists were work on top of that layer. So that it's almost as though all the different styles kind of merged together, which is really crazy.
That was really interesting to be a part of that, to see how that was all done, you know? Cause you think, cause everybody has a different handwriting, every makes a different mark, but somehow when it's all pulls together, it can Nash and that's not unusual. I mean, even in the classical. You know, they would have somebody who would do a lot of the, let's say the, you know, organic botanical types of ideas, you know, for painting.
Then another person who was a figurative painter would come in and work in, do the figurative and they'd work it together. Is there a lot of pre-planning in that type of project or is it just like, here's your corner go for it? It ranges like when I did the garden of wonder, cause that, like I said, that was a huge endeavor and it took a year to prepare.
And I had a lamp, uh, my friends, uh, the Renshaw has this couple that I know they're architects and the landscape architect when I wanted to do that garden. So I had the help of, I had the concept and I made a maquette, a model for it, of what I wanted, and they worked out the geometry with me. And my idea was just to, to create this format and then, um, The artists themselves, the people that I asked to join the team, I wanted a nice cooperative team.
Cause that's, you gotta kind of watch that, you know? Cause you gave people that are too like, you know, that will resist. So I found this wonderful dream team of people that were extremely talented and I wanted them pretty much to do their, their thing. I wasn't going to like art director. But I wanted to give him the format and then have it all kind of work together.
That's kind of how we did that. One. We, we, it was a combination of do your own thing, and this is kind of the, your parameters that you have to work with. And then once you get onsite, it always changes a little bit too. Like you have the idea. And then when it comes to the, the actuality of it, You know, we wanted to kind of like, maybe have some of the leads carry into another part of the, the other side.
Like you have Asia and then you have Africa. I forget all the different ways I did it. You know, I had each continent was divided up.
Passionistas: So what happened? That was different on the day?
Lorelle: Well, then for instance, like the, like we wanted a little segue, like if, you know, I had it kind of like structured in walls, like, uh, I think it was, this was an octagon, it was seven, seven sites.
Septic on. So it was very linear, like an end. And then some of the artists said, well, wouldn't it be kind of neat. Like I have a cherry blossom tree if it kind of like moved over into the next side just a little bit. So it kind of flowed. So that is something we discussed on that.
Passionistas: How has COVID impacted your work?
Lorelle: All the street painting basically pretty much stopped just now the drums starting to, you can hear the drums starting to be now the festivals. You know, I was up in Canada. That's another place I've been to. So they're starting to come about, some of them are still virtual festivals. Some of them are starting to like, okay, we're going to do it here.
Anyway, like in North Dakota, um, Pasadena is doing it. Um, but as far as my own personal work, I have not really skipped a beat. I mean, My art in its own, you know, just my, my painting and all of that. I've been doing it consistently throughout this thing, I think probably saved my mental health, quite frankly, but I did participate in several virtual festivals and so forth, but it did have an impact for sure.
And I, you know, I was teaching, I've been a teacher for 25 years off. And that had to come to a halt and I'm, he's still evaluating how I want to carry that forward. But you know, this, this time during the pandemic, I, I just thought to myself, you know, at my age, and everything's like, you need to be doing your best work.
Like this is when you need to bring it. I mean, I can still goof around and do whatever, but, you know, it's like, I'm really trying to like focus on, you know, how many years of your life do you have to really put out your best that you can. No, we don't live forever. That's true. So tell us more about that.
Passionistas: Tell us more about your non street art.
Lorelle: I love to draw and drawing and painting work hand in hand, and sometimes, you know, I'll concentrate. I think what I do, because I, like I told you, I kind of migrate to various. Aspects of my work and with painting and drawing, like you can concentrate on where it's just painting and it's just, I mean, it's just drawing and it's just like black and white or graphite or charcoal or something.
And I'll focus in on that, but then I'll get hungry for color. And I may move into working more with my oil paints where they're thick. And I have to, you know, manipulate the plasticity of the paint where, you know, you have to drag the edges and soften the edges and so forth, or sometimes I'll get hungry again and I'll need to move over to my watercolors because of the fluid nature of it.
And the fact that there's not as much control sometimes, or you have, it's just, each thing seems to have a different draw for me. So I, you know, I've been moving through those throughout the pandemic and I was taking. Some online classes and listening to lifestyle. Totally. I didn't listen to podcasts that maybe I, I do actually, when I think about it, cause I was listening to several artists like, you know, very helpful, you know, on Fridays, Craig Nelson is a terrific artist and he had this online thing going on where you could ask him questions and watch what he was doing.
And I actually started doing that myself. Not that I really can talk and paint that well, I would put up my camera and show my process of whatever like that. Ruth Bader Ginsburg behind me. I did that live and I did, I did that a lot throughout all the pandemic, but I basically, I guess I do, I do my oil painting and I like to draw and I love water color and I still need to get back to my sculpture.
That's I have that too. It's dormant right now. You mentioned that you also teach art. So it seems like you've done that a lot. I worked for Segerstroms Art Center and I did, I did a lot of I've done teaching really since, I guess since, uh, probably about 25 years. I think I, I worked for our community college as an adult.
Instructor for all kinds of things, different community classes and, um, art camps for kids. And I worked at the school in the school district. And, um, then later on I, I did stuff for seeker sons, which was great, that that had a lot to do with science and art. We were trying to create programs where we were using different artistic.
Vehicles to help explain scientific concepts. And that was a collaboration between seeker Sims and university of Irvine. And we were visiting artists. And then I do a lot of workshops. I'm a visiting artist to a lot of schools. Like I worked at a school for Al the, um, you do an artist residency, like at a French school.
I did that out in Orange County, which is really cool. Cause I got to use the tiny little bit of French that I know I learned a little bit, but it was teaching students street painting. I did this huge, this huge street painting with all kids from kindergarten all the way till I guess they were maybe fourth or fifth graders.
So I've done teaching like that. And I, and I've done my own private classes too. I taught for the community college. Yeah. Out here. For like 15 years, I taught seniors. Like I went around to various senior living homes and I would teach in those areas, you know, different people at those places. And then I had private let, you know, did private classes at my house for many years too.
So I've had a broad range with teaching and then I teach also on the road, like when I would go to. A festival, they would have me teach, like in Chicago, I would show street painting techniques or in Nashville, I've gone to so many places. That's another part of the extraordinary experience that I've had with just traveling and teaching too.
Passionistas: What do you like about teaching?
Lorelle: I like the sharing part of it, and I like it when the people are serious and get something out of it, you know, when they are, they. I think one of the biggest thing is, is when they see the growth or I can see the growth in them. I know it's an entertaining thing to do, but I like it when it's like, somebody is really getting it and wanting it more than play.
I like the play part too, you know? And I got to tell you one other thing I did, I taught a high school junior high Institute that was really. Gosh, that was a great fun, the energy. It's such an interesting thing, too. When you, when you teach such a variety of ages, like from kindergarten to 90 year olds, and then you teach the junior high kids and their energy is just like off the wall.
I taught a sculpture. I taught sculpture in this class of junior high kids that were, you know, I ha I had all this assemblage stuff to do, like assemblage scope thing. And I, you know, they would make like, whatever. Some kind of creature or something like that. I would say now, imagine if you can make it like, as giant as a planet or as small as a cell, you know, I had them use their brain to think of how those ideas could be expanded or God, it was, that was a lot of fun, but it wasn't no, you know, I thought they would come in there and make like maybe one thing and they ended up making like three things, you know, all in the same amount of time.
Cause their energy sucks. It's really fun. I love like when I was, uh, I went to a Sonoma school, but it was a kind of, a little bit of an inner city school type thing. And I had a lot of fun with the kids. I enjoyed that a lot, you know, doing the street painting and having them kind of develop their ideas. I was there for six weeks, right before the pandemic.
Passionistas: What's the most challenging part of being a street artist?
Lorelle: There's always physical challenges because the streets. Is extremely physical. I mean, you can be working for like 12, 14 hours a day on the ground. So you have to really, I mean, that's suppose that's a big challenge to sophisticated city of it.
And luckily I've been doing it for so many years. I still am pretty good, but that's one challenge. I think most of the challenge just comes from yourself. Like just wanting to do your best work and not emotionally getting hung up on competitive stuff with other artists and stuff like that. That's that for me, honestly.
And it's kind of, cause you know, as an artist, sometimes you get rejected too. So that's, I mean, that's a hard thing for me. I wish I could. I'm trying to work on that. That shouldn't be a thing. I, you know, you really just want to kind of do your own thing and not worry about the others stuff. Like, you know, you win some, you lose some.
Passionistas: What advice would you give to a young woman who wants to follow her passion for art?
Lorelle: Probably to be fearless and curious and just do it.
Passionistas: Thanks for listening to our interview with Lorelle Miller, to learn more about her artwork, visit LorelleMiller.com.
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And be sure to save the dates for The 2021 Passionistas Project Women's Equality Summit being held virtually this year from August 20th through August 22nd. For details, go to ThePassionistasProject.com/2021Summit.
Until next time stay well and stay passionate.