Artists’ Studios | Kathryn Miller


Text by Bonnie Gangelhoff  ·  Photos by Kevin Johnson


Kathryn Miller in Her Studio in Santa Cruz, CA.

This story was featured in the November 2015 issue of Southwest Art magazine. Get the Southwest Art November 2015 print issue or digital download now–then subscribe to Southwest Art and never miss another story

Describe your studio. My studio is an inspiring spot. I wanted it to be cozy and comfortable—a place where I would want to go to paint. It is approximately 900 square feet with 23-foot-high ceilings and a 250-square-foot loft. It sits at the back of our property, overlooking a canyon that goes down to a creek. I love old things and have filled the studio with treasures I have collected, including antique chandeliers, wall sconces from the Porta Portese flea market in Rome, a front door from India, and French doors and stained-glass church windows from a salvage company in Berkeley, CA. The fireplace mantel is from Venice, Italy. I also have beds for my dogs Mitzi and Opie, who join me every day in the studio. Mitzi is an 8-year-old shih tzu. Opie is a 1-year-old Australian shepherd. They play and nap and occasionally come over [to me] to say hi.

What elements were important to you in designing the studio? I am a studio artist. It is critical for this type of studio to have a true north-light orientation. The design of my studio was built around that. The true-north wall has windows that, in total, are 10 feet tall and 25 feet wide. Each window has blackout shades that I use to control the light. Since I wanted it to be comfortable, I included a fireplace and a sitting area. There are lots of built-in cabinets for my art books and all the things that I use to create my still-life setups.

Describe your hometown. Located at the north end of Monterey Bay, Santa Cruz has always been a special place. I have lived here all of my life. The city has a very diverse population. It is home to a large number of artists, musicians, and writers. Since the mid-1960s it has been a university town, which adds greatly to the cultural aspects of the city. I live in the country with my family. We are fortunate to have enough land to keep animals. Currently that includes donkeys, chickens, doves, cats, and dogs. It is a peaceful and tranquil environment that is conducive to my painting.


Inside Kathryn Miller’s Studio in Santa Cruz, CA.

Does living in Santa Cruz influence your work? No. I love living here, but most of all, just coming home and spending time in my studio makes me the happiest.

What attracts you to the still-life genre? I love being a studio artist, and I enjoy the solitude of my studio. I like having absolute control over what I paint—the colors, the subject matter, and the light. Many things inspire me to paint a still life. It could be a vessel that I recently acquired or have had for years that catches my eye, fruits from our trees, or flowers from our garden. I don’t necessarily plan it. It just happens.

What artists have influenced you?
Artemisia Gentileschi. Her story as a female artist inspires me greatly. Also Diego
Velázquez and the Dutch masters, particularly Rembrandt and Johannes Vermeer.

How do you describe the style of your work? Chiaroscuro. I am a representa-
tional still-life painter. I paint with light and shadow.

What do you keep in your studio? I have hundreds of pots, vases, bowls, bells, sashes, rugs, and draperies. They are all things I have collected over the years and that I use in my paintings.

Do you listen to music while you work? I listen to classical music with no words. It inspires me.


Kathryn Miller’s Studio in Santa Cruz, CA.

What accomplishments are you most proud of in your fine-art career? I am pleased to have been awarded signature member status in the Oil Painters of America in 2001. I am proud of being accepted into national juried exhibitions and especially pleased if I am fortunate enough to win an award.

What do you enjoy doing when you are not working? I love to travel to faraway places, mainly Asia and Europe. And I enjoy spending time with family and friends.

Where do you take people when they come to visit you? I am fortunate to live in a seaside community. I like to take people to the beaches, the wharf, and along the coast, both north and south. The Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk is always fun. It is one of the last seaside amusement parks left in the country. I live close to San Francisco and Carmel, and both are fun and interesting places to visit. The Napa Valley wine country is several hours away and is also a good place to visit. And, of course, having dinner in my backyard is a special treat.

New Masters Gallery, Carmel, CA.

Featured in the November 2015 issue of Southwest Art magazine–click below to purchase:
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