Lynne Millar lives in central California (by way of San Francisco, Connecticut, Utah, and Virginia), with her husband Steve, a pediatrician, and their 4 kids (15, 12, 9, and 6). She grew up in Virginia and retains a love for the lush green of the east coast, and the wonderful DC museums her parents took us to throughout her childhood. She majored in Art History at BYU, and have spent most of my life chasing beauty, through many kinds of art making. She is also passionate about art education for children, and started a parent art docent program 8 years ago at her K-8 school that is going strong and gets art into all of the classrooms. Here’s our conversation:
What are your sources of inspiration?
Inspiration comes from a lot of places. I try mostly to paint from life and my life experiences – I love painting flowers and their life cycles, and trying to capture family life in figures. I live in the Central Valley of California and I feel like my palette often reflects what’s going on outside as the seasons pass: in the spring I paint with a ton of pink and purple as ranunculus and peonies are in season; in the summer things get more red and deep yellow, when farmers market dahlias and sunflowers start popping up. I’m also so inspired by other artists – the history of art is the continuous story of artists building on the sparks that others light, and I’m definitely conscious of inspiration I feel when I look at the genius work of artists who include (but certainly are not limited to) Van Gogh, Mary Cassatt, James McNeill Whistler, Brian Kershisnik, J. Kirk Richards, Leslie Duke, Bobbie Burgers, and Stuart Shils.
Yellow Chinoiserie, Lynne Millar
What do you want others to take or feel from your work? How do you feel that your testimony is reflected in your work?
I have an idea that there are these invisible tethers that connect our experiences here and now with a veiled past we can’t remember and an eternal future we hope for. Good art (by that, I mean also music, and writing) can act like dew on those tethers, illuminating for viewers/participants the ties that tie us to our bigger spiritual reality, reminding us that the source of beauty is our Creator and the mechanism by which we sense it is the light of Christ. I hope for my work to one day be good enough to be a little bit like that dew for those who look at it; to spark distant and veiled memories of the sublime.
How do you find time and space to create art?
Time is without a doubt the hardest part of attempting to be an artist and a mother. When I’m not actively working, I store up ideas, thoughts and notes in my sketchbook or on my phone and when I find a minute, try and jump right in and work like a crazy woman. But, while navigating through the daily chaos and carving out any consistent time has been a challenge, I like to think that all the crazy adds a depth to what I’m trying to express through my art that wouldn’t be there if my life was simpler. And also I realize (with sadness, actually) that it’s just a short time before things will change. My youngest started kindergarten this past year, so finally some blocks of time where I’m able to focus 100% on painting are emerging. I’m pretty regimented about those precious hours – as much as humanly possible, I try to take care of other stuff so that during that time I can put my head down and work. I think my main tip here for others struggling with this is to try and take yourself seriously as an artist, and let that seriousness inform your choices (where you have control over them). I say no to many things now that seemed a lot more important a few years ago, because I’m committed to paint every day (every possible day – but man, with kids, things come up!). Mary Oliver, in her book A Poetry Handbook, says: “Writing a poem [or painting a painting] … is a kind of possible love affair between something like the heart (that courageous but also shy factory of emotion) and the learned skills of the conscious mind. They make appointments with each other, and keep them, and something begins to happen. Or, they make appointments with each other but are casual and often fail to keep them: count on it, nothing happens.”
Evidence, Lynne Millar
What do you find empowering about being an artist?
I have discovered that I need to work hard to express myself, painting my way through a subject with no shortcuts but rather many hours and many mistakes. But sometimes – every now and then – I make a painting that feels like I’m getting closer to what I have in my mind and even though I still have SO far to go, those few moments I’ve had here and there have been thrilling. In them I feel just a little echo of the phrase “every living thing shall fill the measure of its creation.”
How do you encourage creativity in others?
Elder Uchtdorf said that “the desire to create is one of the deepest yearnings of the human soul.” I think it’s so important to notice and applaud the creativity of others. I’ve been the recipient of kind support and encouragement from women on instagram, and their words (and/or emojis :)) have meant the world to me and have fueled me with the courage to continue putting my work (which sometimes feels quite personal) out there. It’s made me definitely realize that when I see something that someone has created that moves me, I need to be sure and say it to that person! I have a love/hate relationship with social media but this is an area where it can support a lot of positivity.