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Looking Up

by Kathy Miller

When someone connects with a piece of your work, it is the most fantastic feeling in the world. The first time I ever exhibited, my painting in the window made a passing chap stop so quickly that I heard his feet slap the pavement, before he shouted "wow" very loudly................I've been hooked on painting ever since!

I mostly use acrylics to produce two quite distinct styles of work.  The major body of my work combines the use of dots and brushstrokes. The subject matter is very varied - abstract, figurative, decorative, realistic, surrealistic, landscape, cityscape.....and ranges from very vibrant colours to a subtle gradations of only two or three colours. Much of this work is inspired by the natural world, although I also created a series of paintings of man-made landscapes. one thing I guarantee - it is, as far as i know - utterly unique! Secondly, I also paint highly detailed wildlife portraits. Both techniques are very painstaking and take many many hours to produce. 

After graduating with a first in Geology from Aberystwyth, I then studied for a further three years, gaining a PhD relating to biochemistry. I worked for BP for several years as a geochemist and later on, after having my children, worked as a classroom assistant in a local school. I ended up teaching small groups of children how to draw and paint, which until then, had been one of my hobbies. It was at this time that people started asking why I didn't turn professional. After initial resistance to the idea, I'm now so glad that I took this path - it has been a very enjoyable journey. When people connect with your work, it is the most wonderful feeling.

So, I am a completely self-taught artist, having honed my illustrative skills as a geology undergraduate.Until I turned professional in 2000, I painted mostly zoological and botanical subjects as a hobby. My family and I visited Australia in 1998 - a trip that had been planned for eight years. One of my ambitions since being very young was to see Uluru (Ayer's Rock) and it certainly was not an anticlimax. Seeing 1000 year old Aboriginal rock paintings and carvings was a truly wonderful experience. I left Uluru with the feeling that a connection to my distant past had been awoken. This feeling grew even more following a trip to Lascaux II caves in 2008 and seeing how rough dots and handprints were used in prehistoric painting. To be able to represent concepts & illustrate life with such a technique fired my imagination. My first dotted painting was created during sick leave from my then current job. I had torn a major tendon in the shoulder of my dominant arm. Every single dot on that first painting was created by picking up the right hand with the left in order to paint. I was very pleased with the result and became absolutely fascinated by the whole process of producing work in dots. In late 2008, while clearing out an attic at home, I came across my old sketch books from studying geology at both school and university. It was with some surprise that I found that almost all of my old black and white drawings were shaded in dots in the classic illustrator's technique. So it seems that dots have long held a fascination for me, only now they're in full glorious technicolour! Over the years, people have asked whether my work is inspired by dot-work also produced in a commune in Morocco, or in Indonesia and in some African countries. I has never seen such work so cannot comment but it's always fascinating to hear how dots are used in the art of many cultures. 

After leaving employment to turn professional, my first quest was to find the best method to produce a round dot. Many of my earlier works were produced using a paintbrush and now are a source of irritation to me as the dots are not as uniform as I would have liked. I tried cotton buds, twigs, the wooden ends of paintbrushes as well as a multitude of other unlikely objects. The solution is a trade secret but I can now produce the regularity and texture of dots that I desire. People always say how patient I must be, but in fact I find it to be quite a meditative technique even though the work involves very long hours and a great deal of concentration. The inspiration for many of my paintings comes from nature - the patterns in everything we see as well as the birds, animals and flowers. The only painting that I ever dreamed was 'Legacy' and it was such a vivid dream that I felt compelled to paint it. At exhibitions I hear the frequent comment "Oh it's Aboriginal art", which is incredibly frustrating. Aboriginal art often portrays incredibly complex, and detailed stories and histories. My early pieces certainly show the influence of seeing Aboriginal art while in Australia, using symbology either to portray British environments, or those seen on my travels. I have the greatest respect for the Australian Aboriginal people and their fantastic art. The most important and widely used symbol that I used in earlier work was the circle. This, to me, typifies life - everything is interlinked and co-dependent while individual life itself is a huge circle. Circles are also such a recurrent symbol in much Pre-historic art. 

For the last few years, my work has concentrated on producing pieces that combine the use of dots and brushstroke, and has evolved to portray man-made landscapes as well as natural ones. Typically, a subject is painted realistically using brushstroke technique then a background of dots is added, of either spectacular or subtle colour gradation, to complete the painting. My dotted works are all acrylic, either on canvas or canvas board, or occasionally on heavyweight paper or wooden panels. An average 30 x 20 inch canvas takes approximately 280 hours to paint; more detailed works such as 'Fire' can take up to 400 hours to complete. An average 30 x 20 inch canvas contains between 34,000 and 90,000 dots. I also sell high quality digitally reproduced (giclee) limited edition prints of most of my works at very affordable prices. Prints can even be ordered at up to twice their original size, or at half size if preferred (prices available on request). 

A few years ago, I also started painting detailed wildlife portraits again - something I enjoy immensely. The biggest compliment I was ever paid about my work was when two unrelated buyers individually told me that I had captured the animals' souls in their eyes. I always paint the eyes first, because if they don't look right, then the painting isn't worth completing. My wildlife work is usually on heavy gauge paper and is either in acrylics or watercolour pencil. Most of my designs are available as hand-made greetings cards as well as prints. I also produce small three dimensional pieces on wood which are highly decorative and are available at exhibitions. Please don't hesitate to contact me by e-mail with any enquiries.

People often ask why I work in two such different styles - the answer is simple really, both involve immense detail and the natural world.
November 7th to 9th 2014
Royal Windsor Racecourse, Maidenhead Road, Windsor SL4 5JJ

This is one of the most wonderful and friendly art fairs in the southeast. Over 150 artists all under one roof from all over the UK and Europe. I'll be sharing stand 81 with talented young photographer Ben Miller ( Free tickets for the Private View on Friday 7th November are still available by e-mailing me. Also available are 2 for 1 entry tickets that are valid for the whole weekend. Normal entry price £9 adults, £8 concessions, 5-16 years £1, under 5's free. Free parking on site and lovely cafe and additional coffee bar inside. From noon each day The Great Wine Affair (also covered in the entry price) is open where visitors can sample and purchase fine wines from independent retailers.

Opening Hours
Friday 7th November (Private View, tickets only) 6pm to 9pm
Saturday 8th November 10am to 6pm
Sunday 9th November 10am to 5pm

Further details available at


Surrey Artists Open Studios    JUNE 2014

As part of the Surrey Artists Summer Open Studios event ( ( I opened my studio to the public in June 2014. In the adjacent studio, Ben Miller ( a very talented young photographer, held his inaugural exhibition at the same time. It was a tremendous event, well attended and thoroughly enjoyable. We'd both like to thank everyone who attended.