Tour Artist: H.K. Miller, Jr.


By Jennifer Clark

Painting by H.K. MILLER. Are You Saved, Eastern, PA, oil on linen, 12x24

Are You Saved, Eastern, PA, oil on linen, 12×24

“I have the best of both worlds,” H.K. Miller stated. He took a sip of his decaffeinated coffee and added, “I can’t imagine doing anything else.”

I walked into the Artist’s Hand Gallery promptly at 8 a.m. sharp when the doors open to interview Mr. Miller about his art and to, of course, grab a cup of morning fuel.

Harold K. Miller will be in this year’s Indiana Arts Council’s annual Artist Open Studio Tour for the first time in his career after being contacted by the IAC to participate in the tour.

“What kind of work do you do? What’s your medium of choice?” I asked him after we both settled at a table with our orders.

He pointed to the white wall covered in art facing him and said, “You see that gold-framed painting? That’s mine.” The painting to which he referred was a scene of an old farm in a desolate field, the sun’s beams emphasized on the side of the building.

Miller just had his work displayed in the Artist’s Hand Gallery for a few weeks in August. He was preparing to take it down in the coming week.

As he spoke, the sun gleamed in through the windows of the Artist’s Hand while the barista prepared the coffee bar for the day.

Artists H.K. MILLER.  PA Pasture, State College, PA, oil on linen, 6.5x6

PA Pasture, State College, PA, oil on linen, 6.5×6

“I paint landscapes – primarily farms,” he added. “I love using oil. I like it because it takes a while to dry, allowing for a lot of flexibility.”

While this is his first year in the Studio Tour, he is not new to being featured in galleries he told me.

“I’ve been represented by Gallery 30 in Gettysburg for years. I love to paint the buildings remaining on the Gettysburg battlefield. In fact, I think I’ve painted every one of them.”

The plein air artist, who will be featuring an accumulation of work from over time and his last gallery, enjoys the shapes and shadows of buildings. He particularly loves painting old abandoned structures and houses. Farm houses fascinate him the most because they contain no set plan or blue print when constructed.

“These places have stories to tell as well, which is just as important as the physical structure itself.”

[Click here for a story about a farm Harold painted that held a lot of meaning to one individual.]

I wrote quickly as he went on to discuss his past per my interview questions. Our voices broke the morning silence of the cafe.

His opportunity to create really did not come about heavily until after Miller retired from teaching seven years ago. Life took him on a separate path first.

Though Miller is a New Jersey native, his heart is in Indiana. In 1968, Harold studied at the Indiana University of Pennsylvania (IUP) and decided to stay when he fell in love.

“I met my wife,” he said.

Miller was one of two people that graduated with a Fine Arts degree from the university at the time.

“Everyone else got teaching degrees,” he recalled, taking another sip from his mug.

Cornbread Stuffing, Virginia, oil on linen, 11x24

Cornbread Stuffing, Virginia, oil on linen, 11×24

Upon graduating, he briefly went to Rochester Institute of Technology for his MFA in printmaking but quickly realized he didn’t like it.

After six months, Harold came back to be with the woman who would soon become his wife and obtain a job in Indiana.

He lucked out when he was able to acquire a teaching position shortly after earning his Master’s in Education.

“I was very lucky,” he said with an appreciative smile.

For 32 years he taught art at Benjamin Franklin Elementary and loved what he did; however, his job allowed very little time for any personal creations.

“My free time was dedicated to my family.”

Now that he is retired, he can not only dedicate free time to his family but to his paintings as well.

“I have the best of both worlds,” he stated…

Harold Miller’s studio is located above his garage in his house. While many artists maintain a studio in the Indiana Theater Building on Philadelphia Street, this year the artists have collectively decided to open their home studios to the public.

The free, self guided tour will be Saturday, September 28 and Sunday, September 29. For more information about the tour and studio locations, please visit online at indianaartscouncil.org/studio-tour-13/.

If you are an artist interested in applying to join next year’s tour, please email Rebecca Slak at indianaartscouncil@gmail.com for more information.

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