Hometown Heroes: Artist Emily Miller
Introducing the Hometown Heroes Collective (!). We originally launched our Hometown Heroes program to highlight local creatives, designers and makers all over the country. Now, we’re stepping things up in partnership with Nest, a nonprofit organization focused on supporting craftspeople to generate workforce inclusivity. Together, we’ll continually select U.S.-based makers to get in on extra-special benefits. We’d like you to meet a member of our first class: Nashville-based artist Emily Miller.
Lending her talents to everything from avocado murals to pet portrait jackets, artist Emily Miller has made a name for herself by bringing joy to unexpected places. That’s why we were so excited to get a look at her place—she let us stop by the studio to chat about creative routines, inspiration tips, podcast recs and more.
First, tell us—have you always been an artist?
Yes, always! Growing up in the rural midwest helped foster my imagination. There isn’t much to do so I would improvise. I drew everything—my pets, my town, places I haven’t been to and things that didn’t exist. I eventually went to the Memphis College of Art to draw some more! After school I moved to Nashville and that’s really where I fell in love with painting murals and making street art.
Yes, we love how you use your work to bring life back to abandoned spaces! What have been some of your favorite street art pieces so far?
Thanks! I really love creating art to surprise people in places they wouldn’t expect to find it. Some of my favorites have been a giant avocado and a pink zebra—things that are just strange to find out of nowhere and hopefully make people smile. I want to create a world that’s surprising and hopeful.
Oh, and we’re big fans of your custom pet portraits too. How did you get into those?
It was one of those happy accidents in life! I painted my dog Cooper on the back of my favorite vintage denim jacket for fun and posted it on Instagram. Turns out, people really want to wear their dogs on their jackets! It’s been such a fun project, I just wish I could meet all the dogs I paint.
Understandable. So, what’s a typical day in the studio like for you?
Making coffee is my favorite way to start the day. Every day can look completely different as a freelancer, so I try to instill little routines throughout to keep myself balanced. One of these practices is writing three pages by hand (it helps me think freely and stop myself from editing) each day. It’s changed my life—read The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron if you want to know more. My favorite days are painting murals because I get to be out of the studio and feel the hustle of the city—it’s exhilarating to be a part of it.
What do you do when you’re tapped out creatively?
I go on a walk—my dog loves this. I feel like moving my body physically helps move things around in my brain. I love walking with Cooper because he slows me down and I really get a chance to observe things I would otherwise miss.
Any advice for someone looking to make their art a full-time gig?
Make sure you’re always working on a personal project. When the thing you love to do becomes your job, it’s hard to love it all the time. It’s also hard to make a distinction between what is work and what is not, and when everything becomes work, you’ll burn out fast. I always have projects that are just “play” to keep me inspired and loving what I do.