By: Lillian Lema, Staff Writer
Many college graduates might feel the pressure and stress associated with not knowing how to incorporate their passions into a career. For USM alumnus, Raquel Miller, it has been about making more room for her creativity and passions. Specifically, making more room for art in her life. College can be a helpful guide in discovering one’s path in life. However, after college, it is up to the individual to use those fundamentals to nourish and build on their creative passions.
Miller was an English major with a Spanish minor and graduated in 2017. “I use the tools and the skills that I got from my English major and Spanish minor in my artistic practice,” Miller said.
During the art course, Drawing and Media Strategies, taught by Michael Shaughnessy, Miller became excited and inspired to pursue a career in art. “The course was pivotal in showing students how they can be a practicing artist and encourage them to focus on the exploring process of making individual artwork,” Miller said.
Towards the end of her academic career, Miller had classes with painting instructor, Jim Flahaven, where she was able to work in the painting studio. “In that class, it was more about you creating your work… Flahaven is not teaching you how to paint… you are now just making your paintings based on your ideas and concepts,” Miller explains.
As Miller continued her art exploration she came to realize that her art style leans more towards abstract than realism. “In classes, I felt the inclination to create self-portraits wasn’t initially understood, especially when I didn’t make them 100% realistic,” she said. Miller was advised to better her drawing skills so she could create realistic self-portraits but didn’t feel right to her.
After graduating in December 2017, Miller worked hard and endlessly in creating her website, raquelpmiller.com. It took her about a year before she felt it was good enough to share with the public. “I had the basic up on the website for like 6 months, but it took me a year to get it to a point where I wanted to share it,” she said.
In Miller’s pursuit of trying to make more room for art in her life, she began working as a painting instructor at Muse Paintbar and as a sales associate at Artist & Craftsman Supply Co.
Besides selling her artwork independently and through Muse, Miller has been showing her work around Biddeford. Earlier this year, in January, Miller was able to showcase her work at the art space, Engine. “Having my work shown was rewarding to see… I caught a moment with two people physically making a point to squat and look at it…seeing someone make an effort to look and discuss, point and interact was so cool,” Miller said. She has also had her artwork displayed at Pinecone and Chickadee in Portland.
Showing artwork to the public can be a very daunting experience for artists. Miller explains that submitting her artwork to art spaces that are open to everyone is helping her get more comfortable putting her artwork out there for the public to see. “In a sense, it’s like me putting myself out there… and like my vision… my story… like my literal self out there for people to view,” Miller said.
“There is this pressure to create a piece that is well received,” Miller explains. “Then that creates an idea and image of what all my other pieces will be like.”
Like any other inspiring artist, Miller deals with the fear of rejection. To not let fear get in her way of becoming more comfortable and growing as an artist, she submits her artwork to places that are open to all artists. However, she tries to challenge herself by submitting art pieces to publications and applying them to a residency. Although she didn’t get accepted to the publication and residency Miller decides to look at the process as a learning experience.
“I’m still trying because there is no harm in trying… I’m still making art… I’m not letting myself fall stagnant… I make art every single day and it might be small but I’m still making something every day,” Miller said.
Moving forward in this career path, Miller reminds herself to trust her gut, try new things, and not let her ideas get clouded by outside voices. As she articulates in her artistic statement, “I create to heal… my work aims to connect the moments in my life, representations of myself, and repressed emotions in a way to make sense of trauma, pain, and loss, turning it into something greater.”