Although she spent most of her formative years overseas, artist Emma Miller has always considered Springfield to be her home. And return to home she did after moving from Springfield to France at the age of 7.
The daughter of medical missionary parents, Miller also spent time living in Mali and West Africa, but it was France, she says, that fueled her love for art.
“I’ve always liked art,” says Miller. “When my family was living in France, I started really getting into it. We visited lots of museums, and my dad took me to (art) supply stores. From that point on, art felt really important. I had a lot of respect and admiration for artists.”
Miller returned to the United States to attend college and earned a bachelor’s degree in Fine Arts from Asbury University in Kentucky.
She now shares her talent with students as a teacher at Emmanuel Christian Academy. And within the last couple of years, she has also attended countless weddings, but not as a guest, per se. At these weddings, she was appointed to bring the special moments to life on canvas with a keepsake “live painting.”
“My husband’s cousin asked me about doing a wedding painting,” Miller says. “So, I set up an easel in the back and painted the ceremony. (The painting) was posted on social media, and it snowballed from there.”
Newlyweds Sidney and Levi Moell, of Champaign County, discovered Miller’s live wedding paintings on Instagram.
“We will forever cherish the work of art that Emma was able to capture on our wedding day,” Sidney Moell says. “When I visited her Instagram page, I saw the live wedding paintings and messaged her immediately. What she was able to capture on our wedding day is something that you cannot achieve in a photograph.”
The painting was a unique way to specifically highlight the atmosphere of the ceremony, Moell says.
“We chose Emma because her services were unique, and we had never seen it done before. But it turned out to be something we will both cherish for the rest of our lives,” she says.
Miller arrives at weddings two hours early to decide how she wants to compose the image. She makes quick thumbnail sketches in a notebook with layouts of shapes and values. She then sketches and paints in the background as much as possible.
The live magic begins when the guests start arriving.
“It feels purposeful,” Miller says. “I think a lot while I’m doing the painting about what details would be the most important to capture. I to try and get a bit of the faces, emotions and lighting, certain things that would help (the couple) connect that to their wedding day, and help people who weren’t there to see and know what it felt like to be there.”
Miller adds the finishing touches to the live painting following the ceremony. The painting is then displayed at the reception, and later framed.
Miller says pen and watercolor paintings have become more popular with clients because she is able to achieve a high level of detail.
“It has a court room illustration vibe,” she says.
As can be seen in her online gallery, Miller also lends her talents to landscape paintings, specializing in plein air landscapes.
“I set up an easel in the landscape and paint it quickly,” she says. “I look at what is around me and translate that into a 2-dimensional painting. I’ve always had to work quick with the light changing.”
While she enjoys painting landscapes, she says every wedding presents a kind of challenge.
“There is something that happens you can’t predict that you have to work through, such as lighting or spacing,” she says.
The art world is moving away from a gallery representation model and more toward an online marketplace, Miller says, but admits it is fun to go somewhere and see her art up on walls. She maintains a personal studio in the South Fountain neighborhood home she and her husband are remodeling.
“It’s a very inspiring atmosphere,” she says. “Springfield has been a constant point in my life. We always came back for furlough to Springfield. My grandparents lived here. It’s always felt like home more than any other place. I feel excited about the direction Springfield is going. I want to be part of this movement to revitalize it.”