Susan Miller creates art with a ball point pen 2011.02.02

Written by David Green.

susan_millerBy DAVID GREEN

With oil paints, the artist can cover up a mistake. With pastels, an eraser can fix the problem.

But with ball point pen ink? Well, you better not make a mistake, says artist Susan Miller, because your options for setting it straight are limited.

Susan ought to know; she’s had experience in each of the three media.

“My mom is very talented so I’ve been surrounded by art,” she said.

When she was a student at Chesterfield High School, she said her art teacher saw potential and gave her some challenging projects.

“I took a few pastel portrait lessons, but most of it I inherited from my mom.”

Her dream career would have been working as a portrait artist, but the former Fayette resident now living in Morenci never tried to make a career out of art.

Instead, oils and pastels were simply a pastime she enjoyed.

Her art took an unexpected turn a couple of years ago when her son wanted to get a tattoo and asked his mother for some designs. It wasn’t just a rudimentary sketch that she produced. Working with a ball point pen, Susan turned out some detailed drawings.

“I enjoyed doing this and I seemed to have a knack for it,” she said. “I just really took to liking the pen.”

Now she’s turning out detailed drawings using only a common ball point. A collection of her drawings will go on display this week in the Stair Public Library Annex.

“Western themes have always been my preference in oils and pastels,” Susan said, and that’s carried on into her current work.

miller_kneelingHer daughter, Megan, a senior at Morenci Area High School, takes photographs at rodeos and Susan converts many of them into ink drawings.

A detailed drawing might take 60 or 70 hours to complete, although the time is hard to estimate. Working at home, Susan might draw for a while, then move on to laundry, then return to the pen, then be off making dinner. It’s also a daytime project with her drawing table positioned near her living room window.

“I only work under natural light,” she said. “Artificial light throws too many shadows.”

She starts a project by first creating an outline in pencil.

“I do a pretty detailed outline,” she said. “I want to make sure it’s right before I start putting ink in. There’s not much you can do if you make a mistake.”

Pointing out some of the details in the drawing of a bull rider, Susan says the small details are easier for her than the underlying shape of a bull.

“I know what the details are,” she said, “but a bull.…”

Overall, she says, it’s not difficult work for her.

“It’s just time consuming,” she explained. “You have to keep going over and over until you get the right shading.”

Her pen of choice? It’s nothing special. Currently she’s using a pen offered free to customers by an area bank.

• A selection of Susan Miller’s drawings will be on display in the Stair Public Library Annex during February and March.

An open house is planned from 10 a.m. until noon Saturday. Refreshments will be served.

  • Front.cowboy
    A PERFORMER named Biligbaatar, a member of the AnDa Union troupe from Inner Mongolia, dances at Stair District Library last week during a visit to the Midwest. The nine-member group blends a variety of traditions from Inner and Outer Mongolia. The music is described as drawing from “all the Mongol tribes that Genghis Khan unified.” The group considers itself music gatherers whose goal is to preserve traditional sounds of Mongolia. Biligbaatar grew up among traditional herders who live in yurts. Additional photos are on the back page of this week’s Observer.
  • Front.base Ball
    UMPIRE Thomas Henthorn tosses the bat between team captains Mikayla Price and Chuck Piskoti of Flint’s Lumber City Base Ball Club. Following the 1860 rules, after the bat was grabbed by the captains, captains’ hands advanced to the top of the bat—one hand on top of the other. The captain whose hand ended up on top decided who would bat first. Additional photos of Sunday’s game appear on page 12 of this week’s Observer. The contest was organized in conjunction with Stair District Library’s Hometown Teams exhibit that runs through Nov. 20.
    VALUE OF ATHLETICS—Morenci graduate John Bancroft (center) takes a turn at the microphone during a chat session at the opening of the Hometown Teams exhibit at Stair District Library. Clockwise to his left is John Dillon, Jed Hall, Jim Bauer, Joe Farquhar, George Hollstein, George Vereecke and Mike McDowell. Thomas Henthorn (at the podium) kicked off the conversation. Henthorn, a University of Michigan–Flint professor, will return to Morenci this Sunday to lead a game of vintage base ball at the school softball field.
  • Front.cross
    HUDSON RUNNER Jacob Morgan looks toward the top of the hill with dismay during the tough finish at Harrison Lake State Park. Fayette runner Jacob Garrow focuses on the summit, also, during the Eagle Invitational cross country run Saturday morning. Continuing rain and drizzle made the course even more challenging. Results of the race are in this week’s Observer.
  • Front.bear
    HOLDEN HUTCHISON gives a hug to a black bear cub—the product of a taxidermist’s skills—at the Michigan DNR’s Great Youth Jamboree. The event on Sunday marked the fourth year of the Jamboree. Additional photos are on page 12.
  • Front.hose Testing
    HOSE safety—The FireCatt hose testing company from Troy put Morenci Fire Department hose to the test Monday morning when Mill Street was closed to traffic. The company also checks nozzles and ladders for wear in an effort to keep fire fighters safe while on calls.

Weekly newspaper serving SE Michigan and NW Ohio - State Line Observer ©2006-2016