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.

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