Embarrassingly, I didn’t know of Millie Gosch before Camellia Art began representing her in January 2020. But, when she sent her first batch of pieces to us, I was struck! Growing up in Bluffton, the Lowcountry landscape is already one of my favorite muses ever. But I was immediately taken with Millie’s striking and fun color choices and the textured brushwork in her pieces- It was so unexpected… A more contemporary translation of Impressionism… I fell in love with her work.
(a few of Millie's pieces, Jan 2020)
So, when she sent us several more pieces in the Spring, I knew it was the right opportunity to focus on Millie and her portfolio for our Artist Spotlight Week.
I was beyond thrilled- fan girling a little bit- to be able to have a phone interview with her for this blog.
I’ve learned several years ago that talking to artists about their life and their work could turn into anything…
Initially, I had prepared a few standard “get to know you” questions. But the ask-and-answer interview quickly shifted to such an intriguing discussion. Millie speaks in metaphors, and memories, and anecdotes. Her storytelling and vocabulary are as colorful as her canvases. Speaking with her was so inspiring. She’s so knowledgable and practiced. There’s no doubt that she has gone through the ups and downs of working as an artist. But her takeaway was always positive and enthusiastic.
Since our talk, I’ve poured over my notes countless times, rearranging and rewriting, keeping as much pure content as possible. I truly enjoyed speaking to, and learning from, Millie. I’m very appreciative of the time she she spent with me that afternoon. I hope you enjoy reading this as much as I enjoyed writing it…
I began with asking Millie if she would give us just a quick background about where she was from and how she began as an artist. Millie recalls taking her first art class at age eight. She knew she wanted to be an artist from a young age. Her dad was in the Navy and thus her family was always moving. But no matter where they relocated to, her parents always made sure she enrolled in an art class near their new home.
She went on to college, where she majored in studio art. While in school, painting became her passion; she recalls painting with just about any and all mediums. After earning her Studio Arts Degree, Millie became a decorative artist and worked painting household fixtures- tapestries and tiles, etc. After 20 years, Millie felt creatively spent. She became uninspired in her work. She knew she needed to finally return to her greatest artistic muse, landscapes, and wanted to paint strictly en Plein air. She made the decision to become a professional artist 15 years ago and has never looked back.
I asked Millie what inspires her to create. “God’s Beauty.” For her, Plein air painting is a form of praise and worship. Plein air- the nature and sunshine- allows Millie to channel her spiritual appreciation and enthusiasm. A feeling that may not be so easily accessed indoors
Morning Pass, Oil on Canvas, 48" x 36"
Millie admires some of the original American Impressionists (like Childe Hassam) and Californian Impressionists, who were most responsible for honing and popularizing Plein Air Impressionism in The United States. (Side note: Millie is super knowledgable in art history)
She quickly went on to list her contemporaries and friends, artists Ray Roberts, Peggi Kroll Roberts, and Roger Dale Brown as significant motivators too. She noted a few times in our conversation that having close relationships and support from other artists who share her same tempo and passion has always had the most influence on her and her art. Not just for camaraderie and rapport, but also for accompaniment to workshops and painting locations.
Millie is constantly working on developing her art and mentioned loving paint outs, specifically. She loves the quick, off-the-cuff nature of the competition and the opportunity for honest feedback and critique. She said the soul of an artist should always be seeking for more. She believes complacency kills creativity. If an artist gets frustrated and bored, they must push themselves to work through it. Beyond the exhaustion is another level of well deserved inspiration and success. Don’t let yourself get stuck; focus your time and effort into your practice and move beyond, or you’ll risk losing your creative drive and passion.
I know Millie travels a good bit to paint and wondered if she had a favorite location. Millie immediately responded, “Wide open space! Farms, mountains, the Lowcountry...” I asked if there was somewhere specific that she loved and she mentioned a farm in Newnan, Georgia that’s been in her family for forever. An endeared location that displays great variation throughout the landscape depending on the time of year. Something different every visit.
Millie said her family jokes that she leaves when the leaves come out and she comes back when the leaves disappear. She spends whatever time her schedule and the weather will allow being outside, painting on location.
Being in the moment, absorbing everything her surroundings are offering. Capturing what she wants to convey. Painting panel after panel while enjoying the sun and the breeze. Soaking it all it. Study after study. Millie, the Plein air machine.
Then, when nature isn’t so pleasant and inviting, she returns to her studio to lay out her vignettes.
She creates her pieces in batches to maximize her time outdoors! Though it makes all the sense in the world, it never occurred to me that artists work this way. Then, in studio on a larger canvas, she sketches in from a study and will maybe lay out another while allowing the first one to dry. I asked how long it typically takes for her to finish a painting once she’s in her studio.
“About six hours. Six hours and 40 years.”
Up The Creek, Oil on Canvas, 40" x 40"
I asked if she was ever worried about losing whatever feeling she had while painting her studies and she assured me that she absolutely wasn’t. When painting on location, she is sure to catch whatever needs to be brought forth so that when she is recreating the composition again in her studio, she is able to pick up right where she was. She stated so matter- of- factly that not everything makes it into the study. But everything in the study makes it into the final piece.
While describing the technical elements of her art, Millie spoke about loving oils. Oils are always her go to- the feel and the play of mixing colors and brushing in. She said oils are her language. I mentioned noticing that her palette is more vibrant than that of most Plein air Impressionists, and I asked her if she had a favorite color.
After thinking for some time and coming up empty, Millie concluded she’s just drawn to all color. She says she sees natural vibrance in whatever landscape she’s painting. Her mom once told her once that she had no idea there was just a little bit of pink on the horizon until she saw it in Millie’s painting. And now it catches her eye every time.
Millie continued, “Colors speak to my soul. Artists see the world a little differently.” After thinking for a few more seconds, she chose bright colors as her favorites! And warm hues! And also blues!…. And finally resigned that it’s just oils in general, “I like thick paint and I cannot lie!”
Sea Oats and Sunshine, Oil on Canvas, 48" x 36"
Her colors are always what catch my eye first. So I was curious if she had always used such a bright palette as a fine artist. She said she had. So I asked her what she thought had changed or evolved from her art since her school days or even since becoming a fine artist. Millie wasn’t sure at first. She said she’s always painted in the same style: loose, impressionistic strokes. Adding layers and more texture. She still loves painting en Plein air. Nothing inspires her more. While thinking through, she recognized that she has become more confident in herself and in her art. She feels more consistent and intuitive. It just flows easier. “It’s more fun to paint now than it was 10 years ago. There’s no hit or miss.”
I continued with asking Millie her favorite thing about her art.
Without skipping a beat, Millie responded, "The opportunity to connect with the viewer.”
She thinks of her paintings as Haiku. She paints until she feels she has painted just enough. Then asks us, the viewers, to walk right up and fill in whatever is left: the last line in her Haiku. The hook. She hopes we’re able to be in that landscape and allow it to recall a memory or invoke an emotion. Her paintings represent a transition from an actual physical place on Earth that she was standing in, to something else that is solely and uniquely our own. She hopes her collectors can feel something new every time they see her art; she hopes they continue to be as excited and inspired by the landscape as she was while creating it.
I think that’s a beautiful way to define your personal success as an artist— allowing someone else be a part of your labors. To create art, not only because you love to, but because you know that other people need you to. To facilitate others into seeing something beautiful while feeling something beautiful.
Because of this desired response and interaction with her art, Millie is a huge supporter of art galleries. The internet has opened up the doors to the art world, allowing art of all mediums to become so much more accessible than it has ever been. The internet is a catalyst for obtaining whatever you dream up at the speed of typing it into your search bar. Millie acknowledged those are all good things. Anyone can learn about and enjoy anything from anywhere; that’s amazing! But she believes that art galleries still have such an important place in our world. And because they are able to offer so much more than the internet could, they are more relevant than ever.
She’s appreciative of the nurturing and supportive artist/ gallery dynamic. Feedback and insight that galleries are able to provide her are vital.
As an artist who defines her artistic success by her ability to create relationships and incite emotion, she knows there is great value in experiencing art live and in person. To be able to capture the actual art form with your eyes and not just whatever a computer is translating what a camera has translated the art form to be. The art you choose to surround yourself with will be so much more meaningful if you are fortunate enough to connect with it in person and not just choose something because the internet has made it quick and easy to obtain.
Creating art is such a moving experience for her. I know she wants buying art to be just as moving for others. Millie’s most memorable sale happened soon after she became a fine artist. She was parked outside of a gallery where she was represented at the time. As she was unloading new paintings from her car, stacking them against her vehicle before hauling them inside, a woman walked up and exclaimed that she loved Millie’s work and wanted to buy a piece. Millie sold it to her right then and there in the parking lot. She was so excited because it was such a surprise. And it meant she had her studio rent for the next month.
It was evident by nearly every story Millie told that interaction and feedback about her art was what really fueled her drive. But the way she talks about her process and technique- it’s like breathing to her. She says to paint what you know and paint what you love. “That will allow an intuitive vibration to come through.”
Pasture Gods, Sky Waltz, Summer Blues, All: Oil on Panel, 10" x 8"
She enjoys the whole en Plein air process. It’s all so fulfilling- from the very start of going to a location and painting studies, to mapping them into larger compositions in her studio, all the way through laying down her brushes knowing she’s finished. From that, I asked her how she knows when she’s finished- something I almost always struggle with- and she laughed and said, “Some paintings paint themselves! Wonderful and fun. There’s effort and energy in the canvas.” But sometimes it’s not as straight forward and she has to catch herself about midway through and rework whatever isn’t sitting right. “Rinse and repeat.”
Millie “pushes the paint around” until she feels like she just doesn’t need to anymore. She can feel in her gut when she’s done all she can. But don’t confuse that with settling- she never gives up on a piece. She always takes her composition to where she wants to leave it- before the hook.
“Keep the verve! Leave it open ended for the viewer to make it their own story.”