Interview: Amanda Milke

“Despair” by Amanda Milke acrylic on 24″ x 36″ canvas

A few weeks back, Amanda Milke answered my request for interview subjects. I’m really glad that she did as I found her work to be intense and inspiring. Her use of bold and contrasting colors and tones cause you to experience the works viserally. They draw you to them.

We conducted our intervew via e-mail. For information about her upcoming shows and/or to purchase or comission an artwork (including the one above) see notes at the end of the interview.

M: When did you start painting/creating art?

A: My first creations were done when I was 3 or 4 years old. I decided that the walls where we were living at that time desperately needed color, so I happily set about the task of brightening things up with my crayons.

Of course, my mother didn’t share my artistic spunk at the time and promptly had me wash away my masterpiece. I didn’t start painting until I was in High School. It was during that time that I completed several portraits both of others and myself in an attempt to explore different styles and mediums. That’s when I started painting with acrylics.

M: Where do you draw your inspiration from?

A: Essentially my inspiration comes from life itself. My paintings are inspired by events that have happened in my life. They are reflections of the good and bad times, my hopes, desires, and fears, and as a result, each piece tends to be very emotionally charged. I’m able to look at any one of my paintings and tell you exactly where I was, what was happening in my life, and how I was feeling.

M: Do you have formal training?

A: No, I do not have any formal training; I’m a self taught artist.

All of my post-secondary education came about as the result of different events in my life. Essentially what happened is after High School I got married with the hope of being a wife and raising a family. So, instead of getting my BFA, I decided to go to college and get an administrative degree. It was cheaper and faster and if I wanted to raise a family I’d need a steady income, not several years of debt. I ended up getting a good paying job right after graduation and started my newlywed life off as another faceless office employee. Two and a half years into the marriage I found myself still working the same meaningless job, still no family and my marriage starting to feel shaky. I decided that it was time for a change. After working in such a stagnant environment for so long I needed something intellectually stimulating so I applied to the BA program at the local Christian University and commenced my degree in September of 2001. A few months later, my marriage fell apart and I found myself divorced at age 22. One nervous breakdown and three paintings later I decided to finish my degree and pursue my art career on my own without the help of a BFA. Later that year, I met the man who would become my present husband. After graduating from University together, we obtained our TESL certification and moved to Japan for a year and a half. Now back in Canada, I am actively pursuing my dream of becoming a full time artist.

M: From looking at the work, it seems to me that you like to use vibrant color schemes. What makes you choose/use those colors?

A: I like to work with a vibrant palette because I find the colors to be more expressive. One of the key things I want to achieve with my paintings is that I want them to capture the viewers attention, and I feel the use of bold colors, particularly in my acrylic paintings, helps achieve that. The majority of these paintings are coming from a place that is deeply emotional and intense for me, and I want that to be captured even to some small degree in the subject’s artistic voice so that the viewer can get some degree of that personified in my art. When painting from such deep rooted feelings and emotions you develop a narrative that needs to be screamed about, not whispered.

When I do use softer colors, I’m doing it intentionally as a means of expressing a softer and perhaps gentler side of life. An example of this would be the “Life Simplified” series. Although the pieces are still quite colorful, I used softer shades to express a simplified view of relationship aspects which my usual bold palette could not adequately capture.

M: Even the black and white work have a high contrast and seem ‘vibrant’ – is their a significance to the definition of images and ‘pop’ (I’m not referring to pop art – I’m referring to the visual pop of the pieces) quality?

A: When I work with black and white, I still like to maintain a level of boldness and vibrancy to the piece. I usually end up doing a black and white piece after I’ve completed one of my more colorful abstracts, as it serves as a visual break. As a result, the pieces tend to take on a more bare bones style. My objective when working in black and white is to simplify the subject down to what I consider to be the essential parts, and, by doing so, I’m hoping to allow the viewer the opportunity to see the basic beauty of the subject. Since it’s been stripped down, you’re left with a stark yet vibrant image that pops, and of course I’m still occasionally tempted to add a bit of “statement color” to the piece.

M: Some of the work seems to be inspired by art that I have seen in religious institutions. They resemble stained glass and mosaics (I’m thinking Stations of the Cross in Catholic churches). Is some of those artistic forms an influence? If so, describe how you are re-interpreting those forms in both style and content.

A: While I was growing up I did spend a lot of my time involved at a church and have always loved stained glass and mosaic works. However, I’d have to say that I don’t consciously draw from it. Coming from a Christian background and environment it no doubt influenced my perceptions. Perhaps being surrounded in that environment helped develop the style I use today, albeit unconsciously. As a result, I wouldn’t say I am re-interpreting those styles, but simply trying to flesh out my own.

But now that you mention it, I wouldn’t mind turning one of my paintings into a stained glass window. 🙂

M: What are you working on now?

A: Well, I just finished working on a piece called “Blue Strum.” It is a commissioned piece that allowed me to re-create a broken acoustic guitar. But for the next month or so, I’ll be preparing my artwork to show at a local trade show. The majority of my energies will be funneled into getting everything ready for the show. I’ve already started working on a limited run of prints of previous pieces to sell, as well as a few new acrylic paintings. My hope is to sell some of my artwork and get a few more local commissions. That being said, I do accept international commissions as well and you can always see what I’m working on by visiting my blog.

M: What would you like people to take away after viewing your art (taking into consideration that the artist does not control what the view takes away)?

A: I guess what I want people to take away after viewing my art is the knowledge that each painting has its own emotional narrative painted into it, an artistic photo album depicting different aspects of my life, if you will. By sharing those experiences through my art with others, I hope to reflect what makes me the woman, the artist and the human being that I am, if only on a minute level. I’ve always felt that pictures speak more than 10,000 words and my hope is that I, as the artist, and you, as the viewer, can connect on some level that transcends language by evoking similar shared emotions.

To see Amanda’s web site click here
Show Information:

The next event is “Shop in the Fort” which will be a trade show/shopping exhibit held at The Dow Centre in Fort Saskatchewan, Alberta on November 15th from 9am-4pm.
Since Amanda is new to the area, shethought it would give her a chance to meet the locals, so, stop in and say hi.
It’s free and open to the public so anyone who is in the neighborhood is welcome to drop in.

Amanda will also showcase her work for a month at the Dow Centre’s Gallery in February of 2010.

Anyone interested in commissioning artwork can contact Amanda via email at
She will accept commissions from and ship to anywhere in the world.

3 responses to “Interview: Amanda Milke

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