Yvette Miller is a self-taught artist of Jamaican heritage, born and raised in London. Yvette’s art explores what she notices and feels about the human experience in a vivid and energising way through abstract shape, form and texture. Read on to hear about Yvette’s perspective as a black female abstract artist and how she took that careful and brave first step in selling her first pieces of art. Yvette explains how she helps her community feel empowered to discover and appreciate art, reminding them that the process doesn’t need to feel exclusive. Yvette reminds us that bringing art into our homes is something to be celebrated and enjoyed, as an expression of our inner world or as a visual reminder of the important things we don’t want to forget.
Tell us about yourself - what’s your story?
I was born and raised in London, but my parents were originally from Jamaica. I inherited my love of art from my late father who was an extremely talented cartoonist. Growing up I was always doing something creative, from drawing and painting to making nature inspired sculptures using leaves and pinecones that I’d found on trips to my local park. I guess you could say that my path to becoming an artist is somewhat unconventional as I never went to art school, although I did often dream of going. I fell in love with abstract art when I first saw a painting by the artist Wassily Kandinsky in an art history book, and immediately knew that this was what I wanted to do. However, it’s taken me years to finally find my courage and voice as an abstract artist as for a long time I believed that black artists were only supposed to create figurative art that reflects our race and culture. I, of course, no longer believe this and have since researched and discovered so many other black female abstract artists that came before me as well as those that are living today.
Tell us something about yourself that other people might not know?
When I was a young girl, I remember going through a phase of wanting to be a fashion designer. It all started from when I saw my very first copy of Vogue magazine, I fell in love with all the beautiful glossy photos and clothes the models were wearing. Although I no longer want to be a fashion designer, I’m still obsessed with Vogue magazine and I’ve got over 100 copies of back issues stored away, I’d probably have more if my space allowed!
How did you begin selling your paintings?
I decided to officially start selling my paintings after I took part in an annual art market called the Urban Art Fair in Brixton, London in 2018. I signed up to do it just to be brave really, to show my work for a change rather than hiding it away at home. I had no idea of how it would go and, if I’m honest, I didn’t expect to sell anything. However, I ended up selling about 9 paintings and I remember feeling so happy. I then began to think that maybe I should start taking my art seriously and make a business out of it.
What do you love most about what you do?
I love so many things about what I do but most of all I love the freedom that I have as an artist. I used to care about what people would say or think about my work which can be really debilitating for an artist. You can spend so much energy and time worrying about whether anyone will like or understand your art. However now that I am so much more comfortable with my choice of artistic expression, I basically just do whatever I like and it’s so freeing, being able to create in this way.
Talk us through your creative process?
My creative process usually starts with a moment of reflection. I’ll think about a moment in time, stage of life or an experience that I’ve been through or witnessed and the emotions and feelings that come from it. These thoughts are then taken and translated into colour, shape, and form. I like to call this process my exploration of humankind as it also allows me to really dissect behaviours and characteristics in an abstract and visual way.
Are there any specific conditions you have to create in order to be able to begin working and painting?
As I currently create from my kitchen at home, the neat freak in me generally dictates the conditions in which I feel ready to begin working. This generally means that I tidy and clean everything before I even think about getting my paints out. I’ll make sure there’s no washing up in the sink, sweep and mop my floor and clear all my counter tops of any unnecessary clutter. Once this is done, then the fun can begin!
What materials do you use?
I love using acrylic paint because it dries quickly which is perfect for applying all the layers in my work. I want to be a bit more adventurous with my art materials but have yet to try other mediums. I’d love to try mixing my own paints soon and I’ve seen some delicious, powdered pigments that would be perfect for me to try this with. I tend to use stretched cotton and linen canvases as well as textured and heavyweight paper - anything above 250gsm in weight is perfect as it absorbs the paint well without warping.
Tell us about your favourite item that can be found on Glassette?
My favourite item on Glassette is my print called ‘New Horizons’. I love the serenity of the blue tones but, more importantly, the inspiration behind the painting. As an optimistic person I love looking ahead and try to embrace each day as a chance to see and do things with a different perspective. So ‘New Horizons’ is all about looking ahead beyond what you can see and learning to trust the process called life. I wanted this print to be a visual reminder that every day comes with its own new opportunities and treasures and that it’s up to each of us to find and take hold of them.
Which paint colours are you drawn to most and why?
I often go through phases of being drawn to strong colours like blues and oranges as I love the way that they capture your attention and make you feel. More recently however I’ve fallen in love with the colour yellow after years of disliking it! Now when I look at it, it just fills me with joy and creates such a positive vibe. I’m also drawn to mixing neutral and monochrome tones with fluorescent colours as I think that they create such a great juxtaposing story. I guess as an artist I’m just fascinated by all colours!
You are always sharing advice and knowledge with your community about making art, finding art and about self-confidence too. What does it feel like to be part of this community you have grown?
I love it! Since I’ve shifted my focus from only selling my work though my Instagram account to building a community of art lovers and artists, I’ve forged so many new friendships. I really believe that as artists we have a role to play in helping others to connect to art and to learn how it can play an important part in their lives. Oftentimes people have been alienated by the exclusivity of the art world and don’t know how to introduce original art into their homes. I enjoy sharing what I know so that art becomes a little less scary and a lot more accessible.
What is the kindest thing someone has said about your work?
Sharing my work on social media always means that I often receive kind and thoughtful comments about my work. I think that the kindest thing that someone has ever said to me was when I shared a story behind one of my early paintings. I created this painting called ‘Restored’ soon after I reconciled with my husband after a period of separation. I then received a message telling me how my story had resonated with them as they were going through a similar situation and that my ‘happy ever after’ gave them hope. They even went on to purchase a print of Restored as they said that they wanted a reminder of what could happen to them and their marriage too. This meant the world to me.
What do you look for when buying art for your own home?
When I buy art for my home, I tend to buy pieces that speak to me or have a story behind it that I can relate to. For example, my most treasured painting is one that I bought on my very first trip to Jamaica in 1999. It’s a market scene and the colours are so vibrant and there is a lot of movement in it. I love it because it reminds me of where my family are from and also conjures memories of when I was younger and would go to the markets in London with my mum every Saturday morning.
What makes a house a home for you?
For me a house becomes a home once it is filled with the people and things that you love. Objects of inspiration that you found in your favourite stores, art that you bought to brighten up your walls and family heirlooms that have been passed down through the generations. These are the things that are unique and special to you and contribute to creating a home that tells your life story.