By Patti Rasmussen
“The purpose of art is washing the dust of daily life off our souls.”– Pablo Picasso
If you’ve ever watched a chalk artist at work you’ll know it is a back-breaking, in the heat of the day kind of existence. What they create with chalk, usually over the course of a weekend, on hot asphalt and concrete, are amazing masterpieces.
Local artist Lorelle Miller is just one of those kind of people. Although she was a working artist in the corporate world, Miller decided some 20 years ago to give street art a try and signed up for Bella Villa – a Newhall Land and Farming Company promotion designed to attract new clientele to its Valencia Town Center mall.
The experience was life changing, she said.
Growing up in Sherman Oaks, Miller was always dappling in art as a child.
“I was pulled out of fourth grade for special art classes,” Miller said. “It was a life saver for me. As a new kid in school I got bullied a lot. Being in art class was a good thing.”
Her mother was very supportive of her passion and made sure she had private art lessons.
“I have pictures of me doing portraits of my dogs,” Miller reminisced. “I like figures quite a bit.”
Miller attended California State University Northridge majoring in sculpture, graphic arts and illustration. After graduation she took a job with Al Mann in the art department of Pacesetter, a bio tech company he owned. Miller worked with a group of engineers and scientists who, she said, all shared mutual admiration for each other’s work.
“You were with these brilliant minds. It was great to be on the ground floor with all of his products,” Miller said.
After the birth of her third son, Miller left the corporate world and freelanced for Mann.
“I had a strong desire to be more involved with my kids,” she said. “It’s always a balance between family and your art. I chose family.”
She was with the Santa Clarita Artist Association when she received that call for Bella Villa. Her first chalk art was a rendering of a Renoir. Her work got her notice and from that point on Miller has attended more street art festivals than she cares to remember.
“Street art keeps me very limber,” Miller said. “You have to move around quite a bit.”
She jokingly calls Warren, her husband of 38 years, a chalk artist widow. He is very supportive of her work and well as her three sons, Darren, 33, Ryan, 29 and Collin, 24.
For the last couple of years Miller has been involved with a grant to help teachers teach science to third and sixth graders using art concepts.
Some of the lessons involved creating a sculpture of the food chain or using a roll of paper hung on a wall that the students could draw on while they danced to music. “They were using their energy to portray and describe potential energy,” Miller explained.
If that wasn’t enough, Miller also enjoys other forms of art that are currently on display at the MAIN in downtown Newhall.
“More Than Meets The Eye” is a collection of oil paintings and pastel portraits in the gallery beginning August 14 through September 14.
Pablo Cevallos, manager of the MAIN, said he had seen Miller’s work at a recent art walk. “I really loved her brush strokes,” Cevallos said. “I see her process with her strokes and a representation of portraits that are not photo realistic. I can see a human hand being involved.”
Sue Bird, chair of the Old Town Newhall Association and Chalk Festival, said Miller has been assisting her with the festival and has been a tremendous help. “Lorelle is a phenomenal artist. She just has these wonderful pieces and a amazing way of presenting them. I couldn’t have done (the festival) without her.”
Miller encourages everyone to come out and try their hand at chalk art. It’s a family friendly event, she said, and all levels of artists are welcome.
“Art is all about taking a risk,” Miller said. “David Bowie inspired me and as an artist you should do art where you are taking a risk. When it scares you, it kind of pushes you.”
Santa Clarita Chalk Festival: Wonder, Wit & Whimsy will be held in downtown Newhall on September 21, 22, 23. The event runs daily from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m.