Caleb Miles is an artist who lives with his wife in Lancaster, South Carolina. He does great paintings of the South Carolina landscape (also see back cover). I wanted to know why he paints what he paints and find the "spirit" behind his work. You'll soon learn why this entry is called, "The Pastor's Son."
MICHAEL: First of all Caleb, when did you first realize that you had artistic talent? Are you a born artist or have you developed into one?
CALEB: I first realized I had artistic talent around the first grade. My dad had this small, private school at our church and one of the moms came in and taught an art class. I remember drawing a few pieces of fruit and thinking I wanted to make them look as good as possible. I did a good job outlining the fruit and then she taught the class how to make them look "real" by adding shadow. I was amazed at how the fruit began to pop off the page once I added darker shades of pencil to the outside of the fruit and then went in with lighter shades. After school, I ran home to show my parents what I had done and I still do that to this day.
MICHAEL: So you’re a born artist.
CALEB: I was born with artistic talents that had a slow and awkward way of developing. As a child I had a very severe case of O.C.D that made any attempts at art very frustrating. I remember when I was taught how to write the letter "O" that if it wasn't a perfect circle, I would erase it until there was a hole in the paper and coloring pictures was more like putting the pieces of a puzzle together than a childhood scribble because my colors fit perfectly into the lines. I always wanted to draw when I was a kid, but never did because it was so frustrating if it wasn't perfect or just like the pictures I was drawing it from. It wasn't until high school that I started to use my artistic talent and develop it in the classroom. My artistic talent came pretty fast when I was taught how to use it. Each grade, my drawings became more and more life like, but the drive for perfection often kept me from finishing and from completing all of my advanced art classes. To make a long answer short, I was born with artistic talent, but I had to develop it with some obstacles in the way.
MICHAEL: I don't want to sound like Dr. Phil, but I find it interesting that you still seek your parents' opinion about your work. So many of the artists I know seem to be "people pleasers." I thought that the whole point of being an artist is finding your own voice, however imperfect and being true to that, despite what others think. As you know, art is SO subjective anyway. What's the deal? I love it when people "get" my writing, but I also know the writing will stand regardless of what others think.
CALEB: I should have clarified about the reason I am so eager to show off my work. I am not seeking opinions, but I will take them. Rather, I am showing my parents the fruit of their years of encouragement. There have been a lot of people who have told me that I was wasting my talent and that I should start painting even years after I had touched a brush. So, after all the years of being told this, I am excited to show people that they have had a major role in my success as an artist. Art is not just about the painter or the painting. Art involves everyone, from the critic to the collectors (and even those great guys who support new artists and write books about them!!!). The fact that people are so essential to art makes it necessary for an artist to want to please them, at least an artist who wants to eat anyway! God gives people gifts not so that they can keep them for themselves, but so that they can share them. My gift is art, and I like it when people are pleased with how I use my gift. I just have to make sure I use my gift in a way that makes me happy and then it all works out. As far as finding my voice in art, that has been a challenge. I have looked at a lot of paintings and drawings and pictures to get inspiration. I have tried abstract, realism, and impressionism. For me, it's all a learning experience. I don't know that much about art, so I am not going to put myself in a box and say I only do abstract. I might get bored with one style, so I go onto another one for awhile or I might come across an artist that does something I really like, so I will incorporate some of the style into my work to learn more. Art is very subjective and that's because people are so varied in there taste and likes. Most people like vanilla ice cream, so if you do "vanilla" artwork, then you will have a large crowd of people who like your work, but there is a lot of "vanilla" out there! Now, let's say you are the only one who has a cherry twist, double-dipped, hand-sprinkled, soft serve ice cream ... Well, not so many people might like that, but there will be a few who do and they will be willing to pay more for it! Then there are the salmon ice cream makers of art, maybe one person likes it, but for the most part it's bad, and it won't go over that well.
MICHAEL: I know another artist right now (Elijah Aaron Carey) who was doing great abstracts and has recently switched to representational work. Now I have to hurry and get some of his figurative things before he switches to something else! Right now, you're doing landscapes and "nature" work. What's the attraction?
CALEB: I have found it somewhat of a challenge and a relief to do abstract to try and break free from the time consuming work of realism. I have done some abstract, and will continue to do more, but now I am focusing on landscapes for a number of reasons. Landscapes are a lot easier to do than realism and they are more structured than abstract, which is a good middle ground for me. With landscapes, there is a lot more variety of subjects to choose from and people can relate to it because we all experience it, as opposed to a picture of a racecar, which only a few people might find interesting. I have found that by painting landscapes, my eyes are more open to the world around me. Everywhere I go, I am thinking about what would look good in a picture and how I would paint it.
MICHAEL: I think it's very interesting that you say landscapes basically make you more aware. I also think it's interesting that your dad is a minister. Did you ever feel that you would follow him into the ministry?
CALEB: I come from a line of pastors. My grandfather was a pastor as well. I have toyed with the idea of becoming a pastor myself, but I just don't feel the calling in the sense that my dad did. I believe that all Christians can have a ministry that is suited to their talents and abilities. I have thought about painting religious themed artwork, but I don't think that you have to paint pictures of Christ to give glory to God.
MICHAEL: Do you think there is a connection between the fact that you come from a line of ministers and that you're an artist ... and that you're currently painting landscapes and nature scenes?
CALEB: I don't think there is any connection between being in a line of pastors and me being an artist. It's not like I'm trying to break away from a family line of work or anything, I'm just working with the talent I've been given. My Christian upbringing has had an influence on me in the way I see artwork. I think often about how beautiful God is and how amazing He is to provide people with talents and a beautiful world to put them to work in. I paint landscapes simply because they are there and are fun for me to do. I often sit listening to a sermon and think of how I could paint what the preacher is saying and in time as my talent progresses ... I think I will venture out and try to do just that, but for now I am just enjoying God's creation through painting!
MICHAEL: I just received one of your landscapes and it's great. What I'm really wondering is ... can your art and your work as an artist be YOUR form of ministry?
CALEB: The painting that I do definitely can be a way for me to share my love and admiration for Christ. The paintings that I do may not directly portray a religious theme, but when I get the chance to talk about them I could minister to people kind of like I'm doing now. A friend at church once told me "Painting in itself brings glory to God."
MICHAEL: So, do you think that your painting and artistry will be your lifetime contribution?
CALEB: I like the thought of my art being used to contribute to this world. I don't know if it will be for a lifetime, but I don't mind if it would be. After going through years of now knowing what I want to do in life, the thought of painting pictures for a living is a very pleasing one and I plan on painting as long as I can. Everybody has talents and skills and I believe that if you use them and make them grow, they can take you places you never thought possible. I don't know where mine will take me, but I am in for a good ride. I can feel it. The road just seems to have a few bumps at the beginning.
MICHAEL: Thanks Caleb. Rock on!