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Meet Miles Lewis

Today we’d like to introduce you to Miles Lewis.

Miles, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
I grew up in a family of entertainers in the San Fernando Valley. Art education was a priority and an artistic profession was an unspoken expectation. I transitioned to visual art from an early interest in poetry and linguistics, when I was 15. From 15 to 18, I had a fantastic time studying foundational drawing and painting, at this after-school art academy called Valley Art Institute. It was a practical Hogwarts, with all the different Houses represented: animators, fine artists, graphic designers, sculptors, etc. I was one of the lead student teachers when the school closed during the Great Recession. At 19, I took over the operation and have taught hundreds of students since. At the same time, I was working on a degree in Art at Cal State Northridge, and became involved with one of the Valley’s primary arts non-profits, 11:11 A Creative Collective. From that time until now, my career has developed in four major directions:

  1. As an art educator: I now run the Valley Art Academy under 11:11 ACC, programming high level art instruction for the entire community, and attempting to recreate the magic of Valley Art Institute for young artists prepping for a creative career. valleyartacademy.org
  2. As a fine artist: producing, exhibiting, and selling studio art. I’m also moving into mural production. mileslewisstudio.com
  3. As a specialty portrait artist: producing portrait drawings at and for events. fineartcaricatures.com
  4. As an environmental activist: teaching and advocating for a world with a much better designed material economy. zerowastewizard.com

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
It’s been smooth in that I’ve always had strong support from family, friends, and teachers. I have a husband who’s a high school teacher with all the union stability that that entails. It’s been rough in that most everything I do has some baseline success but none of it has blown up. It’s the typical case of having a devoted audience that remains small. I’ve made conscious attempts to enlarge that circle – but they usually fall flat. I don’t know if this is simply a function of the kind of work that I make and the way that I teach – or my lack of advertising instincts and the vague qualities of time and place.

Miles Lewis – what should we know? What do you guys do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
As an artist and educator, I’m most known for being wide-minded, eclectic, and philosophical in my approach. I’ve taught classes in foundational drawing and painting, as well as a number of specialty printmaking techniques, like etching, lithography, block printing, and cyanotype, through my own studio and at institutions around LA.

I’m most proud of my ability to give students deep context for what they’re doing and how they’re doing it. I know that I combine those qualities that make a teacher fun and memorable while instilling strong structural values of experimentalism and discipline. I understand that that’s rare in an instructor and I’m glad that I have that gift to give. There’s little more satisfying than being a useful mentor.

What moment in your career do you look back most fondly on?
I got a call three years back about the success of a student that I taught eight years ago. His family hadn’t known what to do with his art ability and he was taken under the wing of an older lady devoted to his education. When he took his solo sessions with me, he was quiet and cryptic. In that call, she told me that he was flourishing. He was finishing off his time in high school, with great grades, prepping a portfolio. He had told her how important my class was in the sum of that success. It was the strongest reminder of how you don’t know exactly what effect your energies are having. 12 2-hour classes ended up being life-changing for a kid on the edge.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Irina Logra – irinalogra.com
Erin Stone – Erin Stone Photography

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