Drota (whiterosesart.com)
Drota by Heather Miller Art

Title: Drota
Year: 2014
Size: 12″ x 24″

Drota was made from acrylic paint and polymer clay on canvas.

The Story:

I’m writing this story in 2016, the piece was created in 2014 so I’ll do my best to remember.

Drota was created during my hiatus from art.  I was trying to come to terms with what I wanted to do, and if I could do it, with my career as an artist.  This lead me to just stop creating art altogether for a while.  Drota was the only piece I completed in 2014 as a result (it was one of a small handful I attempted).

I, like many women, love Pinterest.  I have both a personal account and an account for my studio.  I was browsing Pinterest when I came across a pin from another artist.  She had designed a creative challenge for herself.  She decided to try to create a piece of art each week that was inspired by something that wasn’t art:  a fabric sample, a piece of furniture, a plant, etc.  I thought that was a neat idea.  About a page worth of pins later, I found this really beautiful pillow (no longer available).

The store is no longer on Etsy but the artist has a profile that links to her Ebay store. The pillow is no longer for sale as of 12/6/2016.


I saved the picture of the pillow to my hard drive, to my “inspiration” folder but that was about as far as it went for a while.  You see, I didn’t immediately put the design challenge and the pillow together in my mind.  It took a while, but eventually I got there.

I started out by selecting a narrow, rectangular canvas so I could make a tall, narrow tree.  I painted it beige.  While I could have gotten the color closer to that of the pillow, the idea was to create a piece inspired by the pillow, not an exact copy.  I stayed in the brown color family because I wanted something with a bit more Asian inspiration.  I had the vague idea of a Japanese scroll in mind.

After the base color was dry, I selected an off-white for the accent.  To create the lines, I cut a long piece of baker’s twine and a small piece of aluminum foil.  I poured some paint onto the aluminum foil and then placed the string on it.  Using aluminum foil allowed me to fold the foil over the string so I could really coat the string in paint.  I carefully uncurled the paint-covered string & stretched it over the canvas length-wise.  Then I gently tapped my fingers along it so made contact with the canvas.  I did that over & over until I finally was happy I had enough lines.  You can see that this is not an exact process, nor was it meant to be.  I wanted a very painterly effect without but I’m not good enough with a brush to get that kind of look myself.  Besides this was a lot easier to do.  My motto:  work smarter not harder (thank you Scrooge McDuck).

Once that dried, I painted the tree.  To achieve that look, I took a big risk.  I knew if I tried to paint that holding a brush properly, it would have never come out like that.  I have a lot of weird things in my studio, things “professional artists” probably wouldn’t have – like long-handled brushes made for children.  I bought a pack of them from Ikea.  They were cheap and I’m really hard on brushes. The pack contains traditional soft hair brushes & stiff bristle brushes.  I chose a soft hair brush.  I would link to the brushes, but as of 1/6/2016, the Ikea website doesn’t show them.

I put the canvas on the floor.  I remained seated in my chair.  Next to it was another piece of aluminum foil with black paint on it.  I gently dipped the brush in the paint.  Holding the brush at the very end I laid the brushstrokes for the tree.  Holding the brush this way gave me very little control which gives the tree a more natural look than I normally paint even when I try to make a natural tree.  This ‘technique’ was a big risk on my part.  I couldn’t tell you how I came up with it, it just occurred to me as I contemplated how to create the effect I wanted.

From there, I sculpted the little ‘flower’ elements.  The white portion was done by hand.  The pinkish / red-ish part I had a bit of help sculpting.  Years ago I bought this little cooking gadget off TV (it was really late / early in the am).  It came with all these little insert trays, basically metal pans with various indentations.  One of which was kind of mini muffin tray but indents were perfectly round.  I pressed the polymer clay into those, drew in some lines, and popped it into my toaster oven.  A bit of dry brush painting later and I had my flowers.

The Name.  People always ask me about my names.  One of the harder parts of being an artist is naming your work.  I used to do a lot of 3D modeling for video games, as a hobby.  At one point, my husband encouraged me to think about creating my own game.  So I sat down to think of story to base the game around.  I started by coming up with a list of the names of characters, places, plants, etc that would be in the game.  That was pretty much as far as I got because I’m terrible at inventing stories but I’m fairly good at inventing names.  Anytime I’m stuck for names, I go to the list.

In this case Drota has more than one manifestation.  I used to create  3D models for The Sims 2.  I did two sets that were basically “alien plant life.”  They weren’t all that good, admittedly.  One of them was called the drota tree.  It was really more of a gigantic mushroom than a tree, clearly.  I mention it because it was one of the few times I’ve used a name twice.

Drota Tree @ RetailSims.com
Drota Tree @ RetailSims.com