Coelacanth: Arna Miller

Coelacanth by Arna Miller

By Arna Miller
Published Issue 081, September 2020

Why did you rise from the sea? Coelacanths are real fish, who exist today, and they are also mythological creatures we’ve assigned to represent evolution. For this coelacanth, the sea was certainly home, but land was an intoxicating adventure waiting to be explored. There was food you just can’t get at home.


I began doing art late in life — or so it felt at the time. I was in my mid-twenties and after hearing the 10,000-hours-to-master-a-skill theory, I felt compelled to catch up.

Before all that, when everything crashed in 2008, I lost my job at an architecture firm. It was for the best. I felt guilty that I didn’t want to work in an office or use my degree, so I was grateful when the decision to leave was made for me.

I’d fantasized about being a creator and working for myself for a long time. After leaving the world of offices, I signed up for a screen printing class and took ongoing drawing, painting and figure drawing classes. My main goal was freedom, so I got out of credit card debt and designed my lifestyle to be simple and frugal.

After years of having affordable-but-windowless studios in less than ideal locations — next to the men’s bathroom, by a train crossing, sharing a thin wall with a lawnmower repair shop — I now have my own studio, in my own home!

I draw in pencil and use visual references from books and the internet. My aim is to create narrative illustrations that depict magical moments.

I find inspiration in book illustrations, vintage packaging, matchboxes, magic show posters and early-20th century illustrations.

I often use text to tell part of the story, but like to leave most of the narrative up to the viewer.

My guiding rule — which I sometimes break — is Possible, but Not Likely. For example, it’s possible for a vole to sit on a cigarette box and float down a river, but it is not likely. On the other hand, dinosaurs didn’t have laptops and headphones, so I would not draw that.

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  1. Pingback: Dino's Comet by Arna Miller - BIRDY MAGAZINE

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