BRUCE W. MILLER
Bruce William Miller was born
on March 27, 1952, along with his twin brother, Brad. The
fact that they were identical twins may account for the exceptionally
close tie between them.
Bruce's childhood was typical
of most boys who grow up in a semi-rural area. The one exception
was that his father, Howard, was an Eagle Scout, and he stirred
an interest in the Boy Scouts in all his sons. Bruce went
on to earn his Eagle Scout rank as well.
Immediately after high school,
Bruce, Brad, and a friend decided to tour Europe before going
on to college. They bought an old Volkswagen van in Frankfurt
and spent the next nine months driving through most of the
European countries. During their travels, their friend taught
Bruce and Brad how to play the guitar.
When they returned that fall,
both brothers enrolled at St. Cloud State College. Brad picked
up the banjo and the two of them earned a few extra dollars
doing gigs in coffee shops and bars. After two years of college,
the brothers moved to Colorado where they worked daytime jobs,
but continued their musical careers at night. There they added
a third man to their act and played as a trio until 1975 when
they returned to Minnesota. There they joined up with three
other musicians and formed a band, with Bruce playing 12 string
acoustic, harmonica and singing the lead vocal. They hired
out mostly for weddings and played together for the next fifteen
Although the band was good for
making extra money, it wasn't a steady income. For a while
he worked as a pressman for a printing company, but also painted
quite a lot in an attempt to start a career in art. He became
quite excited about abstract art, and went at it full throttle,
producing a prodigious amount of work. The bad news is that
it didn't sell. He attended week-end show after week-end show,
and the story was always the same: little or no sales.
His job as a pressman began to
wear heavily on his independent spirit, so in 1976 he turned
his back on it and started a small construction company. Hard
work and talent once again assured success, and the company
did quite well. As always, he continued to paint part-time.
Then in the late 1970's a small
turn of events created a major change in Bruce's life. Brad
had gone grouse hunting for the first time and excitedly related
the experience to his brother. Bruce was then invited to do
Up until then Bruce had always
been anti-hunting, so the decision to try it was a major step,
both physically and psychologically. The impact of the hunting
experience could not have been greater. His whole lifestyle
began to shift from art purist, long-haired musician to clean-cut,
outdoor, conservation-minded sportsman. Before long he had
a duck boat, a full rig of decoys, a Labrador retriever, and
enough paraphernalia to rival Abercrombie and Fitch.
The more he wrapped himself up
in hunting, the greater he found the desire to relate this
new awareness to others. He surveyed the wildlife art market
and found it to be booming. He decided, somewhat apprehensively,
to try painting wildlife. He did a painting of Canada geese
and gave it to a friend who took it to a Ducks Unlimited banquet.
The following day his friend handed him $200 as his share
of the sale.
He was stunned, but not so stunned
that he didn't realize that it was a harbinger of greater
things. He began painting more ducks, geese, and upland game,
and the paintings sold as fast as he could complete them.
His prices began to rise and he realized for the first time
real success in his chosen field.
His art was selling so well,
that in 1984 he decided to publish a limited edition print
of one of his favorite pieces, Splitrock Snowy, a painting
of a snowy owl perched on an ice out-cropping on the edge
of Lake Superior. Sales were a smashing success. The following
year he abandoned the construction business and launched full-time
into wildlife art under the name of Mixed Bag Publishing.
He's never looked back.
In 1986, by way of a friend,
he met Deb Carlson. Deb was very successful in her own field
of commercial printing and sales, and Bruce had been painting
full-time for only six months. Being conservative Midwesterners,
they dated for three years before deciding to tie the knot.
Ironically, brother Brad also became a married man the same
Deb also loves to hunt and fish,
and the togetherness extends even to standing waist deep in
ice-filled waters while fishing for steelhead during the spring
thaw. She's a fine wingshot and can hold her own in the field.
The Millers live in a nice house
on the western shore of Lake Minnetonka. They have no children
but lavish their affections on an old yellow Lab who answers
to the name of Boss (his name says it all) and Jake, a much
younger black Lab.
High on the list of Bruce's plans
for the future is to loosen his style of painting. He wants
to depart from tight realism and move toward a more painterly,