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Keith Miller
Keith Miller
Sketchbooks at New Britain Museum of American Art

Da Dong Hai Beach, Hainan Island, China, watercolor, 14in by 5in

Garden, Kompot Cambodia, watercolor, 22in by 8in

by Janell Meador

Seventy-five travel sketchbooks by internationally acclaimed San Miguel artist Keith Miller have been proudly acquired by the New Britain Museum of American Art in New Britain, Connecticut. The New Britain Museum of American Art is one of the nation’s most distinguished art museums, conserving and researching an encyclopedic collection of the best works in all artistic media. Their collection includes John Singleton Copley, and Frederic Church, Georgia O’Keeffe, and Thomas Hart Benton. The collection is especially rich in American Impressionism with works by Mary Cassatt, William Merritt Chase, and Childe Hassam, among many others.

A native of Canada, Keith Miller, a graduate of Toronto’s Ontario College of Art, has lived in San Miguel for 27 years. He has traveled widely and often, visiting Europe, Africa, and South East Asia as well as Mexico and Central America. Miller began recording his responses to the world around him in sketchbooks in the 1960s. Created en plein air, “on the spot,” the sketchbooks include pen and ink, pencil, water color, and mixed-media/collage works. A selection of Miller’s Travel Journals were exhibited in 2013 at the Pallant House Museum in Chichester, England.

Ruins of Ta Prohm, Angkor, Cambodia, watercolor, 13in by 8in

Student House, Tokyo, pencil, 7in by 5in

Rambutri Street, Bangkok, watercolor, 7in by 5in

Crab Market, Kep Cambodia, watercolor, 22in by 8in

Pulau Duyong, Malaysia, watercolor, 21in by 15in

Iglesia de Santo Tomas, Chichicastenango, Guatemala, colored pencil, 8in by 11in

Miller first began sketching while traveling on a bicycle trip across Canada in 1968. He began backpacking around Europe shortly after that, an adventure which temporarily put his formal art education on hold.   "Like many young people in those days, the impulse to 'hit the road' was very strong. I always had one or two hardcover sketchbooks with me. When I look back today at those old pen and ink drawings, I'm reminded how much time has gone by; the figures in the streets are all wearing vintage clothes and the cars look like antiques!"

   After finishing art college he set his sights on South East Asia, spending several years working and traveling there. By the end of the 1980s he was ready to settle down and chose San Miguel de Allende as his home. Miller points out that having a permanent home  has been a boon to his large studio paintings but adds, "I still love to travel, and I get back to South East Asia or Europe almost every year for a couple of months. I always bring along watercolors and pen and ink and carry on recording the places I go."

Mykonos Harbor, Greece, watercolor, ink, collage, 11in by 15in

Penang Scenes, Malaysia, pencil collage, 11in by 5in

Gladiola Blossoms, 8in by 5in

Jazz Musicians, Hong Kong, 4in by 5in

Singapore Cafe at Night, 7in by 5in

Study of Tokyo Subway Riders, pencil, 8in by 7in

Miller first put his sketchbooks behind glass for a show at Casa Allende here in San Miguel in 1991. “As well as being a visual diary and a chronological record of one’s travels, sketches may become the starting point for a studio work. I have a bias toward ordinary things and scenes. Although I’ve visited quite a few ‘exotic’ places, it is important to remember that for the people who live there, it is day to day ‘business as usual’ so I gravitate toward scenes that reflect the everyday life of the place, avoiding too much of the purely picturesque or strange.” “Travel Journals tend to be a private thing, something like talking to myself rather than anyone else. It is a way of learning visually about a place, a way of getting my arms around it and understanding it.”

Miller is pleased to learn that the New Britain Museum has shown one of the sketch books at this time. He has kept a selection of them here in San Miguel for future exhibitions. In 2017, Miller will begin showing his work in his home in San Miguel de Allende. For more information and to see more images of his work, visit

Keith Miller


Janell Meador was a staff member with Review magazine in Kansas City for six years. She has also contributed to Atención in SMA, and online publications Cupcakes in Regalia and Present Magazine. She now lives in SMA after a happy career as a librarian for Missouri public schools.

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