Alexander Millar

Alexander Millar is one of the most popular and collectable artists working today. His paintings hang in galleries and private collections all over the world and he is continuing to gain critical acclaim for the works he produces.

David Lee art critic and editor of the Jackdaw magazine said:

“What is admirable about Alexander Millar’s paintings is that they are the product of reference and invention, as the best art should be, and they broadcast a real and touching sentiment. I recognize immediately their intimate truths. We who lived our formative years in a Britain, a materially poorer but spiritually prouder one, still affected by the aftermath of the Second World War, won’t forget it. We can’t because the image of those times is burned into our mind’s eye. The uniqueness of those city landscapes and horizons, dark and broken places hinted at in Millar’s work, has been largely erased from sight by boundless modernisation.”

Millar’s childhood was spent growing up in the small mining community of Springside, situated between the two Scottish towns of Irvine and Kilmarnock. “Even though it was the 60s that I grew up in it felt more like the 40s,” comments Millar, “as the village seemed to be in some time warp stuck between the industrial revolution and Brig O Doon, and as with most wee places in Scotland, Springside had its fair share of “characters” most of whom I was related to in one way or another.”

Even as a child Millar was always fascinated by the small details he saw in everyday life and would stand in awe at something as insignificant as an old man getting off a bike, an old woman with bad hips struggling on and off the bus, he continues, “or the way the street drunk would stand at the corner of the local pub armed with a fish supper negotiating a chip to land somewhere in the region of his mouth without getting brown sauce all down his front or getting the chip stuck up his nose, like some lunar docking mission that was about to be aborted.”

He describes it all as a street dance, produced for him only and made what seemed ordinary and mundane quite fascinating. “I guess that is the whole premise of the work that I produce in that I still take delight in turning the “ordinary” into something “extraordinary”.

Born and raised in the small mining community of Springside, just outside the town of Kilmarnock on the west coast of Scotland, Millar’s earliest memories were of his time spent in the company of old men dressed in dark suits smoking woodbines and large missile-shaped women decked out in big overcoats, pinnies, tartan headscarves and zipped booties, adorned with fake fur around the top.

His father worked for British Rail, as such Millar grew up watching and observing these working men in their natural environment. Their cycle ride to work at dawn, the industries in which they made a living, their drunken meander from the pub at night; a street ballet that was constantly played out before his eyes has given Millar inspiration for his paintings for over 20 years.

It is this, almost choreographed, every day routine that Millar depicts in his paintings. Making the ordinary details of life, extraordinary via his exquisite use of light and impasto brushstrokes, Millar brings alive those wonderful memories of a bygone era, his depth of expression gives us an insight into the hearts and souls of working men around the world.

Most mornings I can be found at my favourite waterhole in Jesmond on the outskirts of Newcastle called Arlo’s. It has the best Americano in the City and is just the right vibe and environment for me to get into the creative flow first thing in the morning as I usually go there with sketch pad in arms as drawing is the secret to painting.

People think that you draw to become a better draughtsman or draughtswoman but no that’s not why everyone who wants to paint should first learn how to draw. Because drawing gets you into the right frame of mind to paint for drawing should eventually become an unconscious thing, a bit like doodling. When you’re maybe on the phone talking away to your friend and you’ve found yourself doodling and looking at what you’ve scribbled you look in amazement for you’ve got no recollection scibbling that pattern or drawing. So when you draw it is a way to get you into a meditative state to paint so inspiration will come to you when you are in a passive state and not actively looking for it.

I remember listening to a documentary about Mozart and how he would sit by his piano waiting for inspiration to strike and not being able to write but it was when he got into a carriage passively looking out the window and listening to the wheels on the cobbled streets, that’s when inspiration would come to him and he would then go on to compose his music.


View permanent collections of Alexander’s work at: