Sally Mills Finds Inspiration as a Painter
Writer / Shelly Sack
Art can be an impactful part of our lives. The beauty of a favorite place, or a destination dreamed but not visited, provides a resting place for tired eyes at night, and greets those same eyes with hope or remembered fondness in the morning.
This is just one way Sally Mills brings her skills to canvas for appreciative clients who live both locally and as far away as Israel and Australia.
Mills, 68, resides in Brownsburg, and lived in Zionsville for much of her adult life. She worked as an executive administration assistant while raising her two grown children, a son and daughter who graduated from Zionsville schools.
Mills is not formally trained in art and has no background in painting. She says she felt “a tapping on the shoulder one evening” after seeing a shadow on a wall 13 years ago.
“Something inside me became aware to sketch the shadow,” she says. “I got a sketch pad and didn’t really like it, and moved to color, thinking no one has to see it.”
Her first painting, which she still holds close, depicts her and her grandfather walking through woods during the fall. As a child she spent summers with her grandparents on their property in Brazil, Indiana. Her grandfather, who is of Cherokee-German descent, worked in strip mining during the day.
Her chore of collecting eggs for her grandmother translated into her memorable rooster paintings, which clients appreciate. Mills says she has a love-hate relationship with them because they remind her both of fond summers, and a rooster pecking her kneecaps. Her landscapes and florals are mostly impressionistic. She draws from childhood memories of laying in fields and making flower chains, or falling asleep to the flowers imprinted on her grandmother’s bedroom wallpaper.
She does abstract work, and has painted clients’ pets as well. Her largest commission piece to date is a 14’ fantasy mural on canvas roll, for a client’s daughter’s bedroom. Her smallest piece is an 8” square logo commissioned by a client for gifting.
Mills paints at home in a room with windows facing north and west, for four to six hours daily. On darker days, she supplements her lighting with a Lux light system. She often uses oils, preferring a scraper tool to a brush, while listening to a range of music from rock to Bach. At any given time, she finds herself working on four to six pieces.
“Oil is live and is a medium that remains alive, and can take decades or a century to cure and you can still smell the life in it,” she says.
Each painting carries her signature mark with a mustard seed, which draws from a biblical reference to faith.
“I’m exposing a vulnerability to the world,” she says. “I lived a rather reserved adult life. I feel I am now exposing myself, and learning along the way that people are enjoying what I do. They consider it a piece to hand to generations, and that has taught me volumes. I’ve received a precious gift.”
Several of Mills’ pieces are on display at CV Art and Frame, located at 110 South Main Street in Zionsville. Mills accepts private commissions, and can be reached at 317-371-6836.