Mike Miller has drawn his last cartoon for View. He spoke recently from a hospice in Southern California and was in good spirits.
“The cancer has hurt my thinking and hurt my ability to remember things,” he said. “I get confused sometimes, and I don’t like the feeling. My last batch of View cartoons took me twice as long as they usually do.”
The prolific artist has been drawing cartoons all his life. He is the son of a commercial artist and cartoonist and attended a year at Chouinard Art Institute, which in 1961 merged with the Los Angeles Conservatory of Music to become the California Institute of the Arts. He left before graduating to serve in the U.S. Army and was on active duty for a year and reserve for another 5 1/2.
“When I got out of the Army, my first job was at Disney working on ‘101 Dalmatians’ and ‘Cinderella,’ ” Miller said. “I was an in-betweener (an artist who completes the dozens of drawings between key drawings to create the appearance of smooth movement), and that’s the way to really learn how to draw.”
In Las Vegas, he worked as a commercial artist and cartoonist and was on the staff of the Las Vegas Review-Journal for many years. In 1982, he designed UNLV’s mascot Hey Reb! He charged the school $1 for the design and exclusive rights to it.
In recent years, he became more involved with fine art, working with a group of plein air artists painting landscapes of the local territory on-site. Some of his work is on display at Collective Souls Fine Art & More in Tivoli Village.
“I don’t do that anymore,” Miller said. “I’ve had to cut back on my clients about 75 percent. I just don’t have the energy to do it anymore.”
His last painting was a Red Rock landscape.
Although he’s won numerous awards and accolades over the years, two projects remain the ones he’s proudest of: a series of historical prints that were sold to benefit Opportunity Village and his children’s books featuring Tomas the Tortoise.
“I wrote and illustrated six of my own books and drew eight more for other people,” Miller said. “It was fun and rewarding, and you get to read them to kids and watch them light up.”
When asked if he hoped to do more art, he had a sobering reply.
“Well, I hope to, but I hope to live, and that’s not going to happen, either,” he said. “I’m going to continue to do what I want in little ways as long as I can.”
Contact East Valley View reporter F. Andrew Taylor at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-380-4532.