Off the Cuff with Dan Miller
“I always wanted to draw,” says Dan Miller; he’s spent decades providing illustrative and graphic design services in Alaska via his company Dan Miller Graphics. In fact, anyone who’s snagged a can or case from Midnight Sun Brewing has seen his work up close. “It’s fun working for them—and they have great beer,” Miller says.
He likes to build relationships with clients, and he’s happy for the opportunity to work for clients that he personally supports, such as local brewers or businesses in the tourism industry. “I like the freedom [of freelancing],” he says. “It’s not making me rich, but you know, it’s definitely not a bad lifestyle. I love doing graphic design, I really do.”
AB: What book is currently on your nightstand?
Well I’m reading this economics book. I’m fascinated by economics, I don’t know anything about it. I’m reading a book called Open: The Progressive Case for Free Trade, Immigration, and Global Capital by Kimberly Clausing… I’m fascinated by it because, when we read about [tariffs] in the news we react in one way, but when I read this book on economics it says, “No, no, it doesn’t go that way at all.” It’s so complex, and this author’s pretty good, and she explains it in an interesting way.
Man, I don’t want to domesticate wild animals… but when my kids would ask me “What’s your favorite animal, dad?” I’d always say the pangolin.
Miller: My wife and I might go for a walk around the lake… In summertime, it’s projects: I like to work around the house… this year my project is fencing off the deck so my little dog can come out here and I don’t have to worry about him running down there and getting eaten by an eagle.
Miller: Coming up to Alaska when I was twenty three with a job, leaving my hometown was… I mean a lot of people do it, but it’s a daring move to do that break-away.
You know, skiing off ridge line, kayaking in the dark—I guess you could say it’s daring but it’s not like over-the-top daring, it’s just the course of growing up, and having fun, and doing crazy stuff.
Having kids, that’s daring, that’ll change your life… Maybe there’s a lot of daring things we just do naturally in our life that we don’t really count as daring.
Miller: I saw Stevie Ray Vaughan right before he died when he performed here in Anchorage, he was pretty good. He would be a good dynamic show to see again.
You know, actually I’d love to see an Oasis show. They’re not together anymore, so that would be reaching for it, but I bet you they would be a neat show to go see.
There’s so many artists that I want to listen to; I have a real eclectic musical taste. Like right now I’m listening to The Kinks. I haven’t listened to The Kinks in years and I hear a song by them and next thing you know I’m listening to them all the time. My kids got me into sea shanties. We sing along.
Here’s a deep, dark secret: I love to sing, but never in public. Only with my family. We sit around, we’re on a trip or we’re playing games, we’re all singing, I just love that.
Oh! I’d want to see Jimi Hendrix, that would be a classic.
Miller: I’m really interested in providing a good product to my clients. That’s what drives me, probably more than just making money. That’s a good thing. For my worst attribute? I’m a bit of a slob [he laughs]. Oh! Worst attribute, so one of the things is that I like to try a lot of different things—I paint, and it’s something I do just for the joy of it—and I like to try different things.
And if you see the things I’ve painted throughout the years, you can see sometimes it’s this, sometimes it’s that, and I think that can be a good thing, it certainly makes it fun. But as far as getting really good or proficient at one thing, it’s bad because I wish I could stay focused on one style.
Plug It In Insert: One of a series of highly illustrated newspaper inserts using cartoon and humor to remind Alaskans to plug in their car’s block heaters when the weather gets cold.
Alaska State Park Icons: Nine of an icon series depicting parks, forests and refuges throughout Alaska. They are used for products ranging from tshirts to little lapel pins.