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Off the Cuff with Dan Miller

by Jun 30, 2021

Dan Miller

©Kerry Tasker

“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.

AB: What charity or cause are you passionate about?
Public radio and anything to do with the environment… For me, a lot of times what I’ll do is I like working for charities on a local level, like if they need graphics or something like that.
AB: What’s the first thing you do when you get home after a long day at work?
Look around the house and start picking up stuff that I’ve messed up [he laughs]… A lot of times I’ll just come outside and sit on this deck if it’s a sunny day. One of the cool things of the pandemic is that my wife is home… so now having my wife home, we can chat immediately after work and find out what’s going on. You know, we might go for a walk around this lake with her little dog that loves walks.
AB: What vacation spot is on your bucket list?
Africa, Tanzania, or Nigeria.
AB: If you could domesticate a wild animal, what animal would it be?

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.

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Alaska Business September 2021 Cover

September 2021

AB: What do you do in your free time?

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.

AB: Is there a skill you’re currently developing or have always wanted to learn?
Miller: I’d like to learn how to write better. I have to write in my job periodically and I struggle with it. I’ll write something, like I’m writing this thing right now—it’s an RFP—and I’m trying to express my thoughts on how I want to proceed with this project, and it’s like I write it then it’s, “Ah nah, that’s not quite right.”
AB: Are you a pilot currently?
Miller: Not at all. I’d probably really be bad at it: to be a pilot or being a helicopter pilot you would have to be really detail oriented. You’d have to make sure the engine’s in good shape and everything is just right, and I’m not that kind of guy. That’s why I probably shouldn’t, but it would be fun. Someday they’ll get it to the point where helicopter flying will be easy, and then I’ll jump right on. Yeah, it’s like just putting in your GPS coordinate and floom, you’re off.
AB: What’s the most daring thing you’ve ever done?

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.

AB: What’s your favorite local restaurant?
Miller: For burgers, Tommy’s Burgers, although there’s a lot of good burger places around town. I love the peanut curry noodle soup at Pho Lena. My wife and I, for a quick evening out, we like going to Firetap, and of course for pizza we go to Moose’s Tooth.
AB: Other than your current career, if you were a kid today, what would your dream job be?
Miller: I often wonder what it would have been like to, say, become an engineer and be someone who can create innovation to help keep us sustainable.
AB: What’s your favorite way to exercise?
Miller: I go over [to the Bayshore Clubhouse] and work out for an hour, and then I swim for half an hour, and swimming is my candy bar. I love swimming.
AB: Dead or alive, who would you like to see perform live in concert?

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.

AB: Are you superstitious about anything?
Miller: I don’t think of myself as superstitious but there are things that I do… like if there’s something that’s coming up and it’s kind of like a foregone conclusion, I don’t do things knowing that it’s going to be completed because I don’t want to jinx it.
AB: What’s your greatest extravagance?
Miller: Hmm, so what do I spend money on? I’m cheap, I really am. But I do like good beer. I do like a good scotch, but that’s not really all that expensive, and I don’t buy it all that often. I do like going to a good restaurant periodically and spending more than I need to that for the experience. Travel, I guess? Travel is our biggest expense right now. It enriches your life—it’s worth it.
AB: What’s your best attribute and worst attribute?

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.

Dan Miller Graphics

“Pidgeon” Oil & pencil on masonite.

Dan Miller Graphics

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.

Dan Miller Graphics

Raven Radio Poster: The main image for a live comedy performance featuring Alaska Native stories and humor.

Dan Miller Graphics

Alaska Business Magazine September 2021 Cover

In This Issue

50 Years of ANSCA

September 2021

Fifty years ago, as the Watergate scandal swirled around then-President Richard Nixon, he signed into law the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA). It was the largest land claims settlement in the nation’s history and a stark departure from agreements forced on Tribes in the Lower 48.

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