SPEAK Season 2 Episode 3: Brad, the Mouse, the Lion and the Animal Party

Brad Millar: Rabbit and the Bee With the Rainbow Tree and Poppy

Rachel: I’m Rachel Gray

Debbie: and I’m Debbie Ratcliffe, AKA the dragon lady.

Rachel: And welcome to SPEAK.

SPEAK is artists with developmental disabilities telling their own stories. Today on SPEAK we’ll be hearing stories from Brad Miller.

Debbie: Brad makes cards for everybody that he meets.

Rachel: He’s one of the most prolific card makers I’ve ever met. It didn’t take long before he joined the Studio to start giving cards out to basically everybody who was there.

And I will say that just being at BEING Studio has made me think a lot about cards or think differently about cards because they’re so common at the Studio.

So many people make them.

Debbie: They can mean so many things. It could mean love. It could be a way of showing you’re happy : birthday cards, get well cards…There’s all sorts of cards.

Rachel: Yeah. Brad’s cards are really vivid, super bright colors, and a lot of animal life. Brad loves animals, birds, snakes, rats, cats. The whole natural world really comes through in his art. Brad grew up on a farm and it seems like animals have always been a really important part of his life. And he spreads that care for animals around, through his cards and his artwork, what he creates and gives away.

What do you think about the relationship between cards and art?

Debbie: I think they’re one of the same because whoever writes the cards or makes the cards is an artist themselves, and that’s how they show the world their art work, is through cards.

Rachel: I think of cards as art out in the community, art out and about, and doing something concrete, pulling people together.

Debbie: I think the best card I ever received is a funny card. I love to laugh. So a good card, like a good funny card would be great to receive.

Rachel: Oh, and one more thing : on this episode, you’re going to be hearing a new voice. We’ve brought someone else on board the podcast team.

Debbie: Their name is Fin!

Rachel: We’re really excited to work with them. And so now we’ll pass it over to Brad and Fin.

Fin: Hi, my name is Fin. I am a studio facilitator at BEING Studio. I always feel so grateful to be working around such amazing people and incredible art. Meeting artists like Brad Miller through BEING Studio has been a true gift.

What has always intrigued me about Brad’s work are the stories and influences that connect to them; Brad’s art as mindful, giving and enlightening with peace and joy.

Brad: I’m Brad Miller and I live in Brandon, Ontario, and I make art.

Fin: And what do you look like?

Brad: Like a bird. Twee, twee, twee! [laughs] I like to make cards.

Fin: Do you want to talk a bit more about why you like to make your own cards?

Brad: I guess people prefer them more and buy cards. Art is so expensive nowadays, so I decided to make my own cards watching Bob Ross. I used to watch his videos and I learned from him. And then I thought, okay, I’ll do some of his paintings. That’s the way I started.

« We make no mistakes, but just happy accidents. »

He had a little pet squirrel or chipmunk with him at the time, and his little pet bird that he looked after.

Fin: And I think it’s really nice that people can have something, like, original by you. Yeah. It’s like, no one will have the same.

Brad: But different cards everytime.

Fin: Yeah! There’s a lot of like uniqueness to your work and your cards and all of the different type of messages you put into your cards.

Brad: Yes. [Reading from a card] “To Ashley, happy birthday, Ashley, and best wishes. »

And there’s a cake on the side and then a flower and in the heart.

« Brad Miller made this.”

« Sorry for your loss of your repair shop, Brad Miller. »

« Gavin and family, Merry Christmas and a happy new year, Brad Miller .»

A Christmas tree with a cat on it and a heart in the front.

This other one: « Be my Valentine. »

« You are special. »

“ To Melanie, Happy Halloween » there’s a pumpkin on it and a couple of bats “from Brad Miller. »

Tamara and Michael on their wedding day, I have a picture of a little church.

« Congratulations on your baby boy », with balloons and cake.

“Get well soon!”

« Brad Miller made this. »

Fin: How do you feel when people receive your cards?

Brad: I feel warm inside. I feel good because I did something for them.

Fin: Here are some of Brad’s card recipients.

Jake: It makes me feel happy. Happy and good inside. He makes me smile. He has a great personality and he lights up the room!

Christine: It makes me feel good, like I have a friend. They’re unique. Like he has his own unique style. I just love getting them. I find them really funny. [laughs] Like he has a funny like character and I feel like we’re connected. It just takes the boredom out of you during this time.

Melanie: Over the years, you must’ve done thousands of cards

And so you do beautiful Christmas cards and birthday cards, thank you cards and condolence cards, holy. It’s always got a little tiny bit of humor or something special about it. There’s someone smiling. Or there’s a little bit of a joke in it even when the times are difficult, you have to find something to be happy about.

Fin: I know that when I received a card from you, it was very, very nice and I felt warm inside. And you had the sun with the smile and the bird and the tree. And it was really nice to receive and I will not be able to find another card like this.

Brad: So that’s one thing I feel good : making others feel good too.

Rachel: We’ll be back in a moment.

A lot of people have reached out to ask how they can support the podcast. The answer is to donate to BEING Studio. BEING is a nonprofit and donating to the Studio supports artists not only in making this podcast, but also in creating and sharing their visual art.

You can help build a more accessible art world. Thanks so much to everyone who supports the studio and thank you for listening to speak.

Okay. Back to the show.

Fin: I wanted to learn more about Brad’s connections to animals because of how often they show up in his work. I was curious if there were any connections between his card making and appreciation for nature. Can you talk about the relationship between your art and animals?

Brad: Well, I like to draw animals on cards like Christmas cards, Valentine cards here. Here’s one : « To Devin, you are a special person. Brad Miller.”

Fin: Have you ever made a card for an animal?

Brad: Yeah, my Teddy bear.

Fin: What did your card to the Teddy bear say?

Brad: « Oh, my favorite Teddy bear. »

Fin: Brad. Do you ever wonder what it would be like if animals can speak?

Brad: That’d be something different.

Fin: I think it would be awesome.

Brad: Yeah.

Fin: It could be a nice way to like, know how they’re feeling and what they want to talk about.

Brad: Especially the hummingbirds. Like they, like, they hummmmm…They can fly forwards, backwards up, down and sideways.

Fin: What would a hummingbird say? You say. If it could speak to you?

Brad: Like, « Hi Brad!”, or « Can I land on your shoulder? »

Fin: Have you ever had a hummingbird land on your shoulder?

Brad: I’m still laughing, but that one day, I was just by the door by the back door and that was rare and red and white, no, red and blue shirt and a hummingbird came down down. Landed on my shoulder. I think I was a flower or something.

Fin: Wow! That’s so cool. I don’t think that happens to everyone.

Brad: Yeah.

Fin: How did it feel?

Brad: Feel good. Hello? I think that’s my mom calling, somebody down from heaven up there.

So it came down and, uh, oh, I guess this hummingbird’s from heaven. My mom’s trying to talk to me. I sure miss my mom and dad. Listen, I know my mom is in heaven thinking about me and I’m thinking about her and dad.

I said to the hummingbird, « I’ll be there someday! », to heaven, that is, with my mum and dad and my grandparents.

Fin: Did the hummingbird say anything back to you?

Brad: It was humming anyway, and then it flew away after that. « Oh, I want to see Brad. Okay. I saw him goodbye », something like that, anyway.

Fin: I wonder what the animals would say to each other, if they could speak to each other.

Brad: Yeah. I wonder.

Fin: We’ll have to, I don’t know. Maybe there will be a special device that will translate their language to human language and we can listen to them.

Brad: Like, uh, a CD player, maybe put the cassette in and then put it on record and let the animals talk. Hmm. Or sing, whatever they want to do. Like cats singwhen the bridge is falling down : meow meow meow meow [laughs]

Fin: Can you tell me about why your animals are so often smiling in your artwork?

Brad: Well, they’re having a good time together! It’s just like you and me. Animals like to have a good time too, playing and talking. And I have a drawing of an animal party. I thought and thought about it. I said, « okay. I’ll make an animal party underneath the rainbow. » I saw the colors of the rainbow and I thought of all of these colored animals. Rabbits in there. Uh, skunks, maybe, golden eagles. Well, there’s a bald eagle, there must be a golden eagle. They like to have fun and, uh, gather, gather they eat and have a lot of fun in the sun. Meow, meow! Tsssss, tssss. Twee twee twee! “Would you like to play ball or would you like to play Frisbee? » I dunno, animals play Frisbee. Sometimes they fight over the food. “Don’t bother me when I’m eating!” Woof woof. “Don’t take my food! I like eating cheese. »

Fin: So when you draw animals, what are you trying to capture?

Brad: How they fly and how the land and the food around them, like on a tray or a table or a bird feeder. And spread their wings and fly upwards. Or down or sideways, like the hummingbird,

Fin: Do you feel connected to animals yourself?

Brad: Yes. Especially to dogs, dogs and fish.I like to tell their stories. In one story, the Lion and the Mouse, where the lion gets caught in this net and the mouse eats away at the net and releases the lion from the net and the lion is the friend with the mouse at the end.

Fin: What a lovely surprise!

Brad: That one really gets to me, though. He gets caught on this big net. Roar! [laughs] And then the mouse comes along: “Why do I have to help you? Squeak, do you want to be my friend, squeak?” The mouse eats away at the net, frees the lion, and they become friends at the end. He’s trying to be brave because the lion is bigger than he is.

Fin: What do you think we can learn from the story of the mouse and the lion?

Brad: Well, trying to be good to each other and help each other, which they do, well the mouse does. Yeah. And the, yeah, so they became friends at the end. If they help each other, « you help me and I’ll help you » like the mouse in the lion. Like the mouse did to the lion in there.

Fin: If you could be an animal, Brad, what would you be?

Brad: I am squeak, squeak, mouse!

Fin: I have asked you this before and you said mouse too. That’s funny. What do you like about the mouse?

Brad: Well, the little animals, they like cheese. « Here’s a piece of cheese for you!” Takes the cheese and runs away.

Fin: And do you think that if you were the mouse in the Lion and the Mouse, would you help the lion?

Brad: Yeah.

Fin: Yeah. It seems like it kind of seems kind of scary for the mouse.

Brad: Yeah. Because the mouse is small and this lion is big.

Fin: Yes. But the mouse is really thoughtful and kind.

Brad: Yeah. And try to help out the lion.

Fin: Yeah. Maybe you would be a good mouse.

Brad: Yeah, yeah, probably. Yeah.

Fin: Is there anything you’d like to say to people listening?

Brad: Oh, here comes Brad. Yeah. And, uh,

Uh, what a great world.

Rachel: SPEAK is hosted by

Debbie: Debbie « The Dragon” Ratcliffe;

Rachel: Produced and co-hosted by Rachel Gray;

Debbie: Theme music by Jesse Stewart;

Rachel: Episode music by Bucko.

Debbie: Our consulting editor is Allie Graham,

Rachel: And our mix editor is Erin Flynn.

Story support and interviews by Fin Xuan.

We gratefully acknowledge the support of the Canada Council for the Arts. Let’s let Brad sing us out.

Brad: [sings] Cats have kittens, doggies have pups, horses have pretty foals, and sheep have lambs. Goats have kids, but people have kids like me and you!