Jeff Miller paints a Halloween-themed window at Loyal Companion in Lewiston before Halloween. Miller hopes to get into dog grooming and create artwork on dogs. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

LEWISTON — Jeff Miller doesn’t see store windows the same way most people do. For him, the glass is always greener — or redder, bluer, a deep pumpkin orange or perhaps a vivid violet — with his artwork on it.

Armed with a supply of liquid chalk markers or acrylic paint, Miller views the giant glass store panels that separate customers from products as blank canvasses on which to ply his art and craft. His animated characters —particularly the Corgi puppy featured in most of his work — are inspired by the animal emojis in his phone and are often splashed across Lewiston’s Loyal Companion windows.

“I got the feeling Jeff leaned more toward the artistic side — he preferred doing more creative things vs. paperwork and processes,” said Brian Dumont, who manages that pet supply store at the Shaw’s mall in Lewiston. He’d been observing Miller from the time his employee came on board in October 2018, wanting to build on what Miller does best by the nature of the work he assigned him.

Jeff Miller’s Ice Cream Social window art. Submitted photo

Starting him off small with illustrations on the store’s A-frame blackboard and whiteboard, Dumont said he wanted to go larger for the store’s first ice cream social scheduled for July. He prevailed upon district manager Melissa Fossett to send liquid chalk markers (eventually swapped for more substantial acrylics, as the markers tended to run) with which Miller would be tasked with promoting the upcoming event.

In a four- to five-hour feat, Miller, straddling a ladder, splayed his signature Corgi puppy and a towering bowl of ice cream across the storefront, replaced soon after with a mural of the dog days of summer, followed by a whimsical Halloween scene. Miller still uses the blackboard and whiteboard to advertise store sales and other events, such as the arrival of groomer Nancy Serabian.

“He took it on and did a great job, so that’s where it started. … People noticed,” Dumont said of the many comments the store continues to receive.

Painting his first window at age 18 while working at Maine Mall’s Old Country Buffet, Miller said the idea started with the kitchen manager who was very artistic. “Gloria used to paint the windows and let me take over for the holidays,” he recalled. More than a decade passed before he started at Loyal Companion, which gave him the opportunity to do it again.

Now 30 and residing in Lewiston, Miller moved from Vermont to Palmyra at age 13, growing up largely without TV and video games. For entertainment he and his brother explored the woods, and he essentially lived inside the pages of books that still inspire him. “It forced me to develop my imagination. Kids today are not being stimulated by watching TV and video games — they are being robbed.”

Jeff Miller’s Welsh corgi character is central to this Dog Days of Summer promotion on blackboard. Submitted photo

With no formal art training, Miller has been drawing with pencils as far back as he can remember, eventually introducing charcoal as a medium to broaden his horizons. Influenced by the style of late painter, art instructor and TV host Bob Ross, whose “The Joy of Painting” aired on PBS from 1983 to 1994 (seen posthumously on YouTube and Twitch), some of Miller’s earliest memories are of watching Ross, alongside his late grandmother, who was passionate about the show. Miller has yet to paint some of Ross’ most popular subjects — stylized trees, clouds, mountains, lakes and cabins — on Loyal Companion’s store windows, but he does paint them on more traditional canvases for his own enjoyment.

To pass the time one day, Miller randomly withdrew three state quarters from his pocket and used fine brushes and acrylic to paint the engraved scenery of Nebraska, Minnesota and Maine. “Surprisingly, it turned out better than I’d hoped,” he said, noting he’s going to try to repeat the effort for all 47 remaining states, substituting a more durable paint because acrylic “looks beautiful but scratches off.”

Jeff Miller’s shower hound art to welcome a new store groomer. Submitted photo

Though word about Miller’s work is spreading and he is considering his holiday window mural, his ultimate goal is to become a groomer.

“Animals are my truest passion and if I can create a good quality of life for them, that’s what’s important to me,” he said, adding that grooming, like cutting hair, is really another art form.

While Loyal Companion has been moving toward instituting a groomer training program for employees, Miller said to date it has been slow going and he cannot afford the cost of an independent grooming academy.

“I once saw a video of someone doing a haircut tattoo into the side of a horse,” he said. “It was the most beautiful pattern I’ve ever seen. I figure if I can learn how to trim fancy, artistic designs into short-haired dogs, it could really be popular.”

Store manager Dumont said there are other Loyal Companion stores in the region where creative employees are encouraged to make their own contributions, including window painting. While such efforts are often occasional, at his store, Dumont said, he has no plans to stop Miller from using his job to continue developing his art.

“I have no artistic ability. I can’t draw a stick figure right,” Dumont said. “What Jeff does draws attention. People come in.”

Jeff Miller’s art on quarters. Submitted photos

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