Always Amabile! became a licensed business in West Virginia on November 10, 2016. It was founded to encompass my artwork, crafting, and writing under one umbrella. Creating artwork and writing fiction have always been a very important part of my life, but circumstances have changed and this formal, official business has allowed me to transition from art and writing as a hobby to an actual business now that I have retired from practicing surgery and have more time to express my creative side.
Always Amabile! is advertised on a Facebook business page and on Instagram is listed under artandwritingbyamabilemilano. After the business was licensed, Christmas greeting cards featuring mostly caricatures of my two rescue dogs and some more traditional art, which were digitally drawn by me, were sold in businesses in Sophia, WV and Alderson, WV and advertised on Facebook and Instagram. Some of the cards were actually sold by me in person to a few clients.
Prior to becoming a formal business, many of my steampunk metal sculptures and collages and paintings were sold at the Alderson Artisans Gallery in Alderson, WV on commission. Others were donated to NWAL, a dog rescue organization located in Alderson, WV, AL, and KY, and were sold during online fundraising auctions for which I didn’t accept any of the winnings. One goal of Always Amabile! is to become profitable enough to donate a portion of its profits to charities such as NWAL which is a rescues adoptable and unadoptable herding breed dogs.
In addition to artwork, fictional writing in the genres of sci-fi, fantasy, and medical murder mysteries, and children’s books (that I can illustrate as well as write) can be sold either via self-publishing or traditional publishing under the same business name.
The name Always Amabile! was chosen as a play on words based on the English translation of Italian phrase sung in the second stanza of the Duke’s song in the opera Rigoletto. As one might imagine, having the first name “Amabile” has been both a handicap and a blessing. As a conversation starter, it is a blessing. From an advertising standpoint, since there are so many businesses in the world that feature the word “Amabile” in their titles, the business name “Always Amabile!” can be found during searches on Facebook and other online sites. Hopefully the business name will attract attention.
My love of art began at age three when I watched mother complete art projects, one requirement for her teaching degree. From that point on, I was hooked on making artwork in every conceivable medium and making crafts. At an early age, I learned to improvise and that is my strong suit. I applied my artistic abilities during my practice of plastic and reconstructive surgery, so I suppose that can be classified as an art form, too. Otherwise, my art is self-taught. My main interests are (1) steampunk, mostly interactive collages and miniature, metal sculptures, but also using stone clay for sculptures and restorations of broken statuettes; (2) Italian-style paper mache masks; (3) digital drawings – all-occasion greeting cards and I’m illustrating a children’s book I wrote (I write sci-fi, fantasy, medical murder mysteries and children’s stories and have won awards for some).
My sister and I became juried artists for Tamarack: The Best of West Virginia in 2004 for our paper mache masks (Masks by Milano and Milano) and were featured in an article in the Charleston Daily Mail written by Therese Smith. In the 2015 Beckley Art Center Juried Show, the juror was Molly Halstead of the Tamarack Fine Art Gallery and I displayed a digitally-manipulated photographic piece that I created to look like a watercolor of my dogs called “Want to hunt for squirrels?” That piece is the logo for my business, now. I was juried in by OnlineJuriedShows.com for the 2016 International Biscuit Festival in Knoxville, TN and won one of two Merit Awards for my miniature steampunk sculpture made of electrical boxes and found things plus tiny sculptures I made from Sculpey. I won second, third and honorable mention ribbons from the 1980’s through the 2000’s at the Beckley Art Center.
Over the years that I have lived in Beckley, I attended workshops provided by the Beckley Art Group, of which I have been a member for three decades, at the Beckley Art Center. I am a member of the Aldeson Artisans Gallery and have sold items on commission there. I hope to help start an artist group in my hometown of Sophia, WV. I have some artwork on display in a small gallery in the Sophia Town Hall. I am a member of the Beckley Writing Group and the WV Writers, Inc. I participated in the 4-part webinar series “How to Engage with the Gatekeepers of the Art World” with artist Sharon Louden and hosted by Matthew Deleget plus the other webinars hosted by Emma Pepper in the series provided as part of the Tamarack Foundation’s Creative Entrepreneur Speaker Series of 2016.
Except for my schooling at WVU (Undergrad-Medical School 1969-1977) and two surgical residencies (Charleston, WV 1977-1982 and Kansas City, Kansas 1982-1984), my official residence was Sophia, WV from 1951-1986. I practiced plastic/reconstructive surgery in Beckley, WV from 1984 until I retired in 2006. Beckley has been my official residence since 1986 but my mailing address is PO Box 340 in Sophia. I divide my time between my home in Beckley (606 Carriage Drive) and my sister’s home in Sophia where I do most of my artwork and writing in a room dedicated to those purposes at my sister’s house.
I have no formal art training. I did attend a conference in New Orleans, Louisiana at Tulane University sponsored and taught by the Department of Craniofacial Surgery 1/27/86-1/31/86 called “Art for Plastic Surgeons.” The course began with instructions on drawing that was based on the book “Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain” by Betty Edwards. We then moved on to how to make molds using the same material used by dental professionals and those making facial prosthetics. Those us attending the class made molds of each others faces and one of each of our ears. We made molds of one of our own hands and wrists. We used plaster of Paris to make casts from those molds. Each of us used our ear casts and carved and sculpted our own opposite ear from non-hardening clay using the cast of our opposite ear as a guide. We learned to make dental appliances. We watched how prostheses of noses and ears are made for patients who had lost those body parts due to trauma or surgery needed to irradicate cancer.
Ironically, I had previously taken a class on drawing at Beckley College that had been based on “Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain.” It was an adult education night class taught by Becky Collier who was the art teacher at Woodrow Wilson High School in Beckley, West Virginia at that time.
I am a self-taught artist. When I was pursuing my B.A. degree in Biology at WVU, only art majors were allowed to take art classes. I had to do something creative for the benefit of my soul and sanity, so after I finished studying, I set aside time to create something. One year at Easter time, I “blew” some chicken eggs and decorated them for Easter.
When I started my plastic surgery practice, I continued doing artistic or creative things. I joined the Beckley Art Center and entered pen-and-ink drawings, oils and acrylic paintings, craft items and tiny items I sculpted from polymer clay into their exhibits and contest.
I took a 6-week, nightly adult education class on drawing that was taught at the then Beckley College in Beckley, WV by Becky Collier the art teacher at Woodrow Wilson High School who was a member of the Beckley Art Group. She based her course of the book “Drawing of the Right Side of the Brain” written by Dr. Betty Edwards.
About one year later, I took a course called “Art for Plastic Surgeons” at Tulane University, New Orleans, Louisiana taught from January 27-31 by the Chairman of the Department of Craniofacial Surgery. Ironically, the first part of the course was also based on “Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain.” I used what I learned in my plastic/reconstructive surgery practice to document for my patients’ charts the locations of scars, deformities, or lesions on drawings of their faces, torsos, and extremities. Another skill I learned there proved helpful for a future artistic pursuit. The participants were also taught how to make molds of our faces and one of our ears from the same molding compound that dental professionals and oral surgeons use when making dental impressions. We used those molds to make plaster-of-Paris casts of our faces and ears. Each of used the cast of one ear as a reference to carve/sculpt our opposite ear from non-hardening clay. In 2004, my sister, Mary Ann Milano, and I used the casts of my face to make elaborate Italian-style paper mache masks reminiscent of those I saw at the parish parades that were preliminary to the major Mardi Gras parades when I was in New Orleans years earlier. Under the name “Masks by Milano and Milano” were juried into the Tamarack and sold there for a while. We are interested in pursuing this again at the Tamarack.
I took workshops taught by local artists in oil painting and tole painting at the Beckley Art Center even though oil painting is not my favorite medium because I felt that learning art in any medium or art form would help me become a better artist and would help soothe my creative itch.