JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) — In much of his art, George E. Miller II likes to weave hidden messages for children to find.
The words and phrases are meant to inspire and encourage them to embrace learning, build character, stay in school and aim high.
His illustration called "Caught Reading" pictures a girl on the floor, sitting against a wooden bookcase, open book in hand, a look of joy on her face. In the wood grain of the bookcase, "read" appears.
Above, below or beside each of the six faces in "It's Cool to Have Character" are the words trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring and citizenship.
And in "The Thrill of Technology," which shows a group of children huddled around a computer, the word curiosity is on the computer cord.
Miller, 52, who lives in OakLeaf in Clay County and works out of his home, calls himself a child advocacy artist. He coined the term himself.
"That just happened... kind of a natural fit," he said. "My art has always had children in it ... That's what I became."
He specializes in multicultural, child advocacy illustrations for schools and offices. His work addresses many children's issues, such as education, foster care, autism, character education, leadership and dropout prevention.
He travels across the country, attending conferences of agencies, nonprofits and other organizations that work with children. He sets up a booth, sells his art and frequently donates a piece to be raffled off, with proceeds going to help children.
In April in Jacksonville, he attended the 20th annual Child Abuse Prevention Luncheon and Conference held by the Exchange Club Family Center of Northeast Florida. He first signed up as a vendor and later donated a piece of art.
Exchange Club officials were impressed.
"George Miller offers a fresh, unique vision as an artist that is inspiring to children and adults alike. His passion for his work is apparent through the quality of his art," said Jack Morison, Exchange Club Family Center's board chairman. "As an organization that works to prevent child abuse, we were proud to showcase his talent at our event and look forward to working with him again."
In addition to conferences, he is frequently invited to schools as a speaker or to offer art instruction. Miller figures his art is in every school in Duval County and one, "It Takes A Village," was used in the movie "The Preacher's Wife."
He also does commemorative posters and custom illustrations and is leading Community Connections youth as they paint a mural at the A.L. Lewis after-school center on the Northside.
Miller has also been to Arkansas, Colorado, Washington, D.C., in recent months and is headed to Utah in June. Although the Pittsburgh native is used to moving around, having been in the Air Force, he said the frequent travel can be a grind. And he's not likely to get rich.
But he said he continues because of his love for children and respect for the people who educate and care for them.
Also at work is his passion to bring awareness to the growing problem of illiteracy. Knowing that his art may help those causes keeps him going.
"It's everything. That's why I keep doing it. As hard as the work is ... it is so important. I can't imagine doing anything else."
Read more at Jacksonville.com: http://jacksonville.com/entertainment/arts/2013-06-03/story/jacksonville-area-child-advocacy-artist-uses-subtle-messages#ixzz2W0RUF5NO