Klinedinst Legal Assistant Milla J. Sheild Puts Her Passion for Painting on Display

SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA – Milla J. Sheild is a Legal Assistant in the San Diego office of Klinedinst PC. Many of her colleagues were surprised to learn that Sheild, who is a member of the firm’s Arts Committee, is also an accomplished painter. She focuses her artistry on creating beautiful works with oil, in addition to acrylic and mixed media. She brings her original artwork into the office, and has been invited to display her paintings in exhibitions and other public spaces.

Sheild recently sat down with Snō, a San Diego-based artist and teacher, to discuss the process and the inspiration for her paintings.

Milla J. Sheild
Milla J. Sheild

Snō: Artists often turn to creative expression when faced with loss and pain. Tell us how a freak accident while bodybuilding sparked a resurgence of your need to produce artwork. 

Sheild: While training to compete, I lost my balance, dropped a barbell with heavy weights on my left leg and basically crushed the bones. Two major reconstructive surgeries and a year of physical therapy later, I am grateful to be walking as well as I do. I was always doing art and interested in the arts as long as I can remember. Life would get in the way, but this time I returned to art to help me manage the pain from bone loss. I also had the newfound “freedom” of time. Bodybuiding takes a lot of dedication and time. I wasn’t training 6 days a week and had a lot of time on my hands.

As a visual artist who has also turned to art to cope with personal loss and physical pain, I too find that the visual arts provide a comforting embrace. How has your inclusion of meditation added to this union?

The neurobiology is proven on the healing benefits of art. It literally changes the structure of your brain. There is increased blood flow to the medial prefrontal cortex, the brain’s reward center. Art is meditation. Art, meditation and exercise are vital component of my selfcare. The act of self expression is very healing. A study with a group of firemen painting only 20 minutes a day for a month showed that they had significant improvement in trauma response after big fires. Looking at a beautiful piece of art increases the blood flow to your brain by 10% (the same as if you’re looking at someone you love).

Tell us what it was like to grow up in a creative family.

For one, it was not quiet. My dad used to sing opera. (That is how I knew who Maria Callas was at a tender 6 years old.) My mother was an exceptionally skilled seamstress. She inspired me to follow my craft with excellence in pursuit. With my mother’s sewing skills I could be anybody. One day I was a ballerina in pink tulle, the next day Cleopatra. If I could envision it, she could make it. I was also producing, directing and the lead star in productions that played out in our backyard with my mother’s linen’s as backdrop for the makeshift “stage.” Mother was “wardrobe.” My sister was a nationally awarded gymnast. So it came to be that I fell in love with arts and fitness. Expression and movement.

As a fellow self-taught artist, I can suffer from feelings of being an ‘imposter’ within the creative community. You’re an artist with great natural and skillful use of color, line and form. What would you say to novice artists that let their lack of training prevent them from entering into creative spaces?

I might not be the best person to answer this. I do not create for a broader community. I typically do not engage or share my art work in the art community. I have sold quite a bit of art by word of mouth and really enjoyed doing some commissions. I accumulate a lot of art. Mostly I leave it out in public. I have had the experience of neighbors in my building telling me they took the art that was left out. (Word has spread in my building that I create these paintings.) It’s also intriguing wondering where my art ended up. It’s about motive and intent. I create because I am instinctively following the desire to create. Maybe later in life I will focus more on selling art.

The study of art is really beneficial for technical skill, but I am concerned that it might stifle personal creativity. I have a problem calling myself an artist. I am a human being making marks. Sometimes it’s with paint. Words. Food or yarn. If anything, I would tell them to follow their instincts. I think with both novice and trained artists the biggest challenge is to create without fear. When I do share my art, I am saying: “Look at this color. Look at the flow.” I am excited about it. You art will reveal who you are. Maybe stop focusing so much on how you are “supposed” to do it, and lean more into being your true self. If you create art for a living, you are bound by what what your audience wants to see and buy. I have mad respect for all artists. How brave it is to be that vulnerable and show yourself. Even though I am a baby artist, I would say that I have been very successful so far. I have only been nibbling at the periphery. For me the secret is not necessarily more training, but to create without considering others’ expectations, and your own fear of letting go. Art makes me happy. That is an incredible success.

How does your artistic ability strengthen the skills you use at Klinedinst?

For me, art is the passionate pursuit of life with all your senses. If you’re passionate about what you do, it goes a long way. But, honor passion and reason as two equally honored guests in your house. With too much passion the house burns down. Too much reason leaves the house cold. Artists’ attention to detail is very beneficial. Focused attention.

Imagine you are ten years old again. What advice would you give to that version of yourself, knowing you’ll grow up to be in both the art and legal communities?

I think it would be the same advice I would give myself at any age. Heart like a lion, soul like a lamb. Authentically be yourself, unapologetically. Life is short. I buried a husband and a child and that is all the reminders I need. Stick-to-It-Ness is imperative. I have always been a very tenacious person. It has served me well. BE PRESENT. The inspiration and divinity is in every day life. Nature. The timber of a voice. Architecture. A beautiful word you can savor on your tongue. To paraphrase Herman Hesse, happiness is in your own backyard. I have a hard time not bringing home an interesting pebble or a tree branch from my daily walks. That is the golden retriever in me. There is such beauty in everything. You must just learn to see it.

Thank you for your answers, Milla! These paintings are truly BRILLIANT.

To connect or see more of Milla’s artwork, follow her on Instagram @milla_sheild.

About Klinedinst

Klinedinst PC is the go-to firm for clients looking for litigation and trial experience, sophisticated transactional advice, and other solution-oriented legal counsel. Providing legal services across the West, our attorneys are dedicated to fostering trusted relationships with each and every client, to help them achieve their individual goals and objectives. Klinedinst lawyers strive to serve as true business partners, always at the ready to address the legal challenges that businesses are confronted with every day. Whether in court, at the board meeting, or otherwise, KPC is the trusted legal advisor to have by your side.