Remembering Joe “Cheap Joe” Miller

Joe Miller of Cheap Joe’s Art Stuff

Artist and founder of Cheap Joe’s Art Stuff, Joe Miller (1939-2023) passed away after months of declining health. According to his obituary, “Joe was born in a car in front of Boone Drug Company, in downtown Boone, North Carolina, February 17, 1939, to Flossie and Cecil Miller. According to his mother, Joe was born in a hurry and never slowed down. He lived his life with enthusiasm, always looking for the next adventure and never being satisfied with being in one place very long.”

Although he initially planned to pursue taxidermy, with dreams of one day becoming a museum conservator, he ultimately found himself back at Boone Drug Company as a pharmacist, studying art on the side. Once gifted a series of watercolor lessons with Noyes Long, he developed a particular fondness for the medium.

Over time, Joe decided to sell a few art supplies at Boone Drug, jokingly putting up a sign over the section that said, “Cheap Joe’s Art Stuff.” The name stuck, and he later left his career in pharmacy to grow Cheap Joe’s into a force in the art materials world.

A fun-loving Southern gentleman, Joe delighted in surprising people by personally delivering packages whenever he travelled across the United States or mailing out art supplies to customers in areas hit by natural disaster. His love of art and artists was infectious, and the loss of his presence will be felt by many. Thanks to his final request, however, his generosity will continue.


In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to Brushes for Vincent – a charitable organization designed by Joe to give persons in distress healing through art.

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Kelly Kane
PleinAir Magazine and American Watercolor Weekly Editor-in-Chief With more than 20 years experience in art publishing, Kelly Kane has served previously as Editor-in-Chief of Watercolor Artist magazine and Content Director for The Artist’s Magazine, Drawing, Acrylic Artist, and Pastel Journal. She has interviewed many of the preeminent artists of our time and written numerous articles about painting, drawing, art education and art history. She is now the Editor-in-Chief of PleinAir Magazine and the American Watercolor Weekly newsletter. Click here to send her an email.


  1. Joe was probably one of the nicest people I’ve ever met, and he was nice to everyone. He loved to converse with his customers, and he would always drop in when other artists were giving workshops at Cheap Joe’s in Boone, NC. I can hear him joking around now with his smooth Southern accent. His personal workshops were always full of good tips. I am so glad you gave him a nod in your email-it was well deserved!


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