He's a man of few words. But by stringing together a series of short but mind-teasing questions (with drawings) in a new softcover book, Westport artist and graphic designer Miggs Burroughs shares years of collected thoughts and witty sayings.
It's a little book with a long title: "The What if? Book of Questions to some of your most revealing answers on Love and Health, Wealth & Happiness."
This latest creative "detour," as the 66-year-old artist puts it, resulted from exercises he was asked to do during divorce counseling sessions two decades ago.
"It is an attempt to share these pithy little musings, in the hopes that they might help others to make some fearless choices of their own," he says in his bio.
A few examples:
"What if you let go of all the definitions and judgments that imprison you? How free would you be?"
"What if you were to write an ad for the story of your life? Would it be full of hype or hope?"
"What if your body was actually just a suit that you could remove at any time? Do you like the person who is hiding inside?"
"What if someone you care about vanishes. Are they any further from your heart than if they were standing behind you?"
"What if you are a gift to the rest of us on earth? When will you be ready to accept that fact?"
"What if you are ready to believe the worst about yourself? What are the rest of us supposed to believe?"
His mostly pro bono contributions to Westport's eclectic vibrant and cultural community have given a lift to numerous organizations -- including the Town of Westport. They have been on display since 1966, sprucing up everything from buildings to major events to attractive signage for commercial enterprises. The book was promoted by Al's (DiGuido) Angels, a nonprofit group that provides holiday meals and gifts to children and families in the tri-state area suffering with life-threatening cancer and rare blood diseases.
Asked what he considers the work of which he is most proud in town, the lean designer with curly, gray-specked hair replies almost shyly: "I would have to say that I am most proud of being asked to design Westport's first town flag in 1985 as part of its sesquicentennial celebration. It still gives me a thrill to see it waving at the top of flagpoles at Town Hall, the beach, our schools and many other buildings. Having Westport formally adopt my artwork to represent the town will always be the ultimate honor for me."
His other contributions to enliven the special "look" of Westport include the logos for the Westport schools, the Levitt Pavilion, the town's new electric cars, the Westport Historical Society, Save the Children, the YMCA, the Kiwanis Triathlon, the T-shirts for the YMCA's Point-to-Point swim, the "First Night" button, the Kids' Wall at Longshore Park (with Katherine Ross) and the front and back jackets as well as the illustrations for this writer's history of the town, published in 2000.
The thing I find most endearing about my friend Miggs is that he always seems to be in an agreeable mood. His smile is contagious. He doesn`t appear to let anything bother him -- at least outwardly.
The few times I have seen him get mildly angry, it was always at himself. He doesn't appear to have a drop of hostility inside him. Rather, he is one of the kindest, most sensitive and -- yes, creative -- people I have ever met in my entire life.
Miggs earned a fine arts degree from Carnegie Mellon University, taught graphic design at Fairfield University and UConn, and has written and produced a problem-solving video for children. As a member of the Westport Arts Center and the Silvermine Guild in New Canaan, he has recently won acclaim for his work with lenticular imagery, which has also been exhibited in several shows throughout Fairfield County since 2003, winning several Best in Show awards.
He also had the distinction of being asked to design several covers for Time magazine and a U.S postage stamp.
The biggest influence in his life, he says, was his father, Bernard, a commercial illustrator and fine artist who died in 1995. His mother, Esta Burroughs, now retired and 99 years old, worked at the Remarkable Book Shop for many years.
Divorced 18 years ago, Miggs has a son, Brayden, 32, an attorney who lives in Boston.
I asked Miggs to describe himself -- a real challenge for an introvert. He replied: "I am tempted to answer with the screwed-up description that appeared in my Staples High School yearbook, which said that I was a `vague-thinking bulb snatcher.' I have no idea how they came up with that, other than the fact that I was on the lighting crew of the Staples Players, and apparently I wasn't as bright as the bulbs I was in charge of. Other than that, I would describe myself as someone who is fascinated by all the choices, large and small, that are part of our daily lives, and the power they give us. These observations help to inform my artwork, and hopefully my value as a person."
Perhaps the most down-to-earth description of Miggs comes from Martha Stewart, a longtime friend of his who lived in Westport for many years, who wrote: "Miggs is creative. When he attacks a problem, he does it with intelligence, insight and humor."
Woody Klein is a Westport writer. His "Out of the Woods" appears every other Wednesday. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.