Up Close: Technologies come and go, but art will always have a place in Andrew Milne’s life

Andrew Milne, VP of growth for Relish Studios, in his home art studio. Photo by Caroline Phillips

Andrew Milne has built a name for himself in Ottawa’s business community as a marketing and digital transformation leader and growth expert. That’s why it came as a surprise to some of his acquaintances when they were invited to his art show last spring.

They had no clue Milne was a painter. 

“A lot of people didn’t know,” said Milne, the vice-president of growth for Relish Studios, during an interview at his Glebe home where he has his own art studio. 

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Milne, 51, has been creating art ever since he was a kid growing up in Kanata. “I always wanted to paint, draw, illustrate.”

He was part of the visual arts program at Earl of March Secondary School. It was his art teacher, the late Dorothy Bongo, who suggested he attend Sheridan College in Toronto, where he studied illustration with a minor in advertising.

What came next was an exciting and fast-paced freelance career working for Toronto ad agencies during a period of digital acceleration. Clients included CityTV and MuchMusic. 

“I realized I was sitting in the boardrooms but not having the conversations,” said Milne of his decision to return to Ottawa, where he took on digital director roles that became executive roles, which led to him starting his own company, bv02.

For 16 years, Milne ran a full-service digital agency that combined strategy, creativity and technology to provide branding, marketing, communications and e-business solutions.

 One might think that, with a business and young family, Milne’s interest in art would dry up faster than acrylics left on a palette. Yet, the 2009 Forty Under 40 Award recipient still found time to sketch, particularly on family holidays and trips abroad. 

In 2018, Milne sold his company. He started spending more time at the Milne family cottage at Davis Lock in the Rideau Lakes area, capturing on canvas the natural landscapes that surrounded him. He began building a larger body of work, even after joining Field Effect Software as chief revenue officer in 2019.

Milne prefers impressionism as an art form because it sets a mood and tone for the outdoor spaces he’s trying to capture. “It allows me to be a little more fluid with the colours, the shapes, the feeling,” said Milne, who works from his own reference photos, sketches and watercolours.

In September 2021, Milne participated in his first group show. He was coaxed into it by Kingston-based artist Michelle Reid, who organizes square-foot art shows of smaller artworks by emerging and established artists. 

His participation in Reid’s show was a stepping stone for what came next: his first solo show. It had been years in the making, borne out of a conversation he’d once had about art with Velma McColl, principal at Earnscliffe Strategy Group. He found out she used to work at a gallery. She learned he’d done work as an artist.

“She said, ‘Someday, we’ll do a show at my house.’”

McColl kept her word. She cleared away the furniture on the ground floor of her home in the Island Park Drive area to host an exhibit for Milne last May 15. Milne’s friend Scott Nowlan, president and founder of The Saunus Network, was “instrumental” in helping the show come together. 

“I really didn’t know what to expect. It was more about, ‘Let’s do something fun, let’s get something out there.’” 

Some 185 of their friends and contacts attended on what turned out to be a stormy day. Of the 43 paintings, three-quarters of them sold. “We had a really good show,” Milne said.

He followed that exhibit with another winner, this time at The Opinicon, a visitor hotspot in the same Rideau Lakes area where Milne has been painting for years. The fact that his works were bought by strangers and led to a bunch of commissioned works staved off feelings of “imposter syndrome.” 

“I think it’s something you deal with throughout your career, no matter how much experience you have, but it’s been the encouragement from the community and people asking me about my work, asking me to do commissions, that’s helped keep me going,” said Milne. “I give The Opinicon full marks for supporting local artists.”

Milne has started donating his paintings to charity auctions for such causes as Christie Lake Kids and Ottawa Riverkeeper. It’s his way of “paying forward” the boost people like Reid and McColl gave him.

“I love that my paintings allow me to support the things I love and care about while, at the same time, people are connecting with them and really appreciating them.”

In business, as it relates to technology, everything is constantly evolving and upgrading. Yet art has a permanence Milne values. One of his paintings has been hung by its longtime owner in seven different homes over the years. 

“Art is something people choose, and when they choose to have it, they like to experience it, they become bonded with it,” said Milne. “It’s interesting how other things around us seem to change but art stays with us.”


  1. Painting has helped him through some personal challenges, from a life-changing concussion to the loss of his only sibling, Bruce, 54, to cancer in August 2021.
  2. He’s married to Dominique Milne, a real estate agent at Engel & Völkers Ottawa Central. Together, they have two sons, Logan and Lex.
  3. He has deep Scottish roots. He got married in a kilt, has two Airedale terriers (Skye and Talisker), and loves scotch (his most prized bottle comes from the Edradour Distillery).
  4. When he paints, he either listens to music or spy-thriller audio books.
  5. He has a copy of “Painting as a Pastime” by Winston Churchill. It’s full of great quotes, including: “Go out into the sunlight and be happy with what you see.”


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