Terry Miura • Studio Notes

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Monterey Sketches

Sorry about the longer-than-usual absence! When my frequency drops, it usually means 1)I'm busy, or 2)I have nothing good to share. This time around it's 3)Both.

I'm a little frustrated by the fact that my paintings haven't been energizing me. I can't seem to figure out why, either. They're not bad paintings –I think they're fine, but I'm starting to want something different from them and I'm not seeing it. If I knew what that something was, I could at least tackle this problem head-on, but at this point, it just feels a little blah.

So for a change of pace, I went down to Monterey with my family and spent a few days there visiting the aquarium, (I love the tuna tank!) eating seafood and just taking in the coastal environment. I did get a few sketches in, too. I think I'm getting better at sneaking away and getting a little painting time on these family trips.

The top pic shows my easel on the craggy rocks in Pacific Grove. The weather was mostly gray and chilly, especially in the early mornings. But I didn't mind that, as long as it didn't get too wet or windy. I did have to be extra careful with my footing though. I have a habit of stepping back from my easel without watching where my feet land, and as you can see from my pic, there isn't much room to step back!

This is the view I painted;

It had a lot of visual activity and one of the things I wanted to do was to simplify that mess. In doing so, my strategy was to resolve the focal area first, and paint the surrounding rocks more gesturaly as I moved away from the center of interest. This is in contrast to bringing up the whole thing at the same time and tightening up the focal area at the end, leaving the surrounding areas un-tightened.

Both are perfectly valid approaches. I find the first method works better for me, especially if there is a lot of visual activity.

Anyway, here's my start with very loose washes, just placing the main elements and blocking in the darks.

Getting started with the main rock. I tried not to deviate from literal color too much in this painting. Often I ditch the actual colors I see in front of me in favor of subjective color choices in order to make the kind of paintings that I want to see on my wall. But for this one, I decided to treat it like an exercise in staying reasonably close to what was in front of me.

The value structure of the main rock is more or less resolved, so I move on to areas around it.

I had to fight the urge to render the foreground rocks too much, as they were just a supporting cast and I didn't want them to have a greater role than just being there.

And this is the finished painting. About an hour and a half in the painting, it started to drizzle a bit, which put a veil of sorts between my rock and the background. I decided to go with it, even though we're not supposed to chase the light, right? The light also became cooler, which is why this pic looks a little bluer. It's not because I repainted the rocks to match the cooler color. It's just the light under which I photographed the finished painting.

My other painting was of some boats in the harbor. This was a much wetter, colder morning and I didn't even have my coffee. How can you paint without a good dose of caffeine running through your veins?

The main boat was a non-descript fishing vessel, and I kinda liked the tired look of it. The painting turned out so-so, which is not surprising considering my less-than-positive attitude, but that's OK. At least I was out there painting.

This is my painting toward the end. By then the boats have all turned around to face the opposite direction. Such is the challenge of painting boats like these, eh?

I don't have a proper shot of this painting because I scraped it after I got home.

The highlight of this trip, I have to say was the discovery of a wonderful restaurant in Monterey called Esteban. It's a tapas restaurant, and though little pricey, I highly recommend it. It's not often that I go to a restaurant and be inspired and impressed by the restraint of flavoring. I thoroughly enjoyed it even though there was a wedding reception going on on the other side of the dining room wall and it got pretty loud – a big turn off under normal circumstances, but I was so taken by the food that I didn't even mind Kesha blasting right through the walls!


  1. Awesome pieces! Those rocks look great. It'd be nice to see a pic of the final under proper light. I also like the addition of the more misty background. It helps to better pull the focal point rocks away from the background.
    Again, great work Terry!

  2. Of course, we all hold ourselves to varying sets of standards, Terry. Still, it pains me to know you scraped the boat painting because I honestly love it. What you consider a scrape away canvas I would just be so happy to even paint half as well. Both pieces are amazing and I love how you crop your scenery for your landscapes. Always so much fun reading your thoughts as you work through your pieces.

  3. Nice rocks . . .

    Terry, maybe you already know this, but the next time you are on the Monterey Bay stop at Moss Landing across from the power plant. There are awesome commercial fishing boats lined up at dock and you'd love the light and shapes you'd find there.

    Spent a morning there myself after Sonoma Plein Air and want to go back for a couple of days. If I do I will give you a call.



  4. Greetings Terry- I am new to your blog, and think I can learn a great deal from your step-by-steps-thanks!
    Also, I'll take your scraps any day of the week.

  5. Thanks for the step by step paintings and your thoughts on them, it was very interesting to read.

  6. Terry
    Hey, I love the fact that if you step back from your painting things could really go wrong. It added an other element to painting outdoors.

  7. nice paintings Terry, too bad you scraped the boats painting, it didn't look so bad in the photo. This is like fishing, not always you can catch a big fish, it doesn't mean that they are not there. |Next time maybe.

  8. thanks everyone~ rocks are fun to paint, fo sho~ the added thrill of standing a step away from a certain death made the experience memorable :-)

    The boat painting couldn't be saved. The rendering of the main boat is ok, but I didn't like the composition and that's something so fundamental that no amount of fancy brushwork will save it. Besides. It got too much water (it was drizzling the whole time) mixed into the paint that it developed areas where paint didn't stick so well, causing ugly spots all over the canvas.

  9. I think we were in the Monterey area at the same damn time, Mr. Miura! My wife and I were attending our nephew's Hindu wedding and later enjoyed a curried feast and Kava at the bride's family's home in the Carmel Valley. While I was there I took a photo of Monterey Bay on a gloomy, cloudy, drizzly day with a thin ribbon of bright reflected sunlight cutting across the horizon. I can send it to you if you want to contemplate another duo paint interpretation exercise.

  10. Terry,
    I just had to check in and tell you how much I love the rock painting.. Just lovely. I've been wanting to go the the coast myself and hope to get out there in October, near Bodega.
    I won't be standing on any rocky cliffs though, at least I hope not.
    Thank you for sharing the steps also, very helpful as always

  11. Hey David, I think I saw you - weren't you the guy trying to ride a sealion in the bay? LOL kidding - yeah monterey was so nice. I would really love to live there. Or at least some other place close to the ocean. Mostly for seafood, but the way we're going, we may not have any seafood in a few decades.

    would love to see the pic you took. send it ovah!~

  12. Thanks Randy~ painting coastal rocks is really fun. That area around Bodega is so perfect for painting en plein air, what with incredible views, ample safe parking, and even clean restrooms. Not to mention great seafood!

    If you have time to drive around, don't miss the Wildflour Bakery (on the way to Bodega @ Freestone and Christopher Queen Gallery in Duncans Mills~

  13. Terry, Great painting of the rocks. As I live in the Rockies, we have so many, and I love seeing how others approach them. Saw you're having a workshop in October. I'm taking one from Jill Carver at that same time. But, hopefully next time!

  14. Thanks Pam~ Say hi to Jill for me. What an awesome talent. Lucky you :-)