Terry Miura • Studio Notes

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Painting in the High Sierras: Day 3

Wednesday morning. The winds were much calmer through the night. I could hear the distant sounds of the falls and some critters scurrying about but no wind bombs. I slept much better, thankyouverymuch.

After breakfast, we packed our lunches and headed up to Gem Lakes, which is another 20 - 25 minute climb from our base camp. Getting up close to the 2000 ft sheer walls and glacier patches, you really feel the brutal power of nature up there.

Above is my first sketch of the day, and it turned out to be one of my favorites from the entire week. One thing I did differently with this one is to switch my thinking from "look how much color you can see in those gray rocks!" to "look how colorless those rocks are!" Why should pushing color be more desirable than pushing colorlessness? It's just preference of one level of saturation over another.

You'll look at my painting and say, "but you DID use color. I can plainly see the cool and warm shadows in your painting."

But I can assure you, it's a lot less saturated than what I actually saw. And I used black to make my base gray, as opposed to mixing primaries which is what I normally would do.

Actually, it's not that big a deal how I mix my grays, as long as all the variations are related to each other. This is my sketch for the painting. Pretty rough and sloppy, huh? Can you see that my intent was to work out the big, abstract design with just a few values, and nothing more?

Light changes quickly, so once you've committed to a design based on shadow patterns, you gotta stick to it. If you chase the light, you'll never finish the painting!

Snow is white. But not quite. If you want to emphasize the glare of the white patch of snow, lowering the values of everything else is a logical way to do it, including that of the sky. (if the sky is in your picture, that is)

I hiked farther in for my next painting. I could see Morgan Peak to the East, with an interesting juxtaposition of boulders in the foreground. From where I was standing, the peak was weirdly symmetrical, so I shaved a little bit off the right side.

By now, I was starting to see some cloud activity. I tried painting them in but it seemed to take away from the foreground busy-ness, so I took them out, opting for a simple, passive sky.

The amount of clouds seemed to increase rapidly, suggesting, perhaps a change in the weather. In the mountains the weather is unpredictable so a sudden downpour wouldn't be surprising.

The afternoon remained dry, fortunately. I debated whether to do a painting featuring clouds but wasn't quite inspired to do so. A headache started brewing, too. May be the altitude was affecting me.

I tried napping in the shade, hoping the headache would go away and also to wait for a better light / shadow pattern on these rocks across the lake. An hour later, the headache wasn't better, but it wasn't worse either. So I got up and started painting. I couldn't focus on the task at hand so this one was sort of done on auto-pilot. Consequently, it looks a little bit indecisive in some areas.

Hiked back to the base camp, took some motrin, drank a lot of water, and watched the clouds roll by. A pretty good painting day, I'll say. Wine never tasted so good. Dinner was fabulous.

I was exhausted though, and went to bed early.


  1. Terry, these are fantastic paintings!! I just love the rock face and trees... wow is all I can say :-)

  2. Your way of abstracting the complexity has got me hooked. A lot of experiences/experimenting to get that—man, your good.
    What a life you lead! In a word, 'inspiring'.

  3. It's fascinating to follow your painting experiences.
    I'm wondering about a practical issue now though... how do you handle your wet paintings when walking up hills and such?

  4. Being an emotional person, it is sometimes hard for me to follow the logic and intellect found in art. Such was the case with my reading your words and thoughts this a.m., Terry. The photo of the image you painted is just amazing in its clarity and crispness (and what an awesome blue sky!). I don't see any indecisiveness in the piece you referred to painting with the headache and I really like it. What a phenomenal trip this is!

  5. Thanks, Tom, Chris, Johan, and Autumn~!! I'm having a good time reliving the experience.

    Johan, the wet paintings are carried in a box designed for such purposes. Raymar makes reasonably priced boxes http://www.raymarart.com/Wet-Painting-Panel-Carriers-s/21.htm

    but I just make my own with gatorboard and some 1/4" wood. They don't need to be fancy at all.

    Of course, this requires that you paint on 1/8 or 1/4 inch panels, and not stretched canvas, but that works just fine for me.

    Autumn, thanks for that~ As I'm sure I've mentioned before, I have two left brains so I tend to overanalyze everything. By indecision, I meant that I couldn't decide on one visual concept - say, to go realistic or abstract, high key or low. that sorta thing. When I don't have a clear path, the painting tend to suffer.

  6. Thanks Terry for your quick reply.

    Indeed, some light wood or board, some nails and some sort of belt/handle should do the trick.