Terry Miura • Studio Notes

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Subtle Skies

What can I tell you about this painting...?  It's a 9 x 12, oil on linen, in-studio painting. No references. 

Painting from memory is a good way to edit out the unnecessary junk that tries to sneak into your composition when you're painting from observation or from photos. The theory goes, we only remember what's worth remembering, so naturally everything that goes into a memory painting is important. It's pre-edited by our inability to remember everything. 

In actuality, I find that I remember all kinds of stuff that I'd rather not remember. And they do sneak into my paintings. But I still think there's a lot of merit to the theory, if only to force us to make design a priority over copying literally.

But enough about that. Recently, I've been trying to make subtler skies in my painting. Closer harmonies between the blue of the sky, the lit and shadow parts of the clouds.  I'm not sure why I'm drawn to subtle skies more than dramatic ones. I think there's a mood in skies like these that's hard to explain, and I'm looking for an emotional trigger of some sort. It's like trying to remember what a Sunday afternoon felt like when I was a kid, and for whatever reason none of my neighborhood friends were around. I remember having this anxious awareness of self, alone in a world where time has slowed down. Anxious, as I said, but somehow familiar and comforting too. Is there a name for this kind of emotion? I dunno. 

The relatively active brushwork of the trees, and the big value range in the land mass helps to make the sky seem even more subtle by comparison. I thought I might be able to exploit the active vs. passive contrast here, and I think it worked pretty well. Who was it that said, "if something looks too dark, make something else darker."   It's the same idea. if the sky doesn't look quiet enough, make the trees louder.

Just thinking out loud.


  1. Great post. If I didn't know better I would think you were walking around in my mind.

  2. Is the word surreal?

    Great painting, really great.

  3. Thanks Greg and Karla!

    Greg, it must be the collective subconscious I'm tapping into :-)

  4. Great post! Words of wisdom. I love your advice- if something looks too dark make something else darker. Simultaneous contrast applied the other way!Why do I always go the oppposite way and make it lighter? Thanks!

  5. Really great however you got there.

  6. lorianne, thanks! One of my heroes told me years ago, "if you want to be heard in a room full of people, you can shout, or make everyone else be quiet. The latter is more sophisticated."

    Same idea~

  7. Thanks Bill~ I really appreciate a thumbsup from you :-)