Terry Miura • Studio Notes

Sunday, November 28, 2010

I Ate Too Much

Because that's what I do on Thanksgiving. I eat too much.  How can I not? The feast is irresistible. 

So I was down South all week, hanging out with my kids and their cousins at Legoland and Wild Animal Park (now called Safari Park, but it'll always be Wild Animal Park to me!). I wasn't sure if I'd have any time to paint at all, but I brought my gear anyway. I'm glad I did, too, because I did manage to get out a couple of times while the family was still asleep in the mornings.


 The hotel where we stayed was only a block or two from the ocean, so I didn't have to travel far to find a spot. In fact, I didn't even have to look around - it's a long stretch of coastline like this, and I can pretty much just park anywhere and I had a nice view. I should just pick up my family and move there!

My thumbnail. I saw this composition as a two-value structure, which keeps things very simple. In direct light situations where light / shadow patterns are clear and interesting, I often use a two-value structure. Just light and shadow. Ignore all local value variations. I can add those in the painting stage as necessary, but the main organization will stay the same. If you'll look back at my painting, you may notice that variations within the lit areas (or shadow areas, for that matter) are mostly hue / saturation changes, and the values are kept very close and tight. This gives me enough variety visually without breaking up the structure that I established in the thumbnail.

Here's my set up. I brought my Soltek easel with me. On family trips, I sometimes bring an Open Box M because it takes up less space in my car. This time around, I was able to squeeze in my bulky gear.

On the following morning, I was out again but it was a little windy and chilly. I got my coffee and sat in the car, contemplating whether to freeze my ass off for my art. I felt that I should do something, but I was just getting over a nasty cold and I didn't want to get sick again. 

This was the view from my parked car - it's not particularly picturesque or anything, but it had that California beach town feel and I wondered what makes it feel like that? The lack of tall buildings?  The big open sky? The style of the buildings? I concluded that it was a combination of factors, but I couldn't really define it satisfactorily. So I decided to paint it. If I can't articulate it with words, may be I can do it visually.

As I pondered, I did my thumbnail in my sketchbook. Under an overcast sky, I'm not dealing with light/shadow patterns. Rather, I have to use the local values to give me structure. Light / dark, rather than light / shadow. Big difference. Still I was able to describe it in just two values. How much definition do I need to create a believable scene? Not much. 

Most things in this picture were going to be just abstract notes of color. I just have to pay attention to where I place them, so that the perspective doesn't get out of whack.

I was able to set up my easel next to my car, which conveniently served as a windbreak. I think of my SUV as an essential part of my gear for that reason.

Anyway, I wasted too much time thinking about whether to paint or not, that when I finally got going I had only about an hour. (else I would miss breakfast!) I quickly sketched in the drawing, and filled in the main shapes, added a few color variations on bigger shapes (the road, for one), sharpened a few edges and used the knife's edge to add telephone wires, and that's all I did with this one.

From inside the car. My palette is the French Companion, a wooden box with a 12 x 16 mixing surface. The lid flips open to serve as side trays, on which I lay out my brushes, palette knife, the cleaning tank. On the left side tray which is out of view, I typically have my clean brushes and a cup of coffee.  It's made to be used with a French easel (hence the name) but it works really nicely with a Soltek. It is heavy and bulky though, so it's not so convenient for hiking in, but for roadside painting, it's a great set up.

Now I'm back home in Sacramento. It's time to get back to work!


  1. Great pieces! And, thanks for the value lesson.

  2. Gorgeous-- and inspiring. Thanks for the post; very informative. If you ever do any workshops in LA please let me know.

  3. This is America! Your suppose to eat too much! (oops)
    You really did a great job on these
    paintings, and your post!
    I ate to much too! When your with family, that can happen.
    Your posts are a Thanksgiving!

  4. Thanks Pam, Alexandra and Bill!

    Sometimes the guilt of sneaking away on my own during a family gathering is forces me to do better work!

  5. Thanks Joe~ Thanks Dan~ Your comments are much appreciated!

  6. Thank you for sharing
    This Wonderful work with us
    Good creations