Terry Miura • Studio Notes

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Pink and Purple

This one is more colorful than my usual work. I think this is because I was compensating for low light in the classroom. You see, I did this as a demo and I kept thinking the painting was too dark and was struggling to lighten things up. When I took it home and looked at it under my studio light, it wasn't dark at all. It's interesting how a painting  completely changes under different lighting situations.

The demo was about atmosphere. Specifically, I wanted to emphasize seeing the landscape in layers and logically and systematically manipulating the value range and color to achieve a sense of distance. For example, there are several layers of tree masses in this picture, and as we move from front to back, the value range diminishes. The darker values become lighter dramatically. The lighter values not as much. At the farthest distance visible, the light and dark values become one, and I only have one value to describe masses of trees waaaay back in the distance. In fact, they become one with the purple of the sky. So can we say that all values approach that of the sky at the horizon as we move toward it? I think so.

If you look at the color of the grass, it's apparent that that too, approaches the color of the sky at the horizon as we move toward it. Or should I say, it's apparent that I decided to paint it that way, and it seems to work. The same with the color in the trees, but it's less apparent because there are more color variations in the front trees which give it a sense of complexity (but it really isn't complicated).

Beyond a certain distance, the color of the atmosphere dominates and the local colors of "things" become less and less relevant.

The trick... well, it's not a trick really, but the thing to keep in mind is that the changes in value range and colors are a result of mixing colors logically and systematically. It really helps to see the landscape as layers, so that each layer can be viewed as another, definite "step" for which the colors need to be adjusted on the palette.  A good tip is to keep your palette organized - use the existing mixture (of a foreground green, for example) to mix the next "step", and use that to mix the following one, and so on. But don't obliterate the previous puddles each time you make the new step.

Your trail of puddles might look like this:

Keeping each puddle intact will allow you to have a sequence of closely related mixtures, the relationships of which are readily visible, even if they're subtle.

Obviously, doing it this way requires that you keep your thinking organized, and that's exactly my point. Without organization, there's no logic. Without logic, you're just guessing at each mixture. Unless of course you're so adept at mixing colors that you can effortlessly mix whatever color you need by responding to what's on the canvas. Sorolla is said to have painted "like a pig eats". But you can bet that he wasn't guessing at anything.

For the rest of us, slowing down and really thinking about each color we mix can go a loooong way.


  1. Good example and explaination Terry!
    The painting looks great!

  2. I agree, this how I approach landscape painting as well, keeping focused can sometimes be a problem... the old adage KIS applies here like with all things in life

  3. Great post, great painting. Love the colors and the depth. Perhaps you should paint in low light more often???

  4. Great example and as ever beautifully explained...Or perhaps beautiful painting and great explanation. Either way it rocks!

  5. I noticed that the more experience I have painting the easier it is to understand the explaination. Why is that? I guess we have to put the miles on the canvas before it starts to really sink in. Thank you Terry, this blog is shaping up to be a great book in the future. You do make it easier to understand your way of thinking while you paint. Also, you KNOW I love the color in this painting.

  6. thank you everyone for your generous comments :-) As susan suggested, I really ought to paint in low light more often~!