Terry Miura • Studio Notes

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Is That Enough?

I was trying to organize my database I found I had a photo of the painting at an earlier stage. I thought it illustrated what I was talking about yesterday–in particular the notion of "how simple is enough?"- pretty clearly.

As you can see, at this stage I have the canvas already covered, and the structure of the painting is already in place. The paint is pretty thin still. The cars on the left are painted with fewer values, and with less detail.  They look like cars, but is that enough? I decided no, they needed a little bit more information as they're in the foreground.

The tree mass in the middle left also got an extra value. It's still very simple – just a few strokes of light– but I think the volume created by it adds to the believability of the midground area without distracting from the good stuff.

This is a close-up of the figures. As you can see, they're just blobs. Barely recognizable silhouettes on their own, but plenty recognizable in context. I didn't think they needed any more detail than that. What gives them a little bit of a sense of complexity is the second, lighter value on the figure on the left. It doesn't define anything in particular, but it helps to tie the figures to the ground, and gives them a perceived sense of reflected light.  Similarly, the cast shadow on the ground behind the figures to the left has a slightly lighter value laid on top, making that part of the shadow lighter than the corresponding part on the right of the figures. That lighter note represents the shadow being affected by ambient light of the sky.  It's darker to the right because closer to the buildings the ambient light decreases.

That seems like a nitpicky detail for something so far in the distance, but the purpose of that is not to add more detail per se, but to add perception of complexity. Had I painted those shapes flat with a single color/value, they would just look like paper cut outs.

The variety of edges and textures (some reliant on canvas texture, some on paint thickness and application) does the same thing. Decisions for these are made not so much with "rules of realism" as with the intent to be expressive with the brush and to integrate one shape with another.

I think my work is getting more and more abstract. I'm happy about that.


  1. Hello Terry. I've admired your work for some time, yet just today found your blog. Wonderful stuff here! I can see myself going back in time and reading your past posts.

  2. you take good notes on your thinking about why you do something... this is very helpful... not to make solid flat shapes but give expression. thank you!

  3. Thanks Bill! Glad you found my blog~

  4. Thanks Melanie! I'm glad it was helpful. Just take it with a grain of salt :-)

  5. Another reason I follow your blog...you share your perceptions and thinking process. This is a great illustration of your point. Thanks!

  6. I have a friend it will comment about:
    I like that picture; is perfect for people whit vision problems, After looking they rush to the oculist for the jar check-up. Hehehhe.
    I say serious:
    Always enjoy your comments; abstractions are the gravy of an art piece if they are right