Terry Miura • Studio Notes

Thursday, September 29, 2011

On Making Stuff Up

Many of my paintings are done from memory. Or more precisely, invented. Making stuff up, is what it is. I like to work this way because it frees me up from being tied down to what I'm seeing before me. It's much easier to edit, and move elements around to suit my composition. If I went looking for (and ended up using) a photo that looked like it could make a good painting, what really is the point there? Am I expressing something of ME? or is it just a painted version of a nice photo? And if the composition is already there in the photo. I wouldn't really be composing, either. I'd be just copying. I really have to think hard about what's the point of painting the picture in the first place. What is the concept?

Making stuff up is simply a fun and challenging thing to do. I enjoy it. It's my favorite pastime.(HAha~) The memory part of the equation has two parts. One is the overall sense of the place or scene, including and especially, the mood of the time and place. Being conscious about what sort of emotional response I had, drives my intent. I want to re-feel that same emotion by looking at the finished painting.

The second aspect of memory painting has to do with remembering just what something looks like. How wide should a sidewalk be, in relation to a pedestrian? How high is the walk/don't walk signal off the ground? Should the post supporting it be hexagonal, or octagonal, or square? cylindrical?  If you painted these elements over and over and you make a note of typical proportions and shapes, pretty soon you'll remember them. It's called building your visual vocabulary, and it doesn't take any skill or much effort. You just have to make a mental note of things you paint, when you do have something to look at, whether from photos or on location. Obviously, if you're just copying what you see, you're not likely to build this visual vocabulary very much, and consequently you can't edit and make stuff up very effectively.

Carlson talks about the importance of painting from memory in his book - it's worth a read.  In fact, if you're a representational landscape painter, this book should be on your nightstand or in your bathroom!


  1. Good post - and now we see where the REAL research is done...:)

  2. Did you just make all this up?(ha)

    Terry! Good to read. You are an Artist and a director.

    The canvas is your movie!

  3. Thanks Bill! It's the illustrator in me!

  4. Thanks Janice! - for some reason, Blogger thought your comment was SPAM. Just found it (10/11) :-D

  5. I've learned heaps from reading you. How fascinating! And it all makes sense of course.

    I arrived here through Susan Jenkin's blog - and glad I did.
    I love your work.