Terry Miura • Studio Notes

Monday, October 10, 2011

Another Limited Palette Strategy

Crossing Lines, 20 x 32 inches, oil on linen

This painting is one of the larger ones I did for the upcoming show, Urban Aria. And, it's one of my favorite ones of the bunch.

There's a lot going on this picture, so composing it was quite a challenge. One way I sought unity was to limit my palette (as usual) so that the overall color theme was very muted to begin with. In fact, in this particular painting I used a severely limited primaries palette of Ivory Black, Yellow Ochre, Permanent Red, and White. The black acts as my blue, in this case. It's surprising how much color - blue - you can tease out of black. It's all a matter of context, see. If you don't have a lot of saturated colors, Black + White look very blue, especially juxtaposed against warmer tones. 

Yellow Ochre is my yellow, and like the black, is muted from the get-go.  

My red is the only saturated color of the primaries, but I used it very sparingly.  There is some red mixed into my "blue" to get that violet tone that's laced throughout the painting.

After the painting was about eighty percent done, I introduced a little bit of more saturated colors to mix my accent colors (pedestrian's clothing, mostly), but even those don't scream.

You may have noticed that this is actually the Zorn palette, used often in portraiture and interior figures. You can get very naturalistic results when painting warmer tones including and especially flesh tones.  My painting uses the same palette, but pushed toward the cool end of the spectrum, and obviously, I'm not after naturalistic colors in this one.

One thing I like to do, to keep a very limited - almost monochromatic - palette painting from looking drab is to make sure I use a full range of values, and give it some snap by making good use of value contrast and sharp edges juxtaposed against soft. 

I'm very pleased with the way this one came out. 

Come see it in person - Urban Aria opens November 5th, at Thomas Reynolds Gallery in San Francisco. Opening Reception starts at 5pm.  'Hope to see ya there!


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  2. Terry,
    I noticed something very exciting about your paintings on Tuesday night. I went to your studio as I usually do to poke around and see what you're working on. I noticed some red tail lights! Then some more red tail lights. And as I followed your paintings around the room I saw even more. Now my question is, was this an after thought or was the red there all along? By the way, it really does the trick!

  3. Good one - glad I signed in and had a gawk at what people are doing! This will be on my mind for the rest of the day now, thanks :)

  4. thanks Kit, fausto, Randy, and James!!

    Randy, the tail lights have always been there :-D I'm glad that they weren't the only or even the first thing that you noticed. It means that while my eye candy is effective, they don't scream for attention. Just how I want it~

  5. BTW I love what you did with the rotation of the paintings on C&L blog! Thank you for that.