Terry Miura • Studio Notes

Sunday, October 2, 2011

More MSU; Making Stuff Up

As the title of this post suggests, this painting is "made up". It's constructed from scratch, with no references. As far as invented cityscapes and architectural motifs go, a facade like this might be on the easier end of the scale. You can pretty much work up a composition in an elevation view, with no perspective to worry about.

Well, it's not exactly no perspective - there's a little bit of it like the underside of the fire-escape landing, and there's a hint of it in the sidewalk. The trickiest part of perspective in this picture is plotting the cast shadows. I know it's not completely accurate, but it's believable, and that satisfies my requirement. To tweak the actual shadows to suit my composition is more of a priority than them being precisely plotted.

To be sure, I have painted every element of this picture in some form or another in many other paintings (both from direct observation and using references) , so I'm fairly familiar with how they should look. And I did a couple of pencil roughs to nail down the design.

The most difficult thing about city paintings, for me anyway, is achieving unity. With all the separate little shapes and colors which may be very saturated, and not necessarily related to one another, it's up to the artist to unify them on canvas, and that's very, very tricky.  Keeping the whole thing tonal and muted helps - A little bit of color goes a long way in this set up. Notice the green in the fire-escape and how close it is to the pale yellow of the wall - It's just a little darker, greener version of the same color. It could have been much more saturated and another artist might have taken that path, but for me, unity was more important so I modulated the colors accordingly.

Having just one bright color - orange in this case (and it's not even fully saturated, at that) in a sea of muted, close colors works well - it's a strategy that I employ often. I don't want to present it as a formula, though. It does get old quick if you don't have other ways to maintain interest!


  1. Thanks Craig! 'hope you're doing well :-D

  2. This is wonderful! I'd never have guessed it was a "made-up" scene.
    Great work:)

  3. I can't believe you just made this up! I have to have some sort of reference if I'm not there. Wonderful work!

  4. Love your MSU it is also an inspiration to explore the possible. Recently received your "Almost Spring" booklet. In lieu of actually taking a class with you - very cool tutorial. It is apparent that you enjoy teaching as much as painting...

  5. Thanks Kimberly! Thanks gopher!