Terry Miura • Studio Notes

Friday, November 4, 2011

Without Atmosphere...

Purple Haze, 40 x 30 inches, oil on linen

"Without atmosphere, a painting is nothing."
-Rembrandt van Rijn

That's one of my favorite quotes. Not surprising, eh?

The painting above is entirely invented. The atmosphere is the real subject matter, and the cars are er...vehicles... to express the atmosphere. In order to keep it that way, I made a concerted effort to keep the cars, pedestrians, and other "things" in this painting as simple as possible. 

Dark values, highest contrast, visual activity are all concentrated in the foreground. As we move back into space everything becomes simpler, until light and shadow become so close in value that everything gets obscured.  Buildings don't have any detail on them, and for the most part I rely on strong, recognizable silhouettes for visual clutter such as pedestrians and street light posts. 

The idea there is this; it is much simpler to paint an object with two values than, say, ten. It is even simpler to do it with one value. But can I paint something with just one value and still make it recognizable? Yes, if it has a strong silhouette.  When does a mere silhouette make sense? In heavy atmospheric conditions, and also when the object is back lit. Think of cinematic effects when silhouettes are used effectively. The first thing that comes to my mind is when Darth Vader emerges from the depth of a  smoke filled corridor. What does that say about me? LOL  But kidding aside, the next time you watch a movie, pay close attention to how a scene is designed. You'll find lots of beautifully executed scenes which are surprisingly simple, and heavily reliant on atmosphere and silhouettes.

Urban Aria opens tomorrow (Saturday, Nov 5. Reception; 5 - 7 pm) !  If you come to the opening, be sure to say hello~  I'd love to meet you!


  1. Love to see some shots of your show installed, for those of us who can't make it there.

  2. Jim, I will remember to take some pictures and post 'em~

  3. All the best for your opening, and show, Terry!
    I feel terrible when you teach me something, all I can pay you is a compliment.

  4. Hey thanks Bill! A compliment is reaaaally appreciated! I'm usually happy to just know that people read this stuff!