Terry Miura • Studio Notes

Friday, February 25, 2011

Back To The Grind

Well! Thanks so much for all your encouraging comments on the last post! You guys made my good news even better :-)

However, I must switch gears and get back to the grind before this unexpected good fortune goes to my head. That would really mess up my painting mojo which is already always precarious.

So back to the dirty palette, to a humble value sketch. This here is a 9 x 12 oil sketch using black, brown, and white.  The idea behind the extremely limited palette is simple enough; Focus on the value and the big design and worry not about color... too much.

As you can see, by using both black and brown (Ivory Black and Transparent Oxide Red in this case) I can actually get a range of hues from blues to reds, and all the violets in between, albeit very muted. By juxtaposing blueish notes and reddish notes and taking care not to mix them up – that is, keep each color note's identity intact – I can get a sense of more color than I might expect from this measly set up.

Monochromatic value studies as you know are a great first step in learning to paint with oils. After spending some time (for example, a year of nothing but serious charcoal studies in a traditional atelier) getting to know how the paint handles can best be learned by focusing just on value studies for a while, so that you're not worried about color. With just one color, the problems we have to solve are still challenging, but nothing compared to the overwhelming amount of information we have to process and execute in full color. It's like learning your alphabet looooong before learning to write a novel, right?

This black+brown+white, then, is the next logical step in the study of learning to paint. By just adding one muted hue, we can start to explore hue and temperature in addition to value, but in a very limited way. In fact, you won't get a sense of color unless you're careful to keep your strokes alive, so it is a very good way to get in the habit of paying attention to your strokes, too.

"But it's so...dull! I like lots of color!", a student might say. Well OK, that's fine, but this isn't about expressing yourself with lots of color, it's about control. And without controlling your values, color is not going to do your bidding. We have to learn our ABC's first.

After you get the hang of working with this limited palette, you might try switching the black with ultramarine, thereby increasing the saturation range, or adding yellow ochre to the mix, completing the primaries. Practice, practice, practice!!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Crocker Museum Permanent Collection

Metropolis, 32 x 48 inches, oil on canvas, 2002

I was just informed that one of my paintings, Metropolis, is now officially a part of the permanent collection at the Crocker Art Museum!! I am really excited, to say the least! 

I did this painting back in 2002 for an exhibition of the same title. I remember struggling with it quite a bit. I loved it, I hated it. I loved it, I hated it. One of those pieces. In the end I loved it and didn't want to sell it but it was for an exhibition and the image was already on the invites so I had to let it go. 

Now it has somehow found a new home at the Crocker! I don't know if it's actually displayed, but never mind. I'm just happy to be in the collection.

I gotta open a good bottle of wine to celebrate now. It's not even 4 pm. but who cares!?

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

One More Session

Changing Moods, 16 x 20 inches, oil on linen 
This painting is available. For inquiry please contact Sekula's

Tomorrow is the last session of the six-part in-studio class on landscape painting concepts. We meet once a week for six weeks and during each session, I do a short slide lecture and a demo on a specific topic. So far we have covered 1)general process,  2)trees, 3) the sky, 4)creating depth, and 5)atmosphere. Tomorrow's class will be on orchestration, or "pulling the pieces together to make the viewers see it your way". Essentially, it'll be a lesson on creating and manipulating a hierarchy of importance. How do you make one element more visually important than another? In what ways can you subordinate less important elements? That sort of thing. I want to place special emphasis on brushwork and edges because it really forces us to pay attention to the intent of our mark-making. No licking, and no half-ass brush wielding. Put it down like you mean it!

We can't possibly learn to paint the landscape in just six weeks. Of course not. It takes years and years of practice. But I'm hoping that the information that I'm passing on, and it really is a lot of information, will help students make sense out of the confusion that is always a part of the learning process. By simplifying the problem, we can simplify the solution. More logic, less guesswork. More understanding, less confusion.

And because six weeks is not enough, I'm doing a part 2 of this class starting next month. Another six sessions covering different topics and a few of the same topics but more in depth. I think one of them will be a seascape. May be fog will be another topic. How about a foggy seascape? I definitely want to do boulders - they're great for teaching light and shadow's relationship to form. I have other ideas too, but I dare not mention it (cows) for I know some of you reading this are enrolled in the class and will give me a hard time. (you know who you are)

This class (Landscape Concepts part 2) is already filled up, but I will probably do a repeat later on in the year. If you are interested, Landscape Concepts part 1 is a pre requisite so you'll need to take that class first, and you'll be notified when a  repeat of  part 2 is scheduled. 

For more information, please contact the School of Light and Color.

OK back to work~

Monday, February 14, 2011

Couch and Library

Just a couple of shots of the little loungy area in my studio. When I get frustrated painting, I can just sit on my very comfy sofa and look at art books for inspiration and instruction. I've never had a dedicated space to lounge around and peruse art books inside my studio. I'm finding that this is a really wonderful thing. To be able to walk away from the easel and drown myself in inspiring art books without any distractions en route (I don't have to walk through or look at "non-art zone" to get there) is more valuable than I'd imagined.

Sort of a fuzzy shot of the books. Some of the more loved books are tattered and has notes scribbled on the margins, not to mention paint smudges all over them. I think I'll share some of my favorites on another post. 

After my figure class, this is where the pow wow sessions happens. We sip wine and talk art. I really enjoy that part of my class too. I mean, for most artists, our occupation is such a solitary one that it isn't unusual to hear things like "the UPS guy is my only connection to the outside world!".  It's not so funny when the joke hits too close to home, you know?   Teaching and having a studio vastly improved my level of contact with the outside world. Almost normal, I might say. And it's mostly real live humans, too. (some are questionable) Not them virtual "friends". LOL   Is it ironic to say that in a blog post? 

Friday, February 11, 2011


You may have noticed that I haven't been posting much lately. It's not for lack of trying! You see, being a clumsy oaf that I am, I dropped my camera and apparently broke something in the lens. It doesn't function properly anymore. Oddly, I can get it to take an OK picture some of the time, if I keep shooting away. Of course I can't rely on an instrument that only works when it wants to, so now I have to buy a new lens for my camera. Boohoo~  Luckily, the camera body itself seems to be working fine so I won't have to replace the really expensive part of it. Whew.

Ok so this painting I'm posting today is one of those fluke shots that came out ok. If you are a regular visitor to my blog, you'll recognize the motif as I've painted the same facade from the same ref photo several times before, each time trying out something new. A different cropping, color scheme, abstraction, treatment of surfaces, etc. With this one, I wanted a tighter cropping and a softer transition between the lit half and the shadow half. Also, I kept my paint strokes thin and patchy in the beginning and built up the surface more or less gradually, as I sometimes do with my landscapes. 

This type of painting requires that the drawing be accurate, which poses a real problem when you also want to be expressive. How do you balance the two? I think there are many ways to do it, but in this case I started with a tight drawing that I carefully transposed onto the canvas surface using a grid. When I say "tight" drawing, I don't mean rendered–just placed the main elements as accurately as I can, with just the outline of shapes.

As I separated the darks from the lights with thin paint, I kept my drawing intact. I then started to build up the surface with opaque colors, first thinly, and getting thicker as the image developed. As I put more paint on, I deliberately lost edges (thereby losing the drawing) in small patches, and found them again immediately with fresh colors. 

If, in trying to be expressive I worked all over and lost edges everywhere, I would have had a very difficult time finding them again. But if I lost only small areas, leaving tiny clues as to where the accurate edge was (barely visible through brushstrokes), I can find and redefine it, as long as I keep my attention on it and do it immediately. If I looked elsewhere and let my attention wander, forget it. I wouldn't be able to find it.

In this way I developed the entire picture, and after a while the image told me where I can cut loose and lose edges and leave it alone. Where it was ok to mush up the detail. Where it wasn't. Some edges needed to be absolutely accurate, others could be treated with more gesture and expression. 

No detail is painted really tightly though. The distinction between "tight" and "accurate" is important, I think. 

Anyway, that's how I did this painting. Sometimes I take the opposite approach –especially when working small or en plein air– where everything is loose and gestural in the beginning and I gradually tighten things up. Really hard to do with a large painting though.

I'll post again when my camera is behaving, or when I get a new lens!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Red Sofa

Red Sofa, 12 x 24 inches, oil on linen

I have a nice new sofa in the studio!  And that means really cool reclining poses. I've been wanting to do some of these classic reclining compositions for a while now, but haven't been able to because I didn't have a studio where I could put a sofa. And I didn't have a sofa. My couch in my living room is way too big to move, and I couldn't really paint in there anyway.

But now that I've got a proper studio, I have no more excuses. I had to get a sofa. Originally I wanted a small Victorian-styled (that is to say, fake) sofa or something like it. But I couldn't find one that fit my measly budget.  I didn't want one that was too contemporary, either. 

I looked for one in thrift stores, yard sales, Ikea, and many discount stores, but couldn't find exactly what I wanted. After a while the search became ridiculous - every day I didn't find a sofa, was a day I wasn't painting a reclining figure. At this rate, I thought, it might take years before I found what I wanted, so I decided to forget the Victorian (for now) and just get something new, small, comfortable and not to stylized. I found just the thing at World Market! Pretty good price, too. (on sale for $300, including slipcover) 

I tried it out last Friday at the open figure session and it worked out great. It didn't hurt that I had my favorite model posing for us, either.

In fact, it worked out so well that Susan (runs the school next door) decided to get an identical sofa in gray which will stay in the classroom. My red sofa will stay in the lounge/library of my studio and will be brought out as need arises.

There will be many more reclining-nude-on-the-sofa paintings to come!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

What? January Is Over Already?

I can't believe a month has gone by already since I moved into my new studio. What have I accomplished? Hmmm. Not as much as I wanted, that's for sure. The studio is still not quite where I want it to be, but I'm making progress. Why does it take so long? It's because I really only have four to five hours a day in there because of my other job, (parenting!) and I need to spend those hours not only painting, but prepping paintings, canvases, framing, packing, shipping, accounting, marketing, meeting, photographing, filing, cleaning, blogging, teaching, prepping teaching materials, practicing and planning my demos, and so on and on and on...  Who knew being a professional artist meant very little painting!?

Oh yeah, and I can only make a lot of noise (power tools, hammering) on the weekends because there are other tenants in the building who needs reasonably civilized levels of quiet.

But that's OK. I'm making the most of it. I even got a painting done. And several more in the works. I have to really manage my painting time, now that I'm starting to commit to upcoming show deadlines.

One of the things I really need to work on this year, is to not over-commit. I like to participate in group shows where I get to hang with more accomplished painters but over-committing to those shows inevitably means I'm spread too thin, and that means the work I show may not be my absolute best. Showing less than my best work along side those of really great painters is obviously a bad move. At best, nobody will notice my work. Worse, I would look really bad. I don't want that!

Anyway I'm just rambling. I do have some exciting shows up ahead, and I want to do really good work for them. My new studio will be pivotal in that effort, so that's why I'm bitching about how slowly my studio is shaping up. Just being impatient, I guess. Could be worse!