Terry Miura • Studio Notes

Tuesday, April 26, 2011


Votive, 16 x 12 inches, oil on linen

Monday, April 18, 2011

Taxes Are Done!

China Cove, 9 x12 inches, oil on linen

Greetings art lovers! I emerge (finally) from the throes of filing my taxes. I can't say unscathed, (for the government took an arm and a leg) but I'm still standing, which is good. Anyway, the stress of it is behind me and I'm looking forward to getting back into the groove o' things.

I worked on some cityscapes last night, but didn't make too much progress. The allergy meds were making my head all cloudy and try as I might, I could not focus. It's like painting under the influence of alcohol. If my brain isn't functioning on all cylinders, it really shows on my painting and I end up scraping it the next day. 

I wondered, too, whether the relief of finishing tax returns added to the less-than-optimal acuity of mind. When I was a rookie on the plein air painting competition circuit, I always got sick on the last day of the event. All the nervousness and concentration during the three or five days of painting accumulated with in me as stress, and on the last day–after the hard part was all done– the release of tension would come suddenly and I'd feel like throwing up or get a migraine. It was like that every time I did one of these events until I got better at it. Now I don't stress about it so much, and I have an easier time.  

Finishing the taxes might have had a similar effect on me last night. I say this not to make excuses, but because I want to understand how environments and situations affect my ability to paint. I have an analytical mind and I can't help but look for logic and reason in everything. If I have a clear reason why something didn't work, I know what to do to solve that problem, see? If I can't figure it out, I flounder.

The painting above is a demo I did for my Landscape II class. It's a 9 x 12 sketch, painted from a reference photo I took some years ago in Point Lobos / Big Sur area. The main point of this demo was this; These rocks have a pretty big local value range, but the separation of values between light and shadow takes priority. In other words, don't let the variegated surface confuse the structure of the rocks. In accomplishing this, I made the local values less contrasty and simplified the shadow patterns.  Warm light / cool shadow relationship, while subtle, helps to delineate the lit areas from the shadow areas, despite the sometimes confusing local values. 

If you compared the foreground rocks with the background, you can see the systematically diminishing value range (shadows become lighter as we go back in space) , as well decreasing amount of detail. (variegated surface hardly registers on the farthest rocks).  The simplicity of the distant rocks tell us that it's the light and shadow pattern that's important, more so than the light and dark surface coloring of the rocks.

'Hope your tax day wasn't too paintful.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Canyon View

Study for Canyon View, 21 x 12 inches, oil on linen

One of the great benefits of a limited palette, as I mentioned before, is color harmony. It's (relatively) easy to keep your harmony in check when you don't have the means to go crazy with color. 

It so happens, that one of the things that make cityscape so difficult (aside from the obvious tedium of perspective drawing) is the fact that in the city, we are bombarded with all kinds of unnatural colors and they really don't care that we are trying to create unity on our canvases. Sure, it shouldn't matter what wild colors we see out there, since the color of the light makes everything harmonious, right? In theory, yeah. But in practical terms, it never works out that way (for me, that is. You master colorists may keep your smirks to yourselves :-) 

Does it not seem logical, then, to employ the limited palette to tackle the unruly city colors? It makes sense to me, and this here is a good example of that. I basically ignored all local colors and painted more or less tonally. Any indication of hues in the buildings (reddish grays, yellowish grays, etc) is purely invented. In fact I used a b/w reference photo so that I may not be tempted. Toward the bottom there is a tiny bit of color notes (red of the tail lights, for example) which act as accents and makes the whole painting look not so drab.  That, and big value contrast in strategic places gives it a sense of crispness which make up for the lack of bright colors. 

The result is an overall cohesiveness, despite the busy-ness inherent in a cityscape. 

Using this study, I'll be doing a little bit bigger version –18 x 31– in the final, I plan on defining the shapes a little bit more, and adding more color accents toward the bottom, keeping a close eye so that the additional color notes don't start fragmenting the moody composition.

I'm eager to get started!