Terry Miura • Studio Notes

Wednesday, March 7, 2012


Passing Hours, 9 x 12 inches, oil on linen

This is another Inness-inspired landscape. Along with a couple other ongoing series projects, I've been doing these tonal landscapes lately.

I don't know why I'm attracted to tonal paintings as opposed to those with a lot of color (yes, yes, I know tonal paintings are all color, too. You know what I mean.)  Perhaps it's the mood. They have more of an 'old' look to them.  A friend of mine once described tonal vs. colorist approaches as "timeless" vs. "a moment in time".

It kind of makes sense. I'm not all that interested in capturing fleeting effects of light on color, which is one of the main goals of a plein air painter. I'm not compelled to paint something just because the colors are unusually beautiful. For example, the fall colors of deciduous trees, or blooming flowers in the spring, while making me go Ooh aah~ , doesn't make me want to paint them.  When I realized that I'm in the minority among my artist friends in that I'm not moved to paint by the colors I see, I thought, "huh, this must be a piece of my identity puzzle."

And it is. To be sure, I do sometimes paint more colorful paintings if only to keep my chops up. But I can't sustain that practice for more than a few paintings at a time. I inevitably return to my tonal "comfort zone".

When I'm in need of tonalist inspiration, I turn to Inness, Corot, NC Wyeth, Whistler, Streeton, along with many, many others. Too bad they're long gone; I wish I coulda seen them work!


  1. I agree with all you wright, but when you ever have the change to paint in the bulb fields, ... go!!

    Not that a tonalist should paint in such colourful landscape but it's such a practice to see what's really there and not being able to get it onto you panel/canvas. Even the lightest Cadmium doesn't seem to work, and putting it onto the bulb-leafs itself does show like it is brown, ... awesome.

  2. Geez, is there anything you can't do -- What are you, a hundred years old!? I say stay in your comfort zone and channel the masters, Terry -- this is really a nice atmospheric piece. Viva la Tonalists!

  3. Wonderful, Terry. It's not dark and brooding like some of the older tonalist paintings are. I think another "category" to compare tonalists vs. colorists would be energy or activity. I always think of tonalist paintings as restful, quiet. I think colorist paintings, as a general rule, offer activity, or energy. I may be stereotyping a bit, but that's always been my observation.

  4. ... but it's very impressionist, too, no?

    And altogether lovely!

  5. Terry, this is wonderful and I'm not sure I could paint tonal paintings but I sure am glad you do!

  6. Thanks everyone of your comments! Very much appreciated!!

    Eric, I can't do what you do, for one thing! Recently I have been trying - and thoroughly being beaten up - to work with more saturated complementary colors. It's Greek to me. Very frustrating. LOL