Terry Miura • Studio Notes

Friday, April 27, 2012

Risks and Rewards

Time and Again, 40 x 30 inches, oil on linen

Like the fire escape painting I posted earlier,  this is another one that went through drastic changes. This too, was exhibited in a solo show a few years back.  It has since come back to me and I've worked on it... a lot.  I wish I had a "before" picture but I can't seem to locate it on my computer. When I find it, I'll be sure to post it because the transformation is pretty significant.

I've pretty much repainted the painting three or four times, on the same canvas surface and each time, it because more abstract and modernist.

This was a fairly good sized canvas and I'd already invested so much time on it that it took some courage to   risk ruining it by working on it further. But once I accepted the fact that its new raison d'├¬tre was for me to experiment and learn more about abstraction, it was suddenly ok to push it to the point of destruction, if it came to that.

Consequently, I was able to push it further than anything I've done before. I tried new ways of manipulating the surface like semi-opaque glazing and wiping and scraping and painting over perfectly good passages. To some extent I was able to switch off my representational thinking and put down notes that had nothing to do with expected form or color.

Of course it resulted in plenty of passages which just didn't work at all and all I did was lose the good stuff. But again, I was OK with that. I would just go back in, re-establish what I needed, and attack it from a different perspective.

By and by, the abstraction and representation slowly became integrated rather than two different styles of painting reluctantly coexisting, I gained some understanding as to what this painting needed to be.

All too often the fear of ruining a painting paralyzes us from taking risks. But in order to grow and learn and keep evolving, we have to take risks. Certainly there will be some (ok many) failures which will crush us from time to time, but the alternative is stagnation. Never getting any better is a frightening thought, isn't it?  As the old adage goes, no risk, no glory!

You must have so many paintings sitting around which are never going to see the light of day. Take them and experiment. Allow yourself to fail. You may just find your next breakthrough in the process. It's amazing what you can learn by willing to lose it.

My Notre Dame painting didn't get ruined. It ended up being one of my all time favorites and I learned so much from it (am still learning from it even though I no longer have it) that it was well worth the risk. It raised the bar and defined a new standard for my future paintings, so I have many challenges ahead. Not the least of which is finding new markets for my work.


  1. Bravo for this insightful post! This is a concept, and attitude I've stumbled upon a few weeks ago- don't be afraid of whatever result comes from new ideas and techniques. It is great reinforcement to read this from someone of your skill level.

  2. It's an incredible piece, Terry. it has something that for a lack of a better term I call it "weight," maybe "gravitas" is closer to what I mean? There is a depth to it that can't be summed up as a total of all the artist's tools. It goes beyond that. I can see why it's one of your favorites.

  3. Thanks Judy~! I was stumped when I asked myself, "why NOT take risks on this painting? what else are you going to do with it?" I guess the answer was there all along.

  4. Hey Sergio~ Thanks for that comment. You just totally made my day!

  5. stunning painting and atmosphere

  6. I'm going to follow your example and reimagine and rework a painting that I've devoted a great deal of time and effort to. Despite the effort, for me, it never worked.
    I doubt if mine will be the sort of grand success that you achieved, but I know I'll learn. And as you say, what is there to lose!

  7. Thanks Shirley! yep. nothin' to lose and a whole lot of knowledge to gain!