Terry Miura • Studio Notes

Monday, June 25, 2012

Abstracting the Landscape

Country Road, 18 x 24 inches, oil on linen

This is a studio painting. At 18 x 24, it's a pretty good size for me. This painting is conceived entirely out of my head. No references. I had an idea about composition and it started out as a very abstract pattern into which I imposed recognizable shapes and perspective. 

If you consider the fact that there's really only two buildings that need any attention to linear perspective (the rest are sort of flat-on elevation view) and they're simple one-point perspective, the logistics of creating a convincing environment, in this case, wasn't as complicated as it might seem. 

I mean the trees are just blobs, and the cast shadows all go in the same direction. The rows of crops in the foreground, along with the road, share a single vanishing point. It's not difficult to make straight lines all go to the same point, is it? 

The difficulty is designing in the abstract. It's not about the recognizable things, but creating interesting abstract patterns that don't betray believable space. Even though I had worked it out on paper with a bunch of sketches, I still needed to spend hours fine tuning it. 

A lot of it had to do with my trying to push abstraction and surface work. I have been able to go much further with abstraction in my cityscapes and figures than in my landscapes. I have a real hard time leaving the traditional realm when it comes to painting the landscape. I think it's because I feel comfortable in the familiar territory and I do feel more confidence that I could pull off a pretty good, if conventional, landscape painting. I'm not willing to stay there, but stepping out of that comfort zone is damned hard.

It may not look like it, but this painting has a lot more going on in the way of abstraction than my typical landscapes. It's mostly in the flat shapes of the trees and the fields. I'm finding inspiration from woodblock prints and serigraphs, where flat shapes are really flat but has a lot of textural activity that has nothing to do with the thing its depicting. Does that make sense?

I'll have to do many more of these before I feel like I own the language, but I think I have a good start. This painting will be included in a group show at Anne Irwin Gallery in Atlanta, in September. I'll pass along more information as we get closer, but suffice to say I'll be showing with some heavy hitters and I really feel like I have to step up my game or else I'd look totally out of place in their company! 


  1. Stepping out of that comfort zone is darn hard...
    Boy do I agree with that. I guess it's what we do if we want to grow. So how much do we want that?
    I'm excited to see you pushing yourself beyond that comfort zone Terry. Your work is the fruit of that. Beautiful!
    Thank you again for the inspiration.....

  2. I like your post very much. Thanks a lot for sharing.

  3. Thanks Randy, Roger and Ayisha~

    Pushing beyond the comfort zone - yes, so very hard, but the alternative is stagnation. Now THAT's a frightening thought.

  4. We paint simple shapes and arrange on a canvas and the end result makes sense to the brain - houses, trees, flowers, etc. It's almost heady to have that much power! Isn't art making great?!

  5. HI Terry, thanks so much for this post. I also struggle with pushing abstraction into my landscape work, and you're right it's damn hard. but when it works out, it is so rewarding.

  6. Great to read about your pursuit of more abstraction! It is interesting how easy it is to put depth back into a painting. I'm working on the same thing...and working...and working:-)