Terry Miura • Studio Notes

Friday, June 8, 2012

Some Recent Demos

For my in-studio Landscape Lab class, I usually do a demo at the beginning of the class each week. I pick a different subject or concept every time, and try to focus on specific issues. Sometimes it's about the color, other times design, still other times technique. It ends up being a lot of the same foundational ideas approached in different context, which is exactly the point of this class.

The top painting; The Boat! I'm not a marine painter. I don't know anything about boats so I don't usually paint them. But I did this one in response to students' requests, and I had a good time with it. I kept my colors a little more saturated than I typically do. It's still not pure unadulterated blue (has reds and yellows mixed in) but it's about as saturated as I dare to go.

Painting a man-made structure requires a more strict eye to pull off the drawing, because obviously, buildings aren't as forgiving as a tree. If you bend a tree limb, it'll still look like a tree. A convincing tree, even. But if you make a crooked wall, it sticks out like a sore thumb. If you paint tightly, especially, the drawing must be exacting. Painting loosely allows for more freedom but as you know, painting loosely is easier said than done.

In this painting I tried to focus on simplifying and organizing the value structure to deal with the clutter that's inherent in a street scene. 

Designing with light and shadow. A fairly quick demo, I had hoped to show that warm light / cool shadow relationship need not be screaming yellow vs. electric purple.

Not a very good photo. The blues in the sky especially seems out of harmony, but in reality the blues are much more subdued. I think this photo demonstrates, more than any painting concept, the importance of lighting conditions under which photography is conducted! I've recently noticed just how biased artificial lighting is. I mean I always knew it was, but my eyes have become more sensitive to such things. I try not to paint at night if I have to use subtle color. That means, more tonal cityscapes!

For this one, I assigned everyone a really boring photo and asked them to make something interesting out of it. In the demo, I talked about various ways of working depth into a painting, including soft perspective and atmosphere.

This demo was about perspective and picking a focal point and orchestrating to make it work. Simplifying was a big part of it. Afterwards, I did a little glazing and worked back into it so that it became much more tonal than it originally was. A quiet dusty alley way. 

Light and shadow.  Keepin' it organized, and not get too dark. Looking into the shadow side of the main element, I needed it to have a lot of ambient and bounced light to make it luminous. (I didn't want my star element to be just a dark shape) More light means lighter value and more visible color. Consequently the whole thing gets keyed up, and the sunlit areas start to lose their saturation because it approaches white (washed out). To compensate, I snuck dark notes in the background greens and saturated the lit side of the foliage.

Having to do these kinds of demos each week has helped me to understand painting concepts better, even if I can't always do a good demo. I'm getting better at it though. I like the fact that I get to practice doing demos in a controlled setting; it is an entirely different skill set than just doing good paintings. And the more I do it, the more I appreciate those who can do it well. There aren't that many out there.


  1. Very nice post. I am a big fan of your work and enjoyed seeing so many of your paintings in one post.

  2. Thanks Eden! Thanks Carol!

  3. Wow, Terry. I'm grateful for your time in making such a thorough, helpful post. You covered many important concepts with your beautiful paintings to illustrate the points. Thank you!

  4. Wow - love the demos and notes. And you do good boat!

  5. Love your postings, Terry; always educational. Could you say more about color themes, please? Monochromatic is clear, but more complex choices than that: I'd love to hear what you have to say about them. Thanks!

  6. I did my first official demo a couple weeks ago in front of decent crowd. Wow, that was scary!
    I had a shaky hand end some stammering going on. I give you my biggest props for being able to teach AND paint especially at this quality level.

  7. Thanks for your comments! I appreciate it very very much, even if I don't always get around to responding to each one!

  8. Frances, I'll do a post on it soon. One could write a book on just that topic!

  9. Randy, shaking and stammering - sounds all too familiar, my friends. I've always had severe fear of public speaking so put that together with anticipation of spectacular public humiliation... not something I'm exactly comfortable with.

    It took me a long time to get over it, and lots of practicing demos by just doing it for a few friends, and then a few more...


  10. When I decided to quit illustration and go into painting full time, I knew I would have to supplement my income somehow and teaching classes and workshops seemed like the best way to do it. Besides I don't have any other marketable skill, so I had no choice but become proficient at it.

    So I just practiced doing demos by creating a regular class. Since the students aren't strangers it's not so scary. I even have a few hecklers in my class who help me be more thick skinned.

    My efforts paid off when the economy tanked and art just stopped selling. Now, I kind of enjoy it for its social aspect.