Terry Miura • Studio Notes

Sunday, July 1, 2012


River Dragon, 9 x 12 inches, oil on linen 
This painting is Available. $700 framed.

If this painting looks like I was standing in the middle of the river, that's because I was. Well, not exactly. I was sitting. In a kayak. I had my camera with me (thankfully, I didn't drop it in the water!) and was shooting references of river motifs from vantage points which would have been improbable had I been walking around on shore.

I don't normally make paintings with weird or extraordinary vantage points because quite often I end up with a composition where the extraordinariness of the situation is the only thing the viewer notices. It might be interesting, but it gets in the way of my trying to communicate subtler things.

Here's the reference photo  You'll notice I changed some things in my painting. First, I keyed it down quite a bit. I wanted a moody, tonal painting and I wanted to make sure the foliage colors didn't get washed out. In bringing down the key, the shadow areas became much deeper and darker. This sacrifices visible color in that area, but what I gain is more drama and mystery. It's a calculated compromise. 

Had I been going after more colorist, impressionistic expression, The values overall would be much lighter and and the colors would be more saturated in the shadows. The value jump between light and shadow would be less pronounced but we would see more color contrasts and variations. 

I also changed the shape of the fallen trunk. The straighter one wasn't what caught my eye, so I just took it out. This painting is called River Dragon, not River Dragon Kebab

I played around with the reflection in the foreground, but in the end decided to play it down and darken the area, again, in favor of moodiness. Reflections are fun to paint and tempts us every time, but we have to think about its function in a picture. If you over do it, it takes away the spotlight from the star of the show.

Lastly, the color I used for the sky is entirely subjective. It's just a lighter version of the dominant colors I've already established, tweaked a little toward yellow so that it doesn't look too monochromatic. The result is a very tonal background which is tightly harmonized. Unity is the thing.

 Here's my kayak! I'm about to bump into Clark Mitchell. Beyond Clark is Randy Sexton, and you can see Peggi and Ray Roberts riding tandem to the right. 

Sometimes you just can't drive or hike to a location so we have to risk our lives in alligator infested waters for our art.

Not. This was just a fun day of collecting reference shots on the river. No Alligators.


  1. Terry, this is simply a wonderful painting, and I love the explanation of your process in creating it. Inspiring, in a word. Thank you. Erin Gafill.

  2. Thanks Erin! I'm glad you liked it :-D

  3. Terry, I love the mood you portrayed in this painting and your process explanation. I find it very interesting so see the reference photo where the viewer can observe what changes the artist makes. Thanks for sharing...
    Maria Randolph

  4. Terry, I love the painting. It has such a wonderful poetic feel. I like the mystery of it. Thank you for going to the trouble of taking us through your thought process. Wonderful information!

  5. "poetic" may be the highest compliment. Thanks John!!