Terry Miura • Studio Notes

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Same View, Different Eyes

Got a little treat for ya~!

A few weeks ago I posted paintings from my pack trip in the Eastern Sierras. I was there with a group of very talented painters for a week, and although we didn't actually plan to paint the same views, it's not surprising that we ended up with some similar views on our canvases / papers.

One such spot was on the water's edge near our base camp. A mass of boulders jutted out into the water, and made a very paintable motif surrounded by water. The far shore allowed us to suggest distance and atmosphere, and the shallow waters in the foreground a nice passive area against which to juxtapose the activity of the rocks. 

I thought it would be very interesting to see these interpretations all in one place, so that we can see how differently each of us saw this view.  I asked my friends and they thought it was a good idea too, so here they are. 

The top picture is mine, a 9 x 12 oil sketch done in the morning light.  I keyed everything to the cool violet grays of the rocks in the shadow,  and playing up the rim light. I did very little to the reflection.

OK, so let's see how the others did it. My comments are not critiques. Rather, they're "gee, why didn't I think of that!?" responses to their wonderful sketches.  Because you know, we each see differently, and that's what makes these comparisons so fascinating.

Paul Kratter, Shallow Water, 8 x 10, oil

Here's Paul Kratter's painting of the same rocks. Notice the far shore is placed a little higher in Paul's than in mine. We weren't painting this view at the same time so I can't be sure, but it looks like he had a higher vantage point. Looks like there's more atmosphere in Paul's view, too. That might mean he painted this a little later in the morning than I did. Or he might have just injected more atmosphere into his picture. Good painters do that sorta thing, you know. Love the muted palette~!

Paul included a bit of sunlit elements to the far left, which I didn't include in mine. I like how they provide an "in" into the composition and also a counter note to the rim light at the tip of the rocks. And those two little rocks at the bottom left? They're also stepping stones (pun intended) into the picture. A compositional device that would have improved my picture~

Bill Cone

Here's Bill Cone's pastel study. Like Paul, Bill included more of the land mass to the left. Aside from the deft shorthand - make your statement and get the hell out - I really like the sharp edges he used on the reflections at the bottom of the painting. I wish I had done that on mine, but I don't think I had such distinct edges in the reflections when I painted mine. 

The shorthand and abstraction go hand in hand, and if you isolate any area in Bill's painting, you get a completely abstract painting. That's something I strive for in my work. 

Bill's colors are much cooler than Paul's, too. Considering they were painted under similar light, (mornings were very similar throughout the week) isn't that fascinating?

Kim Lordier, All Aglow, 6 x 12, pastel

Here's another pastel, this one by Kim Lordier. I think this is done in the afternoon, where as the others are morning paintings. Except for one day during the week, we got thundershowers in the afternoons so we didn't get a whole lot of afternoon/evening paintings done. 

Don'tcha love the warmth of the late afternoon sun? And yet, the restraint on the saturation of the orangey colors tells us this was done by someone who knows what she's doing. If she's not pushing saturation, how does she get so much color into the painting? By juxtaposing warm and cool colors, but never getting mushy or ambiguous, that's how. Even where edges and transitions are soft, the strokes don't get mushy. That's key, folks.

Jim Wodark, At Lake's Edge, 8 x 10, oil

In Jim Wodark's interpretation, the rocky point featured in the previous paintings is a supporting player. It's moved down to the foreground left, and the flatter, warmer point beyond becomes the star of the show. As with Kim's painting, the play of warm and cool colors gives this painting such vitality.  

Sometimes Jim starts his paintings with really red or red violet underpainting, though I don't know if he did that for this one. 

Jim really works the variety in the greens, doesn't he. All those reds and oranges in the focal area. Did he only see warmth in that area? Of course not. He's using color to draw your eye there, along with edgework and increased brush activity. None of that stuff is purely observed - it's the artist's intent imposed upon the design to make the viewer see what the artist wants you to see. 

This is mine of the same view. Mine, as you can plainly see, is grayer and cooler. It's kinda funny because, of the ten or so sketches I completed, this one is the most colorful. In fact I marveled at it later on, saying "wow, where'd all that color come from?!" It's all relative, eh?

I hope you enjoyed the comparisons. I thought it was really interesting to see the differences in the interpretations. It underscores the notion that even if we're all painting the same thing, we each respond differently. We see differently and we express differently.  That's what makes each of our art unique, after all. How boring it would be if we all painted the same thing and ended up with the same paintings.

There were a few more members in our group, and I don't know if they painted this same view - but if they did and they send me their images later on, I will add to this post.  

Thanks Paul, Bill, Kim, and Jim for letting me share your beautiful paintings on Studio Notes!!


  1. This was great! Thanks for posting this!

  2. Wonderful blog post. Love when I learn things from big artists blogs and this one was chock full of great nuggets! Really interesting to see the differences and decisions that were made. Thanks for putting this all together and sharing Terry!

  3. Wonderful getting to see all these paintings of essentially the same view. Each one is beautiful.

    I love the commentary about each also. Unique visions are absolutely what it is about when we go traipsing around to paint together. I know too many artists that feel they must go alone because of thinking others will paint the same scene! What you show here tells everyone we each have our own eyes and ideas! Thank you.

  4. I really learned a lot in this comparison and comment post! Thank you!!!

  5. Great post. Loved seeing all the pieces and hearing your voice.

  6. This breakdown of different paintings really helped me -thank you!
    I'm always worried my colors won't sit well together in a scene, can you explain a bit more about the statement in your first sketch, about 'keying the colors to the cool violet of the rocks?' What adjustments did you make to the other colors when you did this?

  7. Superb analysis. Beautiful Paintings.

  8. Thanks Sergio, Kathy, Carol, Marsha, Carolyn, Pam, Judy and Dan!

    I'm glad you enjoyed this. I certainly found the comparison very instructive. So much to learn from other sets of eyes!

  9. Judy, it's about harmony. I decided on the "key" color first - rocks on the shadow side, and then related everything else to it.

    That means, essentially, everything else is a variation (to a lesser or greater extent) of the key color. The trees are not an isolated green, but a greener version of the violet gray. The foreground shallow water isn't brown, it's a browner version of the violet gray.

    You can start every color from the same violet gray, and bend it toward your intended hue by adding to it. Easier if you adjust the value first, then hue.

  10. Love this post!!! Great learning tool!!
    Thanks, Terry!