Terry Miura • Studio Notes

Monday, October 15, 2012

A Few From Atlanta

It has been quite a busy few months and I have fallen behind in reporting on events. It's a good thing I don't blog for a living, because if I had deadlines on this thing I would have been fired a long time ago!

Anyway, I did want to share a few images from my workshop in Atlanta. It was my first time in the South, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I met so many nice people, and the weather wasn't even all that humid (mid September). Thanks for making the arrangements with Mother Nature, Donna~

For the first two days, we went to a little town of Norcross, not far from Atlanta proper. When I do a plein air workshop, I like to be familiar with the locations because the criteria for a workshop situation is quite a bit more difficult to fulfill than say, if I were painting alone or with just a few artists.

This being my first time in Atlanta, there was obviously no way for me to have this familiarity so I was a little worried. Fortunately, I knew that my friend Tim Horn had taught there the year before, so I just asked where he went with his group. Tim and I, while very different in how we view and paint the subject matter, nonetheless like to work with similar motifs sometimes, so when he said "Norcross" without hesitation, I knew it was going to be just the right spot.

And it was. Norcross is a quaint little railroad town, and we gathered at the park in the middle of the town around which were plenty of paintable subjects. We had open shade, restrooms, plenty of places to eat lunch, architecture, trees, good lighting, safe parking...everything we needed.

This was my first demo. As it was sort of hazy / cloudy on the first day, I opted to do a facade - it's the simplest way to paint a building (no perspective) and I could rely on local value differences to compose a picture, without depending on light and shadow patterns (there weren't any because the sun wasn't out). I wanted to save the more complex perspective-heavy demo for when the sun came out.

And it did come out the next day. This is my second demo, in the afternoon day 2. The train depot right across the street had interesting angles and visual clutter, which was perfect for demonstrating how to simplify and structure such a painting.

This is the view, although in the photo the sun isn't as strong as when I painted. The biggest change I made was to make the background trees bigger, so that the railroad crossing...thing... could be made visible as light shape against dark, flipping the relationship from the dark-on-light against the roof of the depot. This inversion makes for a more visually active solution in the area of interest.

On Day 3, we went to this beautifully preserved old farm outside of town. There were really great structures on the property; an old farmhouse, barns, wells, equipment... but for the demo I did this little cabin out in the back. I wanted to do a short demo to give everyone plenty of time to paint, and the sun was coming in and out of the clouds so I didn't want to do something dependent on shadow patterns.

In a three day workshop, my demo on the third day is typically focused on one or two specific issues in painting rather than the entire process, and I usually decide on what to focus on upon seeing the location. The subject matter and the light situation has to be favorable to what I'm trying to teach, obviously, so I tend not to commit to ideas ahead of the time. It wouldn't do me much good to talk about cast shadows when there aren't any, for example.

So I saw this cabin down a gentle hill, and decided to a little demo on tweaking the perspective to emphasize a point of view. The cabin was situated just a little bit below my eye level, so we were looking down at it from a higher vantage point. I raised the eye level further and moved the vanishing points to  redraw the cabin, so that the "looking down at it"-ness was emphasized. I think I overdid it, but the point was made. 

The sun did come out later and it got warm, but my students came well prepared and worked really hard. And I saw big progress in their work from day one to three.

Great job everyone! 'Hope to do this again sometime!


  1. I just discovered your blog through Tim Horn and am enjoying it so much! Thank you for sharing all that info from your workshop! It's priceless and much appreciated!

  2. Thanks Nancy! and welcome to my blog!

  3. Nancy is right, Terry. You share so much invaluable information and insight on your blog. I know that takes a lot of time and energy to do, but it is much appreciated. And those lucky enough to take one of your workshops will soon discover that what's on the blog is only a small sample! Thanks Terry!

  4. Hey Bruce! Thanks a lot for that endorsement! It was great painting with you in Winters~!

  5. your demo's are really nice....especially the train station one.....real nice light/shadow treatment. Sorry, didn't get a chance to meet you during your Atlanta visit. (i teach at the sponsoring art school)....(and am a native southern Californian, trying to find a way to rmove back). Keep up the good work.

  6. Thanks John~ Hope to meet you next time!

  7. Nice to see your view of the little house at McDaniels farm. I did one myself on a hot day last August.Sorry I missed your class in Atlanta—thought I knew everything going on in plein air here. Also sorry to hear John G, want's to head back to CA - we'll miss him.