Terry Miura • Studio Notes

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Sonoma Plein Air

This October Sky, 21 x 12 inches, oil on linen

Hey art lovers! Last week I painted my butt off at the annual Sonoma Plein Air Festival. This was my fourth time participating in this wonderful event, the proceeds from which fund art programs in the Sonoma County schools.

I love this event not only because I get to focus on painting in a beautiful part of the world for a week, but this is when I hang out with old friends and steal their ideas get inspired by the work that they do.

This year there were quite a few new artists and it was a pleasure to meet them. My tribe keeps growing!

I did a dozen or so paintings from Tuesday to Friday, (we started on Monday, but I didn't paint any that day - just worked with a sketchbook.

Not all of the paintings were satisfactory – I scraped a few – but here are the fruits of my labor;

Autumn Blue, 12 x 9 inches, oil

I can't remember exactly in what order I painted these, but I suppose that doesn't matter much. Except the first few days were super hot (104F!) and it was a real struggle. May be it was the heat, or may be it was the fact that I spent the two previous days teaching a workshop, but I had a hard time finding my groove. 

But I couldn't slack off, could I. So paint, I did. Eventually it got a little easier and I was able to enjoy the process more. 

You may have already noticed the unusual amounts of saturated blue in the first two paintings. Unusual for me, that is. I do tend to respond more directly to colors that I see when I'm working outdoors, but I have to say, this is pretty bright. I must have been feeling out of sorts.

 House that Jack Built, 9 x 12 inches, oil

This is Jack London's house. It's actually a state park here in Sonoma. Actually, I was told that it was a state park but it lost funding recently and is currently being managed by a nonprofit organization. There are many state parks closing in California due to funding cuts. It's really a shame.

The light is early afternoon, right after lunch. I wanted that hot and dusty feeling in my sketch, but using all those blues and greens. Did I get it?

Waiting to Cross, 9 x 12 inches, oil

On Tuesday afternoon, we had the Quickdraw event, where we were all to paint in and around the Sonoma Town Square at the same time, with a time limit of an hour and a half from start to finish, including framing. 

This is somewhat similar in theme to my last year's Quickdraw, but a little more complex, what with perspective and added elements (lamp post, hydrant). By simplifying the color scheme, I was able to focus more on the design and drawing without being rushed.

Indian Summer, 12 x 9 inches, oil

Street corner at town square. This church is one of the most painted motifs around here. The fact that everyone else paints it is irrelevant to me, because I'm not painting it as a portrait of the building. And besides, we all have different takes on it and mine is the only "Miura".

Little October, 12 x 9 inches, oil

A eucalyptus themed landscape reminiscent of the Early California impressionists. I like the simplicity of it. Not every painting has to be a complex challenge. Life doesn't always have to be a complex challenge. Sometimes, it's nice to just enjoy the simple things in life. Like sunshine on a pleasant autumn day.

Wanderlust, 9 x 12 inches, oil
 Toward the end of the week, the temperature dropped dramatically, and we had a very gray morning. I drove out to Ramal Road and set up my easel on the train tracks there. I was thinking, Stand By Me, see? Or those of you who are in the know, The Body.

What I didn't know was that they actually run trains on these tracks. Of course I was very surprised when I found out. First I felt the vibrations underfoot, and then the sound of the approaching train... I quickly grabbed my easel and stepped aside. It would have really ruined my morning had I got run over by a train.

Good Morning, America! 12 x 16 inches, oil

It is now a matter of tradition that I go back to the Fremont Diner on Hwy 12 to paint the old truck. Every year, I visit this great little roadside diner and paint a different variation of it. The food is excellent, too.

Election Year, 12 x 16 inches, oil

Here's the same diner, in the late afternoon light. I really dig the mood that backlighting creates. It (almost) automatically makes the painting about the mood rather than the motif. And this warm, late afternoon light is so sweet and stirring at the same time - like reliving a memory.  That, of course depends on whether the painting is executed well, but I think this one makes the grade. It may not be the most impactful of the bunch, but it's my favorite for its evocative quality.

This October Sky, 21 x 12 inches, oil

And this one, which you saw at the top of the post, is my largest piece of the week. It's also the very last piece I did on Friday morning, and brought to the big gala / silent auction later that afternoon. Having done a smaller version a few days ago, this pretty much painted itself. My favorite part is toward the bottom of the main tree, the small orange strokes on top of the background blue grey trees. The subtle shifts there (very close values) is more compelling to me than the high contrast areas elsewhere. The painting needs both, of course, but if I had to pick my favorite spot, that would be it.

The gala was a big fancy affair and I had a good time chatting with my friends about how the week went. There were some really nice paintings there too. If I weren't a starving artist, I'd have liked to bought a bunch of them.

Saturday was the big show and sale, and we had perfect weather – a welcome change from last year, when we got rained on. I think the quality of the work overall was very strong, and many artists did very well. I can't say my day was very remunerative, but I'm happy with the paintings that I did and those that I didn't sell at the show, will eventually find good homes. That, I'm certain, so all's good in the end.


  1. Ha! I didn't know that trains still ran on those tracks either! I do love painting around that area. I painted a couple of "blah" paintings last time I was there, though. It's really beautiful out there after a good rain. Nice chatting with you on Saturday.

  2. The church, the trucks, and the tracks. Those are my favorites...beautiful work, Terry! Jill McGannon

  3. Hey Sergio~ good to see you in Sonoma. 'hope you'll be painting with us next year!

  4. Thanks Eva~! The afternoon one is my favorite. They're both hanging in my studio, so you can see them today or tomorrow. Nice painting with you in Winters!