Terry Miura • Studio Notes

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Paint the Town!

Come paint the town with me in Winters, CA! 
A plein air painting workshop,  October 12, 13, 14,  $325

I am conducting another Paint the Town plein air painting workshop in October!

This workshop is for you if;

-You've always wanted to try painting cityscapes and street scenes but have always been intimidated by the sheer complexity of the task.

"It just seems so difficult!"
-You paint plenty of street scenes, but you're frustrated because your work falls short of your expectations. 

"I do great landscapes. Why do my cityscapes not look as good!?"  

-You can paint cars and buildings, but somehow your paintings always look like a collection of literal descriptions, lacking vitality and poetry.

"How can I create mood? How can I paint more expressively?"


Sound familiar? Street scenes can be very challenging because of the sheer amount of visual information that you have to process. It's sometimes so overwhelming that many throw in the towel before they even begin!
No matter what level you are, the key to painting compelling cityscapes and street scenes is simplification!  If you learn to edit, manage, and organize the visual clutter, the task at hand becomes a series of logical choices.
This workshop will show you how to do that with demos and plenty of individual instruction. 
Painting is never easy, but by learning how to simplify, you are one step closer to getting to the next level, whether that means making cars look like cars, or creating poetry out of ordinary visual jumble. 

Winters is a wonderful little town that time forgot. It's located about 30 miles west of Sacramento, and is full of old-time small town charm. There's a lot of great subject matter to explore and paint for artists of any level. 

Intrigued? We still have spots open for this workshop (but don't wait too long, I'm only taking twelve students). You can contact the School of Light and Color to sign up and get more information!


Paint the (small) Towna plein air painting workshop
October 12, 13, 14
The School of Light and Color
phone: (916)966-7517

See you in Winters!

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!!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Another Metamorphosis

I just returned from Atlanta where I attended an opening for a group show at Anne Irwin Gallery, (it was a fantastic show!) and also taught an en plein air painting workshop. I'll post about the workshop when I get images of my demos. 

Today, I thought I'd show you the changes I made on one of my painting for the show. Of the pieces that I included in the show, this one was the largest (24 x 36) and one which took me on the longest journey, with some breakthroughs and slumps along the way. So I felt a bit of emotional attachment to this baby.

This is what it looked like when I originally finished it for a different show five years ago (?). If you recognize it, it's probably because it was included in Mitch Albala's excellent book, Landscape Painting.

It hung in my house for a few years. I liked the mood and the simplicity of it, which was what I was after when I did the painting. As it happens with every painting I hang on to for a while, I started to feel this urge to make changes to it. I suppose it's only natural for me to feel this way, since my ideas for what I want out of a painting changes over time, and I see new and different potentials in older works, even if there's nothing I don't like about them.

One thing I wanted to do, was to make it moodier. I thought of bringing in more dark shapes in the foreground, and taking out the sunlight in this area so that the viewer would be standing in the shadows–both literally and figuratively. Not a gloomy shadow, but a quieter, more introspective place.

So I took a big brush and re-blocked in the whole thing. As I did so, I noticed that the foreground needed to be smaller because all that darkness at the bottom was a little too much. So I moved the foreground down, moved some trees around (many times I painted and wiped away, to find the right placement and visual balance)

And then I slowly developed the elements into a more believable space. A lot of pushing and pulling and painting and repainting still. In the midground I placed a barn to help define the lay of the land using linear perspective.

The pattern in the foreground also was meant to define the lay of the land. It also breaks up the big shape there.

And then I got stuck. Something was bothering me, but I couldn't put my finger on it– I tried changing colors and reshaping some trees, but it still nagged at me.

When I can't easily figure out what's bothering me about a painting, it usually isn't a technical issue. It's not because of a "mistake"in the sense that a color is wrong, or the value doesn't make sense. It's usually something broader and has to do with the whole, not little parts.  It's usually a design problem. 

In this case, I realized that the foreground had too much impact. It was too light in value and the pattern too prominent. What it did to the painting was that it made it more difficult for me to go past the foreground to the lit valley beyond. 

By quieting the foreground (darker, less contrast) I could bring my attention back to the distant, warmer area, where I long to be. 

I made this last big change just a few days before I shipped it out to Anne Irwin Gallery– I almost didn't do it because of the deadline (what if it didn't work? I wouldn't have time to fix it) but it came out great and I was very happy with the result.

It looked great installed on the gallery wall, and the red dot beside it made it sweeter still.

Monday, September 10, 2012

California Dreaming

California Evening, 24 x 36 inches, oil on linen

California Dreaming, a group show at Anne Irwin Gallery in Atlanta opens this Friday!  

I will be showing with some great artists; Ken Auster, Dana Hooper, Dan McCaw, Danny McCaw, John McCaw, Terry DeLapp, Adele Sypesteyn and William Wray.

I'm traveling to Atlanta for the opening, which will be this Friday (September 14) from 6pm - 8:30pm, so if you are in the area, please come to the opening and say hello! 

I've never been to Atlanta (other than the airport, but that doesn't count) so I am really looking forward to this trip. I'm also teaching a workshop this weekend at the Art School in Sandy Springs, which should be a lot of fun, too. The weather forecast looks pretty good... I hope it holds up!

If you can come to the opening, the show will be up for about a month so if you're in the area, be sure to check it out~ 

The painting I'm posting today is one I just sent to Anne Irwin for this show. I will talk about how this painting came to be, in another post (I have to find some earlier photos). The evolution is actually kinda interesting.

See you at the opening!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Sierra Pack Trip 2012

I'm back from the sierra pack trip!

This year we went to Garnet Lake, a most stunningly beautiful wilderness in the Eastern Sierras.

This year our group of intrepid artists consisted of Bill Cone, Paul Kratter, Ernesto Nemesio, Michele DeBragança, Kim Lordier, Jim Wodark, Robert Steele, and myself.  What a great group to be hanging out with!

This was my fourth year tagging along on this annual painting adventure, and each year I come away with great memories and inspiration. And this year may have been the most memorable of all.

We had everything from thunderstorms, having to scramble up steep drainages in all fours (during thunderstorm, no less), hail, to uh... unexpected situations involving our cook which made for a very challenging experience.

But I've decided not to go into that on this blog. Suffice to say it could have been an episode from a reality show or a low budget movie.

I'd rather talk about art, so let's just do that, OK?  

The top painting is the first sketch I did, early morning the day after the hike in. Typically, the lake was mirror smooth in the mornings and there were a lot of great light/shadow patterns on the rugged boulders, which is what caught my eye. Due to the orientation of the boulders in relation to the morning sun, these rocks held their patterns longer than I expected and I was able to paint them without rushing.

For the most part, the paintings were done in the mornings because in the afternoon, we consistently had thundershowers and we had to crawl back into our tents to wait for the rains to pass. A good time for a nap.

I think we had one sunny late afternoon painting session the whole week, and my second painting (above) is from that day. The background is all in shadow, and the back lit cliff's edge made for a compelling composition. 

Technical note; I resolved the foreground first, and decided (taking cues from what I saw) to lean the shadows toward brownish violet. Some areas are cooler violet because they face the sky, and other areas are much warmer because they get reflected light from a sunlit surface, or they just don't catch the cool ambient light. 

The violet of the background is subjective. I decided to make it tonal and violet based on the foreground shadows. Unity and simplicity is the name of the game here.

Another morning light sketch. This too, is back lit, but compared to the afternoon back lighting, it's much, much cooler.  I kept the depiction of water and reflections soft and subtle so as to not take away from the back lit rocks. Now that I look at it, I could have used a few more sharper edges in there. 

The background is a snow patch on a steep mountainside. I like the abstract quality of it, although it may not make sense unless the painting is shown as a part of a series. (context by association) No matter; I like it. 

I remember hurrying to finish this one because I could see the rain clouds building right before my eyes, and I could almost time the moment it began to rain. I may hike into wilderness to paint, but I'm not hardcore enough to paint in a thunderstorm!

Late morning face-lit boulder and reflection. Since there were not many shadows, I imposed some dark areas purely for design. Being faithful to the view, isn't all that important to me. I'd rather come away with a good painting, see. I did try to capture and preserve the character of the place and time, though.

The water was surprisingly warm, especially in the shallows. A nice little swim beats hauling water up to campsite to take camp showers!

A pile of rocks. I just wanted to paint a pile of rocks with no obvious focal point. Something not so "post-cardy". As I worked on this, though, I felt more and more that the pattern itself wasn't enough. I finally blasted the area beyond the rocks with sunlight to provide my painting with a focal point. This (changing the concept midway through a painting) is something that I tell my students NOT to do. 

And here I am doing it. Well, the painting was failing. I had nothing to lose so I made this change, and now I have a painting. It's not what I envisioned to start with, but I'll take it.

The colors in this painting is perplexing. I mean, I don't normally paint like this. I don't know where they came from. My friends were even asking "are you feeling OK?" 

My main goal this trip was to paint looser and pay more attention to abstraction. In doing so, I wanted to really contrast sharpness of the edges of boulders against the surrounding softness of bushes and trees. I'm pretty happy with my efforts in that respect, but I didn't give much thought to color strategies beyond harmonies and unity, so it's surprising to end up with unusual (for me, that is) color solutions.

I think I should investigate this further.

The mountain in the back is Mount Banner (right? or is it Ritter?) At the summit it reaches almost 13,000ft. Our base camp, at Garnet Lake was around 9700ft. At this elevation, walking is a chore. Actually, walking on level ground isn't so bad. But as soon as you start going up hill, you feel it. It's a good thing there were unlimited things to paint near the base camp.

...like this tree standing near our tents, for example.  I set up my easel right next to my tent on the morning we hiked out. One last sketch before we packed up.

And so we finish our week of painting adventure in the mountains, entrust our gear to a pack of mules to bring back down to the pack station, and climbed 7 miles down. A most memorable trip, with some unexpected challenges we could have done without. Nonetheless, I came away inspired and I feel like I've improved my craft just a little bit.

I'm sure my friends will post some of their excellent paintings on their own sites soon enough, but for now, check out Bill's beautiful interpretations of the Sierra light in pastel. They're pretty sweet~