Terry Miura • Studio Notes

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Getting the Gears Going

After the Rain, 11 x 14 inches, oil on panel

Happy New Year everyone~! 

I've been sick with some kinda bug for the last few weeks. That, plus a general lack of motivation, have kept me away from the easel for a long time. I've painted once or twice in that time, but if I were to be honest with myself, my heart wasn't in it so it didn't count. Looking back, the last time I seriously painted was back in early November, getting ready for the Holton show.

That, of course, will not do. Being a professional, I can't just sit around waiting for the inspiration to hit me. I've got bills to pay, after all. Which reminds me, Q4taxes are coming up!

So finally I got off my butt and spent the day in the studio yesterday. Boy was I rusty. I couldn't draw, couldn't see color, and subtlety was pretty much nonexistent. I expected as much, and getting my butt kicked like that is an effective, if unpleasant, way to get my engine going. I know this from experience.

Fleeting, 9 x 12 inches, oil on panel

I've talked on this blog before about some ways to get out of ruts like going back to the comfort zone, or limiting the scope of a project, etc. One of the best ways I've found is to simply grab a piece from my stack of old paintings, and rework it. 

I have a ton of old pieces which are not likely to see the light of day because they're just sub-par, or I hadn't spent a lot of time on them because they're studies or demos. Most of them can be "saved" or given new life if I simply sit down, analyze what's wrong with it, and fix it. 

It's a lot less work (or not) than starting from scratch - physically, mentally, and this is important– emotionally. The pieces are no good to start with so if I fail to bring it up to par, I haven't lost anything but time. Actually, in this case it's time well spent because it allows me to grease my chops, as it were.

So there's very little pressure to perform, and yet if I can successfully make a good painting out of a bad one, it's a tremendous boost in confidence. Although success is not guaranteed, chances are good because 1) these old studies have potential. after all, I must have liked something about them or I wouldn't have kept them. and 2) I'm a better painter now than I was when I did them (hopefully). 

So I worked on three small old studies yesterday, and managed to get two which I now like. The third one... meh. Into the trash. But two outta three ain't bad, and my gears are slowly beginning to turn again.

I wish I had a "before" picture of these, but as they weren't very good when I first did them, I never even thought to record them.  Ah well, I hope you like the end results anyway~


  1. Hi Terry Hope the bug has left you. Kinda difficult to be sick and inspired. So maybe you should not be too hard on yourself. Great paintings

  2. I am glad that you are better from your flu, your work is coming along, it wont take too long for you to start doing beauties as always, just paint and dont think about it, Happy new year.

  3. Well the reworking succeeded, because these have a subtle beauty - so fine. You will be back in the swing quickly, I am sure.

  4. They are both absolutely gorgeous. Thanks for sharing this wonderful and educative post.

  5. Good to know I'm not the only one that goes through this. It's amazing how a brush can sometimes seem to weigh a hundred pounds.

  6. So happy you are feeling better Terry!
    These last two paintings are very beautiful!
    A real feast for the eyes!

  7. Thank you for all your positive comments! It really does motivate me to get back up to speed. After another cup of coffee, of course.

    No seriously, Thanks everyone!

  8. This post was so inspiring to me. Thank you for sharing. I too have not painted since mid-November and have been struggling with "re-entry". Great tip to work on old paintings!I keep telling myself to take it slow and expect nothing.

  9. I've never been a fan of working on old paintings (though I've no shortage of potential material). Tough I have, at times, used a failed painting as reference for a new one.

    Could you expand on your approach? Do you sand the original surface back to remove aggressive texture? Do you use retouch varnish then Liquin or other medium? Do you find yourself painting over almost everything by the time you've finished (I guess it depends on the problem)?

    Thanks, and nice work, by the way.

  10. Andy, Unless I'm continuing a big abstracted cityscape or something, I rarely sand the surface. My landscapes are, for the most part, pretty conservative so I like to keep them straightforward. More or less direct painting, or at least I try very hard to avoid overworking it

    So if I have to sand the surface, I think it's just better to start a new canvas.

    Usually, the ones I rework like these, were originally done in a very short time -1 to 2 hours, so there's not a lot of paint build up. (I don't get too thick too fast)

    I usually brush on liberal amounts of liquin on the dried surface, and gently wipe most of it off with a rag, then proceed to work on the most obvious problem areas.

    Invariably, I do end up repainting the whole surface because I can't fake (nor do I want to) true wet-into-wet strokes.

    IF I'm doing a larger cityscape or figure painting which typically for me is heavy on abstraction and process, I don't have a set method at all. but I just attack the canvas, no holds barred. Even throwing black paint on it and washing it off is not out of the question.

  11. Oh, I forget to tell you that my favorite painting of these is the first one. I learned a lot from your clouds and I found it interesting and inspiring to observe the cool dark shadow of the cloud that is connected all the way across the canvas...love that!

  12. Thanks Terry. I think that "wet-into-wet" problem is what's stopped me doing major retouch jobs.