Terry Miura • Studio Notes

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Aria Redux

Aria Redux, 36 x 36 inches, oil on linen

I posted this painting on my Facebook page not too long ago, but I wanted to talk about it a little bit so here it is on Studio Notes.

As the title suggests, this is a re-do of an older version which I originally painted for my solo show, Urban Aria, at Thomas Reynolds Gallery in San Francisco a few years back. The original was 24 x 24 inches and you may have seen it in a magazine or two if not on this blog. 

Anyway, as I've become more and more comfortable with abstraction, I felt this irresistible urge to revisit the painting and do a larger version that put more emphasis on abstraction and surface manipulation. 

Here's the earlier version:

The new version uses a much warmer color scheme than the original. I don't subscribe to the notion that  certain color schemes are better than another, but I wanted to use this violet-based palette because I had done some paintings with it and I liked the look.

The placement of cars and other objects are more or less the same. I used a grid to transpose the drawing onto the new canvas, and quickly obliterated smaller shapes (drawn in pencil) when I started slinging paint all over it. (not that I was trying to obliterate them) So the drawing, especially of the smaller shapes, are just freehanded more or less.

The clutter on the sidewalk is just pushing and pulling positive and negative shapes until it looked convincing, and much effort went into ignoring the description of recognizable "things". I wanted a clutter that suggested an urban street, not a collection of actual things.

The cars in the distance are reduced to the barest suggestions. Typically I first paint enough of the structure (using a few values differentiating major planes) of each of the cars, and then bit by bit I take out literal information, while adding abstract notes. In order for this to work well, I make sure that the color and value are relevant to the context established by the overall color scheme and the atmosphere, while consciously and intentionally disregarding the shape / form of the thing that's being painted.

By pulling in the background color/value into the car, I integrate the shape into the environment. This is the same thing (in my mind, anyway) as using broken soft edges to relate one shape to its adjacent shape, only I just took it way beyond the edge.  The thinking is that I'm integrating shapes, not cars and roads. By not thinking in terms of objects, I allow myself to not be restricted to edges that "make sense" in a traditional sense.

Here I'm doing a similar thing by pulling light into shadow. Not only do the shapes get integrated, but the abstract notes serve to activate an otherwise passive area.

The figure in motion is not easy to do. The gesture has to be communicated, first and foremost. The suggestion of motion through softening or blurring isn't really effective unless the gesture is there first. You can't really fake it. Well may be you can, but I can't.  Years and years of doing short pose drawings pays off in spades in this sort of situation.

I want to do more re-do's of older work this year.  A lot of the paintings I had done in the past three years were on the verge of cracking the abstraction nut, but I didn't quite cross the line. I'm ready to revisit them now, and push them much further. I think it would be a lot of fun to see what comes out!


  1. What an amazing post! Most educative. Love the painting.

  2. I love visiting your blog, Terry. You are always generous with your 'instruction' and honest with your inner artistic 'struggles'. This is a great post. Almost immediately I thought of some of my own paintings that beg for revisiting and re-visualizing. Thanks Terry!

  3. Thanks Bruce!! I might do another version still - I can already see what I'd do differently~

  4. So much better! The mood is improved, the edges are more interesting,and the cars in the background are much less monotonous. Fun to go back and revisit the oldies!

  5. Hey thanks Sergio~! I'm finding revisiting the oldies to be an absolutely effective way to move forward. Progress is practically guaranteed!

  6. Terry.
    Love these photos.
    The art is wonderful.
    Thanks for sharing so much of your process.
    I very much enjoy your work. I grew up in a city, Boston, MA, and paintings of urban life have a special place in my heart!

  7. Your fantastic to post such learning and creative thoughts .... I really dig everything about your blog , it's so inspiring to an artist that's lost her way .....thankyou Terry!

  8. Thanks Michael~! Thanks Sandra~! I'm glad you enjoyed the post, and your comments are much appreciated!

  9. What an interesting post about this redo. Your work is stunning. I am always amazed at artist that can paint with such a blurry style yet it's so cohesive. Wow, wow and wow.

    Greetings from a self-taught (not that good) painting from Wichita, Kansas. I found you via Karin Jurick's blog.

  10. Thanks Lisa~ and welcome to my blog!