Terry Miura • Studio Notes

Saturday, December 7, 2013

American River Sketches - Summer Blue

Summer Blue, 12 x 9 inches, oil on linen

We are having an unusually cold weather here in Northern California. It kind of marks the end of the season for plain air painting for a while. I'm not one of those intrepid plain air painters who go out in frigid weather to bang out snow paintings, you see. Although I have done a few in the past, you'll usually find me inside with a warm drink.

I was looking at a bunch of sketches I have done since spring, and found this one. I don't think I posted it here before. Have I? I don't know. Anyway, it's from this summer, at one of our class's outings to the American River.

On this particular day, I was struck by the blue color of the water. I wanted emphasize that, but water itself being somewhat lacking in physical structure I needed something else recognizable to put it in context. These twin birch(?) trunks caught my eye. The lightness of the bark was a nice contrast against the darker, higher chroma blue of the water. And the light green leaves catching sunlight was fresh, too.

Usually I try to limit the number of elements with brighter colors, and if I have more than one saturated color, I try to make sure the visual impact of each is varied. Big blue area, small green area, etc. 

In the painting above, the two high chroma colors, the blue of the water and the green of the sunlit leaves, are somewhat analogous, (A little farther apart than right next to each other, since the blue leans toward blue violet and the green toward yellow green)  which makes them work together easily. I can afford to push the chroma of these colors without getting out of control because the hues are already harmonious. 

Often harmony and unity is lost in a "colorful" painting if the artist mixes his colors carelessly. I'm not a  painter of colorful images, but I do use higher chroma colors if I thought I needed them to communicate my intent. I just try to limit them to one or two, so that I can keep them under control. 


  1. How pretty incorporating blue among the grass and in the trunks' shadows.