Terry Miura • Studio Notes

Monday, December 23, 2013

Figure Painting WIP

So I have not been very productive these past few weeks. It's mostly because I had a very busy September - October - November, and I'm kinda burnt out. I don't feel my creative juices flowing at all, and I don't even want to do anything. Which is a bad attitude, and it feeds itself. 

If you're an artist, I'm sure you've experienced walls and slumps. It's not that I feel like I can't paint (not uncommon).  It's more like I don't even want to. 

That we are in the thick of the Holiday season doesn't help, either. I have no shortage of excuses not to face the canvas. But I'm a professional, and that means I have to work, whether I want to or not. A lot of non-artists falsely assume that being an artist means we can choose to work whenever we want to, or not work if the muse doesn't inspire us. Try paying the bills by not working! Yep, it's a job like any other, in that respect.

Anyway, enough whining. These phases happen sometimes, and we just deal with them as they come. Long story short, I don't have any new cool pieces to post, so I thought I'd show something I'm doing to get my gears moving again.

It's a small 12 x 9 figure painting. The image above is work in progress, thus far. It's not for a show, nor for a particular gallery. I don't know if it'll even be any good. But that's OK, what I need right now is a kick start and some momentum.

This is just one of the many quick gesture drawings that I have. This one was done this week in my class–I just picked it out because I liked the shapes and angles in it. It is a 5-minute pose, drawn with a sanguine pencil on toned paper. When I use sanguine on toned paper, I typically use a white conté to indicate some highlights, but I ran out of time on this one. 

Using the 5-minute sketch, I did a charcoal drawing. Charcoal is a wonderfully forgiving medium, so it's great for trying out ideas. The basic value structure is what I was looking for here, and I changed my mind a few times during the process. 

As I draw, I think about how the light is falling on the figure, and how I might create mood. I used both vine and compressed charcoal, and the paper is Strathmore smooth surface drawing paper. 

Using the charcoal drawing as my reference, I started painting. I decided to work on a toned canvas because I knew it was going to be a low-key, tonal painting. When I paint in a higher key, I don't tone the canvas usually.

The canvas is my usual; Claessen's No.66. That's my favorite, though often use other surfaces.

The toning of the canvas is done with Ultramarine+Transparent Oxide Red+Gamsol, as is the initial drawing. I pulled off some of the tone from the figure, using a rag.

I began applying opaque colors, starting with the figure. I like to establish the basic relationship of light and shadow colors early. The leg and the left arm are darker because they'll be falling away from the spot light, as indicated in the charcoal drawing.

Then I blocked in the dark background. The sofa is going to be dark blue, and the rest of it is sort of nondescript dark tone. I kept it warmer to differentiate from the sofa.

And this is where I am now.  It's way too tight for my liking, actually. This usually happens when I'm not feeling confident, or just plain out of practice. Rendering tightly involves following rules of realism,  and having rules is safe because you don't have to think outside the box. Yes, you can take risks in many other ways, but when I paint tightly, those other ways are usually not on my mind. It's just insecurity, nothing more. 

So at this point, I'm letting it sit in my studio for several days. After it's dry, I will go back and see if I can't break some rules and infuse some energy by way of abstraction and surface work. Or not. I'm trying to keep things open ended on this one. I'm willing to ruin it, which should open up some possibilities.

Stay tuned!


  1. There is an ebb and flow to all forms of productivity whether we wish it so or not.

  2. I doubt me saying this will inspire you.... but I just wanted to say that your work inspires me!! :)