Terry Miura • Studio Notes

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Figure Drawing

I am in the middle of writing an article about figure drawing. I had no idea where to start, so I just began jotting down anything and everything that came to mind about figure drawing and very quickly, it became apparent that this is a subject matter far broader than can be covered in one article. Well, duh, right?

So I decided to narrow the scope down to just short-pose gesture drawing, which, after all, is my forte. But guess what. The scope is still too big! I had to narrow down still, so I thought I'd focus on the technical aspects of it - after all, that is what I get asked about most often. 

Which is just as well, because though I study the Old Masters' drawings, I can never keep the historical facts and names straight, much less articulate figure drawing in historical contexts. Talking about anatomy is not that interesting, either.  Yes, the knowledge of anatomy is essential, but to write about it is really boring. Besides, who wants to read about anatomy in an article? 

So it comes down to technique, and I have further narrowed the scope to economy of line. This is something I stress in my classes and workshops - when working with two to five minute poses, we can't afford to waste our time drawing unnecessary lines. There's just not enough time to render form, either. We have to get the maximum information on paper in very few strokes and make them look good.

How do we do that?

Well, that's the subject of my article. I'm not even close to finishing it, but at least I've narrowed it down to a manageable scope.

Hopefully, I can finish it soon and get it published. If not, you'll still see it here on this blog in some form or another.

If you are interested in drawing or painting the figure, especially the gestural approach, I want to let you know that I will be conducting a five-day intensive workshop in Atlanta, in mid September. The workshop will cover short pose gestures like what I've shown on this post, and how to build on that to quickly define light and shadow. Then we move onto toned paper with sanguine and conte, which transitions logically to limited palette painting. 

We'll cover all that in just five days, so it's very intensive. But I guarantee you'll get a lot out of it. 

For more information please go to the workshop page on my website.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Going Home, 24 x 48 inches, oil on panel  sold

I did several smaller paintings similar to this, exploring abstraction and compositional ideas, and this is the culmination of the series. At 24 x 48, it's a pretty good size, and it gave me a lot of trouble from start to finish. 

I don't know what possessed me to paint on a gessoed panel, but that's what I did. I struggled with the brushwork, but I think in the end I learned a lot about working on a hard surface. Mainly, that I don't like it. But I have to admit, it gave me a lot of abstract marks that I would never have gotten (on purpose, anyway) on linen, which is the surface that I use most often.

The process I use for large cityscapes with a lot of abstraction might be described as tight control -> chaos -> tight control. I started out by drawing all the elements (a lot more than you actually see in the final painting. All the cars in the distance were delineated, for example) in pencil using a grid, a pencil, and three reference photos. I don't have a wide angle lens on my DSLR, so I usually just stitch a few together for a wide angle composition like this.

Then as I usually do with any painting, I went in with dark transparent mix of ultramarine, transparent oxide red, and Gamsol and blocked in the big value patterns in two or three values, thinking at this stage about where I can lose edges and simplify.

I then proceeded to do a more complete grisaille by breaking up the big value patterns into smaller shapes and in-between values. Doing it this way (as opposed to going in with many values from the get-go) ensures that the big design is always maintained. It prevents fragmenting the design. (But only if you're doing it conscientiously).

So far, I'm still in control. Then I started going over the entire painting with opaque colors, making sure that every color is a variation of the main theme color, which in this case is an earthy yellow/orange. In a tonal painting like this, the actual local color is much less relevant than harmony.

Now comes the chaos part. I used all kinds of tools, from palette knives, to plastic scrapers, sandpaper, paper towel, brushes, and materials like Liquin and Gamsol, to slowly integrate the shapes. Pushing one shape into another, reestablishing the edge, and losing it again, sometimes working the same edge over and over.

I also did several layers of wet over dry, in the form of scumbling, glazing, staining, etc. The more I worked the surface, the more comfortable I felt about losing a critical edge, and I took more risks. At one point, the entire painting was covered in black glaze, which I then wiped/washed off.

I built up the surface this way, and when I felt I couldn't go any further, I started to tighten up again, in strategic areas, trying not to lose all the beautiful abstract marks.

When I thought I was finished, I just set it aside. After a few days it would dry, and I would see something I wanted to change. I'd work on it for a few minutes or hours, and set it aside. Then after a few more days, I'd see something else, and I repeat. This last part went on for a couple of months. Each time, I would make a small change, and let dry a few days.

Finally, I no longer saw anything and I was very happy with the painting. It was gritty, moody, simple and complex at the same time, and I was able to further my limits of abstraction from where I had been before I did this painting. That was the best part for me.

The painting left the studio soon after, and it wasn't surprising that it sold before long. To be honest, this was one I would like to have kept for myself. I kind of miss it!

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Just How Popular is Plein Air Painting?

Here I am conducting a plein air demo during my workshop this past weekend.

I have noticed that in recent years, plein air painting has become very popular, and have indeed grown into an industry of sorts. But I did not realize just how popular, until this weekend when I showed up in Locke to do my workshop and was surprised to learn that two of the students who had signed up didn't quite fit the typical demographic.

Nonetheless, they were very attentive and I think they enjoyed the demo. They had to leave early because they forgot to bring their gear. Later I saw them hanging out in front of Al the Wops, the town bar looking like they owned the place. I think may be they did.

I was going to write about about my workshop at some length, but after three days I am exhausted.

Thanks Jim, for taking the photo!