Terry Miura • Studio Notes

Friday, January 17, 2014

Seated Nude, Continued

OK, so this is where we left off last time. What I wanted to do was basically add a lot more surface activity and keep pushing abstraction. I kept painting on top of it with some glazing, direct opaque painting, some scraping, etc. When I start getting into playing with the paint surfaces, I start using more medium (Liquin). If I'm doing a straightforward more-or-less conservative representational painting, I don't use any mediums. Just a little bit of Gamsol to thin the paint if necessary. My washes are done with Gamsol as well.

One thing I wanted to explore was the blue shape of the sofa vs. the black shape of the shadowy parts of the sofa. I was trying to find shapes that worked for me purely as abstract elements, and not really confining myself to where the darker areas would be in reality. The shapes changed many times as I tried this and that.

I ended up creating a separation between the sofa and the floor, mainly to define the environment a little bit, and introduce another color. Now that I look at it on my computer screen, I rather like not having the floor defined. I may go back to that after all. I don't know yet.

In looking for ways to lose edges without losing the integrity of the visual information, I decided to darken the left side of the figure, and make that edge disappear into the shadows. As I said in the last post, it's the most obvious way to lose an edge. 

While I liked the expressive marks on the painting overall, and the colors seemed to be working together well, I noticed that all that painting and repainting resulted in the loss of the all-important gesture. The fluidity of the original drawing somehow got lost. 

Five years ago, I probably would have talked myself out of fixing it. After all it wasn't a bad painting. But I can't deny the fact that the figure became too stiff, and I know that it really isn't a big deal to redraw the figure and repaint it. This painting was supposed to be a vehicle for exploration anyway. I need to remember not to feel too precious about anything in this painting.

The gesture, after all, was the original concept when I did the five-minute sketch. If the primary concept isn't communicated, it's a failure no matter how I slice it.  So I went back to my drawing color (Ultramarine+Trans. Oxide Red+Gamsol) and redrew it, using the original drawing as reference.

I also decided that the easy, fluid rhythm of the gesture was dependent on showing the left edge of the figure, where its graceful curve defines the gesture. That meant I couldn't lose that edge in the dark shadows.  So I lightened the shadow areas on the left side of the torso, and made the most of the gentle curve there.

The redefined gesture works much better. I think we are getting close.

So I'm going to let this dry for another few days and come back to it. Right now, the figure is painted traditionally. (Again) And I want to bring back some of the abstract quality of the second image on this post, without losing the redefined gesture.

This painting sure is taking a long time. It's a small painting (12 x 9 inches) which means considering the number of hours that went into it, I'll probably make minimum wage if I ever sell this thing. I wish I were more efficient, but then again, exploration without expectation is a lot more fun than churning out merchandise. I just have to strike a balance so that I can also pay my bills.


  1. I'm really intrigued by your process and your thoughts as you work on this piece. Especially the notion of starting with realism and pushing toward abstraction. That really inspires me. I hope you do more posts like this. It's a gorgeous painting!

  2. Thanks again for sharing your thought process and your exploration. I'm loving the outcome. It helps to have that kind of attitude, if you don't think too much about the bills!

  3. Love following your adventures, Terry. It encourages me to continue to push working layered, as I've been painting alla prima only for the last couple of years.

    Back and forth, back and forth.
    I think the result is beautiful.

  4. Thanks for your feed back Katherine~ I sure will do more posts like these. It's nice to know I'm not just talking to myself!

  5. Randy, thanks! Yes, it's always better when you feel like you can take risks. Deadlines kinda kill the creativity.

    Your NYC painting developing is fun to watch!

  6. Thanks Johan! I like working alls prima also, but I'm not a purist by any stretch. I think I enjoy the process of exploration because of the intrinsic uncertainty. If there is uncertainty, there is discovery, and that's thrilling. When the outcome is predictable–even if it's a good outcome– it kinda gets boring.