Terry Miura • Studio Notes

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Small Gems Exhibition

 Serving Drinks, 8 x 8 inches, oil on linen

I just sent off these three paintings down South to be framed, and then shipped to Waterhouse Gallery in Santa Barbara for their upcoming exhibition, Small Gems. All the paintings in this show are 8 x 8 inches.

Group shows are a lot less pressure on the artist than solo shows for obvious reasons. And these being very small pieces, they were perfect for coming out of a rut. They actually took several weeks (working off and on) which is a whole lot longer than they should have taken. I trashed another three because they sucked.

But I'm pretty happy with these guys. One of the effective ways of getting out of a rut is to go back to your comfort zone, and for me, that means limited, earth tone palette.  Here I'm using Titanium White, Ivory Black, Yellow Ochre, Transparent Red Oxide, and a little bit of Prussian Blue.

Keeping things simple, is my goal so I can focus on values, edges, and design. Color complicates things exponentially, and while beautiful paintings can be created with a lot of color, so too, can happen with minimum amount. I mean look at Velazquez. Rembrandt. Duveneck. Da Vinci.

When I don't have color to rely on for impact, I try to make sure I have enough oomph in value contrasts. By using a full value range from black to white, and placing sharp edges and high contrasts strategically, one can create a design that is both impactful and understated.

And speaking of edges, I try to lose them in a lot places. The visible edges are manipulated so the softer edges and lower contrasts allow shapes to exist, but not compete with more obvious areas of interest. Even sharper edges have degrees of sharpness coupled with calculated value contrasts so that there is a hierarchy of importance, all of which lead up to the maximum impact at the server's right shoulder.  Edge + contrast = impact. Vary them to create a hierarchy of importance. Every edge should be considered, none are accidental or arbitrary.  It's like choosing words for poetry. You can't just spit them out; you have to give them some thought.

6, 8 x 8 inches, oil on linen

For this one, I didn't use any Prussian blue, but added a bright red (Permanent Red) to my palette. Cityscapes are hard to do, what with all the perspective drawing issues and clutter management. The simplest kind of cityscape painting, I think, is like this; an elevation view.  No perspective to deal with, and everything is pretty much a flat shape. The challenge is to make it interesting. Because it's so easy to make this type of painting boring. 

I'm employing diagonals and lateral movement (the figure is walking) to break up the monotony of flatness. And also, I made sure that the flat shapes are painted not flat and solid, but with plenty of surface interest, like paint strokes, visible textures, and gradations. 

All the vertical flat surfaces technically had the same amount of light shining on them, meaning uniform and consistent value within a shape. So the gradations and variations that you see are entirely subjective. They're imposed on the design, not observed.

Palms, 8 x 8 inches, oil on linen

This one obviously has some perspective. One point, plus heavy atmospheric perspective dominate the structure. I wanted that warm Southern California light and this was my solution. The light source is overhead and to the right, but for all intents and purposes, I treated it like backlighting. Backlighting simplifies the shapes (hardly any detail anywhere) while amplifying the mood, so it's a great device. The mechanics of this type of atmosphere was the focus of my workshop a few weeks ago.

No red in this one, (other than trans. red. oxide) but I did use ultramarine to mix the greens in the foremost trees. 

Small Gems exhibition opens February 15th at the Waterhouse Gallery in Santa Barbara. there will be some great pieces in this show by fabulous painters, so if you're looking to begin or add to your collection, this is a good show to find some true gems!


  1. Hi Terry. I've been meaning to stop by and tell you how thrilled I was to see some of your work in person at the Boston International Art fair in November. I knew they were yours instantly, even before reading the name on the tag. Isn't that amazing about an artist who paints with their own true voice? You can pick them right out of a crowd!

    These small works are beautiful as well. Anyone would benefit by owning one of your works! Such passion and emotion captured...

    Have a great day!

  2. Well thank you for that supreme compliment! Seriously, I couldn't ask for anything more~