Terry Miura • Studio Notes


Thursday, May 8, 2014

Prologue


Prologue,  16 x 20 inches, oil on linen


This is a recent painting that I did. 

It's 16 x 20 - a pretty good size–I'm trying to work larger of late. For reference, I used an old charcoal sketch - a 20 minute drawing, which had no color information so I made up the colors as I painted. I work this way often. I like the freedom of being able to imagine the colors and not being bound to what's in front of me. 

How long did I spend on this? May be 12 or 15 hours, over 4 or 5 sessions. I usually work a couple of hours at a time, and often at night under artificial light, so after a couple of hours, the glare on the paint surface becomes such that it's very difficult to see my strokes. I then stop, rather than fight it. I let it dry for a few days and come back to it.

When I use solvent to apply dark colors as transparent washes, the area dries matte and much lighter in value and looks completely different from areas which retained the glossy surface (because I didn't use solvent, for example)  A coat of Liquin (or any other painting medium) over the dried surface  brings back the values and lustre to the wet state, so I can judge values and colors properly. This is called oiling-in.

Often, when I come back to a dried painting to work on it some more, I end up putting paint over the whole thing, mainly because I'm looking for wet-into-wet strokes and you just can't fake that, even on top of a oiled-in surface. And I don't want to fake a stroke, anyway.

Some abstract strokes are done wet on dry. I look for opportunities to do this each time I come back to a dried painting. I love the sharp edges that look like it was masked with a frisket. But I want these areas to be integrated into wet-into-wet strokes, or juxtaposed against more brushy, textural strokes, so there's quite a bit of scraping and reapplying of paint of different viscosities and opacities.

At one point I had the shadow side of the figure, including the dress, much darker so as to lose the edges between these shadows and the cast shadow shape on the couch itself, connecting them. After going back and forth a few times, I decided to lighten the shadow on the dress. because the shapes flowed better. It could have worked with a dark shadow, too. Just not the same mood.

My process for abstraction varies, but often in the beginning stages, the painting looks pretty much straightforward alla prima. More or less traditional representational direct painting. If such a thing can be defined. What I mean is that I'm just painting reasonably "realistically" in terms of colors and values, and nothing really exaggerated. My strokes are not super tight, but not really all that loose either.

Abstraction happens slowly for me. First i'll lose one edge, then another. Then I might redefine a lost edge. Then I may lose it again. After a while, I'll get braver and start losing edges in unexpected areas. (Expected areas being dark shapes adjacent to each other) I may load up an area with color, and using a knife or a brush or a scraper or a finger, drag that paint into an area next to it, whether the color/values are close or not.  Then I may do the same from the other side back into the original shape. Obviously colors and edges become mixed in ways that has nothing to do with rendering of form, and this often brings about surprising results. It's easy to do this in areas of low risk, like the green couch into the dark background. Not so easy (psychologically) to do where drawing is critical, like the lit part of the figure into the background.

Naturally, I become protective of areas where it took a lot of work to get it to look like what it should, whether it be a head, or an arm, or something which requires careful perspective drawing like buildings and cars. Chances of losing all that hard work in an instant is very high, so it takes me a while before I work up the courage to do those areas.

But once I'm ready, I don't turn back. Because I can't. More often than not, cursing immediately follows the first try at this non-representational integration of adjacent shapes. Then I'm resigned to do it all over again by finding the more traditional, realistic depiction again- that is to say, I painted again realistically, so that I may take another whack at it.

The second time is easier. Because I'd been able to resurrect the believable head (or arm or car or whatever) once. I feel better about my capacity to repaint that difficult passage. And because I feel more confident, I'm willing to take the risk again, and this time, I may smoosh the areas with less trepidation, and that makes all the difference.

Truth be told, I sometimes have to repeat this process of painting representationally and deconstructing in a non representational manner, many, many times on one small area. If it's a labor intensive area like a human head or a hand, it can take a loooong time before I either concede defeat, or finally end up with something that works.

Seems to me like an awfully ineffective way to paint, but I haven't been able to find a way to speed things up. I guess because if I had a way to do this, that would be a formula which totally misses the point of my attitude toward abstraction. The process of abstraction for me, has to be exploration of the mysterious, grappling with something not entirely controllable, and the rush I get from going outside of my comfort zone and letting go of control.

So there. Did any of that make sense? I'm having a glass of wine as I type, so I'm not really sure if I'm actually articulating what's in my head, or whether I have anything in my head worth articulating. I'll read this tomorrow and find out!



11 comments:

  1. Great post, I am having a glass of wine also :0 That said, it actually resonates with me as I am in the midst of something similar too, love your work

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  2. I'm SO glad you wrote this post so openly and honestly about your thought process as you paint and then reconstruct. I have to let my work evolve slowly too, I'm realizing. That's part of my own thought process. I want to try moving toward a bit of abstraction by blurring some edges, and like you, I'm so hesitant to do that. Thanks for sharing how you approach the concept of deconstruction. Your painting is so incredibly gorgeous and powerfully moving!

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    1. Thanks Katherine~! I'm glad you could relate to it :-D

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  3. I so much appreciate this information. It all makes good sense. Thanks for the post!

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    1. Thanks Sue~! I read it again this morning and it still made sense so all's good.

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  4. I'd love to see this in real, because the process you describes results in a number of layers on top of eachother that cannot be achieved by painting alla pima. It causes for a lot of things to happen in your painting that we can't see from a photograph. It's something I've been working on myself lately... letting go and getting it back multiple times on larger works. As a control freak, it's really hard to let go but as you mention, when you find back the forms in such manner and to such a degree that it works well, it's a real kick. Great post, Terry! You describe everything so well, it's a pleasure to read.

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    1. Thanks Johan~! I think that I start "realistically", to satisfy my control freak self first, then I feel free to let go. Since I don't ever want my reason for abstracting to be "because I can't draw or paint in a traditional manner." I don't ever want my abstraction to be a disguise for a lack of skill.

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  5. Wendy BerminghamMay 11, 2014 at 4:44 AM

    Thanks for that Terry. It made me feel so much better about having to go over certain areas in my painting over and over again to get the look I want....to lose an edge but keep the form, for example can be very frustrating somtimes and I start to second guess myself and my artistic abilities. It's nice to see that someone as talented as you, struggles to get it right sometimes and that it takes time and many layers. Great post!

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    1. Thanks Wendy~! So you see that it's not talent. Just trying and trying over and over :-)

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  6. Wendy BerminghamMay 14, 2014 at 5:47 PM

    most definitely...thanks Terry :))

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