Terry Miura • Studio Notes

Friday, December 5, 2014

A Start And A Finish

A Hint of Jasmin, 15 x 30 inches, oil on linen

Another recent favorite, A Hint of Jasmine (Click on image to enlarge) went through a lot of changes as well. The most obvious change is the color of the dress; it started out as a red dress, just like in the painting in the last post.

Somewhere along the way, the dress turned white. It's not because I wanted to express the idea of purity, or some other notion about this particular subject. The decision was a visual one. You see, I was having difficulty integrating that stark red into the rest of the painting. It seemed too isolated. By making it a white dress, I was able to lean the shadow areas toward violet, making them relate much more closely to the background.

At one point I had the background very dark. It was very dramatic, but also sinister in a way, so I brought light into it. The considerable back and forth resulted in more a involved abstract surface. Compared to the red dress stage, which was very early on, you can see the finished version has many more layers of pushing paint around.

In fact in the early stage, I was pushing paint around to find the light and shadow pattern in the folds of the drapery and the sheet. I was looking for shapes and values based on reality, whereas in the later stage, I'm going against it, in my effort to integrate and obscure.

The same comparison can be observed in the strokes that I used to paint the dress, her legs, arm, and hand; in the red stage the strokes describe form, or try to, anyway. The folds in the dress are painted fairly directly. It's straightforward. In the legs, the most visible strokes express the core shadows as the forms turn from light to shadow, meaning at this point, I'm sticking to "rules" of representational painting. In the later version, there are many notes that have nothing to do with describing form. They intrude and interrupt the conventional representation of form, becoming less about the figure lying there and more about the expression of the artist's (that's me!) identity.

It's very tricky to not lose sight of the subject completely, though, and I find it a struggle to maintain balance. I won this battle, but I lose many, too. One of these days, I hope to win more than I lose.


  1. When I first look at the earlier version, I think "what's wrong with that? I'd be very happy if I could paint that!" But then I look at how the changes you made, the abstraction of the surroundings, the white dress making the figure more luminous and sensuous, and I see how much more effective it is. You strike me as a pit bull of a painter; you get your teeth into a subject and you don't let go until you make the statement you are after. Bravo!
    And thank you endlessly for sharing your process with the rest of us.

    1. Thanks Mitch~! I like the pit bull comparison. I've never thought of myself that way though. I always think of it like like wack-a-mole; I fix one thing, and something else that needs fixing pops out. seemingly endlessly.

  2. Wow, these are both beautiful paintings. I'm curious - was the first version wet when you made the changes. Did you scrape off the red paint before applying the white dress or did you let it dry in between.

    1. Thanks Donna~ The red version was dry. Typically I work on a painting like this over weeks or months, a couple of hours or less per session, letting it dry, and coming back to it over and over. The main reason is that I need to let it "stew" in between sessions so that I can get a mental distance from the process, and come back with a fresh eye. In between sessions the painting just sits around in my studio until I notice something in it that needs working on. Sometimes it takes a loooong time (months?) before I notice something, so yes, I'm usually working back onto a dried surface.

      Oh, and I didn't scrape the red. Just worked on top of it.

  3. Thank you Terry for taking the time to post such a thorough response =)