Terry Miura • Studio Notes


Friday, March 20, 2015

Windy City




Windy City, 12 x 12 inches, oil on linen

One of my favorites from my Chicago series.  The greenish grey color that make up most of the painting is done with black, white, and yellow ochre. Just different amounts of each to create variations of one another. I probably had Transparent Oxide Red on the palette as well, and mixed it in a little bit to get a warmer variation here and there, but not much.

I introduced a few high chroma notes to break up the monotony, but I tried to limit color as much as possible. Why? Because I didn't think I needed them to get the mood I wanted. 

There are a couple of key strategic moves here to make this work. One is backlighting. Backlit objects naturally lend themselves to silhouette treatments, and that means flat shapes which are recognizable without details nor modeling. Flat shapes are much simpler than something that has to be defined through light and shadow patterns, but they have to be interesting and strong. 

When we view visual elements in a painting as flat shapes, it's much easier to push abstraction because we're not worried about rendering form to make something believable. Silhouettes are already flat shapes, so the mental jump from representational to abstraction is easier.

If a shape is so strong that you only need to define a part of it for it to be recognizable, it gives us further opportunity to abstract. We can connect shapes of similar value - in my painting, the foreground figure to the left and the right both lose a chunk of their contour to an adjacent/overlapping shape, yet they clearly maintain their reconizability. 

Connecting shapes simplifies the design, and more often than not creates a stronger impact. 

Backlighting also amplifies the atmospheric effect. So in order to create a believable sense of a backlit environment, I emphasized the atmospheric perspective in the buildings by making the values much lighter as we go back in space. The rate of increase in values is more drastic than if I were trying to represent a  less atmospheric condition. (the distance from the foreground to the farthest building might only be a quarter or half mile)  I didn't really worry about color and temperature being affected by atmosphere because this was pretty much a monochromatic set up.





The middle figure in the front is my focal point. The blond hair is the only place in the painting that color is used, and the value contrast there really helps to draw the eye there.  I also intentionally used more sharp edges and value contrasts in the rest of the figure as well. If you compare the middle figure with the ones toward the edges, it's easy to see the differences in the use of sharp edges and value contrasts. 

Overall, it looks pretty loosely painted, and it is, except for a select few areas where the edges were critical in order to define the gesture. Also I snuck in some linear perspective cues in the sidewalk, and the top left edge of the building with the windows. Additional suggestion of perspective is found in the left most building halfway up (see that slightly dark stroke?) and in the crosswalk lines. You can find more if you look closely, but I tried to obscure most of the initial perspective lines and leave just enough to define the space. 




The horizon line / eye level is that of an average person standing on level ground, which makes it easy to place figures in the picture; no matter where they are – close, far, left, right, or in the middle – their heads line up at the same eye level. I can also place cars more or less accurately - the roofs of sedans and coupes would be slightly lower than than the eye level, SUVs at or slightly higher, and trucks and buses above eye level. 

If you're transposing a photo, you don't have to worry about this stuff, but I find that photos are never perfect and I always need to move figures and cars around in order to design a better composition. Understanding the basic rules of linear perspective will allow you to do this, rather than be a slave to photo references, so it's well worth spending the time to learn the basics!

20 comments:

  1. Really nice! I really enjoy your explanations of the processes you use.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I carefully read all of your posts even though I never comment. This time though wanted to let you know how much I appreciate your posts and explanations. So keep posting please :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Fabrizio~! A comment like that does motivate me to keep posting :-) so Thanks!

      Delete
  3. Great thorough explanation, as always!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Judy! And thanks for always reading!

      Delete
  4. Really good explanations. Thanks for writing all this out for us!

    ReplyDelete
  5. Like Fabrizio above, it is time for me to say how much I am enjoying and getting out of these posts! thank you for the time and effort you are making for all of us, we really do appreciate it. One question: What kind of ground and color was the surface? Is it the yellow highlights on the tree or were they applied later?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Ray~! As long as I know these posts are useful, I'll try and keep 'em going :-D

      To answer your question, I started with thin washes of warm gray (a non-specific mixture of black, ochre, and Trans. Oxide Red) on white oil primed linen, and slowly built on top of that with opaque colors. I often use just black, or another favorite is Ultramarine + Transparent Oxide Red. For "brown" paintings, I've been using Asphaltum a lot lately for the underpainting.

      I tone the canvas if I know it's going to be a low-key, tonal painting. But if it's going to be a high key painting, I don't tone the canvas. My toned surface and underpainting are always neutral - I don't use yellow or red ground as some of my friends do. So... the yellow on the tree is added on opaquely at a later stage.

      Delete
  6. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    ReplyDelete
  7. I know you mentioned awhile ago about blog burnout because of thinking you always have to come up with something educational. I love how much you share here, and I learn a lot from your posts, but I just enjoy seeing your paintings too. So I hope you will continue to blog without pressuring yourself to come up with such valuable topics as today's post.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Roberta~ I really appreciate that!

      Delete
  8. You got my attention with your abstract, but recognisable work, Terry. I love your explanation on why you did several things! I mostly sketch lettering, with many contrasts and expressive colors, but I would love to keep your tips in mind with the next work I'll be making. I'm always in for new stuff! Take a look at my art blog if you want :)
    http://seck1.blogspot.nl/

    Seck1

    ReplyDelete
  9. Beautifully executed. Thank you for your insights.

    ReplyDelete