Terry Miura • Studio Notes

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

How The Ballerina Evolved

Late Rehearsal, 16 x 12 inches, oil on linen

It has been a very busy couple of months, what with multiple shows and workshops, but finally I have some time to sit down and reflect on things. I thought it might be a good time to do another blog post (sorry for the infrequency!) as I am having a hell of a time getting motivated to lift a brush. I think I just got a little burnt out from too much packed into the last couple of months. This usually happens when I don't pace myself.

But anyway, let's move on~  I wanted to talk about the painting I did for the Waterhouse Gallery's anniversary show, which opened a couple of weeks ago. 

I was cleaning my studio (read: procrastinating) and found the original drawing which I used for reference. I also had taken a snapshot of the B/W study I did,  so I thought I'd post them together to show how it evolved. 

The drawing is from a short pose session with a model. The pose is a 5 minute pose. I think I like this length the best; long enough for me to get the gesture and the shadow pattern information, but not long enough to over do it. It forces me to really think about what is essential, and prioritize what information needs to be recorded. There's no time for details or rendering.

The shadow information in the drawing, you'll notice, is just an indication of pattern. There's no value information other than the fact that I filled it in. I didn't modulate the values, neither in the shadows nor in the light. 

Of course that's not to say that I didn't see any value variations on the model. It's just that I didn't put them in. Partially because 5 minutes isn't very long (the filling-in takes like 10 seconds, usually at the end.  The rest of the time is spent on the linear stuff)  and also because I don't need that information for my purposes. 

I do need to record, however, what type of edge borders a shadow shape; a form shadow edge, which is indicated by softer lines drawn with the pencil lead flat against the paper and moving side ways, and the cast shadow edge, which are drawn by moving the pencil lengthwise so that I may get a sharper edge. On the lit area of the hip, the top of that shape is a cast shadow edge (arm casting shadow onto torso) and the bottom part is a form shadow edge (the form turns away from the light source gradually, so that edge is softer)

Sometimes I get sloppy when time is running out and in my haste I don't differentiate the two shadow edges. Example of that is the sliver of light you see on her calf. The top edge of the lit area should be sharper to indicate that it's a cast shadow edge. 

Not a big deal in this particular drawing, since it's not so difficult to decipher which are form shadow edges and which are cast shadow edges even if I didn't indicate them differently, because the lighting is fairly simple. But sometimes I do want that information recorded because the shapes may be confusing.

And this is the B/W oil study I did from the drawing. I changed the front leg a little bit to add more movement. 

Notice that in this study, there is quite a bit of value modulation both in the lights and the shadows. As I didn't have that information in the original drawing, this stuff is made up, but not without logic. Essentially I'm imagining where the light source is, and making a plane darker or lighter depending on how it is angled. If a plane faces the light source more, it becomes lighter.

On the shadow side, no plane faces the light source, obviously, but there is still value modulation. The value of the planes depend on how much bounced or ambient light it is receiving. But I don't adhere to that logic strictly - I like to play around and bring in some randomness or intentionally go against logic here.  The planes in the shadow side are fairly forgiving because in an interior, conceivably, you can control the lighting so many situations are within believable parameters. 

Ultimately, design has to drive decisions on value structure, not literal logic of where the secondary lights are coming from. If it looks good and doesn't look unreasonable, that's better than a correct note that nevertheless looks out of place. 

And this is what I ended up with. I painted on top of the B/W study, as is my M.O. for this series of figure studies. The most obvious change, besides the fact that it's in color, is the gesture of the arms.

I originally painted them more or less as I had done in the B/W version, but I thought it looked too much like a posed figure model in a classroom situation. I tried several arm positions until I noticed she looked like she may be dancing or otherwise being very careful about stepping - there was some purpose in the gesture.

I liked the pose, so I went with it. Added the leotard, which I love for it's dark value that allowed me to lose edges into the dark background. (And it fits the narrative)

The background is simple, but it took much experimenting to arrive at this solution. I basically decided on values of certain areas based on whether I could get away with not showing the figure's edge or not. Some parts had to be visible to give the viewer gesture or anatomical information, or may be because the line there was simply too beautiful to obscure. Other parts didn't contribute to the overall gestural rhythm, and losing those edges didn't compromise the believability of the gesture or anatomy, so I could lose them by melting the shapes together.

To be sure, there's no rule that guides me in deciding which edges must be shown and which can go - I typically lose every edge at one point or another. It's just trial and error. In this way, the figure and the background become more and more integrated, and I often stumble onto an unexpectedly cool stroke here and there. I try to keep them when I can, as long as they don't disrupt the unity of the painting as a whole.

The blue I used in this painting is mostly Paynes Grey. I've been using that a lot lately.

That's about it. I hope you found the process and the reasons behind my decision-making interesting!