Terry Miura • Studio Notes

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

A Little Bit About Abstraction

I think I've mentioned before that my abstracted figures usually begin as fairly straightforward renderings. I pay attention to design, drawing, color relationships and value structure... all the basic things, but I'm not thinking too much about how it'll look abstracted.

Then slowly I start to look for ways to take out information, usually by finding opportunities to lose edges between adjacent shapes.

The two images are two stages of a same painting. On the first one, I've just started to lose edges after being satisfied with a straightforward description. You can see where I lost the edge between the sheet and her thigh, and again at her calf. Also the shadow areas on her lower leg is beginning to get a little nebulous.

Her left upper arm appears to have a section missing, where I just extended the dark background into the flesh.

The second image is the finished picture, much further into the abstraction process. There's almost no separation between the sheet and the leg. You can clearly see that my intend was not to separate flesh from fabric, but light from shadow. Since the flesh and the fabric were both in light, I grouped them together as one.

I went further and blurred the whole lower leg area, dragging the light value over the shadow. I just needed to indicated that the legs were there. I didn't need any other detail to tell my story.

Melting light into light and shadow into shadow happens elsewhere, too. In fact I try to do it where ever I can. But if I did it too much, all of a sudden I don't have anything recognizable. I don't want to end up with a completely non-representational abstract painting–nothing wrong with that, if that's your aim, but it's not mine–so when I start to lose too much, I redefine what I lost.

It's a lot of back and forth, really. And as I'm losing losing edges here and there, I'm also trying to decide where to have my sharp edges.

I try to use them very sparingly. Like exclamation points in a paragraph. If you use too many of them, nothing stands out as important. 

So the process is a pursuit of balance... or a purposeful imbalance between sharp edges and lost ones. Like tension and release. 

It's like jazz, man...


  1. Wonderful concept and interpretation. I admire all of your work Terry.

  2. Oh goody! Thanks SO MUCH! Exactly the pearls I needed! I've been restless in realism! Thanks Jazzman ;)