Terry Miura • Studio Notes

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Chapter Four: The Paint Thickens

Continuing with the series of figures with books, this one evolved from a study done fairly quickly at a life painting session. I liked the natural- looking pose, but the painting wasn't very interesting- it just had the figure on the chair, very thinly painted. And no background props.

After thinking about it for a few weeks, I decided to use it to experiment with some thicker paint applications. Pushing gooey paint around is a lot of fun, and a great exercise in resisting the urge to overmodel and oversmooth the surface.

I have been trying to think more abstractly, which is really difficult to do. If I think too much about the anatomy or the accuracy of drawing, it becomes more representational. If I don't think about those things, yes it becomes more abstract, but more often than not, it just looks sloppy and unskilled.

I'm not sure if I'm looking for a duality, or a balance, but as I struggle with this some thoughts keep coming back;

  • Drawing is paramount. Without solid drawing, A painting just doesn't hold up.
  • But I can't overthink the drawing.
  • I have to be practicing drawing all the time, so that I can trust my hand to deliver solid drawing-based strokes without having to focus my mind on it.
  • By not focusing on it, I can think more abstractly.
  • Still, if my hand fails and the drawing is bad, I got nuffin'
  • In which case try, and try again. Each time, trusting my hand and not focusing.
  • I don't want a passage to be an accumulation of small drawing fixes. That only moves the area towards the literal and the predictable.
  • Think and make decisions about color and value of a given stroke before I put the stroke down. If it's decided on the palette, I don't have to think about it when I actually apply the stroke on the canvas.

Above is a sketch I did very quickly on gessoed cotton canvas. I don't like this surface very much, but sometimes I use it just to experiment and play around - if I'm lucky I might make some small discovery, which is always exciting. 

This time around, I limited the time I had to 25 minutes - essentially not allowing me enough time to dwell on details or modeling. I focused on the gesture, and simple color/value relationships. The little desk she's leaning on, and the chair she's sitting on actually were fairly ornate antique pieces, but I chose to not describe any of it - no time!  I really had to be clear about what simple statements I could make, and how simply I could make it. 

You may find it surprising (or not) but the strokes in this painting are actually very slowly and deliberately applied. There are some quick strokes, but those are very few, and they too are deliberately executed. 

If you want to paint faster, use fewer strokes, not faster ones. And if you have to do it in fewer strokes, those strokes had better be of correct intended color and value, and they need to be put down exactly where you want them. And that requires drawing skills. So yeah, it all goes back to practicing drawing all the time. 

There's no way around it. 


  1. Thanks for posting. Always a great reminder to sit and draw, I know it help to train my brain for better paintings. Love your style!

  2. Hi Terry. I just discovered your work. What you do is just marvelous. Do you have any books or teaching videos available? I'd love to watch you paint. I'd come to a workshop or class (you live close to my original home town) but I live in France now and the travel distance is prohibitive ;^p. I am a fellow ACCD graduate, though I really can not hold a candle to you.