Terry Miura • Studio Notes

Friday, March 24, 2017

Same Pose, Different Angle

I host a weekly figure painting session at my studio. It's three hours of the same pose (with breaks of course) so that we can really slow down and take our time painting the figure. 

I do like taking it slow and spending the time necessary to develop a painting, but most of the time, I really enjoy quicker sketches in these sessions. I used to have the model do two or three different poses in the three hour period, which I thought was just great for doing exercises in being decisive about colors and strokes, not to mention there isn't time to overwork the painting.

But it turns out, most of the artists who come to the sessions wanted more time on a pose, not less. So now we just have one pose. To satisfy my needs, I just move to a different spot each time, and voila! I have a new pose.

Sometimes I stay at the same spot, but shift my focus so that I'm doing a different study. In this case, I did a full figure sketch, and then a head sketch. 

I may try a different color scheme, or different materials, or a different process. I really think you get a lot of bang for your buck when you do quick studies. 

The above black/white painting and the two following are from the same session. I decided to work only in black and white. The first one is a 9x 12 sketch, using Ivory Black and Titanium White on oil-primed linen. I was basically interested in organizing the values into simple categories. No time was spent on modeling, really. 

And then for the second study, I switched to a 20 x 16 sheet of cheap cotton canvas. This is more of a drawing than a painting. I started out drawing the figure with the brush, liked what I saw, so I stopped there. 

And then I wondered how it would look if I kept going, so I did another sketch, from a different angle. It's still a quickie, may be 40 minutes on this one. Again, the value structure is kept very simple - no time to do anything more than simple.

Another day, another session. A simple color scheme, simple shapes. It's easy to fall into the trap of overdoing the details, especially of facial features. We feel like we have to make our painting look like the model. How many times have you said, or have you heard others say apologetically, "it doesn't look like him/her, but..." without being asked?  Sure, likenessess are important, if you say so. 

But since I'm not all that interested in painting likenesses, it doesn't bother me too much if my sketch doesn't resemble the model.  I'm more interested in simplifying the shapes and forms. I'm more interested in not putting in details. I'm more interested in trying to get away with as little as possible. (I often paint only one eye, or omit painting the mouth all together)  

If I end up with a nice painting that doesn't look like the model, that's far better than a poorly executed painting that nevertheless looks like the model. 

Needless to say, a great sketch that also captures the likeness of the model would be ideal, but that doesn't happen to me very often.

Doing these quickies gives me a lot of opportunities to explore many aspects of painting, and I learn a lot from doing them. Pursuing detail or the likeness for three hours is not for me, unless I have a specific time-consuming problem to solve.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

More Maui

Across the Water, 16 x 12 inches, oil

OK so I had more sketches from Maui. After having them spread out in my studio for a week or so, I decided to work back into them. This is what happens to most of my plein air paintings if I hang on to them a while. I start playing the "what if?" game. What if the sky was lighter? darker? smaller? larger? What if the green was yellower? Bluer? Grayer? What if there were more detail? less?

In this way, I think about other ways I might have approached the painting in the first place, and once I have a new idea, I have to try it out. What if it didn't work? Well, that happens a lot and I end up throwing away the painting, but that's not a bad thing because I will have taken risks and tried something. I may have learned something I otherwise never would have. 

If I'm willing to kill it, I can take greater risks, and sometimes I get the best accidents this way. And yes, sometimes, it devolves into a mess. 

I didn't change too much on Across the Water, but I did add more paint on top and grayed down the water. Sorry I don't have the "before" picture to compare against - didn't think to take pictures. 

Honokeana, 9 x 12, oil   sold

I painted this one from my friend Jean's balcony overlooking the Honokeana Cove in Napili. A beautiful little cove with turtles gliding around in the water.

This was a quickie - I spent may be 45 minutes or an hour? The green stuff originally was really bright (as in high chroma) which I didn't like much, so back in the studio, I knocked down the chroma quite a bit. At the same time, I simplified the rocks. 

What I like about this little study is the colors in the sky. It's not literal, but a green-bias imposed upon it. The idea being achieving a tighter harmony with the ocean and the bushy stuff. 

The sky right above the horizon is basically just a lighter version of the color of the water. The lit parts of the cloud mass is still lighter, with a little yellow thrown in to warm it up a bit. Essentially a monochromatic structure with a slight bend so that it doesn't look too monochromatic.

On Island Time, 9 x 12 inches, oil on linen

On Island Time changed a lot. It had a road going up the middle of it, with road signs and fence posts and such. Fewer palms, and the mountain mass filled the background, no sky. It's an entirely different painting now. 

The original was just too disorganized. A little too snap-shotty and not designed thoughtfully. Sometimes it's OK to faithfully present the scene exactly, but in this case, I didn't think it worked. I liked the mood though, so I tried to hang on to that aspect. 

Passing Rain, 9 x 12 inches, oil on linen   sold

I was interested in showing the palm trees lit up agains the dark sky. The painting originally showed a more active, dramatic sky with lighter parts as well as darker areas. I thought it was too busy and took away from the palm tree, so I subdued the activity in the sky. I also moved a few of the secondary palms around, tried changing sizes and how they were lit, etc. before arriving at this composition.

Hotel Street, Lahaina, 12 x 12 inches, oil on linen

This one doesn't look much like the original, either. This was actually a 12 x 16 panel - four more inches to the left side, on which a brightly lit side of the Pioneer Inn was painted. 

This (the original) was the very first painting I did in Maui, during the kick-off paint out in Lahaina. I stayed fairly true to the actual scene, which, unfortunately was why the composition was problematic. Too many statements competing for attention.

Back at home, I tried subduing all the other attention seeking elements - the brightly lit Inn, big contrast between sky and the green mountainside (the sky was a lot bigger), light and shadow patterns creating busy notes at the far end of the street, and the parked car with a lot more detail and hard edges.

Just lessening the impact on some of these elements didn't do the trick, so I decided to crop out the left side.

I added the figure crossing the street later, because the street was a big passive area after I took away the sunlight hitting its surface (again, too much impact) and I needed something there to break up the space. 

I think I can keep working on this one further. At this point, it's a playground for experimentation, so I'm not overly protective of what I've already done to it. I do like the abstract quality of it. If this painting allows me do this sort of abstraction more readily on my next paintings, that's a valuable "catch", even if the painting itself ultimately bites the dust!

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Two Upcoming Workshops!!

If you're reading this blog, you are probably an artist. May be you're a landscape painter, or you work with the figure, or may be your love is for cityscapes? Whatever it is, you know it's all  interrelated, and you know painting from observation is an important part of the discipline.

It's not easy, no. If it were, you probably wouldn't be reading this blog. You probably wouldn't be addicted to painting. But you are. I know I am.

It took me many years and thousands of paintings to learn some essential principles and techniques in painting, and I have been sharing those little nuggets of wisdom (not my wisdom, to be sure. But of the accumulated, collective knowledge of thousands that came before you and me) on this here blog.

But there are limits to what I can communicate with a few images and a bunch of typed up words. If you find the information on Studio Notes useful or interesting, but are frustrated because you're having trouble applying this knowledge to your own work, I have a couple of opportunities coming up where I will be able to show you exactly what I mean, and answer any questions that you may have about this painting thing. Or at least, I will do my best to answer them. I cannot tell you what Rembrandt ate for breakfast, but I can show you how to create that subtle edge, or that evocative moody gray sky.

Here are the two workshops I'll be teaching in a coupla months. They are both three-day plein air landscape painting workshops*.

May 19 - 21 Bainbridge Island, WA
Winslow Art Center
Info and registration: https://www.winslowartcenter.com/workshops.php

Bainbridge Island is a beautiful little island just a short ferry ride away from Seattle. It's very green, and there are boats and water to challenge us. I taught here a couple of years ago, and I loved painting there!

October 6 - 8 Lowell, MI
Franciscan Life Process Center
Info and registration: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/terry-miura-plein-air-strategies-tickets-24439507224

Lowell is a picturesque farm country just outside of Grand Rapids. And I mean picturesque! Beautiful barns and silos, gardens and riverscape, old structures with lots of character... And the Franciscan Life Process Center has very comfortable accommodations for very reasonable prices. Gotta love that!

Both of these workshops are open to all levels, but I highly recommend at least some outdoor painting experience before coming to the workshop. Never painted outside? Hey, you still got time to get out there and see what makes it so hard but addicting! If you're still unsure, sign up with a friend!

If you missed out on a previous workshop, don't miss out this time around - workshops do fill up, so if you're at all interested, don't wait!

Hope to see you in Washington in May, or in Michigan in October!

*In adverse weather, we will be working indoors using photos and sketches for references.