more about paintings


I first observed madrone trees in Berkeley in the fall of 1963. They can grow to be sizable trees with smooth sinuous curvilinear trunks. I sketch them,  and sometimes incorporate madrone-based forms in my drawings and paintings. 

Madrone branch



Art is Really Important

Gurdon Miller


background image on

The red trash can lid in the madrone limb photo resonates with the red-colored circle in the smaller painting below and to the left, the orange center of the madrone-inflected painting to the right, and the orange circles in the larger painting below. All interact visually with respect to their color and form. The orangish color of the yellow paint container among the white ones stacked on the studio floor resonates with the  yellow paint on the paintings below. 

The the circular forms of the paint containers reinforce the circular forms of the paintings. The fact that they are stacked cylinders, and mostly white, contrasts with the two dimensional colorful paintings. This heightens the visual interest of the photograph.


two easels

The composition of the photograph to the left, particularly the resonance between the nearly black corners of the paintings, and of the black curtains in the doorway, and the interaction and tension between the various rectangular shapes, at various angles to one another, creates visual interest that is enhanced by the orientation of the larger canvas to near parallel alignment with the plane of the surface of the photograph.

The curves in the frame of the bentwood chair contrast with, and thereby amplify, the rectilinearity of the furniture and stacked canvases. Those curves also resonate with the circular forms in the paintings, and the curves of the madrone branch.


Up and to the right is a circular form painting of similar motif, composition, and coloration, to the paintings above. It illustrates the  interaction between the contrasting blue lines and orange area of the painting.

The three brownish-maroon lines in the canvas to the right are an example of the madrone motif that I sometimes use in my paintings. 

To add contrast, and strengthen the visual impact of the painting, I applied a layer of dark blue over the portion of the diagonal line running through the orange center of the canvas.

 Look closely at paintings. Observe variations in the thickness and texture of the paint, whether canvas — painted or bare — is visible, or whether traces of an underlying sketch or diagram are present. Did the artist scrape off and repaint something? Try to imagine how the artist made the painting. 

       Making a Painting

It began with a birch and spruce bog in the taiga near the University of Alaska's Large Animal Research Lab in Fairbanks. 

I took several cellphone snapshots of the bog, and I printed a copy of one of the photos.  I made sketches of that image, and a small painting based on it. I then began a larger version of the painting.

Each iteration involved rearranging and simplifying the paintings.

This photo illustrates the state of the large canvas as of 9:15 pm, July 31, 2022.

Flathead Lake #39

I am not interested in painting pictures, and I was dissatisfied with the naturalistic feel of the large canvas. That night, and over the next two days I reworked the canvas. The results are shown to the right. 

To see the final version of the painting, Click the link to the right.


Preliminary Study

study: Alaska Bog painting

Considerable work was required to finish the painting. 

The final version of the painting diverges considerably from the actual scene, and from the small study. 

Note the smoothed edges of the intensified white areas of the images to the right – also the application of yellow to the triangular area on the upper right corner of finished painting.

Compare the refinement of the shape of blue form adjacent to the vertical  thick white line between these two images.

        initial             final                             

 upper right corner in process and final


click to see the final painting
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