Painting the Girl with the Pearl Earring

Close up painting of the Girl with the Pearl Earring by Mairi Budreau

Close up underpainting

Girl with Pearl Earring - the underpainting stage

Girl with Pearl Earring – the underpainting stage

drawing by Mairi Budreau of the Girl with the Pearl Earring

Drawing “map”

I’m in the underpainting stage of the Girl with the Pearl Earring and this morning I think it’s getting close to where the painting needs to be left to dry before the next stage. Comparisons are made and more painting is needed. More comparisons and more painting, adjustments and squeaky tweaks – this repeats about 8 more times and 6 hours go by. The lesson here is, I don’t go far enough in my own paintings.

Mind you, making a copy of a painting is not like originating a painting out of your personal lens. Copying is, well, copying and valuable as a learning tool.

For example, drawing a painting poses questions, do I draw the obvious paint strokes or the subject represented? I went for both.
She has nebulous lips, especially the lower one, don’t think about how it looks, just keep going.
Her nose is not well rendered and Vermeer minimized it shifting focus on her loving eyes, ok… do that.
He put shading where I would not have – check!

Not long ago I went with friends to the local theatre to see the film “The Girl with the Pearl Earring.” It was an Art Museum production, very high quality and superb imagery! The film touched on many aspects of this painting but it did not talk about the earring with respect to what I saw on close inspection of it. The neck of the girl is actually viewable THROUGH the earring.
For me, this discovery has shifted the meaning of the painting title from a descriptive label to a direction: look for the magic “there.”
In 1665 Vermeer was leading the eye with a line into space and the brain filled in the rest.

Artists today still use this visual tool, any of you art historians care to comment on how far back it is to it’s origins?


Copying a Masterpiece

CU of Budreau's Bather

CU of Budreau’s Bather

I’ve often read of the value of copying from a Masterpiece and since a major art museum is several hours away, I haven’t done it. I’ve considered copying from a coffee table book but the Graphic Designer in me knows the colours and even the density isn’t going to be accurate. I went on-line and selected a painting that I thought might be really close to the original, and threw any further concern for dead-on accuracy out the window and started sketching the BATHER by Jean-August-Domingue-Ingres, 1780-1867.

Below Left is Ingres’s and on the Right is my version of the Bather.

Ingres Bather

Ingres Bather

Budreau Bather

Budreau Bather

I chose it to, once again, develop better flesh colours, be more subtle.

Ingres had a reputation for manipulating anatomy (right or wrong) to fit his sense of composition and he was skillful at it. He was criticized for his classical painting style but over time he blew the critics away.

An artists vision is persistent and worthwhile and is often appreciated much later.

Anthony Salituro – completed

Painting of Anthony Salituro

Anthony Salituro 16.5″ x 20″ oil on canvas

Completing a painting is a satisfying feeling. Some artists keep going and going – like writing a book – it’s never finished, but I don’t seem to experience that – and I’m thankful! In the closing hours while adding little touches or crisping a line, the energy for the piece falls off and a balance is experienced, when I feel that I know it’s time to lay down the brushes.

This painting will be displayed at the TRU Foundation Gala next Saturday and I hope the auction bids for the next commission raises a goodly donation for the University, then off to it’s new home with Anthony.



Kanaka Creek in Maple Ridge holds a high place in my favourite places in the world. A deep canyon of smooth shale shrouded in emerald moss garlands and spunky ferns that grow on the canyon walls as well as in trees 50 feet overhead. Tea coloured water collects in quiet pools and for brief moments the canyon cracks open with sunlight. It’s a magical place, a soothing spa in nature. Painting it reminded me of all the dreamtime I spent there.
Inspired by a photo taken by Randy D., my friend.

12″ x 14″ oil on canvas