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

You’ve Come a Long Way Baby, But You’re Not There Yet!

Anthony Salituro portrait in progress by Mairi Budreau

There is a lot going on in this piece, and many days have been put into it to reach this point. Because of the window display and reflections in the glass and some landscape, this painting has been a very good challenge. Somedays when the weight of the challenge is pressing on me I wonder why I do this! But the answer is no mystery, it’s for the experience of learning by observing and interpreting the world.

Anthony and the landscape still need a lot of work, I haven’t even touched his teeth yet, they are still at the underpainting stage. With two weeks left to have this finished and on display at the TRU Fundraising Gala on Valentines day, it’ll be on the easel most days.

Anthony Salituro – underpainting

Anthony Salituro underpainting by Mairi BudreauPainting in monochrome is simpler than full colour and I’m finding that building this base to a painting is work but it really maps out the whole piece. There’s a lot going on in this painting and in monochrome, it’s all competing for your attention. Colour will push and pull and modify this so that Anthony triumphs as the subject.
The sun, and the window reflections are new painting subjects for me.
I like a challenge, so fingers crossed – forward ho!

Warmth of a Fire

wood fireHave you read the passage by Henry David Thoreau about his woodpile? If you haven’t, he says with fine elegance that the effort of splitting wood and then burning wood in his little cabin warms him twice.

We enjoy – and I do mean enjoy – the warmth, beauty and aesthetic experience of a wood fire most every evening throughout the winter.

To honour the pleasure it brings, I let my thoughts meander in the crevices and scales of wood bark, spent grey ash below, and undulating yellow orange transparent flames and think how a fire, like the sun and the moon, have been constant companions throughout man’s experience on earth and this thought warms me a second time, that’s how close we are to our ancestors.

Fatal Flaw

Self portrait in studio

Trying out new methods of painting is both challenging and exhilarating and this painting has been just that. The subject, my face, is flawed, in fact it’s pretty awful- ha ha. I made a fatal error along the way. I could have changed it, but I kept on making it worse and worse, funny how that goes. Having done a fair number of portraits, changing to a new method was the hardest of all – and I failed! Accepting this ill-conceived face is ok, since it’s mine, some paintings fail and in them are the riches of learning.

There are advances in other areas of the painting so I kept going to the finish line. “The Artist in Studio” painting has been on the to-do list for awhile, and it’s still not done. There is little reality shown here, it’s a fantasy and it was fun to set up and photograph.
The importance is the learning from this piece and for ‘punishment’ I assigned myself to paint 3 faces, in progress right now, using the new method. I will eventually achieve a portrait in a whole new way!


So I’m a Mushy Gran

underpainting portrait of a young child


It’s love on another level – having a grand child. All the Grandma’s I meet know –  we crones glow with the very thought of them.

Words for this are few.

Maybe it’s unconditional love, I do know it brings profound joy to be with him. Life is refreshed.

This underpainting is a little moment in the din of his exploration.