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?