Thursday, December 31, 2009

Girl With A Pearl Earring

Happy New Year everyone!

This is the last post for this year, and this is the last piece I have worked on in 2009.  As you've seen this year I have shown works in acrylic, pastel, graphite and charcoal.

This is my first foray into Oils and traditional painted portraiture.  I took a class in a tradtional oil technique called Grisaille, where we copied Vermeer's painting "Girl with a Pearl Earring" using the grisaille technique.  It is painted on a 9x12 streched canvas.

I have never worked in traditional oils and traditional techniques (my forte is acrylic abstracts, after all), and I thought this would be a good way to learn.  It was a good way to learn!  We started with grey scales, and then colour scales, and from there a greyscale value study, to underpainting and then overpainting in layers and lastly glazes. The photo at left shows some of the colour studies.

I always thought I didn't have the patience to work this way - lots of preparation, colour studies, then paint and wait for the layer to dry, then paint the next thin layer and wait for it to dry, then paint the next ---  you know where I'm going with this :-)

Well, our instructor was excellent, patient and kind, and the class was very relaxing - the whole course was 12 sessions, with each session being 2.5 hours long.  And you know what?  My patience built up - I was able to compartmentalize this technique and accept the conditions timewise, and have learned that I can enjoy this kind of painting, so I came out the better for it.

Now - back to my final product.  Putting it beside the photo reference of Vermeer's painting, one can see a close resemblance - for sure you know it is a copy of his painting and not something else.  I'm pleased that the resemblance is quite close, and the colour matching is not too far off as well.

What is really good about the comparison is that I can see where I have missed the mark.   This is the best part of the course - I can see where the outline of the body 'grew' (see the coat, and her cheeks), and where the shapes got a little out of whack (check out her eyes), and where the highlights weren't bright enough (in the top of her turban).  After analyzing the painting against the reference, I now know what to watch for the next time I do this painting - and I WILL redo it and correct the errors.

After all, that is how one learns - making and then correcting mistakes, training your eye to see and your hand to create.  And while you're doing all of this learning, you lose your fear of the medium (and I was chicken hearted about oils and portraiture for sure) and can concentrate of getting better.  Besides - it's also great fun!

To top it off, finding a good artist who is also a great teacher (there are lots of great artists out there who can't teach worth a damn) is the icing on the cake.  The instructor for this course is one of those gems - Kathy McNenly (see her site ) a professional realist painter who also spends some of her very busy time teaching others to enjoy painting.  I'm glad she does, and I'm glad I was able to find her.  I hope you can find teachers that inspire as well.

Anyway - 2009 was an interesting year for me - lots of forays into new media, lots of discoveries, and some sad time - sounds like Life, doesn't it?  Here's hoping 2010 is at least as good, and hopefully better - way better.  For me and for you :-)

Happy 2010 everyone.  See you next year!


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