Monday, March 17, 2014

Tim's Vermeer: about painting and so much more

Welcome to new subscribers! (and apologies for being absent)

It's been awhile since my last "weekly" post but I'm back with a quick tip: if you are interested in representational painting, go see the film Tim's Vermeer. That's it. You can take my word for it, or read on...

Directed by Teller (of Penn and Teller), this documentary features Tim Jenison's extreme effort to emulate Johannes Vermeer's painting technique. Tim is a "computer graphics guy," a graphic artist, inventor of digital amazingness, world-class seeker of information and all-around, over-the-top, curiosity-quencher, IMHO. See what you think. Watch the movie.

What started as an observation of Vermeer's ability to "paint light" became a five-year obsession to find a way to accurately recreate The Music Lesson (of the Royal Collection, UK)
The Music Lesson, Johannes Vermeer, circa 1662

How to do this? Well basically, Tim built a "camera obscura" and reflected the image with a tool he devised using an angled mirror. And a couple of other projects.

Let me just say that it took so long because, first, he built a room - with the same leaded windows, tiled floor, jug, mirror and matching, painted harpsichord!

So, he had to learn to grind lenses, make leaded glass, use a lathe, make oil paint... and then paint: faux wood, marble, fabric, everything!

That's what you do when you're a curious kind of guy,  more inventor than painter! And the result is an amazing version of Vermeer’s The Music Lesson as well as an experiment in optics and observation.

Seeing the lengths he went to, anyone who is interested in creative challenges, inventive spirit, dogged determination and stubborn stick-to-it-iveness, will enjoy Tim's Vermeer as well.

For painters a discussion on the ability (or lack thereof) to discern the fall-off of light as an object moves away from the light source provides additional interest. It's an important factor to keep in mind, even when you can't quite see it. (I could look for a link to the physics about this, but no one really wants to read that. Google it if you must.)

Although it's an enlightening film on many levels, sadly, Tim's Vermeer is in limited release. So you will have to look for it quickly (or maybe Netflix someday?) Hard to imagine that two hours of hand-mixing oil paint, recreating a 17th century music room, and painting the threads of a Persian carpet, is not considered riveting, blockbuster entertainment. No car chases, but there is a helicopter, if that helps.

And a final tip: if you haven't had enough of the camera obscura discussion, you can also read Philip Steadman's thorough and well-researched book, Vermeer's Camera: Uncovering the Truth behind the Masterpieces. It is probably the definitive source of information on the subject. Steadman joins the conversation in the film, as does David Hockney who has ruffled a few feathers with his own documentary on a similar subject, Secret Knowledge: Rediscovering the Lost Techniques of the Old Masters.
Thanks for stopping by!

I hope you found this interesting and if you like, take a look at my Facebook page for other art talk and a few of my oil paintings. You can also "like" the FB page if you care to.

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