Last week I talked about the importance of copying the work of the old masters and this week I am going to give you a step by step tutorial about how to get started. I have several master copies in the works, but I am choosing to focus on Vermeer’s well-known work, Girl with a Pearl Earring, circa 1656, according to Maritshuis, 2014. If you wish to read more about this painting, you may visit the following link: Details: Johannes Vermeer, Girl with a Pearl Earring, c. 1665, Mauritshuis. Retrieved on 9 December 2014. This citation is from an article about Vermeer’s painting, Girl with a Pearl Earring, which I found on Wikipedia. The original painting was painted in oils on canvas, but to save drying time, I used acrylic paints.
Step One: Make a Grid from a Photocopy of a Master Copy
My first step in creating a master copy of Vermeer’s, Girl with a Pearl Earring, was to locate a good print copy which I could use to create a grid for the initial sketch. Creating a grid helped me to make sure the proportions of the head were proportionate to the copied image. I photocopied an image of Vermeer’s painting, Girl with a Pearl Earring, from the book, Vermeer, by Arthur K. Wheelock, Jr. After I made the copy, I created a grid, measuring one inch from the horizontal and vertical edges of the printed copy with a ruler. After I measured out the markers for the grid, I drew vertical lines to create the vertical axis. Then I drew horizontal lines for the horizontal axis. Each box on the horizontal lines of the grid should be numbered starting with 1, and the vertical boxes should be labeled A, B, C, etc. After that, I created an exact duplicate of this grid on a clean sheet of sketch paper. Note: it is very important to ensure that you have the exact amount of boxes on both the vertical and horizontal axes on your grid copy as the one from the original, or the proportions may be incorrect. Also, be sure that when you draw vertical and parallel lines that your ruler is perpendicular to the picture plane and doesn’t shift, or it make affect the measurements of the one-inch boxes.
Step Two: Create a Duplicate Grid and Transfer it to Canvas with Carbon Paper
Next, I located my first set of coordinates on the vertical and horizontal axes, on my grid copy to start drawing in the edge shape of the portrait, i.e. A1. The artist, Thaneeya McArdle, gives an excellent description of this process with detailed visuals of the grid method at https://www.art-is-fun.com/grid-method/?rq=draw%20a%20grid. To complete the portrait, I moved on the next grid coordinate, and so on. My next step was to trace the completed grid sketch onto a clean sheet of sketch paper, using my window as a light box. I taped the original sketch to the window with masking tape, then taped a clean sheet of paper on top of the original. Then I traced the image to the cover sheet. The traced image was then transferred with a pen to canvas paper, using carbon paper, with the dark side taped face down.
Step Three: Paint a three value underpainting in Acrylics
Are you still with me? I know it sounds like a lot of steps…Don’t worry I am including some photos of this process to help jog your memory. So now we move on to the fun part, the painting itself. To break down the light and dark values, I consulted a well-used book from my art library, The Complete Oil Painter, by Brian Gorst, which gives a detailed demonstration about how to paint a monotone underpainting. I mixed up three values from darkest to lightest with Liquitex Acrylic paints and a palette knife using Burnt Umber, Titanium White, and Ivory Black. The darkest value was applied to the background, while the middle and lighter values were painted on the figure. Intermittently I sprayed the palette and the canvas with water from a spray bottle to keep the paints wet so they wouldn’t dry up, especially while I was mixing them. I also stepped back every so often to view the painting from a distance and be sure that the drawing in my painting was accurate, and made corrections as needed. These values will give me a roadmap of where to put light and dark values when I get into the color portion of the painting. They help to simplify the lights and darks without the difficulty of color matching. Next week, I will paint a “limited color lay in” with the local color