Visual Research Tools

In the documentary Tim’s Vermeer, Tim Jenison attempts to find out how Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer created his art, and then attempts to recreate one of Vermeer’s paintings using a method he thinks Vermeer used.

While attempting to find out how Vermeer painted Tim explained how a Camera Obscura works and that it was unlikely Vermeer would have used one to paint because of the difficulties of matching the colour of the image projection to the paint you are using.

One painting method Tim used was to have a picture being reflected off a mirror over a canvas that he was painting on. This allowed him to see the canvas and the images reflection at the same time and so could match the paint to the colour in the image. He did this by experimenting with different colours until the edge of the mirror could not be seen when looking at both the mirror and the canvas. He used this method of painting to paint three times and then decided this was most likely the method Vermeer used and decided he would use this method to recreate one of Vermeer’s paintings.

To get a better idea of what the actual painting looked like Tim went to look at the original in Buckingham Palace. To recreate the set of the painting Tim was hoping that he would be able to use the actual furniture from the painting but did not get permission to use it so he had to recreate the set in a warehouse. Tim had t make all the props himself and he did this by getting the measurements of the actual props and learning how to operate the machinery to make them. Before this he created models of all the props and the finished room in a computer programme and worked from there.

To fully recreate the room took Tim many months and he had to recreate the lighting from outside in the painting by putting cardboard cut-outs in front of the windows. Once he had done all this he could start the painting. This also took him many months to complete as he had to paint so much detail that he couldn’t see on the painting before he was looking at it through the mirrors he set up. Also he had to deal with factors such as the light playing tricks, which created something Tim called the Seahorse Smile effect, which created a curve on the painting where there should have been a straight line. Tim nearly missed this and would have made the same mistake as Vermeer and painted the curve but noticed it just before he started painting it.

Tim also had to deal with problems caused by the weather. As it got very cold in the warehouse he was painting in he decided to bring in a heater which was not safe to use indoors and was producing fumes that made Tim paint an elephant on the painting.

At the end of all this Tim had recreated Vermeer’s painting and it was almost impossible to tell the difference between the two and so this suggests that Tim was correct about how Vermeer painted.

I think the processes Tim used in order to recreate Vermeer’s painting were very good as he studied the painting for a long time and went to see the original so that he had the best idea possible of what he needed to do and the different techniques he used to actually paint meant he learnt about how Vermeer might have painted and meant Tim could prove that anyone can paint amazing pieces of art.


2 thoughts on “Visual Research Tools

  1. A very good account of the documentary Liam. I think you should perhaps embed a couple of images from the film and also include an evaluation about what you think of the techniques, processes and skills he used.


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