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Entertainment ... "How to look at a painting."

gmag

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frances 1998, 2000, 2013
I have seen, in recent weeks, the interest in art of many of the members of the forum, and that some of them say they do not have great knowledge about art, although that does not mean anything when it comes to being able to appreciate and enjoy an artistic work, be it a cathedral or a small oil painting.

I have come up with something that may possibly help some of them to know and understand certain artistic technical aspects. There are things that seem complicated, but are surprisingly simple.

There is a painter who painted few works, but who are, those that remain, a prodigy of technique and beauty. I'm talking about Vermeer van Delft, a 17th century Dutch painter.

In case someone wants to participate, I leave here the painting "the astronomer", painted in 1688, so that they can write what they think, what they identify with concepts or techniques of painting ..., later I will tell things about that painting, applicable to many paintings ... or maybe some say what I would say ...
 

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C clearly

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Year of past OR future Camino
2021
OK - I'll start with some random impressions...
  • Fabulous natural lighting
  • Funny face on the draped cloth on the left
  • What does the globe shows as an understanding of the world at that time. It doesn't looks very map-like.
  • What is the clock-like panel on the cabinet behind the globe, and the date on the wood wall of the cabinet?
 

gmag

Active Member
Year of past OR future Camino
frances 1998, 2000, 2013
OK - I'll start with some random impressions...
  • Fabulous natural lighting
  • Funny face on the draped cloth on the left
  • What does the globe shows as an understanding of the world at that time. It doesn't looks very map-like.
  • What is the clock-like panel on the cabinet behind the globe, and the date on the wood wall of the cabinet?

Excellent observation the date written on the panel! It is the date he painted it, 1668, and NOT 1688, as I wrote. Thank you!

I'm not saying anything else, for the moment, let's wait if there are more comments ...
 

Flog

Active Member
Year of past OR future Camino
2020
I don't know a lot about art but his clear obvious use of the vanishing point really gives it depth and pulls me into the room. That, and the use of soft natural tones and light makes it very easy on the eye...pleasant indeed..
 

henrythedog

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I’ve seen this close-up, either in London or the Louvre. I seem to recall it’s a fairly small work. The globe isn’t a terrestrial globe, it’s an illustrated map of the stars, a celestial globe. In victorian days it was fairly common* to have one of each.

In my limited experience works of this nature depicting people of specific professions or occupations are full to the brim with the ‘tools of the trade’. Given a close-enough look I’d expect the wall chart and book on the table to be such ‘tools’

* by common, I mean if you were one of the nobility or otherwise tremendously rich, not shovelling horse shit or working in the mills like my ancestors.
 
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gmag

Active Member
Year of past OR future Camino
frances 1998, 2000, 2013
I don't know a lot about art but his clear obvious use of the vanishing point really gives it depth and pulls me into the room. That, and the use of soft natural tones and light makes it very easy on the eye...pleasant indeed..
Very good!...,yes, is very pleasant, but I think that is so pleasant because something more..., something almost invisible, but very visible ... if we can see it ...
 

gmag

Active Member
Year of past OR future Camino
frances 1998, 2000, 2013
I’ve seen this close-up, either in London or the Louvre. I seem to recall it’s a fairly small work. The globe isn’t a terrestrial globe, it’s an illustrated map of the stars, a celestial globe. In victorian days it was fairly common* to have one of each.

In my limited experience works of this nature depicting people of specific professions or occupations are full to the brim with the ‘tools of the trade’. Given a close-enough look I’d expect the wall chart and book on the table to be such ‘tools’

* by common, I mean if you were one of the nobility or otherwise tremendously rich, not shovelling horse shit or working in the mills like my ancestors.
excelent!, is a celestial globe, and is small, 45 x 50 cm.,
 

TMcA

Active Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Pamplona to Santiago (2013)
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Couple of thoughts...

The rhythmic relationship that roughly circles from the young man's outstretched hand on the table, up his sleeve, across his shoulder, to the young man's gaze, then to the globe highlights for the viewer the most important elements of the composition. More on this later.

The young man is presented in a modest, assuming way...we only see half of his face, he is not portrayed frontally, and his glance is not towards us but to the globe. Nor does his size and placement dominate the composition. He wears no rings, his clothing appears simple, unadorned. His head is cocked to one side. That and his absorption with the globe suggest thoughtfulness, studiousness. The book or notebook also suggests that the subject's action is scholarly.

The young man's right hand nearly touches the globe...that slight separation suggests to me that the man is tentative about his thoughts or conclusions about the globe - what it may mean to him. Tentative about what he is trying to tease out.

Ironically, light streams in from the window on the left side and frames what I would say are the key elements of the painting: the window that is the source of light, the globe, the notebook or book on the subject's desk or table, and the subject's face and hand. That lighting amplifies the rhythmic circling I described earlier. But I believe there is irony at play here. The young man looks at the side of the globe that is in shadow, the streaming light bathes the other side of the globe. Is the young man mistakenly searching in the wrong place? And is the answer to be found outside of the room? At the source of the light? In nature? So...can the young man discover the nature of things just through study in a closed environment when the only source of reality is beyond his confined "room"? Can we?
 
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@gmag - I have seen this at the Louvre a number of times and, while I found (and still find) it beautiful, it had me twisting my brain over somethings not quite "fitting in". Now, you have set the problem before me again. (Before I go any further, allow me to note that I am not an art expert!)

Okay, here is what current view and past memories (complaints?) bring up....

1. The shadowing is not consistent with sole source illumination from the window. The angles vary, tremendously. Simple use of a protractor will bear out the point. This is most egregious with significant lighting of the globe toward the young man's body and away from the light. Presented with such a study in the old days of halide photography, I would have to have used some diffuse "fill-in flash" from the perspective of the painter.

2. I never really understood how the fabric (the one with the face in it and close to viewer and exterior wall) fit in despite a minor inclusion of a Christian symbol. (See the muted cross at about 1:45 from the face) The fabric appears only to be supported by the table edge which is unlikely. Further, it's utility is questionable UNLESS it is a drape, removed for viewing a bright night sky (ie. moonlit)....

3. ...which is possible considering two factors. First, the circumstances of the painting don't quite fit the earnestness of connection between the young man, his book, and emotion playing upon the side of his face. Second, and I may be wrong, but the tonality of what I have seen in Vermeer's colors is pretty constricted. Not that that is "bad", mind you, but he may not have been able to pull off a "moonlight " effect with pigments to hand and instead chose a "diffused light" effect to suggest it. (In Vermeer's time, IIRC.... brewing, dyeing, and porcelain-making were a big deal. The resulting light pollution from household chimneys plus those for workshops would have "yellowed" the light source whether day or night.)

4. It bothered me that we cannot get some glimpse of the book at his left hand. I am sure there is a clue to tie this all together but I cannot make it out.

All I have! Back to cooking dinner for my bride,

B
 
Year of past OR future Camino
2017
In addition to the items already mentioned, there seems to be some type of drawing compass on the desk sitting next to the book.
From our perspective, it is not possible to tell whether it is a drawing compass or a dividing compass. The presence of his astrolabe (the bright and shiny object just below the globe) is not suggestive one way or another. By that I mean, when one builds an astrolabe, a drawing compass is necessary. After that, the dividing compass is what is required for parsing movements observed to charts...and those are lacking here. The young man is contemplating something bigger than recording something from his notes.

B
 

Raggy

Veteran Member
Year of past OR future Camino
2021
I can't look at this painting for long.

The light entering the room... Is the glass stained yellow, or is this the natural quality of the light? Is there more than one light source, as simply B pointed out? Whatever is going on, it's exquisitely done, but it depresses me. I feel when I see the light and shadow of some other works of the same period. Perhaps I'm thinking of Rembrandt's self portraits and other paintings? To my untrained eye, they look like they're caked in soot. I want to grab a cloth and clean them up... but don't worry, I'm not an amateur restorer like the monkey christ lady.

Another painting with light that intrigues but disgusts me is Van Gogh's "The Potato Eaters" but I think that the artist intended for me to be depressed and shocked by the grotesque scene... I know it was painted much later, but I wonder if Van Gogh was thinking of the way the Dutch masters showed pools of light and areas of shadow when he painted it.

The figure of the astronomer is amazing. The only detail that I don't like is the hair - it looks like a hamster on his neck. I like the pose, the skin tones, and the gentle gaze (inspired?) - one hand reaching to a constellation and the other by his book. There's a second instrument on the table in addition to the dividers. I've looked up the name - It's an "equatorum" for calculating the position of the planets. By 1668 we are well into the age of modern astronomy following the work of Copernicus and Kepler.

The table cloth seems to be the one element in the room that isn't austere or practical, It seems surprisingly "rich" compared with the plain walls, unpatterned clothing, and simple chair. The painting on the wall is another "decorative" element, I guess but it seems sober compared to the cloth. I think the "face" is just a part of the leafy pattern on the cloth. We have a tendency to perceive faces in all manner of things from the radiator grills of cars to the clouds in the sky.

When all is said and done, though, I wouldn't put this on any wall in my home.

Well, them's my thoughts.
 

Bristle Boy

Active Member
Year of past OR future Camino
2022
My son, who is a practicing, qualified and talented fine artist, has told me to focus on the book and picture in the background as the inclusion and subject matter could have some importance.
As far as I am concerned, I know nothing about art but I know what I like.
 
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Camino Chrissy

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I am quite impressed with some of these very detailed posts describing this painting. When visiting museums or art shows I pause a little longer at the ones that are lovely and pleasing to my eye and in the case of very famous artists I often can recognize their personal style. I have rarely looked beyond these two things....I see I have missed out on taking an interest in contemplation of the artists' efforts.
@gmag, I like your idea for a thread.
 

gmag

Active Member
Year of past OR future Camino
frances 1998, 2000, 2013
I'm enjoying your comments, all without exception are intelligent, and yes, I think I can contribute with something. But before doing so I find it very interesting and instructive to read your comments, I'm learning things. I'll enter when necessary, and you will understand the reason for this painting and my intention. I hope you will like it ...
 
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Perceptive comments from all. I'll just add that the lines and curves and light draw the eye to the globe, not the man. If the painting is a rectangle and you drew a diagonal from the top left to bottom right you would have two triangles and most of the detail is concentrated in the left triangle. The rich fabric cloth intrigues me as its functional purpose is unknown although its artistic purpose might be to fill space, add color contrast, and direct the viewer's eye. In the right triangle, the main feature is a subtle painting within the painting. It is separate from the painting itself. My eyes cannot see the subject matter clearly, but is it a woman and child looking ... where? Thanks for the art appreciation moment.
 
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gmag

Active Member
Year of past OR future Camino
frances 1998, 2000, 2013
Perceptive comments from all. I'll just add that the lines and curves and light draw the eye to the globe, not the man. If the painting is a rectangle and you drew a diagonal from the top left to bottom right you would have two triangles and most of the detail is concentrated in the left triangle. The rich fabric cloth intrigues me as its functional purpose is unknown although its artistic purpose might be to fill space, add color contrast, and direct the viewer's eye. In the right triangle, the main feature is a subtle painting within the painting. It is separate from the painting itself. My eyes cannot see the subject matter clearly, but is it a woman and child looking ... where? Thanks for the art appreciation moment.
You are going to my point!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
 

lt56ny

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He was a VERY good teacher!!
When I was in college I spent a semester in London. My friend and I took an art class. It turned out to be way over our heads as we knew nothing and could barely draw a straight line. Everyone else were art majors. But our instructor Mrs. Williams was an incredible teacher. (She was from a long line of artists and vegetarians. It was 1974 so we thought that was cool. Her husband was a semi well known Surrealist painter in. She wanted everyone to call her Dinah but to Steve and I she was Mrs. Williams as we stood in awe and also especially Steve a big crush). Anyway I digress.
Our classes met only 2 times a week. One hour in the classroom and 3 hours in a museum. The first class met at the Tate. At the end of the class Steve and I went to Mrs. WIlliams and said we were completely lost and we had no idea what was going on and we were going to drop the class. She wouldn't hear of it. She then stayed another 1 1/2 with us. We stood in front of a painting and our education began. Her first question was to me. What do you like about the painting. I said the colors. Well what do you like about the colors. The drilling down began. We learned about color, light, shadows, the motivations of artists etc. etc. etc. Mrs. Williams seemed to know everything. But at the same time she never laughed or thought what we said was silly or dumb even when we were trying to be. Everything that came out of our mouths she tried to make a teachable moment out of it.
I am surely no art expert now. But I have learned to love art and when I go to a museum I still feel Mrs. WIlliams next to me. Steve and I talk of her sometimes to this day over 45 years later.
 

gmag

Active Member
Year of past OR future Camino
frances 1998, 2000, 2013
When I was in college I spent a semester in London. My friend and I took an art class. It turned out to be way over our heads as we knew nothing and could barely draw a straight line. Everyone else were art majors. But our instructor Mrs. Williams was an incredible teacher. (She was from a long line of artists and vegetarians. It was 1974 so we thought that was cool. Her husband was a semi well known Surrealist painter in. She wanted everyone to call her Dinah but to Steve and I she was Mrs. Williams as we stood in awe and also especially Steve a big crush). Anyway I digress.
Our classes met only 2 times a week. One hour in the classroom and 3 hours in a museum. The first class met at the Tate. At the end of the class Steve and I went to Mrs. WIlliams and said we were completely lost and we had no idea what was going on and we were going to drop the class. She wouldn't hear of it. She then stayed another 1 1/2 with us. We stood in front of a painting and our education began. Her first question was to me. What do you like about the painting. I said the colors. Well what do you like about the colors. The drilling down began. We learned about color, light, shadows, the motivations of artists etc. etc. etc. Mrs. Williams seemed to know everything. But at the same time she never laughed or thought what we said was silly or dumb even when we were trying to be. Everything that came out of our mouths she tried to make a teachable moment out of it.
I am surely no art expert now. But I have learned to love art and when I go to a museum I still feel Mrs. WIlliams next to me. Steve and I talk of her sometimes to this day over 45 years later.
Really nice! Thanks for sharing. I can understand it very well. I have been a teacher of these things until we came to Spain, from Holland, three years ago. I did more or less the same, ask to get what the student does not know he has, explain what is necessary, continue to maintain interest ... it is like building from within. Transmit the love of art and explain the most complicated with language that is very easy to understand, and this is only possible when you really know a lot. She knew everything, for sure, and she remembered that she was once a student and she knew nothing. She knew how to put herself at your level and share her knowledge, and she knew that the important thing was not her, but the artist she spoke of.
It is the humility of the really great. And I have been convinced for many years that it is something that only those who are somewhat great, even if they are simple students, can appreciate, understand and thank.

Wonderful contribution to the topic !!!
 
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gmag

Active Member
Year of past OR future Camino
frances 1998, 2000, 2013
It was painted in 1668 when I'm not mistaken. 1688 is not posible because Johannes Vermeer died in 1675.
It's true, C clearly told me in the second contribution to the post, it's important. I corrected it on the third, and didn't change the date on my first to respect C clearly's question.
 
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C clearly

Moderator
Staff member
Year of past OR future Camino
2021
it's exquisitely done, but it depresses me
Raggy - your comments were very much at my level of analysis, but the picture does not depress me in the end.
The only detail that I don't like is the hair - it looks like a hamster on his neck.
🤣 I also spent considerable time studying his hair, and trying to figure out how he (the young man, not the painter) would have achieved that look!
 

Camino Chrissy

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The only detail that I don't like is the hair - it looks like a hamster on his neck.
Same here! I kept looking at his hair and couldn't make "hide nor hair" of it. Your description is a good one! 😅
 
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Why is there a white duck in the middle of this painting?
Oh, yes, I see the "duck" @chinacat !

A photo can only do so much. As I remember, the "duck" resolved itself into a piece of parchment when one inspected the painting as close as was permitted in the Louvre. I never did make out the text from the book before the young man nor clearly see detail in the painting hanging on the right edge. And, so, I am stumped by the "greater meaning" of the painting as suggested by @gmag .

I respect the quality of the work and workmanship and appreciate the work. But, IMHO, it has a "forced" quality about it as though the painter did it for a commission for someone whose purse outweighed Vermeer's affection/respect for them.

Admittedly, I am not a "man of taste" and possess as much "culture" as a discount yoghurt. BUT, this work seemed to occupy an odd center on a generally bi-polar scale of Vermeer's works.

On one end, you have "The Girl with the Pearl Earring", a simple composition with the detail in the execution of the portrait. I seem to remember a step up from this to a bit more complexity with a portrait of a kitchen maid - -perhaps someone else knows what I am talking about.

At the other end, I remember a city landscape of Delft that was extraordinarily detailed - - but, like Ansel Adam's works , no people in it. At the same level of detail, but with people added back in, I seem to remember seeing his portrayal of Jesus with Mary and Martha.... a little flat on facial details but I was charmed by the overall texture and feeling conveyed.

I think I am done with exploring the piece. Plenty smarter and more cultured folks here than me.


B
 
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chinacat

Veteran Member
and possess as much "culture" as a discount yoghurt

😂
loved this!!

Do you mean The Milkmaid?

That panoramic painting of Delft is a magnificent work ... I love it!

Vermeer had to accept many commissions ... in common with many gifted artists. I doubt he had much respect for many of his subjects, on a personal level.

He used an early form of a kind of camera ... someone on here will be sure to have the correct name for it.

He’s one of my favourite painters ...
 
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😂
loved this!!

Do you mean The Milkmaid?

That panoramic painting of Delft is a magnificent work ... I love it!

Vermeer had to accept many commissions ... in common with many gifted artists. I doubt he had much respect for many of his subjects, on a personal level.

He used an early form of a kind of camera ... someone on here will be sure to have the correct name for it.

He’s one of my favourite painters ...
YES! That's it, "The Milkmaid"! Thanks, @chinacat !

I believe that many of the late Middle Age artists, and then on, used a "camera obscura" which is basically a lens sealed into a frame to project into a darkened room. The artist, sitting in the darkened room, would use it to frame composition and sketch in basic element outlines.

In later times [1800-ish?], the technical setup was used by many of the early silver halide photographers for projecting images onto metallic (daguerreotypes) or plates glass covered with a photo-reactive gel to garner an image.

Just 50 years ago, my high school photography instructor made his charges learn the method as an aid to learning timing of exposure and composition. Do not know why, but I suspect the cost of a sheet of 8" X 10" film and having to invert the image in one's head to fine-tune composition, worked a trick to get our skills up to par quickly.

B
 

lt56ny

Veteran Member
Year of past OR future Camino
CF(2012) Le Puy/CF (2015) Portugues (2017) Norte (2018) CF (2019) VDLP?
Really nice! Thanks for sharing. I can understand it very well. I have been a teacher of these things until we came to Spain, from Holland, three years ago. I did more or less the same, ask to get what the student does not know he has, explain what is necessary, continue to maintain interest ... it is like building from within. Transmit the love of art and explain the most complicated with language that is very easy to understand, and this is only possible when you really know a lot. She knew everything, for sure, and she remembered that she was once a student and she knew nothing. She knew how to put herself at your level and share her knowledge, and she knew that the important thing was not her, but the artist she spoke of.
It is the humility of the really great. And I have been convinced for many years that it is something that only those who are somewhat great, even if they are simple students, can appreciate, understand and thank.

Wonderful contribution to the topic !!!
Yes, Mrs. Williams was somewhat great and I think even more. Even today two 66 year old men can wax poetically about how much we loved and learned from her. It is amazing how many moments that we spent with her we both remember with such clarity.
 
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He used an early form of a kind of camera ... someone on here will be sure to have the correct name for it.
Camera obscura if I remember the name correctly. The YouTube trailer I linked to above for Tim's Vermeer used one and you can see a least one quick glance. Tim used it to paint the reproduced scene he set up. I was purposely leaving out a lot of specifics in my post. We did see the documentary for free a couple of years ago on either YouTube or Netflix but you may have to pay now.
 
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Peter Fransiscus

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All that we are is the result of what we have thought.
The figure of the astronomer is amazing. The only detail that I don't like is the hair - it looks like a hamster on his neck.
Look at a other painting off Vermeer called the Geographer , same model but you can see the hair better .
And it's the same room aswel.
 

peregrina2000

Moderator
Staff member
Wow, there is a lot of expertise on this forum. Thanks to @gmag. I spent a lot of time looking at the light and wonder if there have to be two light sources. Based on the shadow on the cupboard, and also what looks like direct light on the left hand, I am having trouble figuring out how it could come just from the window. But my flashlight is out of batteries so I am unable to experiment.

And this has nothing to do with the technique, or the colors, the light, etc, but I keep looking at the painting and cannot believe that the subject is sitting down on that chair. The angles just look wrong to me, unless he has the world’s most enormous butt. 😁 So is he pulling himself up with his left hand to touch or move the globe based on something he just read while sitting down?
 
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And this has nothing to do with the technique, or the colors, the light, etc, but I keep looking at the painting and cannot believe that the subject is sitting down on that chair. The angles just look wrong to me, unless he has the world’s most enormous butt.
An awkward pose for the model. Maybe the butt is big to hide the stacked telephone books on the chair to help with the posing. I'm only half kidding here.
 

Bristle Boy

Active Member
Year of past OR future Camino
2022
By pure coincidence..a retired history teacher friend called last week with an old 2020 calendar for my son. It was dedicated to Vermeer with an image for every month. It did not include the image which is the subject of this thread.
One thing I did notice was that the artist uses a window in the left hand side of his portraits as a light source in many of his indoor subjects.
 
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gmag

Active Member
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frances 1998, 2000, 2013
Let's go there!

I have chosen this painting because it is an exceptional example of composition.

We all know what it is like to feel that we like a painting, but we cannot say exactly why.



I want to get into that, it's simpler than we think, but nobody explains it to us. What is it that makes us like something but we can't say why? What has happened, in most cases, is that the brain perceives something that the eyes transmit to it, but that it cannot rationalize because it does not know the existence of that language. What the brain perceives it returns in the form of pleasure, simply, and that is why we say that we like something: because there is harmony in the painting, that is, in the composition, because is pleasant, .

We are going to see how Vermeer composed this painting, that is, how and why each thing, be it the nose, the hand, the celestial sphere or the painting on the wall, is where it is and cannot be anywhere else.

Let's see how Vermeer composed this painting, that is, how and why each thing, be it the nose, the hand on the sphere, the hand on the table, the vertical and horizontal shadows of the drawing in the closet, the vertical right edge of the the blue tablecloth, the light books and the dark books on the closet, the lighted window ledge, the stars sphere, the white line under his beard, or the picture on the wall, are where they are and cannot be anywhere else.

Once you understand this you will understand and see in another way many other paintings by great artists from all over Europe, from the Baroque to even today.

Let's start with the Vermeer painting in white, (or in the color of the primer that he painted on, which is another important issue in a painting.

We start by drawing two lines, A-D and B-C. They intersect in the exact center of the picture.

Now we draw a line parallel to A-C that crosses the central point, we will call it E-F

And another line we'll call G-H.

Let's keep going.

Now let's draw lines A-H and A-F and do the same from B, C and D.

We now have lines B-G, B-F, C-E, C-H, D-G and D-E.

Now the lines E-G, E-H- F-G and F-H.

Now we are going to cross with lines all the intersection points of the previous lines. We will have this:
1608926457758.png


We have, vertically and horizontally, lines in the center, at one third, at one fourth, at one fifth and at one sixth.

In this painting we will suffice with the central lines, those of a third and those of a quarter. Vermeer 9_resize.jpg
 
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gmag

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If we eliminate the lights almost to the maximum, leaving only the strongest, those that dominate the movement of our eyes, we have something like this:

Captura de pantalla Vermeer oscuro.jpg

There are, in my opinion, intense lights that make our eyes move in an ellipse shape and that passes through the lower hand - white spot under the beard - hand on the sphere (or the face and especially the nose) - illuminated part of the sphere - luminous elements on the table, including the duckling and the book, and again the hand, and there is a triangle that passes through the windowsill - horizontal base of the sphere - horizontal finger - fingers towards the window - window, and there is another that does not stop in the hand but continues to the face, rises to the forehead, the curve of the forehead directs the gaze towards the window ...
that is, two possible ellipses and two possible triangles.

We can see that the light control in Vermeer is fantastic. He uses light not as a decorative element, but mainly as an instrument for us to look where he wants us to look, he controls the viewer's psyche very well.
 
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By pure coincidence..a retired history teacher friend called last week with an old 2020 calendar for my son. It was dedicated to Vermeer with an image for every month. It did not include the image which is the subject of this thread.
One thing I did notice was that the artist uses a window in the left hand side of his portraits as a light source in many of his indoor subjects.
@Bristle boy -

About the light coming from a window on the left? I have noticed this a lot but have not retained categorical memory about it. You see the same orientation of light to subject in most of Rembrandt's portraits as well as I can remember. And, as I mused further, most historical portraits of the famous and influential over the ages that come to my mind seem to bear the same quality. (The 'Mona Lisa' looks like she was lighted from high up, but again from the left.)

Further, in my H.S. photography training, it seems that we always set up portraits in a similar fashion. There was no mention of "why" we did that, it was just the accepted practice. Main illumination on the left, any fill-in light required was from off-side to center.

A serious request, if your son can spare the time. To wit...

"Is this a technique that is taught for portraiture? And, if so, why?"

Even a link to something on the Web would be appreciated. Thanks in advance for any help to inquiring minds....

B
 

gmag

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And now I ask for almost desperate help for someone to explain to me what this is on his left sleeve and that it totally looks like a Star Wars head.

If that wants to be a pleat on a sleeve, it is the strangest and least pleat crease I have ever seen. VERMEER_-_El_astrónomo crop.jpg
 
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@Bristle boy -

About the light coming from a window on the left? I have noticed this a lot but have not retained categorical memory about it. You see the same orientation of light to subject in most of Rembrandt's portraits as well as I can remember. And, as I mused further, most historical portraits of the famous and influential over the ages that come to my mind seem to bear the same quality. (The 'Mona Lisa' looks like she was lighted from high up, but again from the left.)

Further, in my H.S. photography training, it seems that we always set up portraits in a similar fashion. There was no mention of "why" we did that, it was just the accepted practice. Main illumination on the left, any fill-in light required was from off-side to center.

A serious request, if your son can spare the time. To wit...

"Is this a technique that is taught for portraiture? And, if so, why?"

Even a link to something on the Web would be appreciated. Thanks in advance for any help to inquiring minds....

B

simply B,
One possibility is because in our Western culture we read from left to right, and we are more trained to perceive more pleasure "readings" in that direction. It's a theory that I once read and found it quite likely.
 
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Further, in my H.S. photography training, it seems that we always set up portraits in a similar fashion. There was no mention of "why" we did that, it was just the accepted practice. Main illumination on the left, any fill-in light required was from off-side to center.
I thought that this lighting would make the right side of the face more prominent and we (and dogs) tend to scan one side of a face first. Looking into this it seems to be the left side so lighting from the left does help.

At this website
they say
Interestingly, this could also explain why artists show a strong preference for capturing their subjects from the left side. According to the study, an “examination of 1,474 Western European portraits found that the majority of posers (~64 %) exposed their left cheeks while only ~33 % exposed their right cheeks. More importantly, this leftward bias occurred more often in portraits of women than in portraits of men.”
 

Bristle Boy

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@Bristle boy -

About the light coming from a window on the left? I have noticed this a lot but have not retained categorical memory about it. You see the same orientation of light to subject in most of Rembrandt's portraits as well as I can remember. And, as I mused further, most historical portraits of the famous and influential over the ages that come to my mind seem to bear the same quality. (The 'Mona Lisa' looks like she was lighted from high up, but again from the left.)

Further, in my H.S. photography training, it seems that we always set up portraits in a similar fashion. There was no mention of "why" we did that, it was just the accepted practice. Main illumination on the left, any fill-in light required was from off-side to center.

A serious request, if your son can spare the time. To wit...

"Is this a technique that is taught for portraiture? And, if so, why?"

Even a link to something on the Web would be appreciated. Thanks in advance for any help to inquiring minds....

B
Hi @simply B
I will ask him tomorrow and get you an answer. One of his past works is in my media.
But with regard to his portraits and other commissions he does, I know that he uses the technique of gridding the canvas and using other lines for perspective and for other reasons as @gmag has detailed in his previous posts.
 
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simply B,
One possibility is because in our Western culture we read from left to right, and we are more trained to perceive more pleasure "readings" in that direction. It's a theory that I once read and found it quite likely.

Makes sense to me. Thanks, @gmag!

I thought that this lighting would make the right side of the face more prominent and we (and dogs) tend to scan one side of a face first. Looking into this it seems to be the left side so lighting from the left does help.

At this website
they say

Another, equally interesting take on the matter @Rick of Rick and Peg! Much appreciated!

B
 
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Hi @simply B
I will ask him tomorrow and get you an answer. One of his past works is in my media.
But with regard to his portraits and other commissions he does, I know that he uses the technique of gridding the canvas and using other lines for perspective and for other reasons as @gmag has detailed in his previous posts.
Much appreciated @Bristle boy! @gmag and @Rick of Rick and Peg have provided readily believable reasons for the preponderance of technique but hearing from a practitioner of the art will be illuminating for all those interested.

Our H.S. photo lab's camera obscura projected onto a square-gridded field. This was mainly to help us neophytes learn the "Rule of Thirds", I think.

I remember helping set up a large-format camera for an architectural shoot. in the way back. (8" x 10" film, bellows and rails on the front, and a solid black head drape over the photog while setting up the shot.) The glass "viewfinder" was more intricately gridded to allow for squaring up a building image before exposing the film. Not nearly as fancy as what @gmag introduced here and what your son uses.

This is all rather fascinating to me and I appreciate your indulgence.

B
 
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Look at a other painting off Vermeer called the Geographer , same model but you can see the hair better .
And it's the same room aswel.
Peter, I just looked up this particular painting, and not being familiar with Vermeer, was surprised at the similarities to the painting being discussed, including either a drawing or dividing compass he is holding his hand.
 
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Raggy

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If that wants to be a pleat on a sleeve, it is the strangest and least pleat crease I have ever seen.
Perhaps the cloth was tied back / up to allow the wearer to work without his sleeve getting in the way, in the way that kimono sleeves are tied back with tasuki when the wearer is working.

Or perhaps he's got a nesting box for the hamster up his sleeve.
 

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This thread has been a delightful diversion to take your mind off things lately.
I have noticed another commonality which the artist uses in this and other paintings and I don't know whether this is used as another focal mechanism to guide the viewer through his paintings.
The paintings I have seen from this artist very often includes a table and a heavy colourful, decorative covering. It appears in images depicting a scene 1600 years apart and doesn't seem to vary greatly.
 
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The paintings I have seen from this artist very often includes a table and a heavy colourful, decorative covering. It appears in images depicting a scene 1600 years apart and doesn't seem to vary greatly.
Elaborate decorations cost money. The rising middle class of the times liked to show how successful they were with pearl earrings, neck ruffs, harpsichords, globes and fancy mirrors.
 

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This thread has been a delightful diversion to take your mind off things lately.
So true! I googled and there are 36 images of Vermeer's work...a new thread for each painting could see us through the remaining Lockdowns and beyond.
 

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And now I ask for almost desperate help for someone to explain to me what this is on his left sleeve and that it totally looks like a Star Wars head.

If that wants to be a pleat on a sleeve, it is the strangest and least pleat crease I have ever seen. View attachment 89904
Not sure, but I was just looking a the Jesus, Mary, and Martha painting, and Martha's right arm sleeve has similar folds as this one at the bend, so I'm assuming it's the same here and possibly has no additional meaning.
 
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Bristle Boy

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I had a chat with my son this morning with regard to the use of light in paintings.
He said " an artist uses light to guide the audiences eye through the piece, choosing to highlight key points important to the narrative of the painting. Deciding to lighten or darken particular components to organise the sequence so the viewer discovers elements of the story"
He also mentioned triangulation and the lining of a painting to aid perspective and to focus attention in a particular area.
 
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I had a chat with my son this morning with regard to the use of light in paintings.
He said " an artist uses light to guide the audiences eye through the piece, choosing to highlight key points important to the narrative of the painting. Deciding to lighten or darken particular components to organise the sequence so the viewer discovers elements of the story"
VERMEER_-_El_astrónomo_(Museo_del_Louvre,_1688)_resize-01.jpeg
 

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I took a quick look at Vermeer's paintings online this morning and see he painted approximately thirty-six. I was surprised to see at least three of them were of pregnant women. I was pleasantly surprised as I had always thought pregnancy back then was considered an embarrassment and the women pretty much were "hidden away". Apparently not always the case.
 

gmag

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I don't know a lot about art but his clear obvious use of the vanishing point really gives it depth and pulls me into the room. That, and the use of soft natural tones and light makes it very easy on the eye...pleasant indeed..
Flogwail, I have met many artists (or something similar) who had a good hand but did not know how to look, and I have also met many people who did not know how to paint or much about art but who had an excellent eye to see a painting or the reality with the eyes of an artist. Both can be taught and learned. Among all the good things that my students told me over the years, the best and the one that gave me the most personal satisfaction was when they said that I had taught them to look. Talking about art with someone who does not know much about art can be very pleasant and interesting, after all we are surrounded by things that have or may be related to some form of art, and talking with an artist very into art can be deeply boring.
 

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Among all the good things that my students told me over the years, the best and the one that gave me the most personal satisfaction was when they said that I had taught them to look.
This is what you have done for me, @gmag, by starting this thread. I've always enjoyed looking at paintings as a whole picture, but not really "dissecting" them to study the components. Thank you for opening my eyes to see the bigger picture.
 
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henrythedog

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I have seen, in recent weeks, the interest in art of many of the members of the forum, and that some of them say they do not have great knowledge about art, although that does not mean anything when it comes to being able to appreciate and enjoy an artistic work, be it a cathedral or a small oil painting.

I have come up with something that may possibly help some of them to know and understand certain artistic technical aspects. There are things that seem complicated, but are surprisingly simple.

There is a painter who painted few works, but who are, those that remain, a prodigy of technique and beauty. I'm talking about Vermeer van Delft, a 17th century Dutch painter.

In case someone wants to participate, I leave here the painting "the astronomer", painted in 1688, so that they can write what they think, what they identify with concepts or techniques of painting ..., later I will tell things about that painting, applicable to many paintings ... or maybe some say what I would say ...
Would you consider posting another picture? The thread has been very interesting.
 

gmag

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Would you consider posting another picture? The thread has been very interesting.


Well if camino Chrissi and you ask me, and if Ivar allows me, since it is not exactly a theme of the Camino (or is it?) I can do something more, the painting will not be as charming as this one, but it can be very interesting... (I hope)
If you really liked it, it gives me real joy. Thank you!!
 

gmag

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This is what you have done for me, @gmag, by starting this thread. I've always enjoyed looking at paintings as a whole picture, but not really "dissecting" them to study the components. Thank you for opening my eyes to see the bigger picture.

I like to share, and I remember my joy when one day (long long time ago) I discovered this way of looking at paintings ...

If you want we can see another painting, perhaps by Velazquez, very different and apparently much more complex, but I imagine that you will see things that a few days ago you might not have seen ...

Thank you!!!!, I love what you told me.
 

gmag

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Why not select paintings that have a connection to the Camino or pilgrimage, if you can find any. Or illustrations of Spanish history, or works of art that we can find in a side trip from the Camino?

C clearly, of course, things that are related to the Camino is an good and logical idea, but quite limited ..., thinking about it, perhaps an example with which we can see and understand a lot is better, there are pictures so full of details, that they can be the key to all the other pictures in the future, and it can also be very entertaining. But even more than entertaining, it sure is satisfactory, because I know that (after what we learned with Vermeer) we will read very interesting comments.
 
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Careful if you go with anything from Velazquez, @gmag !

His works are generally exquisite but the observer , even if amateur (like me), will find the common trait of foreshortening perspectives to be problematic.

Maybe a Caravaggio? The same level of almost pathological detail but without the distortion of perspective.

That is my 2 pence to the discussion.

B

[Edit: You "own" this thread, @gmag, so please take my suggestion as just that. From the normal "gridding" that you have presented above? Velasquez is difficult to fit in those confines....as I remember. My second walk of the Louvre back in the 90's convinced me on that path. A nurse, retired from an ophthalmologist's practice, glommed onto me as I toured that day and was all over Velasquez's work. She loved his work but felt sorry for the man as his vision problems likely caused him great difficulty in daily life.)
 
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Thank you, @gmag , I've been lurking here really enjoying this thread, but not having anything much to contribute. But I've learned something which is always very nice!

of course, things that are related to the Camino is an good and logical idea, but quite limited
El Greco's View of Toledo is right on the Levante, and I would love to see what gets teased out of that!
 
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Flog

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Flogwail, I have met many artists (or something similar) who had a good hand but did not know how to look, and I have also met many people who did not know how to paint or much about art but who had an excellent eye to see a painting or the reality with the eyes of an artist. Both can be taught and learned. Among all the good things that my students told me over the years, the best and the one that gave me the most personal satisfaction was when they said that I had taught them to look. Talking about art with someone who does not know much about art can be very pleasant and interesting, after all we are surrounded by things that have or may be related to some form of art, and talking with an artist very into art can be deeply boring.

Yes Indeed, while it may be necessary to have some training to truly appreciate a piece of art or a passage of music or whatever, I feel it is also wonderful to just take pleasure in something, to 'get it' without having to analyse or understand it, just to smile with pleasure...
That said, I'm happy to learn from the contributions to your thread, and I'm looking at my 'girl with a pearl earring' with newfound admiration, thank you!
 

Bristle Boy

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Yes...I come from a very low base as far as my understanding is concerned. Before now it has consisted of "nice picture"...or not as the case might be. Thanks to some gentle nudging from the OP my appreciation has improved. I found myself coming back to the image, expanding and exploring on a Christmas day of all days.
The painting might have been nothing more than a homage, an appreciation, a respectful memorialisation of one persons talents and friendship combined.
A thank you to the lens maker who had assisted the artist and all the components that told the story. But what do i know...it is just my interpretation.
Do another @gmag Be it Spanish (i dont get Picasso) or another Spanish artist.
I've loved this thread.
 

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(i dont get Picasso) or another Spanish artist.
I've loved this thread.
Few people probably understand most of Picasso's work...he's a hard "nut to crack". Paintings are often subjective as to their meanings.

Edited to avoid offense.
 
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I " get" Picasso as I am sure many others are. I can appreciate art without fully understanding it. Paintings, music, books and theatre are so layered and therein lies the beauty.
Fully agree!
 

gmag

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Thank you, @gmag , I've been lurking here really enjoying this thread, but not having anything much to contribute. But I've learned something which is always very nice!


El Greco's View of Toledo is right on the Levante, and I would love to see what gets teased out of that!
Good choice!!!!!!!!!

I could see that fantastic painting in an exhibition of El Greco in the Prado, in Madrid, (1980 +-) my eyes were slightly damp with sadness, because it was incredibly beautiful and expressive, it is not in Spain and I felt that I was losing something unique and very important forever.

I think that is in the Metropolitan of NY.

Never before and never after have I had the same feeling again, not with paintings or anything else.
 

gmag

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There is another painting, but in order not to make this post too long I have put it in a new one.

The moderators can put it where they think it's best

Thanks for the attention you have had with this one from Vermeer.

I will still add a few more comments in the next few hours.
 
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peregrina2000

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Let's go there!

I have chosen this painting because it is an exceptional example of composition.

We all know what it is like to feel that we like a painting, but we cannot say exactly why.



I want to get into that, it's simpler than we think, but nobody explains it to us. What is it that makes us like something but we can't say why? What has happened, in most cases, is that the brain perceives something that the eyes transmit to it, but that it cannot rationalize because it does not know the existence of that language. What the brain perceives it returns in the form of pleasure, simply, and that is why we say that we like something: because there is harmony in the painting, that is, in the composition, because is pleasant, .

We are going to see how Vermeer composed this painting, that is, how and why each thing, be it the nose, the hand, the celestial sphere or the painting on the wall, is where it is and cannot be anywhere else.

Let's see how Vermeer composed this painting, that is, how and why each thing, be it the nose, the hand on the sphere, the hand on the table, the vertical and horizontal shadows of the drawing in the closet, the vertical right edge of the the blue tablecloth, the light books and the dark books on the closet, the lighted window ledge, the stars sphere, the white line under his beard, or the picture on the wall, are where they are and cannot be anywhere else.

Once you understand this you will understand and see in another way many other paintings by great artists from all over Europe, from the Baroque to even today.

Let's start with the Vermeer painting in white, (or in the color of the primer that he painted on, which is another important issue in a painting.

We start by drawing two lines, A-D and B-C. They intersect in the exact center of the picture.

Now we draw a line parallel to A-C that crosses the central point, we will call it E-F

And another line we'll call G-H.

Let's keep going.

Now let's draw lines A-H and A-F and do the same from B, C and D.

We now have lines B-G, B-F, C-E, C-H, D-G and D-E.

Now the lines E-G, E-H- F-G and F-H.

Now we are going to cross with lines all the intersection points of the previous lines. We will have this:
View attachment 89895


We have, vertically and horizontally, lines in the center, at one third, at one fourth, at one fifth and at one sixth.

In this painting we will suffice with the central lines, those of a third and those of a quarter. View attachment 89903
So I don’t mean at all to sound confrontational here, but do you think that knowing about all of the intersecting lines of the composition help us to enjoy the painting more, or is it just that it provides an explanation for why some brains find it pleasing? And conversely, did Vermeer draw all these lines out, or is it just the composition that his brilliant mind came up with without drawing the lines?
 

henrythedog

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So I don’t mean at all to sound confrontational here, but do you think that knowing about all of the intersecting lines of the composition help us to enjoy the painting more, or is it just that it provides an explanation for why some brains find it pleasing? And conversely, did Vermeer draw all these lines out, or is it just the composition that his brilliant mind came up with without drawing the lines?
I’m an economist and ex-soldier, not an art historian; but I’m married to a post- graduate art historian, which means that together we stand a chance of understanding, valuing and defending an artwork...

I’d be fairly certain that the lines predate the picture as opposed to explaining the composition.
 

C clearly

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I’d be fairly certain that the lines predate the picture as opposed to explaining the composition.

is it just the composition that his brilliant mind came up with without drawing the lines?
Good question that I've wondered about too. Maybe the trained painter draws them out in advance, as an aid, but I suspect that the most brilliant artists do much of this instinctively. LIke people with inexplicable musical talent.
 
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gmag

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Careful if you go with anything from Velazquez, @gmag !

His works are generally exquisite but the observer , even if amateur (like me), will find the common trait of foreshortening perspectives to be problematic.

Maybe a Caravaggio? The same level of almost pathological detail but without the distortion of perspective.

That is my 2 pence to the discussion.

B

[Edit: You "own" this thread, @gmag, so please take my suggestion as just that. From the normal "gridding" that you have presented above? Velasquez is difficult to fit in those confines....as I remember. My second walk of the Louvre back in the 90's convinced me on that path. A nurse, retired from an ophthalmologist's practice, glommed onto me as I toured that day and was all over Velasquez's work. She loved his work but felt sorry for the man as his vision problems likely caused him great difficulty in daily life.)


Velazquez never had vision problems, she could confuse Velazquez with El Greco, who was said to have them because of his way of lengthening the figures. To be more sure of what I say, I have searched the internet for data about Velazquez and nowhere do they speak of something so important.
 

Bristle Boy

Active Member
Year of past OR future Camino
2022
Good question that I've wondered about too. Maybe the trained painter draws them out in advance, as an aid, but I suspect that the most brilliant artists do much of this instinctively. LIke people with inexplicable musical talent.

I cannot and never have drawn or painted. But I do have strong preferences for composition of interior decoration, garden design, and even design of fabric art, and I have no training or method to guide me.
Yes..my son draws all the required lines and prepares the canvas prior to painting.
 
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