Monthly Display - August 2019


Painting Using A Mirror

This month I want to present a painting technique which allows a painter to directly compare the tones and colours of a subject image with those of a painting or drawing. A mirror is used for directly comparing tones, colours and placement of a subject image with a painting.

I have been painting and drawing for more than 45 years, but have only come across this technique in the last couple of months, as a result of recently watching a documentary film made in 2013 titled, “Tim’s Vermeer” (which was made by the illusion duo of ‘Penn and Teller’ (Penn Jillette and Raymond Joseph Teller).

“Tim’s Vermeer” is about some of the ideas, skills and desires of one man, Tim Jenison, who is apparently not a painter, but who wants to produce a similar painting to one that was produced by Jan Vermeer (born in 1632 and died in 1675 at the age of 43). It is an excellent documentary, though I suspect, because it was made by Penn and Teller, that it may not be entirely truthful in all of its suggested details.

Two important books referred to in the documentary were:

“Secret Knowledge – Rediscovering the Lost Techniques of the Old Masters.” by David Hockney.

“Vermeer’s Camera”, by Philip Steadman.

Apparently, both books received considerable criticism from various art historians.

The central idea that Tim Jenison presents convincingly in the documentary, is that Vermeer probably used a mirror (a technology developed before his time) to help him paint images with ‘photographic’ tonality, colour and spatial accuracy. Photography was yet to be developed. After Vermeer’s death, it would take around 150 years to develop a reasonable form of photography.


Looking at the mirror (out of focus), showing a section of the photograph, surrounded by the painting.

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