100 Days of Art History Jinjins


Young Woman with a Water Pitcher

This entry was a major turning point for this series. The whole project can be divided into the ones that I did before this picture, and the ones after. And it all happened because no matter how hard I tried, I couldn't get the angle of this lady's face right.

In the entries before this one, I wasn't trying to do a completely faithful master copy. I was changing the style to make my copies faster, so they were more cartoony with solid outlines and rougher colors. When I tried that same approach with this one, I found that I was just having tons of trouble with the angle of her head. It's tricky--it's tilted down and to the side, and her hood obscures all kinds of helpful information about where the rest of her head is or how it's connecting to her neck and shoulders. I tried again and again, getting more and more frustrated. Finally I gave up, and thought I'd just do a more faithful copy rather than a cartoony interpretation. I decided to do away with the lines, and go straight for color and shading. I figured if I copied the painting more by rote, the angle of the face would come out naturally.

It worked, more or less. I still wasn't trying to get across a likeness of my own specific face (just putting on glasses was enough of a nod to self portraiture for me), but now the rest of the copy was more faithful and I was satisfied with it. I was also thrilled at how it looked, and really enjoyed the slower rendering process. It felt good to savor every detail of the painting and capture the same light effects. After this one, I decided to use this slower, more detailed approach on the rest of the entries in this series, and give up on completing this within 100 days. In a way, this is where the project became more serious and started for real, when I started to take pride in it.

This is also a very beautiful painting that shows why I love Vermeer. The pale clear light, the peace and stillness, are things I wish suffused more of my life. He makes this mundane moment serene and full of beauty. Across hundreds of years, he makes you fully present in it that moment too.

Reference image is from The Met, where this painting is today.

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