Friday, November 21, 2008
How Very Vermeer- An art Lesson on Jan Vermeer
Jan Vermeer was born to an art dealer father in the city of Delft in the Netherlands. His father's position afforded him an early advantage of contact with artists and art buyers. Vermeer painted mostly portraits, completing only 40 or so paintings in his lifetime. More have been attributed to him, but their authenticity can not be established. Other painters so admired his work that they tried to paint exactly like him and this has confused many art historians. It was some 200 years after his death however that the general public took any notice of his work and began to realize its importance.
Vermeer was very much a "starving artist". He worked hard to support his wife Catherina and their 15 children(only ten survived childhood), though it was never enough. The family lived with Catherina's mother Maria Thins and Vermeer still had to borrow money just to feed his children. Financial devastation overtook the family when the government allowed widespread flooding in order to rid the country of the Spanish that had overtaken their country. The family farm was destroyed, as was Vermeer's health and he died a short time later, leaving his wife a widow with ten children to care for all alone.
There was a time when his portrait work was in demand and evidence of this can be found in his paintings that have blue in them. The main ingredient used to make blue paint in this period was extremely expensive and most artists couldn't afford to use it. Another clue to a period of prosperity lay in the maps that frequented the backgrounds of his works. Having a map in one's home was an indicator of wealth, education, and possible world travel.
Only a few of Vermeer's paintings were not of people. Most were of indoor scenes with women, a window to the left of the frame casting a strong light on it's subjects.
How Very Vermeer- The Lesson Plan
watercolor or cardstock paper
black Sharpie@ markers
Examples of Vermeer's Paintings
Vermeer tended to paint indoor scenes. There was usually a woman or two strongly lit from the left by a large window. In some of the paintings he did there was a map on the wall and a diamond shaped tile pattern on the floor. In his most famous painting, Girl with a Pearl Earring, the subject is wearing a pearl earning (obviously) and has the color blue in her headdress.
These will be what the project needs to be based on.
The end result should be a a project with these criteria:
1. An indoor scene
2. One or more figures in the scene
3. A large window in the left hand side of your picture
4. A map of some kind in the picture
5. Include a pattern of diamond shapes somewhere in the picture.
6. Include jewelry somewhere in the picture.
7. Include the color blue in the picture somehow.
My suggestion is to look at as many Vermeer pieces as you can beforehand. Ask the students if they notice any other patterns in Vermeer's work that they may want to include in the guidelines.
If your students require more direction, then you can print out a Vermeer print and have them trace it to a blackline. From there they can create their own version on a new piece of paper(or they can use it as a homemade coloring page) and personalize it to her satisfaction. For the faint of heart in the drawing department, never fear, the desired result of this lesson can also be achieved through making a collage from Vermeer prints or even from magazines. This lesson is all about the "criteria". If your student has met all of the requirements in the guidelines, then their pieces are successful.
After they are satisfied with their drawings, they should outline all the pencil marks in Sharpie. Then they should color the pictures in with oil pastel. Once all the color is on, have then take a Q-tip dipped in just a little baby oil onto the oil pastel and rub it around. The oil breaks down the pastel into a more liquid, spreadable, and bendable form. Try to use a new Q-tip for each color and to use the oil sparingly as the picture can get greasy quickly. If it has too much oil, simply blot the page with a paper towel until the oil is absorbed. The Q-tips offer much more control than a brush for student hands. This is a great technique and I use it alot in my classes.
Hopefully your students will love their pieces and they will probably be able to tell you and everyone you know for a very long time the specific elements that help make a Vermeer standout!
Tomorrow I will post some of the student samples of this project.
A special thank you to Jessica at Art Smart for Kids fro her great post on Vermeer which inspired this lesson!