How to Paint a Vermeer
Deem's interest in perfecting his Vermeer inspired compositions does not stop with the surface details or luminous effects of the master's work, but extends inward to the complicated structures lying beneath the surface of Vermeer's paintings that often go unsuspected by the naked eye. Following a method of design in use since the Renaissance, Deem utilizes a grid system of horizontal, vertical and diagonal lines onto which he organizes the elements for Vermeer's composition and builds up his colors.
Deem's painting entitled How to Paint a Vermeer (1981) explicitly demonstrates this working method used to create a reproduction of Vermeer's Young Woman with a Water Pitcher ... Six rectangular vignettes of equal size in two horizontal rows, one above the other, are organized by Deem on a single canvas surface. Moving from left to right first on the top row and then on the bottom, Deem demonstrates six consecutive stages of his painting's development from beginning to end. The framing and documentation of these stages are in a sense cinematic, calling to mind efforts to record photographically an artist's work in progress using either still or moving film. Here, however, instead of building up a single image, Deem begins each of the six vignettes in the same way, building up each "frame" to the right one step further than its counterpart to the left, and ending with a completed "replica" of Vermeer's painting in the lower right. The roughly painted surfaces seen in the margins surrounding the vignettes seem to remind the viewer of the medium with which a painter works and the way in which its potential is ultimately in the control of the artist. (150-51).
Marguerite Anne Glass, "Vermeer in Dialogue: from Appropriation to Response" (PhD dissertation, University of Maryland, 2003. 143-64).
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