Wednesday, July 24, 2013

The Girl that Haunts Me

In addition to writing, I am also a visual artist. Pen and ink are my normal go-to media, but I also enjoy acrylics and color pencil (watercolors are my mortal enemy!). Many of the things that inspire my stories also inspire my pictures. Death. The future. Human experience. Yet there is one source of inspiration that has followed - perhaps haunted - me for years, and that inspiration started with a book.

Girl with a Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier was inspired by a 17th century painting of the same name by Johannes Vermeer. Not much is actually known about the painting or the artist, for that matter. Chevalier's book was an attempt to discover the woman and the story behind the painting.

Not only does the concept of a writer delving into the past through fiction appeal to me, the painting itself struck a chord. Who was this girl? Her expression changes every time I study her. Sometimes she's full of innocence and hope. Sometimes her dark eyes fail to reflect the coy smile on her lips. Sometimes she looks lonely. Sometimes lost. Sometimes wise beyond her years.

I have studied this painting relentlessly. As a writer, I need to figure out who she is. I need to understand what she feels, what she dreams, what she desires with the utmost depths of herself. As an artist, I draw her. Over and over again. Maybe by creating her image I will find a deeper understanding. From sketches to paintings, I have recreated this girl many times. Often, instead of finding her, I find someone else entirely.

These are two very different version of the "Girl with a Pearl Earring" that I've done.

               "Girl with a Pearl Piercing"                       "Runner with a Pearl Earring"

Both of the women in my pictures are very different from the original and very different from each other. By studying one intriguing face, I have found many new characters. These two pieces are a small sampling of my efforts to capture the girl who wears the pearl earring. They are the most recent, but they won't be the last. 

I know that I will return to this painting, trying to tease out it secrets with words and paint. As a writer and an artist, inspiration is key to my success and, thanks to this painting, I have never lacked a mystery to follow. 

So let me end with a quote from the book that started this lifelong obsession:

“You're so calm and quiet, you never say. But there are things inside you. I see them sometimes, hiding in your eyes.” 

"Girl with a Pearl Piercing" and "Runner with a Pearl Earring" are copyright to Grace Wagner. Do not reproduce or use without permission. 2013

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