Drawing Hands and Jewels after Vermeer

How to draw beautiful details after Vermeer with coloured pencils

I know – Vermeer again. I can’t help it. And hands and jewels again, because these details are so perfect. Today’s project is a detail from A Lady Writing.

Johannes Vermeer, A Lady Writing, c. 1665, oil on canvas. National Gallery of Art, Washington DC., gift of Harry Waldron Havemeyer and Horace Havemeyer, Jr., in memory of their father, Horace Havemeyer

If you are familiar with this blog, you will have noticed that I often focus on a single detail from an old master. I should confess that sometimes there are details of masterpieces I love so much that I love them more than the painting as a whole. For the other projects on details, I used gouache, but this time I chose coloured pencils on black paper, for a change!

Johannes Vermeer (Delft 1632–Delft 1675) was a Dutch painter and one of the most famous artists in art history. There are only 36 of his paintings left, all of which are incredible masterpieces. He is most well known for his scenes of daily life in interior settings.


Step 1 – sketching with white pencil on black paper

First, I used white pencil to sketch the entire scene.

If you are not familiar with my drawing technique, it is basically a three-step trial and error process:

  1. I look intently at a small part of the reference photo, as if it were some abstract shape.

  2. I try to reproduce it on paper, looking back and forth a lot between the photo and the drawing. Do the shapes look the same? Yes: keep it. No: erase and repeat.

  3. Then I look at my drawing again, not as geometrical shapes but as what it is supposed to be. Does it look like the details in this painting? Yes: keep it. No: erase and repeat.

You may also notice I had a cat inspection, as sometimes happens ...

In the short video above, this runs from 00:00 to 01:46. It actually took me 15 minutes.


Step 2 – Drawing Vermeer’s details with coloured pencils

Then I began to add colour with coloured pencils. The toughest part seemed to be the blue foreground. At first, I did not know what to do with that turquoise colour, but I got used to it. I used the black paper under the drawing to create the shadows.

When I was watching the video to edit it for the blog, I realised how often I was drawing with two pencils in my hand! I had not noticed it before. Now that I have told you this, you are going to notice it every time, so I left only two sequences showing that strange habit in the final edit!

In the short video above, this runs from 01:46 to 02:57. It actually took me 30 minutes.


Step 3 – drawing the hands and jewels with coloured pencil

Last but not least, I worked on the hands. I drew them with a yellow pencil and with white accents. I wanted them to be defined but not overly drawn.

In the short video above, this runs from 02:57 to 04:06. It actually took me 15 minutes.


And voilà!

And voilà! One hour is all that it took me to draw this page for my sketchbook. And, once you have done yours,  why not frame this delicate drawing for your home?

I hope you have enjoyed this post. As always, I do not pretend to be a teacher, a seasoned artist or an expert in anything. I am just a very motivated learner who finds a deep joy in regular art practice. 

The finished drawing. And a cat | Drawing Hands and Jewels after Vermeer, by The Daily Atelier


If you liked this post, you will almost certainly like some of these other projects about Vermeer. Enjoy!