“Girl with a Gold Earring” was a different approach for me. It started out as just a painting exercise referenced from a photo taken of a girl by Elina Kustlyvy. In the beginning, there wasn’t any big cosmic reason for painting the photo. I just have always admired Kustlyvy’s photos and this particular one stood out to me. I felt drawn to it, compelled to paint it in my own style. I don’t usually paint subjects directly from a photo. When I use a photo for a reference I have a tendency to paint exactly what I see, rather my own interpretation of it. To me this was a challenge, an experiment of my abilities to push beyond what I see in the photograph.


Girl in a green dress and white shirt enjoying the sun

Original Photo by Elina Kustlyvy

The biggest difference between this painting and others I created was the removal of my usual first step. I didn’t start with a sketch at all. I felt I didn’t need a detailed form, since the photo was essentially my sketch, but I also didn’t sketch out a base layer on the canvas either. I jumped straight in on blind faith that my subconscious knew what it was doing. Luckily, the risk panned out. The painting fell into place quickly. I was in a definite flow state every time I picked up the brush to work. It’s a rare phenomenon, but a greatly welcomed one.

Like almost all of my paintings, I painted “Girl with a Gold Earring” in an additive fashion, layering blocks of color on top of each other until the form was perfect. Since I started the painting as an experiment, I didn’t focus too much on the color palette itself. I chose intuitively which colors would be used as the base, highlight, and shadow and kept them consistent throughout. As the colors came together, I found myself loving the electric palette. It’s a color combination I’ll likely use again.

It didn’t take long in the process for the painting to take on its own attitude. As I worked, the girl on the canvas began to stand out from the one in the original photo. For some reason she reminded me of the girl in “Girl with a Pearl Earring” by Johannes Vermeer; confident and vibrant, but also soft and welcoming. She felt very much like a modern reincarnation of the same girl. There’s little about the two paintings that connect them compositionally except for the one earring, but to me, they feel linked by some unexplainable creative force. 

From choosing intuitive colors to my abandonment of a starting sketch, this painting took on a whole different strategy for me. The challenges and risks I took creating this painting leaves me with a special fondness for this piece. I hope it does the same for you. Both the original painting and it's limited edition prints are available in the Citra Studio shop!