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What Keith's Watching: Tim's Vermeer (2013)

Tim's Vermeer is one of the best documentaries I've seen in a long time, if not one of the best ever. And it's a pretty straight forward concept. Tim Jenison, inventor and entrepreneur, wants to test the theory that Johannes Vermeer used optical devices to paint. Tim's goal is to hopefully paint an exact copy of a Vermeer. I should mention that you don't need to know anything about Vermeer or art to watch the film. You just need a set of eyes.

Vermeer is known for painting photo realistic paintings in the 17th century when it simply wasn't done. There's no records of his methods, there are no pencil lines underneath the painting, so it appears that Vermeer painted completely freehand. But how is that possible? That's Tim Jenison's question as he goes through the film. He has an idea using a mirror and that seems to work when he tests it on a small scale. Then it comes time for the big test. Tim wants to recreate a copy of Vermeer's painting, The Music Lesson.

To create the painting and test the method, Tim has to build an exact replica of the room Vermeer painted. This leads down the rabbit hold of Tim teaching himself Dutch (Vermeer was Dutch), learning how to make paint, glass and lenses using 17th century methods. He teaches himself woodworking to build furniture. He learns to sew clothes to make the costumes.

It's truly amazing the levels he goes to to build the room alone, and that doesn't factor in the actual painting. All told, the whole project takes him over three years. Seven months of which is just paining. The final outcome is mind-blowing.

Why is this documentary about a crazy project so worth watching? I find it fascinating and inspiring because it's a story of discovery and dedication. I'm a firm believer that anyone can pretty much do anything if they work hard enough. If you don't know how to do something, just work hard and teach yourself. That's how I build a website, self-published a book, and started podcasting. Putting me to shame though is Tim Jenison. He is strong proof that hard work and dedication can make anything possible. He put in so much work and taught himself so much just to solve this mystery. If he can dedicate three years of his life to this, you can dedicate 80 minutes to watch Tim's Vermeer.

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