Pet Portrait of a White Cat and the Tradition of Glazing

pet portrait painting of white cat

Shiro
5″ x 5″
oil on aluminum

 

Painting pet portraits is a journey of discovery

Years of training in traditional painting techniques and my past pet portraits form the foundation for each new piece I make. Yet with each portrait I still learn new things. Mixing just the right color still feels like making magic, and finding the precise technique to create a new texture of fur or feathers is an enchanting challenge all its own.

A perfect example is my recent cat portrait of Shiro, a fluffy white fellow with piercing blue eyes. In this case, the key technique to capture the luminosity in those beautiful eyes, as well as the soft sense of fluff, was glazing.

Glazing is a little like magic

Evidence of glazing is found in the earliest examples of painting. The idea is to apply transparent layers of oil paint atop the dried lower layers. I use Gamblin’s Galkyd media for the upper layers of my paintings and when glazing, I increase the medium enough to create transparent layers, which offer a sense of optical depth. This is one reason why painting always look better in person than when reproduced. In reproductions all the colors are flattened out and the transparent layers are lost.

Glazing is typically used in just a few key areas of a painting. The areas of optical depth attract the viewer’s eye more than surrounding areas of opaque paint, so it’s a great way to help direct the eye of the viewer around a composition and create focal points. Gamblin has a list of pigments that are ideal for glazing on their website. I used Phthalo Blue, Phthalo Green, and a touch of Indian Yellow in Shiro’s eyes.

From Dawn:

We absolutely love the picture.  You rendered him so beautifully!  We have a special spot in the house to hang the picture so we can look at it every day and it looks amazing.

Thank you again.  It is such an honor and a treat to have a piece of your art and it is so special that it is of Shiro who we love so much.

Thanks so much for the commission, Dawn!

See more examples of my paintings on the Pet Portraits page and learn about the commission process on the Commissions page.

See my work at the Edmonds Arts Festival, Father’s Day Weekend

edmonds art's festival

Image from the Edmonds Arts Festival website

See three of my miniatures, on display at the Edmonds Arts Festival, June 16-18, 2017

“As one of the longest-running Northwest premier arts events, the Edmonds Arts Festival is a three-day event that celebrates the arts in our community. Scenic downtown Edmonds, just 15 miles north of Seattle and overlooking Puget Sound and the Olympic Mountains, gives patrons a beautiful setting to view and acquire original works of fine art and crafts. The event provides three days of entertainment, shopping, dining, and gallery exhibits to area locals and visitors alike. During the Festival you can enjoy:

  • More than 240 artist booths with original works of art for sale where you can meet every artist in person
  • Three juried art galleries where award-winning work in all media are on display and for purchase
  • Performers who provide entertainment at an outdoor amphitheater, including music and dance
  • More than 20 food vendors who provide ethnic and healthy food choices along with plenty of traditional fair food options
  • An exhibit of more than 1,000 selected pieces of art from students residing within the boundaries of the Edmonds School District
  • A “Kids Create” area that provides children with guided art enrichment activities and hands-on experiences, as well as the ever-popular face painting
  • The Festival Store, where you can purchase art posters, logo clothing, and other Festival memorabilia

The Edmonds Arts Festival Association is a not-for-profit organization staffed entirely by volunteers who are passionate about its mission. All profits from the Festival are transferred to the Edmonds Arts Festival Foundation that distributes it back into the community in the form of art scholarships and community grants.”

Go to the Edmond’s Art Festival website for parking info and directions. Hope to see you there!

Belgian d'Anver Bantam
“Belgian d’Anver Bantam”
oil on copper
4″ x 4″
Owl drawing by Rebecca Luncan
“Owlie”
graphite and charcoal on paper
4″ x 4″
Bruno the cat, miniature oil painting on copper by Rebecca Luncan
“Bruno”
oil on copper
4″ x 4″

Portrait Miniature of Sam

Portrait miniature of child painting of young boy by Rebecca Luncan

Portrait of Sam
oil on copper
4″ x 4″

Six months in, I’ve just finished my third monthly miniature!

Although I find enough time to finish a steady stream of paintings, it goes toward commission work first. Yet it feels oddly appropriate that this series of portrait miniatures should be (comparatively) neglected: while it celebrates both parenting and art making, it also considers them as competing needs.

And I contemplate some of the people in my life that I love most, and what they bring into the world. On that note, allow me to introduce Sam Keefe, son of Andrea Wohl Keefe and Colin Keefe. When I had the idea to do this series, I thought of Sam first. His mom Andrea was my studio mate in college, and she is still a dear friend, though we’re thousands of miles apart. When I came to Seattle, she went to the opposite coast, braving the lion’s den of New York City, and is now settled in Philadelphia. We’ve stayed in touch, and I’ve had the privilege to watch Sam grow from afar.

From Andrea:

“Sam is this really great human being and I feel so lucky to have him in my life.  He’s so smart, caring, incredibly loyal and good through and through.  I really can’t believe that I’m his mom.  He’ll be eleven next month, and sometimes I still feel like his real mom is going to show up.  It’s crazy that one day you’re pregnant and the next there is this human being in your life and you’re helping to raise them.  Needless to say, I’m still figuring all this out – one day at a time.  Colin and I are both artists, and we knew we wanted to have a kid together.  But where we both have masters degrees in studio arts, there was nothing we did besides a two hour infant CPR class to prepare for becoming parents.

As for balancing parenthood and being artists, we are also still figuring this out one day at a time.  In addition to being parents, we both have full time jobs, run an exhibition space, Mount Airy Contemporary, and have our studio practices. I have decided that there is no such thing as balance, at least for me.  I am always neglecting one thing or another (like responding to your request for a statement – ugh!).  That part kind of sucks.  Thankfully, Colin and I are in this together and we do a lot of “taking turns”.  On a positive, I think Sam gets to be raised by two parents who love him unconditionally and who also are committed to making art and staying engaged with the art community.  And until his real mom shows up, he’s kind of stuck with us :)”

Artist Andrea Whol Keefe

Andrea Whol Keefe

Andrea Wohl Keefe was born and raised in Bridgewater, NJ. She received a BFA from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, MI, and an MFA from Miami University in Oxford, OH. Andrea currently lives in Philadelphia, PA with her husband, Colin Keefe, their son, cat and dog. She teaches art at Central High School in Philadelphia and works in her studio. Andrea and Colin also run Mount Airy Contemporary Artists Space.

Coln Keefe

Colin Keefe (born Boston, MA) received an MFA from Cranbrook Academy of Art and a BFA from Washington University.

Recent solo exhibitions include Robert Henry Contemporary, New York, NY, Abington Arts Center, Jenkintown, PA, and RHV Fine Art, Brooklyn, NY.  His work has been reviewed in the New York Times, Village Voice, Bushwick Daily, Philadelphia Inquirer, Philadelphia City Paper, Toronto Globe and News, LA Times, Sculpture Magazine, theartblog.org and Title Magazine.

In addition to his studio practice, Keefe has been curating since 1995 – first, as co-director of 57 Hope in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn, NY (1995-2001), and currently as co-director of Mount Airy Contemporary (2009-present).

Keefe is represented by Robert Henry Contemporary in New York.

 

Portrait by Commission, of a Northwest Child

Portrait commission painting of child with detailed background by Rebecca Luncan

Portrait of Robbie
oil on aluminum
16.75″ x 15″

“Portrait of Robbie”

It was a lovely Seattle day when Robbie sat (in a tree) for his portrait. Robbie was patient and sweet and easy to work with, and the reference photos came out beautifully. I was thankful that it started off so well, as it was among the most challenging portrait commissions I’ve painted.

Traditional oil painting technique sees me through again

It took flexibility and patience to finish this commission the way I imagined it, and without years of experience to learn confidence in my traditional oil technique, I could have been tempted to call it done early. With the wide variety of textures in this portrait, the challenge was to paint each texture at the right level of detail to keep the eye moving through the painting without distracting from Robbie. I also experimented a lot with composition, moving major elements of the background during planning stages and early on in painting.

With so many different areas to work on, the confidence in the process of painting by layer kept me from getting ahead of myself. It’s not an accident that the same process helps keep color consistent. For instance, the second coat of paint for the sweater took four different painting sessions (having a one year old son has reduced my painting sessions to around two hours). The next two coats were thin glazing layers and each layer was finished during one painting session. That meant I was able to add highlights, shadows and more texture to the entire sweater with the same mixture of paint and not have to keep remixing days later. Similarly, finishing one entire layer before moving to the next layer, allows the whole painting to have a consistent look. As a bonus, painting in layers is a necessary part of fat-over-lean painting, which helps prevent cracking over time.

Thanks to Amy and Robbie for the wonderful experience

With all this talk of challenges, I want to say that I am so thankful for the opportunity to make this portrait. The color palette, composition and facial expression all came together in a tapestry of textures to find Robbie, with his budding confidence and thoughtful gaze. Amy was a pleasure to meet and work with, and Robbie made a wonderful subject both to photograph and to paint. Thank you both for the honor and opportunity.

Kind words from Amy

It was lovely to see your studio and where all of your creative energy flows yesterday. I have hung the portrait… and it is wonderful. Thank you again, and know that I am plotting the next commission.

 

If you are new to my site, please visit my Gallery to see more examples of my work. Visit the Portrait Commissions page to learn how to have a portrait painted just for you.

Octagonal Frame for a Miniature Family Portrait

Family portrait painting in miniature, oil on aluminum by Rebecca Luncan

Family Portrait of Heather, Courtney and Olivia, oil on aluminum, 6″ x 4.75″

Inspired by a 17th century artwork through 21st century social media

I’m always on the lookout for new ideas not only for what I’m painting, but also for framing. When Richard Christie, picture framer of the Cotswolds in the UK, posted an image of a painting on Instagram, I gasped aloud. I had been debating how to frame the miniature family portrait above and I instantly knew this was “The One!”. My delight was due to a beautiful frame worthy of a truly spectacular little painting (pictured below) of “A Winter Scene with Skaters near a Castle”. Painted by Hendrick Avercamp over four hundred years ago, it’s the inspiration for the frame I made for the commission, “Family Portrait of Heather, Courtney and Olivia”.

antique_frames Instagram post, A Winter Scene with Skaters near a Castle. By Hendrick Avercamp about 1608. Seen in the National Gallery. #antiqueframe

Posted by: antique_frames, A Winter Scene with Skaters near a Castle. By Hendrick Avercamp about 1608. Seen in the National Gallery.

Bringing out the details with subtle framing

Dutch style frames are a particular favorite of mine because I find that they lend a formality without adding distraction. The dark, wide and simple profile brings my eye into the details of the image and helps keep it there. I’m also happy to find that the geometric shape of the frame draws my eye around the arms and hands of the loving family encircling one another.

 

Detail of hands, Family portrait painting in miniature, oil on aluminum by Rebecca Luncan

Detail of hands, oil on aluminum

Instagram for inspiration

I have a wide array of interests and they are all covered on Instagram. Among the folks I follow, there are visual artists, picture framers, musicians, weavers, farmers, and family members. You never know how or when inspiration will hit and it’s always fun to take a break and see what people are up to. If you’re on Instagram I hope you’ll check out my account!

Children of Artists, March Monthly Miniature

miniature childrens Portrait painting of Maggie by Rebecca Luncan

Maggie
oil on copper
4″ x 4″

My muse for my March miniature oil painting is Maggie, daughter of Adria and Michael Magrath.

This lucky kid has two kind and creative parents, and the family lives on a dreamy property on Vashon Island. Michael works in an absolutely amazing sculpture studio he built on the property. I’ve known Michael for years and have always admired his work. I was excited for the opportunity to learn more about his lovely family for my Monthly Miniature project. Among the images Michael sent me for inspiration, there are several of him and his Maggie covered in clay, focused intently on a work of art (I included one below).

Maggie is grinning in almost every photo, whether tromping through tall grass, splashing in the water or just generally goofing around. I think of her as a bit of a ‘wild’ child, completely at home in nature, so I painted her snuggling into the leafy floor of an imagined forest.

From Michael:

about Maggie, “she is such a Joker! She loves hide and seek, but wants to be sure you know where she’s hiding so you won’t get lost”

About the portrait, “Your timing could not be better. Today was Maggie’s’ 6th Birthday, so your picture arrived like a present. Its lovely and right on the essence. You nailed it. Thank you so much! thank you for pouring your heart into this, as you do into everything. You shine through every thing you do and I am honored to be your friend

About Michael Magrath, figurative sculptor

Michael Magrath has spent most of his life in the Pacific Northwest. He discovered figurative sculpture while in his early thirties, and has since dedicated his life to the betterment of his craft and the furtherance of sculptural art. Primarily self taught, he has nonetheless studied and taught in a number of rich sculptural environments, including the University of Washington, the Florence Academy of Art in Italy, and Gage Art Academy.

Reflecting a decade spent in the building trades as a carpenter, painter, foundryman, and shop technician, he brings a craftsman’s approach to his work. Regardless, his interest in the figure naturally steers toward the narrative and symbolic. Of no particular denomination of religious faith, Magrath attempts to excavate, understand, and depict the universal truths that lie at the core of religious and human experience. His primary focus lies in the embodiment and reinterpretation of mythology in contemporary contexts, and is most interested in its potential to reinvigorate the human spirit, particularly in the face of the cynicism of the modern world.

Please go to Mike’s website to see examples of his beautiful work and to learn more about him!

March In the Artist’s Studio: Commissioned Paintings and Custom Frames

pet portrait painting of cat in progress by Rebecca Luncan

Shiro in progress
5″ x 5″
oil on aluminum

 

Child Portrait painting in progress by Rebecca Luncan

Robbie in progress
oil on aluminum
17″ x 15″

Painting in a traditional style, takes many layers of paint and lots of time.

Visiting an artist’s studio, you will see multiple painting in the various stages of completion. By first doing a thin coat of paint and mixing more oil medium with my paints for each successive layer (known as working lean to fat), my paintings will last for many hundreds of years without cracking or buckling. Not all artists care about the longevity of their paintings, but for me, I care out of respect for what I’m doing and for the work countless others have done throughout the long history of painting to figure out best practices. It also creates a rich depth that you can’t get with just one layer of paint!

Please take a look at my pet and human portrait galleries and visit my Commissions page to learn more about my commission process!

 

Octagonal picture frame

Octagonal picture frame in progress

Artist Rebecca Luncan cutting a liner for a custom frame on a scroll saw

Cutting a liner for a custom frame

 

An artist’s studio isn’t only for painting!

I often hire local framers (my favorite in Seattle is Gallery Frames) but sometimes I like to make and finish them myself. This frame, pictured in multiple parts above, will be for an oval family portrait I made several months ago. It took some brainstorming to figure out the perfect frame I’m really excited for it to be completed!

I hope you’ll check back soon to see how these pieces progress!

Pet Portrait in Memory of Corinna, the Yellow Eyed Cat

oil Portrait painting miniature of Cat by Rebecca Luncan

Corina, oil on aluminum, 2.25″ x 2.25″

 

It’s never too late…

Sixteen years after Corinna passed, she is still fresh in the mind of her favorite person. I have been very honored to be given this commission to create a memorial portrait that pays tribute to a sweet and loved little creature.

An image taken in the mid 1990’s and lots of very helpful tips about her unique colors from Aaron, helped me bring her to life on my small disk of aluminum. She has such unusual eyes and fur and I loved mixing such a lovely combination of colors. As the painting began to unfold, I couldn’t help but imagine petting her soft little nose. Thanks you for the commission, Aaron. I hope that this painting helps bring fond memories of your loved little Corinna to you often.

From Aaron:

Oh Rebecca, it’s wonderful! That’s Corinna. Expression, subtle pink color, eyes, everything. You did it! I’m blown away. It’s more like her than any photograph. I can see, or feel, that it has a little extra love in there. Thank you.

 

Big Henry, meet little Henry! A French Bulldog Portrait Miniature

Pet Portrait miniature by Rebecca Luncan

Henry at his new home

My little painting of Henry is varnished, framed and has survived the journey across the United States to his new home

I’m almost sorry my French Bulldog portrait is already finished! What better way to spend your day than to look at that cute little face?  So you pet parents out there, send me images of your adorable pets to paint for you and countless future generations to enjoy! Please visit my Commissioning a Portrait page to learn about the process.

Pet portrait painting of French bulldog by Rebecca Luncan

Henry, oil on aluminum, 2.25″ x 2.25″

 

From Sandy:

Just received my portrait of Henri. It’s so small and so perfect! I love it.
Thank you again, Rebecca

On the Easel: January Commissions

Child Portrait painting in progress by Rebecca Luncan

Portrait painting of Robbie in progress

 

French bulldog and Cat miniature portrait paintings in progress by Rebecca Luncan

Henry (left) and Corinna (right) miniature paintings in progress

I’m very excited to start off the year with three new commissions

I book out my commissions almost a year in advance, so I’ve had months to look forward to working on these paintings. The miniature of Henry and Corinna should go pretty quickly, but Robbie will take more time because not only is it a much larger painting filled with a wide variety of details, painting people is much more difficult than painting animals. I’m especially excited at how the subjects for this month are varied, but so in tune with what I love to paint.