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Puggle portrait painting (cape implied)

Most of my pet portrait commissions are based on images that come from my clients. I have a couple of blog posts for suggestions on getting photos of cats and dogs that can help get you started. What usually ends up working best though, is to take lots of photos (for dogs at least) when you’re running around at the park. I’m often altering the background of images to simplify it so that the attention is going to the subject of the painting. It’s not often that the background truly compliments the subject. When it does, though it’s something special.

The Historical Portrait Miniature

If you do a search for “Portrait Miniature” you’ll find countless classical miniatures, mostly from the 16th – 18th century. Popular in England, France and in the United States (There are probably a million portrait miniatures of George Washington).

At least a third of the paintings that come up in these searches have a blue sky with clouds in the background. They put it perfectly in an article about the representations of clouds in art by the Lawrence Wilson Art Gallery of the University of Western Australia. “The physical position of the clouds, situated between heaven and earth, associates them with a higher order, a characteristic that recurs in art through the ages.” The association is then tied to subject placed in front of the clouds. I’ve been dying to do a portrait like this for ages. And was fortunate that Theo (aka Thelonious Monk ) has the bearing to pull it off. I can’t look at this painting without imaging a cape on her back. I think of it as puggle portrait painting that reveals the true size of the personality held in such a tiny body.

From Tina:

It’s perfect!! Thank you so much!  Melanie LOVES it, and we found a central spot to hang it. Just in time for her birthday and a gift for the ages…both with Theo, and beyond.
Eternally grateful

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Seattle Golden Boy, Golden Retriever Portrait Painted on Copper

After being on my site for 5 seconds, you know I love animals. Especially dogs. I’ve been fortunate to have known and painted several Golden Retriever’s portraits over the years and I don’t think I’ve ever known another kind of animal with a sweeter disposition.

I just finished another golden retriever portrait of Hazel who lived to 19. Painting Joey just after finishing that portrait felt like coming back to the beginning of a journey. Everything’s fresh, bright and this new love is so intense and powerful. I wish Joey a life just as long as Hazel’s, filled with a never ending supply of love for and from his family.

golden retriever portrait painting miniature by Rebecca Luncan

This golden retriever portrait is 4″ x 4″ and it’s the smallest size I’m making right now. I love the intimacy of the size but it’s not so small that I can’t fill the portrait with details (like the Seattle skyline in the background).

Joey’s portrait was commissioned by Lori as a holiday gift for her husband. Please go to my Commissions page to learn how to commission a portrait. Go to the Pet Portraits or Portrait Commissions page (paintings of people) to see more examples of my work.

From Lori:

It’s incredible in person, you are beyond talented! I can’t thank you enough..

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New Work in Small Works Exhibit at Harris/Harvey Gallery

Come wish me happy birthday at the opening of “Small Works Show”, Thursday, December 5th! The exhibition includes a wide array of subjects, styles and mediums including: painting, photography, printmaking, and mixed media works. I’ll have four painting in the show.

Harris/Harvey Gallery
1915 First Ave, Seattle, WA 98101
Tues – Sat 11:00 am – 6:00 pm; Mon by appointment
206.443.3315
December 5, 2019 – January 4, 2020
Opening Reception: Thursday, December 5, 6 – 8 p.m. 

New Still Life Paintings

I’ll have two still life paintings in the show that have never been exhibited before. One is a painting of raspberries and insects that is part of my Monthly Miniature series form 2019, In Season. You can learn more about this painting on my blog. The other is from an ongoing larger still life series.

Anita's Insects, miniature oil painting of dragonfly, bee and grasshopper by Rebecca Luncan
Anita’s Insects, oil on copper, 5″ x 5″
Pears and Japanese porcelain still life painting by Rebecca Luncan
Pears and Japanese Porcelain, oil on aluminum, 8″ x 10″

I picked dozens of bartlett pears from the garden this year and we hatched painted lady butterflies from a kit my friend gave to my son for his birthday. I choose the a bowl from the Seattle Art Museum collection that I used in a still life earlier this year Brussels Sprouts and Porcelain Bowl . I spent a year making mounts for the porcelain room at the Seattle Art Museum and fell in love with porcelains. This bowl features “three goats (yang) and the Three Friends of the Cold Season (pine, blossoming plum, and bamboo) all carrying a message of renewal appropriate to the beginning of the new year. Winter ends and spring arrives; yin is on the wane and yang is on the rise, heralding the rebirth of nature.” I chose a different goat for this painting.

Rabbits in the Forest

I have two rabbits and have done more than a dozen painting of them. They were the focus for my first Monthly Miniature series and, years after finishing that series, they still find their way into my work. My indoor rabbits moved to an outdoor run last year and my rabbit paintings have likewise gone from interior settings to the wild outdoors.

Miniature forest floor still life painting with butterflies and rabbits by Rebecca Luncan
Forest Floor with Rabbits oil on aluminum 5″ x 5″
White Rabbit contemporary realism oil painting on aluminum by Rebecca Luncan
A Silent Gathering (Aspen and Hare), 6″ x 4″, oil on aluminum
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Breakfast Still Life Painting

I love breakfast. I believe starting every day with a nice leisurely breakfast is absolute perfection. I’ve spoiled my three year old son to believe the same. When asked what he wants for breakfast his reply is usually, “scrambled eggs, pancakes and bacon”. And that’s usually what he gets. Special occasions substitutes the pancakes for waffles.

Dutch still life paintings of breakfast are nothing like the photos of food you see online. Photos of food never seem that appealing to me, but the paintings are delicious. Antoine Vollon’s painting of “Mound of Butter” from the 1800’s was on view at the Seattle Art Museum a few years and it was a feast for the eyes. If they could make a small mountain of butter look delicious, you have to see paintings of eggs and waffles.

Waffles!

For my November Monthly Miniature, In Season painting I was excited to make a painting that honored the still life tradition and my love a fabulous breakfast. I knew I wanted the waffles to sit on one of the Dutch silver plates used in so many of my favorite paintings and my own waffle iron is very special to me. It’s an antique cast iron waffle maker from the 1800’s that my sister gave to my years ago, but my circular waffles just weren’t working. It had to happen, but it felt so wrong to buy rectangular frozen waffles to pose for the paintings when I love my own waffle maker so much! But for art, we suffer. I’m kidding, the waffles were delicious. 🙂 

Waffles, apples and dragonfly still life painting by Rebecca Luncan

Finding Blooms and Insects In Seattle

I was having a hard time figuring out what flowers could I possible find in bloom in November and was about to give up. I take ballet classes from The Ballet Studio in the University district in Seattle and in mid-November I looked out the window while at the barre to see the flower box in full bloom. Kristen, my teacher gave me a pair of scissors after class and let me bring home her last remaining blooms for the painting. I’m amazed I found roses blooming in November, but Seattle is a pretty special place.

The red dragonfly is a frequent visitor to my backyard. I live near several likes north of Seattle in Lynnwood. One summer my husband wore red swim trunks while going for a swim and he was surrounded by dozens of them as he floated.

Hope you enjoy the painting and hope you have a happy holiday season!

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Classical Pet Portraits

I was commissioned to make two paintings for Jason. The first, a gift for his sister of her beloved dog Hazel. Hazel was a golden retriever that had given a lifetime of love. The other was of Turbo, a lot of personality packed into a miniature 4″ composition.

I composed both of these painting with classical dutch portraits in mind. There were so many great photos for me to choose from of these two. I was especially inspired by the warmth in Hazel’s eyes and the intelligence in Turbo’s.

I was sad to hear that both Turbo and Hazel passed between the time when we designed the portraits and when they were completed. It really reinforces my mission of creating pet portraits though. And I love that their portraits will live on for hundreds of years to come.

From Jason:

I got them today! We are in love! Thank you so much, such talented work!!
Miniature pet portrait painting framed by Rebecca Luncan

To learn about how to commission your own pet portrait, please visit the Commission’s page.

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Forest Floor Still Life Painting with Rabbits

My English Spot rabbit, Harriet, makes her debut in my newest monthly miniature painting. I was inspired by the forest still life paintings of Otto Mardeus van Schrieck a Dutch painter from the 1600’s. 

Otto Mardeus van Schrieck

Otto Marseus van Schrieck, Snakes, toads and butterflies, 1639, oil on canvas, 24″ x 19.2″

Van Schrieck’s paintings juxtapose light and dark. A sinister snake might lurk in the gloomy foreground while a radiant bloom or a moment of light glows from the background. The New York Times published an article about a new book that explores his work last November. It’s a really colorful read, and I highly recommend taking a look, if only to see some of his fascinating paintings.

Though some elements in my painting come directly from the careful study of a work of van Schrieck’s, I definitely took a lighter approach to my painting. I told my husband that, “I didn’t have such severe subject matter in me.” But after the painting was finished and signed, filled with flowers that reminded me of my family, a mountainous landscape that reminds me of my Pacific Northwest home, and insects, frogs and rabbits that remind me of my childhood, I had a miscarriage. It was the fifth since my son was born three years ago. After finding out, I picked up my paint brush and added a snake. I’m doing fine and my spirits are higher by the day. It’s just interesting, after all these years of painting, to recognize how much of myself I put into each one, however subtle or unconscious.

I hope you enjoy this month’s painting. Take a look below for some detail images. The Silvery Blue butterflies were particularly trying on the eyes!

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Insect Painting Miniature

In art school I was known as the “bug girl” because almost all of my painting had insects in them. Insects were a huge inspiration, and though they are no longer the primary focus on my work, they have continued to appear in my paintings throughout the years. I find that the closer that I look at the insect I’m painting, the more I feel a sense of empathy for it. I imagine a personality in there, and wonder about the history of it’s life.

My insect collection has been with me since my art school days. Some of my insects were gifts from Cincinnati Zoo entomologists, while others I sought out myself. I learned to pin insects from a friend I met at the frame shop where I used to work. 

Anita’s Insects

The insect specimens in this painting are from a very special part of my collection. These creatures came from three prized boxes put together by photographer Anita Douthat when she was a girl in Northern Kentucky. I knew Anita through her husband Cal Kowal, who was my photography teacher at the Art Academy of Cincinnati.

Still life paintings can tell a secret story through the symbolism of their elements. These pale raspberries grow in my garden and are symbols of kindness. The shell came from my husband’s pocket (he’s always collecting shells and rocks on his adventures) and are a symbol of birth and fortune. Insects are all around us, yet their forms, life cycles, and social structures couldn’t be more different than our own. Dragonflies symbolize change, and grasshoppers luck. Bees have had close ties with humanity and throughout the ages have variously stood for power, love, and industry. All of these types of insects can be found in the Northern Kentucky region where my models were originally collected over forty years ago (I exaggerated the blue in the dragonfly which was quite faded).

This painting is 5″ x 5″, oil on copper. Go to the Monthly Miniature page to see more of the paintings from the series, In Season.

Jan van Kessel the Elder, Flemish still life master that inspired this months painting

A Dragon-fly, Two Moths, a Spider and Some Beetles, With Wild Strawberries, Oil on copper; 9 x 13 cm

Jan van Kessel the Elder had big shoes to fit into. He was the great-grandson of Pieter Bruegel, who is cited as the most significant artist of Dutch and Flemish Renaissance painting. His grandfather Jan Brueghel the Elder, was a close friend and collaborator with Peter Paul Rubens and the two artists were the leading Flemish painters in the first three decades of the 17th century. Not to mention his uncles and great uncles… Let’s just say, he came from a family that made a big and lasting impact on the art scene.

Starting his training at the age of nine, he was particularly influenced by the work of his grandfather and was quite versatile. He worked in many genres including studies of insects, floral still lifes, marines, river landscapes, paradise landscapes, allegorical compositions, scenes with animals and genre scenes.

I was drawn to his insect still life paintings by his playful compositions that fill every section of the page, while carefully balancing color and shape in a seemingly effortless manner. The results of his carefully painted tiny subjects do not come across as cold scientific illustrations, but instead are warm and lively portraits. And if that weren’t enough, he also painted these miniature still lifes on copper (my hero!).

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Childhood’s End Gallery Small Works Show

Nine artists from the Pacific Northwest created artwork for this small works show and I made the trip down to Olympia to join some of them for the opening. Though the mediums varied wildly with ceramics, oils, watercolors, acrylics, drawing, etc., all of the pieces were created by women. I got to see some familiar and dear faces while meeting some new lovely people at the opening.

Go to my last post to see all of the pieces I have in the show and go to the gallery website to purchase a piece.

Artist Rebecca Luncan at the Small Works Exhibition Art Opening
Artist Rebecca Luncan at the Small Works Opening, photo by Darcy Goedecke

About Childhood’s End Gallery

“Since 1971 Childhood’s End Gallery has been a leading source for fine art and American craft. Located along the waterfront in historic downtown Olympia, we feature the work of hundreds of artists and craftspeople. Our selection of items includes functional and decorative work in a variety of media including art glass, ceramics, woodwork, metalwork, jewelry and a wide range of fine art and reproductions.”

The gallery is divided to showcase fine art on one side and hand made American crafts on the other. Both the space and the gallerists are gems and definitely worth a visit.

Visit the gallery:

Childhood’s End Gallery is located at the corner of 4th Avenue and Water Street in downtown Olympia, Washington. Olympia is located 1 hour south of Seattle, Washington and 2 hours north of Portland, Oregon along the Interstate 5 corridor.

Hours: Mon. – Sat. 10am-6pm
Sunday 11am-5pm

222 4th Ave W, Olympia, WA 98501

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Calf paintings and chicken drawings in Small Works Exhibit

Bovine beauties and classic chickens have posed for two new paintings and three new drawings. On view July 12 – August 25th at Childhood’s End Gallery as part of a group exhibit featuring small artwork from nine northwest female artists.

Childhood’s End Gallery has been around since 1971 and they’re a leading source for fine art and American craft.  Located along the waterfront in historic downtown Olympia, step inside and you’ll find something for everyone.

I’ll have two calf paintings of Zebu cows from Holly Freeman’s herd about an hour outside Nashville, TN. She helps run the Columbia Art’s Building and raises all sorts of creatures. See these two painting and more from the Into the Country (larger works) series.

Calf oil painting in the realist tradition by Rebecca Luncan
Cheryl oil on aluminum 8″ x 8″

Though my primary medium is oils, keeping up a steady drawing practice informs and strengthens my technical skills. I’ve also always been fond of the medium. I have three affordable portraits of hens and roosters in the exhibition and plan to continue to make more throughout the year. My husband and I have been traveling around the Seattle area this summer taking photos of our friends chickens (one day we’ll have our own!). I’m making four painting for another exhibition opening up next month in LA, but there were so many incredible faces in the mix that I was eager to capture in a portrait. See them all in my gallery of drawings.