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
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 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!
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.
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
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!).
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.
“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.
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.
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.
I have a quarter acre garden, and strawberries are one of my top crops. This month’s strawberry still life painting features my June Bearers (one of two types of strawberries). At the height of my amateur gardening career (before having my son), I picked three quarts every day for a month! If you knew me then, you ate my strawberries.
Now that Isaac is three, I have more time to spend in the garden. The strawberries are slowly making a comeback after some intensive weeding (come by if you want some!). I wanted this painting to be a bit of an overload of warm colors, with slight touches of green. Pairing strawberries with this Japanese bowl from the SAM collection and a Painted Lady Butterfly did the trick.
This bowl is perfect, not only for its colors, but also because the imagery is relevant for this series. The bowl was made around the same time as the famous Dutch still life paintings that inspired the In Season Monthly Miniatures, and the Japanese artist has depicted European traders, very likely Dutch. The figures are as exotic to me as they likely were to the artists who first painted them.
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Read the text by SAM’s former Curator of Asian Art, Yukiko Shirahara, to learning more about the porcelain bowl:
“Southern Europeans, primarily Portuguese and Spanish, arrived in Japan in the 16th century. The Japanese called them nanban, or “southern barbarians,” because they came through a maritime route from the south. The term nanban, however, was used to refer to almost anything foreign in 16th- and 17th-century Japan. Images of Europeans proliferated in response to the curiosity of all things foreign, and became common motifs to adorn ceramic wares such as these bowls.
European figures were popular motifs in Japanese art during the Edo period, particularly representations of the Dutch (called komo: “red-haired people”) because of their direct contact with Japan through trade during a time of national isolation. It was the Dutch East India Company that exported Japanese products, including Imari porcelain, to Europe. Dutch motifs were favored not only for exports but also for the domestic market, to satisfy the Japanese taste for exoticism and curiosity about Western culture. The familiar design of “five-ships,” depicting five Dutch vessels with Dutch figures, is the best example of the popular theme, which appeared from the eighteenth century onward.”
My Self portrait painting has been selected as a finalist for the ARC Salon 2019 Competition!
I was fortunate to have my painting, “Admiral Vox” travel for last years exhibition and I couldn’t have been happier with how the Art Renewal Center (ARC) handled everything. It was such an incredible experience to have my artwork hanging alongside so many extraordinary pieces. I traveled to Barcelona to see the final installation of the exhibit at the MEAM which is a beautiful space. It’s inspiring to see so many contemporary artists pick up the tradition and make interesting work that’s relevant today. I couldn’t be happier to have another painting selected as a finalist.
Learn more about “Self Portrait – Expecting” in my previous blog post.
This year they received over 4,300 entries from 73 countries. The number of entries grew by more than 1,000 from last year! Winners will be posted July 1– please wish me luck!
“Leading the revival of realism in the visual arts, the Art Renewal Center (ARC), a 501(c)(3), non-profit, educational foundation, hosts the largest online museum dedicated to representational art and includes works by the old masters, 19th century, and 21st Century Artists as well as articles, letters and other online resources. The ARC is the foremost and only vetting service for representational art schools ensuring that the teaching curricula and quality of teacher and student work meet our strict standards to become ARC Approved™. The ARC Salon Competition, which is the largest and most prestigious competition in the world for realist artists painting, sculpting and drawing today with eleven categories and thousands of works competing, culminating in a traveling live exhibition of many of the winning works. The ARC works with other ARC Allied Organizations™, artist groups, museums, and publications to become a central news hub for the 21st Century Representational Art Movement. Read the ARC Philosophy written by ARC Chairman, Frederick C. Ross, to learn why ARC is so passionately dedicated to representational art.
For the Month of May, I’ve made a still life painting of birds of the Pacific Northwest. I’m paying tribute to the painter George Flegel. He was born in what is modern day Czech Republic and did his training in Austria and Germany but ended up in Holland in the early 1600’s. His strange compositions, bursting with life are a study of technical perfection. I love how he incorporates birds in his still life’s in such a natural way. Between looking at his paintings, spending more time out in the yard, working on chicken paintings for a show in August, AND having a Stellar’s Jay nest in the eaves right outside my bedroom window, birds have been on my mind lately.
George Flegel, Still Life of Birds and Insects 1637
I’ve made a painting that is heavily inspired by one of his most unusual composition filled with birds and insects. I’ve chosen birds and insects that can be found in my backyard in the Seattle area. My dad always knew what birds were in the yard when we lived in the farmhouse in Ohio. I never studied them enough to be encyclopedic about the different species like he was and I had trouble identifying the different little brown ones. My friend, Chris Keenan (who also helped identify the nest in last months painting) helped me figure out more species than could possibly fit into one painting. I did my best, though!
In this Months Painting:
I have 8 birds in the 5″ x 5″ painting; American Crow, American Robin, Anna’s Hummingbird, Dark-Eyed Junko (Oregon), Northern Flicker, Plaited Woodpecker, Red-Breasted Nuthatch and a Stellar’s Jay. Insects are: Darkling Beetle, Painted Lady Cocoon and Butterfly (did you find the Caterpillar in last months painting? They transformed!), Grasshopper, and a Pholcid House Spider (also called a daddy long-legs). Also included: black sunflower seeds and a Blue Flag Iris I plucked the from the garden.
Detail of Miniature oil painting of birds on copper by Rebecca Luncan, 5″ x 5″
It was incredibly challenging to figure out such a complicated composition. Getting that many birds in there, meant I had to paint them at a very small scale. I have some detail images below to help you get a sense of the size of this painting. It took a lot of careful consideration to try to make the painting look right upon careful close inspection, but also from even a short distance away. Some of the details are lost, even from two feet away!
I hope you enjoy this painting as well as your own backyard birds! Go to my Monthly Miniatures page to see all of the paintings in this series. And join my mailing list for a Monthly Miniature Preview, to get a chance to purchase them before before they go for sale on the website, and to see what’s new in the studio.
Spring has officially sprung and i hope that my newest Monthly Miniature floral painting reflects that. You may have noticed that my first four paintings in this series all have a slightly different feel (see them all on the Monthly Miniature page). Part of the change is the increase in plants and insects awakening to populate each months painting, and for April, I wanted to pack the painting full of new lush blooms. I have included seven types of plants (some in different colors), three insects and the nest of a Dark-Eyed Junco that my husband found in our yard. You can find a complete list at the end of this post.
In addition to changing the subjects in my paintings, I’m also changing how they are composed. For each of my twelve miniatures this year, I’m studying a different master of still life paintings from Northern Europe (1600-1800). I’ve long admired paintings from this era and this series is giving me the opportunity to luxuriate in the detailed little worlds created by so many different artists. See the inspiration behind all of the “In Season” miniatures in previous posts.
Abundance of blooms: Gerard Van Spaendonck
Flower still Life, oil on canvas, 22.5″ x 16″
Gerard Van Spaendonck (1746 – 1822) was an influential Dutch painter, who settled in Paris early in his career. He is known for his fabulously dense oil paintings filled with a wide assortment of flowers and a variety of other living creatures. Gerard was a master at creating an explosion of color and texture.
I’m generally drawn to simple compositions, but I wanted to go in a different direction with this painting and he was the perfect muse. I’ve been excited to change the subjects of each Miniature and highlight what is currently in season. It’s been an interesting challenge to also think of creating a mood that is reflecting the sparsity or abundance of things available as well. I have each month sketched out for the rest of the year already!
I carefully choose each of my blooms, but heavily referenced his composition from the painting, “Flower Still Life”. My plants came from a variety of places; some I found online, others were purchased, and some I picked from my garden which is starting to explode! The Seattle Growers Market is a great resource, with public hours on Fridays, 10 am – noon. I took photos and mixed everything together on the computer for the composition (Pixelmator for Mac). I posed as much as I could in a Frankenstein taped up heap to reference from life but used my digital mock up as a primary reference for plants. The birds nest with egg and caterpillar were painted solely from life (my three year old son got caterpillars for his birthday!)
What’s in my painting?
Birds and Insects:
Painted Lady Caterpillar
Dark-Eyed Oregon Junco nest and egg
Anemones – white and yellow Euphoria
Ranunculus – red, white and pink
Tulips – rainbow parrot, flaming white parrot, Absalom, mint green parrots
My King Charles Cavalier Spaniel, Mona, has posed for us to help demonstrate how to get the best photos for your pet portrait.
Take photos outside.
Cloudy days are ideal and you can shoot at anytime during the day. If it’s sunny out, it’s best to plan to photograph around an hour after sunrise or an hour before sunset. Give yourself around 30 minutes for a photo session. The first image of Mona below is from a huge image file, but it’s a blurry image without a lot of detail because it was taken inside.
Photo taken inside
Photo taken outside
Get on your pets level.
Though my ten year old Mona does look awfully cute and puppy like in the first image below, images taken from above distort the body and feel kind of generic. I find images shot from closer to a dogs eye level feel more intimate and show a clearer picture of who your unique furry friend is.
photographed from above
Image taken from Mona’s eye level
Get up close.
The first shot below looks great at first glance, but it’s shot from too far away. When zooming in on the face, you can see that the fine details are lost. Capturing the little details if part of what makes your portrait special and if the detail isn’t in the photo, I can’t paint it.
Photo taken from far away
Far away image zoomed in
Photo taken up close
Up close image zoomed in
Light up their eyes.
A little light reflected in the eyes gives your pet a lively alert expression. Mona looks like she’s kind of sad or very sleepy without that light. Even on a cloudy day you should be able to get a reflection. If you’re having trouble, try to position the sun behind you.
No reflection in the eyes
Reflection in Mona’s eyes
Take lots of photos.
When trying to get the perfect shot, I took over sixty images. Be patient and try lots of different angles. Block out 30 minutes to take photos and even if you feel like you got the perfect image 5 minutes in, keep shooting for the entire time.
Get a helper.
Not all dogs are as docile as Mona and having someone there with toys and treats helping pose your dog is a tremendous help.
Don’t forget to brush your dog’s hair! Mona had some tangles I missed before we took our photos. 😉
I look forward to seeing your images!! If you’re having trouble or if you’re unable to get new photos, contact me. Good luck!
Visit my Pet Portraits gallery to see some of my past pet portraits and see my tips for taking photos of your cat for a portrait. And now I’m going to have to make a portrait of Mona! Check back in a few months to see which image I end up choosing.