Portraits of a Lady and Gentleman, Formal Portraits of Rabbits in Miniature

Pair of rabbit miniature portraits

Portrait of a Gentleman and Portrait of a Lady, oil on aluminum, 5″ x 5″

Making portraits of rabbits is serious (and silly) business

Living with animals means forming unusual patterns of communication and quite powerful loving bonds. These two bunnies reside in my painting studio and we’ve become quite good friends. I’ve made many paintings of them over the past several years, some silly and some serious. These two paintings take the prize for the most formal in the bunch, however, yet these portraits are also as serious and silly as the rabbits they portray.

17th century Dutch portraits heavily influenced how I composed these portraits. Vermeer’s, “Girl with a Pearl Earring” is a prime example of this type of painting. My fascination for this genre can also be seen in my Into the Country monthly miniatures, created at the same time as these two.

The paintings explore our relationships with animals and their relationships with each other. I’ve spent most of my career painting portraits of people and my portraits of rabbits reflect that. There is an irony in a formal portrait painting of a rabbit because relationships between animals are seen as less legitimate than between humans. And more so this diptych since it anthropomorphizes the bond between this pair. Yet these two rabbits did dearly love each other and the feeling that an animal is “part of the family” is certainty not uncommon. So beyond being both silly and serious, they also feel at once ironic and genuine.

International Guild of Realism Accepted Two Paintings for 12th Annual Exhibition

Two paintings accepted in 12th annual International Juried Exhibition

Admiral Vox and Vigil, two paintings accepted in 12th annual International Juried Exhibition

The International Guild of Realism

Fashions come and go, and fads of the art world are no different. Realistic painting on the other hand persists through thousands of years of history, although its popularity rises and falls like anything else. It is not a reaction to some ephemeral idea in culture, but an effort to get in touch with some defining part of our humanity.

Part of what attracts me to realistic painting is the deep traditions and techniques that build throughout history. A realistic painting feels more to me like an act of craftsmanship than some kind of personal reaction or a commentary. There is something powerful and moving for me in being part of a tradition, practicing and helping to build on a body of knowledge and technique.

Yet there is still room for expression and exploration, both in abundance at the ‘IGOR’ 12th Annual International Juried Exhibition where my two paintings above showed (Admiral Vox won the ‘Creative Achievement’ award). The International Guild of Realism aims to advance realism in fine art by producing museum exhibitions, gallery shows, workshops and education programs.

Says IGOR of realism:

For us, “realism” ranges from the classical based upon traditional, academic-style painting to the contemporary where cutting edge techniques and a wide variety of subject matter are used to comment on today’s world. Our members represent a wonderful spectrum of styles including (but not limited to) Trompe l’Oeil, photorealism, surrealism, and super-realism.

The International Guild of Realism was founded by a group of leading professional realism artists from around the globe in 2002 with four goals:

  • Recognize the best realists working today.
  • Create gallery and museum exhibition opportunities.
  • Provide advertising and marketing support for IGOR members.
  • Offer a bridge between art collectors and the highest quality realist art, created by our members.
  • We know that as greater numbers of art lovers have access to high-quality realism, the value of these paintings will increase — not just in monetary terms, but in appreciation, understanding, and international attention.

The exhibition will be held at the prestigious Winfield Gallery in the heart of the Carmel Art District.

Contemporary Portrait Miniature of a Young Woman

Contemporary  portrait miniature  painting of a young woman by Rebecca Luncan

Portrait of Briar, oil on copper, 4″ x 4″

The children of artists: inspiration for us all.

One of the many benefits of working in the arts is meeting many wonderful, creative people. I met Avery Schwartz working at art handling company Artech. Years later his daughter Briar became my intern at the Seattle Art Museum and I was delighted to make a contemporary portrait miniature of her for my Monthly Miniature, Children of Artists series.

Briar was a dream intern, and her value went way beyond her “on-paper” qualities. With her hard work ethic, enthusiasm for trying new things, and easy and warm manner, she charmed all of us in the exhibitions department. I can easily see how she has inspired her fathers work over the course of her life and I’m very fortunate to have her pose as the subject for this Monthly Miniature painting. Her strength, confidence, and sassy wit inspired bold, but careful colors, lots of contrast and a direct composition. I’m confident that wherever Briar goes in life, she will be a source of inspiration to all around her.

Artist Rebecca Luncan holding her miniature portrait painitng of young woman

Portrait of Briar
oil on copper
4″ x 4″

From Avery:

BRIAR – Well let’s see – what about Briar? Twenty seven years ago Polly and I, 40-year-olds, finally scored after three miscarriages. So Briar is our first and only child. Having a kid is a special kind of organic experience that helps me understand what it means to be human. A real thrill to look in to eyes only a few weeks old and see them devouring information around them. And then there are those first steps that irrepressibly are destined to happen. And bulbous full dipes wattling down the sidewalk. One of Briar’s qualities is that, thankfully, she was not shy about wading in to a new group of people and so she, as a kid, acquired friends easily. And Briar has a pretty noble view toward her friends – she is loyal and caring with them and as hard as Polly and I would try to break her connection with some kid, the more she would insist on the friendship.

One of the great things for an artist who has children is to bear witness to children’s art and realize what a powerful message that unfettered creativity can be – that is, not affected by expectation. One of my favorites that Briar did was when she broke a bowl, she taped all of the minuscule pieces back together and wrote on the tape a lengthy apology. (Still have the bowl which some day will get a sculpture pedestal and case). And then there was the drawing of the outside of our house when she, in a pique of anger, threw an expressionistic fit. (Still have it).

We have found that for every phase that Briar passes through we pass through our experiences at that particular age – sort of live it all over again except for this time we calculate and dole out our wisdom in afterthought. And, of course, that affects what I create. For me painting is an intensely searching vehicle that feeds and exercises my personality. I like to work mostly in a spontaneous process, and am always hoping to find some point between what is corporeal and what is not. So I am deeply invested in psychological signals about the human condition because, as Jane Siberry writes in the song Calling All Angels (with k.d. Lang) “we’re not sure how it goes”. So, while we’re at it with quotations, this one by Kevin Bacon, the actor, always helps, “I choose to live by my own code. I just try to be a good father to my children. Be a good husband to my wife, try to be a decent person in a fucked up world, and keep doing the work.”

The Discus Thrower, oil on canvas, 31" x 42, by Avery Schwartz

The Discus Thrower, oil on canvas, 31″ x 42, by Avery Schwartz

Avery Schwartz

“I live and work in Seattle. My painting experience spans 40 years. In 1971 I was given a degree from the San Francisco Art Institute. I lived and worked in the City for sixteen years, living in and helping to develop an early rendition (in S.F.) of a live/work artist’s building – Project Artaud. I met and married my wife and moved to Seattle. We have a fantastic daughter.

I have worked many jobs over the years – everything from carpentry to working in a psychology research lab. In general I hate to work for money and as soon as I am being paid for something I begin to rebel against it. Whatever.

My grandparents were mostly Russian immigrants escaping from conscription into the Czar’s army, or from early communism, or the stigma attached to Jewish blood. My mother’s family suffered from her violent and abusive father from which her mother was divorced twice, until her uncle agreed to support them from the proceeds of an investment in land in Los Angeles. Shortly he killed himself and left the property – which became very valuable on the perimeter of LAX- to his sister, my grandmother. Meanwhile my mother, a woman of unusual beauty, upped her stage by marrying a hard-working son of a carpet salesman determined to have his first son become a doctor.

Like many artists, I was born with a brain that won’t die. Ideas and concepts keep floating in and art keeps running out.”

International Guild of Realism: New Member!

International Guild of Realism

 

The International Guild of Realism: Becoming Part of the Group

I’m happy to announce that I’ve been accepted as a professional member of the International Guild of Realism. Throughout my career, I have been privileged to work and exhibit alongside many talented artists, but only a handful were realists. While it’s helpful to see one’s work alongside a wide variety of styles, finding like-minded artists is incredibly inspiring. The International Guild of Realism’s primary mission is to “advance realism in fine art through museum exhibitions, art gallery shows, workshops and education programs conducted by our members, marketing support, and internet exposure”. It’s an honor to become a member and I’m excited to see where it will lead me.

About the Guild

Founded in 2002 by leading professional artists from around the world, the guild now has over three hundred members. Defining “realism” as ranging from classical to contemporary, members represent a wide spectrum of styles including, trompe l’Oeil, photorealism, surrealism, and super-realism. Artists working in oils, acrylic, watercolor, gouache, colored pencil, graphite, charcoal, pastel, and egg tempera are eligible for membership. The guild accepts member based on information and images submitted.

Four goals dominate the mission of IGOR:

  • Recognize the best realists artists working today.
  • Create gallery and museum exhibition opportunities.
  • Provide advertising and marketing support
  • Offer a bridge between collectors and high quality realist art.

Their website hosts an impressive sampling of contemporary realists and I hope that you will take a look! I’m sure you will find something to inspire you.

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 Painting 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 painting. 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 portrait 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, 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 painting. 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 work with, and Robbie made a wonderful subject both to photograph and to paint. Thank you both for the honor and opportunity.

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, Portrait Painting of a Little Girl

miniature childrens Portrait painting of Maggie by Rebecca Luncan

Maggie
oil on copper
4″ x 4″

The muse for my March miniature oil portrait painting of a little girl 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.

Michael sent me around fifty images for inspiration. It was great to see Maggie romping around in the water, the woods and the studio. Whether tromping through tall grass, splashing in the water or goofing around, she had a grin in almost every photo. Like when I first met her mother Adria during an artwalk years ago, I had met a kindred spirit. I think of her as a ‘wild’ child, 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

Michael Magrath and his daughter Maggie at work in the Vashon Studio

Michael Magrath and his daughter Maggie at work in the Vashon Studio

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!