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!

Memorial Portrait: An Unexpected Loss

The White Rabbit, Oil painting miniature by Rebecca Luncan

The White Rabbit – September 2016, oil on copper, 4″ x 4″

A Memorial Portrait: The passing of Ellie

My Ellie passed away quite suddenly this past month. The vet saw her for an eye irritation but found nothing too concerning, just a tiny scratch on her eye. But Ellie died the very next evening. We don’t know why she died so suddenly, but we miss her.

It’s a sad thing, but having so many animals in childhood helped teach me to be thankful, that death doesn’t diminish the gifts of life. Ellie was a sweet friend to her brother Charlie, and I’ll miss her hopping around the house, and snuggling at my feet while I paint. She was a great muse, and it comforts me that I was painting her portrait when she passed for the Monthly Miniature – Into the Country series.

We kept one early painting of Ellie for ourselves, and I’m glad we did. A portrait has a freshness and a life of its own that makes the subject feel close, that keeps them alive and well in our hearts. It’s a hard thing to explain why a painting should feel more significant than, say, the photo it’s based on, but I think it’s the care put into making it. Because it’s a totally unique object, we give it meaning.

Please enjoy the newest painting of Ellie and join me in remembering her fondly. You can find more paintings of her in the Monthly Miniature – Rabbit’s series.

Rest in peace little Ellie! You will be very missed.

New Frames, New Challenges: Portrait of a Black Cat

Portrait of a Black Cat, oil on aluminum, 1.5" x 1" (unframed), by Rebecca Luncan

Portrait of a Black Cat, oil on aluminum, 1.5″ x 1″ (unframed)

The perfect frame for your picture? Or the perfect picture for your frame?

During my art school days I worked as a picture framer, which taught me a lot about how to present my own artwork. At that time, I actually framed very few of my paintings in traditional frames, but explored many nontraditional methods to hang and frame my artwork.

Miniature portrait painting by Rebecca Luncan

Miniature portrait painting by Rebecca Luncan

Miniature frames are always hard to come by, and “found objects” became my best friends. I used a wide variety of everyday objects as frames, like the large sanding wheel pictured here, and the frames began to inform the content and character of my paintings. I used a conduit box to hold a double-sided painting that rotated within its frame to reveal one face at a time, and that spawned a whole series of “turn paintings,” and other sculptural paintings, all inspired by the use of a found object as frames.

Now years later, I’m totally in love with traditional picture frames. Having learned how nontraditional frames can shape the painting itself (and be an essential part of the artwork), I can now appreciate the dialog between a traditional painting and its frame. Beautifully hand-finished wooden frames, or brushed or polished metal frames attract my eye and fascinate me nearly as much as the paintings within. I find that antique frames are the best of both worlds, combining the elegance of a traditional frame with the thrill of finding a unique object that shapes the painting it frames.

Sometimes making a match between a painting and its frame works right off the bat, and other times it takes trial and error. I happily framed all of my Rabbit Monthly Miniature paintings in little antique frames, handpicking each frame and cutting metal to fit it (I paint mostly on copper and aluminum) before ever dipping my brush in paint.

But when I became enamored with 1920’s celluloid and bone frames, often used to frame miniature portraits, I ordered about a dozen of them but had a hard time getting my first celluloid-framed painting to look right. The frame itself demands a lot of attention, and I found that although I was reasonably happy with the painting itself, it did not look right when paired with the frame. After months of thinking how I could make it work, I finally removed the painting from its frame to apply a few experimental coats of paint. I simplified the background, limited the pallet, and added highlights to the cat’s face (below) to make it a stronger focal point. I also got rid of the glass, which made it tougher to see the details in the black cat’s fur.

The lines radiating through the celluloid demand a strong focal point in the painting; the cat’s eye color echoes the background like the cat’s body echoes the frame. I’m much happier with the final painting—it even looks bigger to than the original—but I never would have arrived at this solution without having the frame to inform it. Click to see an in progress image in between the two stages.

 

Portrait of a Black Cat, First and final versions, oil on aluminum framed in an antique celluloid and brass frame, 1.5" x 1" (unframed)

Portrait of a Black Cat, First and final versions, oil on aluminum framed in an antique celluloid and brass frame, 1.5″ x 1″ (unframed).

 

This painting will be on view at Childhood’s End Gallery for their anniversary Small Works exhibition this October. If you’re in Olympia please come take a peek! They have a fantastic Arts Walk that happens only twice a year. Check back for more details.

 

 

Woman’s Best Friend, A Painting of a Dog

pet portrait dog, oil on copper, 4" x 4"

Woman’s Best Friend – June 2016, oil on copper, 4″ x 4″

I have to admit a soft spot for dogs, and I love working to capture these special creatures’ personalities in my portraits.

For my Miniature painting of the month, my mother in law’s best friend Penny posed for me, as many of her barnyard friends have done before her. All my life, a dog has been part of my household and the series wouldn’t be complete without one.

Though dogs are often working members of a farm, Penny is about as useless as my Cavilear King Charles Spaniel as a herd dog. Penny decided sheep were best suited for dinner right around her second birthday. My Mona would never try to kill a sheep, but she certainly wouldn’t dream of herding one either. In fact, when I let my rabbits out into the back yard, my cat would help herd them in. Yes, you read correctly. She was amazing and would chase them into the house. My dog would usually sit in the doorway, blocking their entrance. As useless as working animals as they can be, they are unparalleled in the animal kingdom for their loyalty and companionship and are a must for any house in the country (and the city!).

Charlie Poses as Peter Rabbit for January’s Monthly Miniature Painting

rabbit oil painting peter

Charlie as Peter Rabbit – January 2016, oil on aluminum, 4″ x 5″

Charlie posing on a garden path one sunny day last spring reminded me of the story of Peter Rabbit.

 

Rabbits are very curious creatures, and exploring (and getting into trouble) is just part of being a rabbit. I listened to an audiobook of Peter Rabbit to inspire me when I started the series and Charlie must have been listening too to strike such a pose after knocking over the watering can.

Moon Rabbit, October’s Monthly Miniature Oil Painting and My Journey from the Studio to a Land of Myths

Moon Rabbit, oil painting by Rebecca Luncan

Moon Rabbit – October 2015, oil on aluminum, 4.25″ x 3.25″

The man in the moon is often referred to in the West, but in many other places in the world, it’s a rabbit people see.

As I paint the rabbits in this series of Monthly Miniatures, I am also researching rabbits’ historical role in artwork and mythology. I am especially captivated with the many stories that connect the rabbit with the moon. I wanted to explore and pay homage to this fascinating, cross-cultural body of mythology, so this month marks a departure from previous rabbit monthly miniatures.

Rather than feature my rabbit in her ‘natural environment’ (i.e. the painting studio), this month Eleanor dashes into a romantic, otherworldly nighttime scene inspired by German Romantic landscape painter Caspar David Friedrich. I am studying his work for a series of (human) portraits, and his dramatic, misty cliffs made a home first in my imagination, and now in this latest miniature, taking Ellie out of my backyard garden and into the wild!

It is remarkable how many cultures have seen the outline of a rabbit bending over with a pot (or tree stump) at his feet.

Rabbit in the moon standing by pot.pngRabbits do like to keep occupied. Mine busy themselves remodeling their cardboard condos. But cultures around the world have had different ideas about what the rabbit in the moon might be up to. A Japanese story written during the late Heian period (794-1185) has him pounding mochi for rice cakes (you can find the story in the anthology Konjaku Monogatarishū). In a Chinese story, he is mixing the elixir of life for the moon goddess Chang’e.

The root of those and other Asian myths is the Buddhist story from Jataka tales (Tale 316),White-Rabbit-making-elixir-of-immortality.jpg
circa 4th century BCE. It tells how the rabbit is brought to the moon to shine down and share the good example of his virtue. The tale opens with the deity Brahmā (Hindu god of creation), coming to the Earth in disguise as an old man. When he begs for food, four animals offer to help: a monkey, an otter, a jackal and a rabbit. The monkey brings fruits, the otter fish, the jackal steals a lizard and a milk-curd for him, but the rabbit only has grass to offer. Knowing that the old man can’t eat the grass, he instead offers himself and jumps into the old man’s fire. The deity then reveals himself and quenches the fire before the rabbit is burnt. He is so touched by the virtue and self-sacrifice of the rabbit that he carries him to the heavens, leaving his likeness upon the moon to remind us of his noble example.

From the opposite side of the globe, a similar Aztec myth features the god Quetzalcoatl, who makes a journey on the earth as a man and finds himself unable to find food or water after walking a long way. Just when he thinks death is certain, a nearby rabbit offers herself as food to save his life. Moved by the rabbit’s offer, Quetzalcoatl elevates her to the moon, then lowers her back down. Her shadow remains in the moon for those of us below to remember her and how a little rabbit touched the heart of a god with her generosity.

And other various myths connect the rabbit with the moon as well. Native American (Cree) myth describes the rabbit as an adventurer that visits the moon with help of a friendly crane. In Chinese folklore, the rabbit is so prolific that they can conceive with just the touch of moonlight.

My Ellie has been fixed so she won’t be doing any reproducing, moonlight or not. I also have my doubts that she’d impress the gods with shows of selfless generosity. She’s known to steal treats and eat them on the run, finishing them up before her brother can catch her and get a taste. In this painting, though, she is my Moon Rabbit, running wild and free, and who knows how far she can go!

Father’s Day

Portrait of father Rebecca Luncan

My father gave me a foundation, not only in art, but in all I hold dear.

An extremely social person and an engineer by trade, my father was my earliest influence as an artist, gardener, and animal lover (we had bunnies, dogs, and cats, a pig, goats, chickens, horses, pigeons, and probably more that I’m forgetting). Dad took art classes throughout college and always kept up drawing when he could. When I was little, I loved studying his drawing exercise books and sketchbooks. I remember one book in particular that had printed at the bottom of every page, “you learn to draw by drawing,” and that mantra has always stayed with me.

By the time I went to college, my dad’s Multiple Sclerosis had progressed pretty far, but I know he would have supported me in my decision to be an artist. Above is a paining I did of him while in art school, when my style of painting was much looser (I’ve been painting on metal since my junior year). My passion for making things, and for nature bonds me to my father and keeps the sharp and lively man from my childhood strong in my mind and heart.

I love him dearly and I’m thankful to everyone back home that helps take care of him. Especially my sister, Theresa, who diligently and lovingly visits several times a week and whose FaceTime calls from the nursing home make him seen not so far away.  My aunt Carla recently found and framed the certificate below for him from when he was the Art Club President in high school.

DadDocument