Contemporary Portrait Miniature of a Young Woman

Artist Rebecca Luncan holding her Portrait Miniature of young woman

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.

Contemporary miniature portrait painting of a young woman by Rebecca Luncan

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.

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.

 

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!

The Children of Artists Series Begins: A Portrait of my Son

contemporary Miniature baby painting, Portrait of my son by Rebecca Luncan

Portrait of Isaac
oil on copper
4″ x 4″

A portrait of my Son: My newest and greatest inspiration kicks off the new Monthly Miniature series

My first Monthly Miniature of 2017 is a portrait of my son Isaac. I was worried about how I was going to balance motherhood with being an artist, but I’ve been amazed at how well the two are coming together. And how could I not love making this painting? I think every artist parent wants to capture all of their favorite expressions in their little muse. I’m so happy I could record, one careful brushstroke at a time, his sweet little six month old face as it was becoming more aware and loving by the day.

For Isaac’s portrait, I chose an image of him looking directly at me. Those of you with kids might be able to remember back to those very early days when something as simple as a direct gaze was a small miracle. Most babies first make eye contact around 4-8 weeks but it’s not uncommon for it to happen as late as 3 months. Isaac was on the later side and didn’t make eye contact frequently when he was little, so when he did, it was very special.

The Children of Artists: A New Monthly Miniature Series

Each month of the next year, I celebrate those who have taken on the parenting challenge before me. They’ve givin me the courage to trust that, with determination, I could be a mother and continue to make my art. I will paint a portrait a different artist’s child each month for the next year. The Children of Artists explores my wonder at watching someone grow and develop, and loving them more than I could have imagined. I meditate on balancing two great passions. And I thank each artist I know who continues to work, particularly those who manage to raise children at the same time.

Visit my commissions page to learn about commissioning your own miniature portrait.

‘Into the Country,’ a New Monthly Miniatures Series

Sheep painting

 

Miniature Portrait of a Miniature Cheviot Sheep

The Miniature Cheviot Sheep is an old breed of sheep that ranges wild across the hilly interior of Britain. As a lineage preserved distinct from modern, meat-producing breeds (including other Cheviot breeds), they are known for being hardy and wild, and their wool is prized for its warmth and durability due to its crimp. Very few Miniature Cheviot Sheep exist in the Americas, and my mother-in-law Margot keeps them because she values their ability to lamb and thrive unassisted. They are fast and agile, with intact instincts for motherhood and self preservation, and they were difficult to photograph!

Artist with baby sheep

Me and one of Margot’s Easter babies from a couple years ago. They’re softer than you can imagine!

I grew up on twenty acres with all sorts of creatures. When I was still very young, my father was disabled by multiple sclerosis, so my memories of the animals he kept are childlike impressions, images and feelings without stories attached. I don’t remember why we bottle-fed baby goats (my sister does), but I do remember how the goats looked and sounded. Memories of those days are warm and fuzzy in every sense, and they are all bundled up tight with memories of my dad, who also introduced me to art. Now I have a mother-in-law, Margot, with her own farmyard animals, and these animals still bring me a sense of warmth and love and the endless wonders of childhood.

“Into the Country” is my second series of Monthly Miniatures, in which I plan to develop one of several ideas sparked by painting “Paintings of Rabbits” (the first Monthly Miniature series). Each month will feature an animal from Margot’s animal family, in a style inspired by classical Dutch portraiture, with naturally-lit subjects against a dark, simple background to emphasize and personify the subject.

New Monthly Miniature Series, Into the Country

New Model!, Photo by Evan Grim

An eager model (we’ll have our people call your people, Martin)

Next up for the Monthly Miniature 

I have fond memories of the animals my Father kept during my childhood, from bees to pigs to chickens (and yes, rabbits). So when I first met my mother-in-law Margot, I was endeared by her own small farm. Having animals “in the family” now bridges my adult life with my childhood.

This second Monthly Miniature series, called Into the Country, will feature subjects from Margot’s menagerie. Each month will feature a different kind of animal, painted in the style of the classical Dutch portrait, with a simple, dark background to emphasize the subject. Even without picturing their environs or activities, I think you will find these creatures to be very expressive all on their own.

Rabbits in retrospect, looking back from the final Monthly Miniature painting

Rabbit Painting

A Forest Still Life, after Matthias Withoos, March, 2016, oil on aluminum, 4.25″ x 3.25″

With the first year of Monthly Miniatures finished, I have more to paint than when I started

I often begin a series of paintings with a plan in mind, so although painting itself an act of exploration, I know roughly where I am going, so to speak. My Monthly Miniatures turned that process on its head, since when I began, I did not have a plan so much as a commitment: to make one miniature painting each month, for a year. It was only in the second month that I even decided to focus on rabbits.

Having so much freedom was hard at first, but trellised by limited structure, ideas continued to emerge and branch as I worked through the series. I began to realize that I could push my ideas further by taking my rabbits out of the studio and into new and imagined places, which in turn can creative narrative, or even pay homage to an artist or tradition I admire.

Now at the end of Monthly Miniatures: Rabbits, I have a few themes I am eager to develop in future work, and it feels great. Although the work makes no strong statement as a series, it became surprisingly meaningful for me, all by approaching the work more as a notebook or conversation than as an essay or a speech.

Charlie stands in for a 17th-century mushroom

Moon Rabbit, oil painting by Rebecca Luncan

Moon Rabbit – October 2015

Following from the October Monthly Miniature, Moon Rabbit, I’ve placed Charlie in a romantic setting from a work of art I enjoy (“A forest floor still life with a frog and mushroom, mountains beyond”). As you can see, there is no mushroom but a rabbit instead.

The last of my first Monthly Miniature series pays homage to the 17th Century Dutch painter Matthias Withoos. I love Withoos for his naturalistic paintings, full of botanical specimens and insects and animals of all sorts. Withoos trained all seven of his children how to paint – even his daughters. It was expensive to give your children an education in the arts in the 1600’s and if you were lucky enough to be a woman trained in the field, you often worked in your fathers or husbands studio and your work was attributed to them. One of Matthias’s daughters Alida, however, is one of the rare women artist who had success creating artwork under her own name. Part of her success was likely from the fact that one of her biggest patrons, Agnes Block, was also a woman.

What’s next for Rabbits and Monthly Miniatures?

My studio walls are still covered in rabbity mockups and drawings. Although my commission schedule will keep me busy, do expect to see more and larger rabbit paintings and drawings the next year or two. As to the Monthly Miniatures, next week I will announce the new theme that will encompass the next 9 months and finish out 2016. Check back for details!

The Second to last of the Monthly Miniature – Rabbits

Dream of the White Rabbit - February 2016 oil painting on aluminum, by Rebecca Luncan

Dream of the White Rabbit – February 2016
oil on aluminum,
5″ x 3 3/4″

Completing the eleventh miniature painting in a series of twelve continues a great journey for me and my rabbits.

Each one of these paintings I’ve been completing once a month over the last eleven months brings my rabbits and my mind further out of the studio and into my imagination. I’m fascinated by the progression of the works and how they have evolved and at the same time, stayed confined into the original idea: create and release one new miniature painting each month for one year of my house rabbits (complete with hand-finished antique frame).With only one more to go in this series, deciding what to paint last will be quite difficult.

I do plan to continue the Monthly Miniatures after March, but the theme will be different – details to come! Perhaps the rabbits will make a comeback for 2017. I’ve loved working on the series more than I would have ever expected and already have ideas drawn up for a dozen more! Until then, I hope you’ll enjoy the new series just as much and there is one more rabbit painting to come next month.

An Unexpected Litter of Rabbits: The Story of Charlie and Ellie

Mother Rabbit

Mother Rabbit

The two rabbits that continue to inspire my paintings came into our family unexpectedly. But that never could have happened without the hard work of one dedicated woman and the generosity of two local organizations.

As we enter the holiday season and I finish up my ninth Monthly Miniature, I want to tell the story of how my models and their litter mates came into the world and found homes. Because without the dedication of some compassionate souls, Charlie and Ellie might not be with us today.

Charlie and Ellie came to us through my mother-in-law. She is an amazing woman. She has worked with animals for years, nursing and rescuing furred and feathered fauna of all sorts. From sleeping in the barn for days on end to be on hand for birthing lambs, to rehabilitating opossums in her bathtub, she does whatever it takes to help an animal in need.

If you went looking for Margot just before sunrise about two years ago, you would find her feeding her herds of goats and sheep, three horses, several cats and dogs, and her little black and white Dutch bunny Zorro. Rabbits are very social and Zorro lived alone, so when Margot’s friend Stacey discovered a large white rabbit hiding out in her backyard, Margot jumped at the chance to give him a companion. They figured the white rabbit was a pet that had been let go. Rabbits can be harder to keep than people expect, so they often get “released into the wild,” but sadly most don’t make it long.

It took Stacey two weeks to catch the rabbit, but when she did Margot drove over right away to pick it up. She set the newcomer’s cage beside Zorro’s for them to meet, and then went to the feed store to buy supplies. When she came home thirty minutes later, she noticed the new cage was carpeted with quite a lot of fur. Upon closer inspection, she found she had not rescued just any rabbit, but a mother rabbit! Nine blind, pink kittens (as baby bunnies are called) lay sleeping in a little furry nest. If you recall the number of animals already on her small farm, you may guess that she loves when babies are born! Taking in one bunny is however, very different from taking in ten bunnies!

Things turned complicated as the bunnies began to grow.

Baby bunny rabbit, Eleanore

Baby Eleanore

The babies would eventually need homes, and as the tiny newborns grew and their naked bodies got covered in fur, one of the bunnies stayed smooth and naked, she was completely hairless! Despite jokes about knitting tiny

bunny sweaters, we were worried. Such hairless bunnies often don’t survive. Three of the other little kittens didn’t make it to this stage, and Margot worked hard to keep all the surviving six healthy.

As their eyes finally started to open, Margot noticed that one kitten preferred to keep one eye closed. The little brown bunny’s eyelid was slightly inverted, making her eyelashes poke into her eye. It’s an extremely painful condition and will result in blindness if untreated. There is a surgery to fix it, but it’s quite expensive. A Seattle-area organization, Special Bunny came to the rescue. Not only did they raise the money for the entropion eye surgery and saved the little brown rabbit’s eyesight, they kept her and also took in two more white bunny siblings and found them all happy homes.

Margot decided to keep the hairless bunny (called Bunsy Bigglesworth) even if it meant taking up knitting tiny sweaters. But after a few more weeks, Bunsy miraculously sprouted a coat of soft fuzzy fur! And the fuzz soon thickened into a full coat of white fur, only extra soft.

baby bunny rabbit

Baby Charlemagne

The last two of the litter are of course my Charlemagne and Eleanor. I had rabbits when I was a kid and I had been wanting house rabbits for years. Two years later, my rabbits live a very spoiled life. They have the run of the house, pose for paintings, and occasionally venture into the garden to play.

Zorro recently passed on, but his remaining years were much happier with his two pretty companions, Miss Tribble and her uncommonly soft daughter Bunsy Bigglesworth. They share a stall with an old Angora goat Satin, where they dig warrens in their hay bedding. They are very friendly, and come out for treats and visits whenever Margot goes out. I’m not sure where the other three are but I hope they are just as happy and loved as their siblings.

Help Thank and Support Seattle Animal Shelter and Rabbit Haven

We owe a great deal of gratitude to Special Bunny for funding the expensive surgery to save one rabbit’s eye, and finding homes for three rabbits, and to the Seattle Animal Shelter who provided discounted spay and neuter services for Charlie and Ellie, as they do for thousands of animals each year.

To show our gratitude, half the proceeds of next month’s Monthly Miniature will be donated to the two organizations. The ninth Monthly Miniature is a seasonally-themed portrait of Charlie in the snow, and it will be sold by auction. Bidding will open on December 7th and will close at 5:00 PM Pacific time Sunday, December 13th. Please consider bidding generously, not only to support me as an artist, but also to help support these wonderful organizations. Check back next week for auction details, and follow me on Facebook, where the auction will take place!

specialbunny.org            

 

Paintings of Rabbits: A New Miniature Painting, Every Month for One Year

Rabbit miniature oil paintin on aluminumg by Rebecca Luncan

Ellie, oil on aluminum, 4 1/2″ x 3″

This miniature painting of a rabbit marks the beginning of a big commitment.

It may not seem like much in the world of countless artists hosting “daily painting” blogs, but it’s a big deal for me. While continuing to make all of my other, larger works and commissioned pieces, I will make one miniature painting of a rabbit every month.

This first miniature is of my bunny Eleanor, who sits under my desk with her brother Charlie when I paint. House rabbits are a bit of work to keep out of trouble (chewing anything from cords to sofas) but once you get them trained and your house bunny-proofed, they’re a lot of fun. Having a rabbit run and leap onto the rug in front of you makes it all worth while.

Thanks for looking and I hope you check back the first Monday of the Month to see more of the miniatures as they progress!

Hand Finished Antique Frame

Each of the paintings of rabbits will be framed and ready to hang when posted. Although they are very small, they sometimes take a surprisingly long time to paint. I’ve also been known to spent almost as much time on the frame, so it adds up to a lot of work. The frames for this series were sent to me from my sister, Theresa, who found dozens of unfinished, dirty and wonderful wooden frames from the 1920’s. Below you can see what the frame on Ellie looked like just before the wonders of the french polish.

Antique Frame - French Polish in progress

Antique Unfinished Frame – French Polish in progress