Pet Portrait in Memory of Corinna, the Yellow Eyed Cat

oil Portrait painting miniature of Cat by Rebecca Luncan

Corina, oil on aluminum, 2.25″ x 2.25″

 

It’s never too late…

Sixteen years after Corinna passed, she is still fresh in the mind of her favorite person. I have been very honored to be given this commission to create a memorial portrait that pays tribute to a sweet and loved little creature.

An image taken in the mid 1990’s and lots of very helpful tips about her unique colors from Aaron, helped me bring her to life on my small disk of aluminum. She has such unusual eyes and fur and I loved mixing such a lovely combination of colors. As the painting began to unfold, I couldn’t help but imagine petting her soft little nose. Thanks you for the commission, Aaron. I hope that this painting helps bring fond memories of your loved little Corinna to you often.

From Aaron:

Oh Rebecca, it’s wonderful! That’s Corinna. Expression, subtle pink color, eyes, everything. You did it! I’m blown away. It’s more like her than any photograph. I can see, or feel, that it has a little extra love in there. Thank you.

 

Big Henry, meet little Henry! A French Bulldog Portrait Painting Miniature

My latest french bulldog portrait painting traveled across the country and has arrived in his new home.

I’d been looking forward to working on Henry’s portrait and it went almost too quickly! The wait list for one of my painting is currently about eight months. Though it seems like a long time, the anticipation is part of the fun both for clients receiving the paintings and for me to get working on them. What better way to spend your day than to look at that cute little face? I already miss him in the studio.

I found three miniature antique plaster frames and they are to be used for the portraits of two dogs (Oliver and Henry) and a cat (Corinna). For my pet portraits, I mostly work from photos taken by my clients, so I can take commissions from just about anywhere in the world. These three little paintings will split ways and make their independent journeys to California, Pennsylvania and Virginia. If you’re interested in a portrait of your own, please visit my Commissions page to learn about the process or contact me to get started today.

 french bulldog portrait painting miniature by Rebecca Luncan

Henry, oil on aluminum, 2.25″ x 2.25″

 

From Sandy:

Just received my portrait of Henri. It’s so small and so perfect! I love it.
Thank you again, Rebecca

Trio of Rabbit Miniature Commissions

Miniature painting of house rabbits, Setting Sail, by Rebecca Luncan

Setting Sail,
oil on aluminum
4.25″ x 3.25

Remember when I said I had a dozen more mock up’s for rabbit paintings?

Thanks to Nicholas Dorman, painting conservator at the Seattle Art Museum, I was able to squeeze a few more paintings of rabbits into my busy schedule last year. As you may know, I currently split my studio schedule equally between personal and commissioned artworks and these paintings were a combination of the two!

The paintings were commissioned for his wife, whose maiden name is Rabbitt and their two children, whose middle names are also Rabbitt! I sent him all of those rabbit mock up’s that were on the back burner while I was working on a new monthly miniature project and he picked his favorite three. I feel so humbled and honored that he wanted to add some of my paintings to his collection when he gets to travel the world with the museum to conserve so many amazing paintings.

Setting Sail, pictured above, was inspired by a pose my rabbits struck in the studio. I like thinking of this one personifying Nick and his wife contemplating their adventures. Nick’s art history background influenced the other two paintings he chose for his son and daughter. The paintings were inspired by historical works by Hans Hoffmann and Matthias Withoos. I replaced Hans Hoffman’s hare and Matthias Withoos’s mushroom with my house rabbits who share the art studio with me.

 

Miniature rabbit painting, A Rabbit in the Forest, after Hans Hoffmann. oil on aluminum by Rebecca Luncan

A Rabbitt in the Forest, after Hans Hoffmann, oil on aluminum, 4.25″ x 3.25″

Rabbit Painting

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

 

From Nick:

Thanks so much! I love the paintings…They really are beautiful.

From his wife:

We absolutely love the rabbitt (rabbit) paintings! Thank you so much!

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.

 

 

Antique Frame Transformed for the August Monthly Miniature with French Polish

French_polish_picture-framing

The discovery and restoration of a meticulously crafted, one hundred year old frame for Charlemagne in Profile

My sister is passionate about antiques. Most weekends will find her traveling to different auctions, estate sales, and antique shops, on the hunt for something unusual that catches her imagination. About a year ago, she called me up, excited about a sale of wooden frames produced by the The Castner Picture Frame Company in the early 1900’s. The company meticulously produced frames from scratch for more than a century before shutting down. The Mohawk Building in Cincinnati was left with thousands of uniquely designed frames ranging drastically in size and level of detailing. Wooden frames aren’t a rarity, but wooden miniature frames most certainly are, and here they had them them in abundance!

We excitedly talked on the phone and texted back and forth as the date of the sale approached, and she ended up buying around 60 small frames. I was mostly interested in small circular frames, but thankfully, she couldn’t pass up some beautiful wooden ovals as well. Most of the ovals are unfinished,

Theresa's careful assortment

Theresa’s careful assortment

while the circular frames are almost all primed for painting or gilding. What a rare opportunity! They clean up beautifully, and I’ve treasured each one as I painted or polished it to fit portraits of people and rabbits.

I chose to highlight this frame in particular because the transformation was so dramatic. It was so dirty and covered in mysterious spots that I had little hope in finishing it, but as I worked, the spots disappeared, and the grain became richer and more beautiful with each step of the process. It’s my favorite so far, and I chose to use if for this minimal painting of Charlie, the simple white background allowing the frame to shine.

French Polish: Step-by-step

French polishing is a technique of finishing wood with shellac as the main ingredient. This technique was popular in the late 1800’s for furniture but it is often overlooked in contemporary furniture finishing due to it’s low resistance to damage from water and heat as well as its labor intensive application process. It is still a favorite for musical instruments because it’s unique ability to be be applied effectively in extremely thin coats leaves musical instruments with a nice clear sound. Many fine woodworkers also continue to use it, especially on antiques because the rich depth of the finish is difficult to rival with modern materials. As my frames shouldn’t come into contact with either heat or water, it’s an ideal finishing process for me.

Materials

  • shellac*
  • pumice
  • Renaissance  wax
  • denatured alcohol
  • cotton batting (or cotton balls)
  • soft cloth or cheesecloth
  • sandpaper (280, 320, 400 and 600 grit)
  • 2 cheap 1″ – 2″  brushes
  • walnut or olive oil
  • dust mask

*I’m using a premixed solution but you can buy shellac flakes and dissolve it yourself

Step One: Clean

Clean the surface with denatured alcohol and a soft cloth.

Step Two: Sand

Sand the frame with progressively finer grits of sandpaper (starting with 280 and progressing to 600).

Step Three: Rub with Alcohol & Pumice

Make a fad by wrapping your soft cloth or cheesecloth around a wad of cotton that has soaked in alcohol. You can now sprinkle a bit of pumice on the frame, making sure to wear your dust mask. Rub the frame vigorously with the fad, and if it starts to catch on the grain, add a drop of oil.

Step Four: Rub with Shellac

Make a new, second fad, this time soaking in shellac instead of alcohol, and again rub vigorously with as random a pattern as possible. Reapply shellac to the inside of the fad (by dipping the cotton ball) as needed.

Step Five: Repeat, then Dry

Repeat steps three and four a few times, letting it dry for several hours between coats. Pay careful attention that you don’t get too much shellac building up on ridges and valleys of the frame, as you will want these details to stand out. The process of working the abrasive pumice and shellac alternately is called the “British Method” of French polishing. The alternative, using both the shellac and abrasive at the same time is the original, or “French Method”.

Let dry overnight.

Step Six: Final Rub with Alcohol

Make a new fad using just alcohol, and gently glide it over the surface. You want to remove any oil that may be on the surface and even out the final coat of shellac. Don’t press so hard that you begin removing the shellac, however. At this point, the frame just glows, and it’s hard to stop touching the silky-smooth surface. But stop touching for now, and leave it overnight.

Step Seven: Wax and Buff

Brush on a very very thin coat of Renaissance wax. Let it dry for 10 minutes, then buff it off with a clean cloth or a stiff brush. Give it another 24 hours to dry and your frame is finished! Now you can touch it.

Finishing miniature frames

Shellac: Yes, it’s made from bugs!

The critical material for a french polish is shellac. Made from lac, an amber colored resinous material produced by the female Kerria lacca insect, which forms a tunnel around the insect and serves as a kind of cocoon to incubate the eggs she lays. Shellac is a non-toxic material that’s even rated as food-safe by the FDA and has a plethora of wide-ranging uses. Not only to be found in furniture, it can also be found on your jelly beans, guitar, and in nail polish. It’s relatively easy to harvest by scraping it off the bark of the trees, and refining can simply be done by heating it over a fire then filtering once it liquefies to remove any stray insects or bits of bark. It has been used for centuries to polish furniture in the native countries of these insects, Thailand and India. The french polishing technique, which became prominent in the 18th century, is still commonly used to polish furniture and musical instruments throughout the world today.

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