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Hound Dog Pet portrait painting in an Antique Frame

My latest pet portrait painting is of a hound dog named Owsley. Mason contacted me a month before Julianne’s birthday and he wanted to surprise her with Owsley’s portrait. It was too late to finish it in time, so we put it in the schedule for the following year. Mason was able to look through photos with Julianne and get a good idea of what kind of a portrait she would like. And because it was scheduled so far out, it was still a bit of a surprise when he gave her the painting. We did a formal portrait for Owsley in the Dutch tradition, similar to my Into the Country Monthly Miniature series.

Beagle Hound Dog Pet portrait painting in an Antique Frame by Rebecca Luncan

Portrait of Owsley, oil on copper, 3″ x 3″

 

Antique Picture Frame

I gave Mason the option of using either a newly manufactured frame or using an antique hand finished one. He choose to go with one of the antique solid wood circular frames from the 1920’s. Thanks to my sister in Cincinnati, I have a bit over a dozen of these beautiful unfinished frames that came from the Castner Picture Frame Company. They were primed, and then stored for almost a hundred years when the frame manufacture went out of business. Each one is carefully matched with a portrait and then it receives its long awaited finishing coats of paint. Finding miniature solid wood frames with such a classic design is almost impossible today. And though I do still have a dozen of these frames left, I’m always on the look out for more. It’s like finding a little treasure to surround the portrait of someone you treasure.

Contact me to see what antique frames are available for your custom portrait and learn about the commission process on the Commissions page.

 

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Miniature Dog Portrait Painting, Softening Loss with Joyful Memories

When I first started painting pet portraits, I never imagined I would paint so many in memoriam. 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. I love that all the smiling dogs and bright eyed cats that I’ve painted will be just as happy and alert in their portraits for hundreds of years to come. They will not only bring a moment of joy to their much loved companion, but also to countless generations of viewers after all of us are gone. It’s an honor to make these paintings.

Hicks was one such special dog. I painted his portrait for Megan, whose husband was very close to Hicks. Our time with our pets is brief, but the love we experience is profound. We dread the moment of loss almost from the first, and it is always too soon. I know how it feels to lose a dog so well loved, and I think that is why I never get tired of painting memorial pet portraits.

I have a little portrait of Buster, my favorite companion who I lost six years go, hanging where I can see him every day. His portrait honors our connection and keeps his memory warm in my heart. It also gives me occasion to talk about him more, and tell stories of special memories. Painting it and having it helped me turn my grief at his passing into a celebration of our friendship. If you are considering a similar gift for yourself or a loved one, let me personally encourage you. If you have any questions about it, you may read my Commissions page or reach out to me directly.

From Megan:

Oh my gosh. It’s amazing!! I have tears in my eyes writing this. My husband loved it. It is so beautiful. I can’t thank you enough.

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.

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

French Bulldog portrait painting miniature by Rebecca Luncan

Henry at his new home

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 Pet portrait painting 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 Portrait 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.

Take a look at my Monthly Miniature: Rabbits gallery to see my rabbit miniatures.

 

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.

 

 

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!

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.

Packing November’s Reclining Rabbit Painting for her Cross Country Journey

Reclining Rabbit oil painting miniature by Rebecca Luncan

Reclining Rabbit – November 2015, oil on aluminum, 4.25″ x 3.25″

I’m a huge fan of miniature artwork, and the ease and affordability of shipping them safely is one reason why.

Miniature paintings are great for so many reasons. They are intimate and powerful, easy to hang in any house, and much more affordable to commission than larger works (even with a custom, hand-finished frame).

And while miniature paintings are cheaper and easier to ship than larger artwork, they also need some special treatment.

Medium-sized paintings typically ship wrapped in plastic and 2″ of bubble wrap surrounded in a cardboard exterior . That will normally be enough for small miniatures as well, but because the packages are small, they are more likely to get tossed around, stacked, and generally treated roughly.

Years of working in a museum have trained me to go the extra mile in prepping artwork for shipping.

Here’s how I packaged this miniature painting to ship across the country to her new home.

Art packing materials

Art packing materials

Materials

  • 2.25″ grey foam *sub wadded brown paper for more environmentally friendly packing
  • Ethafoam (Styrofoam can also be used) the thickness of the artwork (you can glue multiple layers together)
  • plastic bag (polyethylene or food grade)
  • tape measure
  • packing tape
  • straight edge
  • “fragile” sticker
  • utility knife (I like Olfa)
  • cardboard (box)

Step-by-Step

  1. Determine what size box is needed. Measure the painting and add 4″ to get the length and width. Stack your grey foam, Ethafoam and one layer of cardboard, then measure to get your box’s ideal height. *I’ve been subbing brown paper for the grey foam more recently to make my packing materials more environmentally friendly. If you do this, leave two inches of space for both above and below your artwork and use double thick cardboard. Add a second layer of cardboard under your artwork.
  2. Find or cut out the box. A box that is within a few inches (but at least 2″ larger on all sides)
    of the painting is ideal. The height should be trimmed to fit the height of the foam exactly. If you don’t have a box handy, you can make your own: the image above shows how you would cut a box from a flat piece of cardboard. To get the creases for the bends, use a bone scorer or completely retract the blade on the utility knife and use the (dull) metal edge. Tape the bottom of the box together.
  3. Cut each piece of foam and cardboard to fit. I also like to take out a corner notch in the top layers to make unpacking a little easier. My favorite knife is the Olfa utility knife with a 25mm blade. Fantastic knife for cutting foam (and everything else). Make sure to keep your fingers out of the way of the blade, these knives are incredibly sharp!
  4. Cut a hole in the Ethafoam that will snugly fit the painting.
  5. Wrap the painting in plastic, making sure to seal the
    edges completely and that the surface of the painting does not come into contact with the plastic. If the painting is unframed and very dry, wrap
    with Dartek first, then plastic.
  6. Phew! Everything’s cut and now it’s time to put it all together.
Packing miniature paintings, step by step

Packing miniature paintings, step by step

7. Remember to add the packing slip and a thank you note, then say your goodbyes and seal it all up. Make it official with a fragile sticker, and it’s ready to post out to it’s new home!

Ship-Finished

If you’re interested in receiving your very own hand painted miniature, contact the artist to commission one just for you or sign up for the monthly newsletter for a preview of the newest painting up for sale!