post

Lucy Reclining, getting the perfect images for a cat portrait painting

Most of my pet portrait commissions are made by referencing photos provided by my clients. I like to get a big range of images, not only to reference the painting, but also to get a sense of my subjects personality. Cats are notoriously difficult to photograph but getting the perfect images for a cat portrait painting is easier if you follow a few tips and have lots of patience. From these images, I pick the ones that inspire me the most and do a couple of mock-ups for the client to pick from. 

I have pulled some of the images from a recent commission of Lucy to help you get an idea of how to take photographs. Take a look at my tips below and if you have any questions about commissioning a portrait, feel free to contact me. 

1. Get on your cats level

Images for a cat portraitPhotographing your cat from a their eye level tends to make the image feel more intimate and it shows your cat without distortion. Cat’s do like to climb so you don’t always have to get down on the ground to achieve this.

 

 

 

 

2.Natural Light

Images for a cat portraitNatural light is ideal and its best if the day is slightly overcast. Cats are usually indoor creatures, but steering them towards a window will achieve the desired effect. Not only does natural overcast light help avoid harsh shadows, it gives me a more accurate representation of color for the fur and eyes. Try to pose them so that they get the light to twinkle in their eyes for a lifelike appearance.

 

 

3. Hi Resolution / Fill the Frame

Images for a cat portraitHi resolution images are a must but if most of the picture is just background, I’m not going to get any detail (unless the landscape will be a part of the painting!). Never compress images before sending them and fill the frame with your cat as much as possible for the most detail. Getting the correct texture of your cats fur and the subtle color changes in the eyes is impossible if the image is blurry. Filling the frame with your cat gives me all of the details that are so fun to paint and to look at. Use the zoom feature on your camera to help you get close without attracting too much attention.

 

4. Take and send lots of images!

Primary reference image for composition

You can not send to many images for a cat portrait! Molly sent me dozens and it helped me get a sense of Lucy’s personality and get a feel for all of her different expressions. It also gave me flexibility in designing the composition that we chose for the painting. The primary reference image that inspired my portrait of “Reclining Lucy” didn’t fit any of the above suggestions. The client and I both loved how the pose and expression captured her so perfectly though. And since Molly sent me so many great images I was able to reference other images for accurate colors and fine details.

 

 

5. Help!

If you’re having trouble, getting someone to distract them helps you focus on photographing. Toys and treats can also be useful to get them to go and look where you want.

What a Mock-up looks like

Images for a cat portraitMy mock-up’s are constructed digitally and they help give a sense of what the painting will look like. This mock-up was submitted with the note that the color and fine details would be taken form another image (the one used to demonstrate “natural light” above).

For more information about commission, please visit the commissions page

 

 

 

From Molly:

We got the box today!  OMG, I absolutely love Lucy

post

A special way of giving, and a very special portrait of Lucy the cat

Lucy is special one. People would see this cat pet portrait painting on the easel and just fall in love.

cat pet portrait painting  oil painting miniature by Rebecca Luncan

Portrait of Lucy
5.25″ x 3.75″
oil on aluminum

But this portrait commission started off a little differently than usual. Lucy was commissioned as a graduation gift from mother to daughter. Instead of opening a box and finding a painting, Taylor opened an envelope and found a gift voucher for a custom portrait of her Lucy.

Most paintings don’t start this way, I think because people like to present a finished painting for a gift but part of the fun of commissioning a custom portrait is dreaming up ideas, then looking through the mock-up proposals and seeing the painting develop. We looked through images together in my studio, figuring out both the composition and the perfect antique frame for the painting. Taylor had a strong instinct for which elements really said “Lucy,” and when the design was finalized we were all excited to see it take shape!

I am so happy with how Lucy turned out, please continue reading Taylor and Drindi’s testimonials below and see my gallery of portraits on the Pet Portraits page.

From Drindy:

Oh my goodness. You did such a great job capturing her. So exciting. I admire your commitment to your passion and you are so good at it. So I hope your art work continues to be a priority for you – certainly brings so much joy and beauty to our world.

From Taylor:

I have said this to my mom several times now, but wanted to officially say to you how much I absolutely love and adore my painting of Lucy.  It gives me so much joy and captures her spirit and personality so perfectly.  It’s truly one of those few things I would save in a fire (hopefully that’s never the case) but you get the gist – I will treasure it forever.

post

Portrait Paintings of Duck Stuffed Animals, by Commission

Portrait commissions can be “animals” of all sorts

I am always up for a challenge, so when I was approached about painting stuffed animals, I didn’t hesitate to say yes. I knew the subject matter would present new challenges, but it was such a sweet idea. And it was a challenge indeed! Polly was easy to compose, but Mama & Papa Duck took two photo shoots and numerous mock ups before it finally all came together.

The paintings are gifts for the two children who befriended and loved these stuffed ducks. Through the love and infectious imagination of children, these special ducks became living beings for everyone in the household. These two sweet and quirky portraits capture this fleeting and precious time of childhood.

Duck stuffed animals in yellow chair oil painting

Mama & Papa
oil on aluminum
5″ x 7″

 

 

stuffed animal toy still life painting by Rebecca Luncan

Portrait of Polly
oil on copper
3 1/2 x 4″

 

If you’ve got an idea for a commission, please don’t hesitate to contact me. I welcome ideas for artwork of all your loved ones (paintings of toys included!). Take a look at my commissions page for more information about my process. Also, please take a peek at my recent black cat pet painting, Portrait of Tank, a painting of the beautiful black cat that is also part of this lovely family.

From Tanya:

Oh my,

This makes my day!

I love (them) so much they brought a little tear to my eye 😉

post

Portrait of Tank, a Black Cat Portrait Painting

Commissions and Personal Work: One Fuels the Other

I split my studio time about equally between commissioned work and personal work. With a one-year-old and a part time job at the Seattle Art Museum, I guard my painting time carefully. My priority is always to finish commissions on time, and that sometimes means putting off other paintings.

With plenty of ideas to begin with, paintings can be put on the back burner for years. A series of nine paintings of black cats was one such series but between my commissions and a backlog of other personal work, that project is at least two years away. You can imagine I was very excited to receive a request to paint this portrait of the black cat, Tank!

I love how the painting came out, and it gives me the feeling my black cats project is not so far away. It eases a sense of urgency and being short of time, by getting some of my ideas out of my head and into the world. In so doing it also helps to inform my future work. When I finally paint my black cats series, (future Monthly Miniatures perhaps?), I will have a better idea of what I want to explore, having already ‘pulled back the curtain’ and taken a peek.

I am thankful for this invitation to paint Tank and the opportunity to explore the mystique and beauty of black cats! I am so lucky to do work that lets me feel so thankful, so often.  If you have a black cat, I would love to paint his or her portrait. Read about commissioning a pet portrait at my commissions page. Tanya and family also commissioned two duck stuffed animal paintings that were both a delight to paint.

From Tanya:

…we love tank’s portrait
It was hard to convince my mother it wasn’t a photograph
Many thanks

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″

March In the Artist’s Studio: Commissioned Paintings and Custom Frames

pet portrait painting of cat in progress by Rebecca Luncan

Shiro in progress
5″ x 5″
oil on aluminum

 

Child Portrait painting in progress by Rebecca Luncan

Robbie in progress
oil on aluminum
17″ x 15″

Painting in a traditional style, takes many layers of paint and lots of time.

Visiting an artist’s studio, you will see multiple painting in the various stages of completion. By first doing a thin coat of paint and mixing more oil medium with my paints for each successive layer (known as working lean to fat), my paintings will last for many hundreds of years without cracking or buckling. Not all artists care about the longevity of their paintings, but for me, I care out of respect for what I’m doing and for the work countless others have done throughout the long history of painting to figure out best practices. It also creates a rich depth that you can’t get with just one layer of paint!

Please take a look at my pet and human portrait galleries and visit my Commissions page to learn more about my commission process!

 

Octagonal picture frame

Octagonal picture frame in progress

Artist Rebecca Luncan cutting a liner for a custom frame on a scroll saw

Cutting a liner for a custom frame

 

An artist’s studio isn’t only for painting!

I often hire local framers (my favorite in Seattle is Gallery Frames) but sometimes I like to make and finish them myself. This frame, pictured in multiple parts above, will be for an oval family portrait I made several months ago. It took some brainstorming to figure out the perfect frame I’m really excited for it to be completed!

I hope you’ll check back soon to see how these pieces progress!

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.

 

On the Easel: January Commissions

Child Portrait painting in progress by Rebecca Luncan

Portrait painting of Robbie in progress

 

French bulldog and Cat miniature portrait paintings in progress by Rebecca Luncan

Henry (left) and Corinna (right) miniature paintings in progress

I’m very excited to start off the year with three new commissions

I book out my commissions almost a year in advance, so I’ve had months to look forward to working on these paintings. The miniature of Henry and Corinna should go pretty quickly, but Robbie will take more time because not only is it a much larger painting filled with a wide variety of details, painting people is much more difficult than painting animals. I’m especially excited at how the subjects for this month are varied, but so in tune with what I love to paint.

I hope you’ll check back to see how the paintings progress and you can see some finished pieces in the Portraits gallery and Pet Portraits gallery.

On the Easel in June

Black-cat-in-progress

Black Cat in progress – experimenting with background treatments

Despite my hungry little bundle joy, (i.e. my adorable, two month old son Isaac), June is off to a great start in the studio. Here’s a peak at four little paintings I’m working on right now.

The first of the lot is of Jolly Rajah, the black cat. I actually started this one months ago as an experiment related to the monthly miniature series (I considered a series of black cats). I had considered this little one finished, and originally it featured a window with a tree in the background. But it didn’t seem right to me, and I ended up going with the Into the Country idea instead. After contemplating it for a while, I’m reworking this little guy. I’m trying out a simplified background now, working to define his features a bit more, and also to create a stronger focal point at his lovely eyes.

I love the beautiful little 1920’s brass and celluloid miniature frame I have for it, so I’m hoping to salvage the painting. I’m also hoping that working through this painting, will help me get a better idea of what will work in the fourteen remaining frames I’ve been collecting in this style. Here’s a link to the finished painting!

 

Oliver-in-progress

Commission In Progress

I love painting animals, but I have to admit to a special soft spot for dogs

This little guy is my top priority in the studio right now. He’s the first of my June Miniature Pet Portrait Specialand will be completed in time for a special occasion. I have added a couple coats of paint since taking this photo, and I plan to have it finished by the end of the week so it can be shipped out to its new home right away. 

 

miniature rabbit paintings in progress

Rabbit Couple in progress

Rabbits for a group show in October at Childhood’s End Gallery

I told you there would be more rabbits! It’ll be hard to separate these two paintings, and I’m considering selling them as a pair. Once they’re finished, they’ll go in a lovely pair of matching antique frames I’ve been saving for just the right couple. I’m planning on three or four more rabbit portraits and will be on the lookout for new models! Contact me if you have a willing bunny!