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.

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!

Commissioning a Pet Portrait: the Owner’s Connection

Cat pet Portrait oil painting Rebecca LuncanCreating a pet portrait that communicates its personality is often a collaborative process with the owner that knows and loves them best.

Leo was an ideal model for a painting. He’s a very sweet and patient kitty that loves to be photographed. I spent an evening with him and took dozens of photos and I thought I had several that captured his happy personality. But for Liz, his owner, there was something not quite right, though we couldn’t pin down what.  Two months later, Liz sent me more images of him, showing a very different kitty. His coat changes throughout the seasons, and it was now in full fluff! This was her Leo.

Leo, take one

Leo, take one

It’s often hard to describe the little details that express the personality of a loved one, but you notice when it’s not there. Most artists have you approve the final design before they being painting and if somethings doesn’t seem right, don’t hesitate to let the artist know. It’s much better to rework the initial design than have an unhappy patron.

Want to learn more about the painting process? Take a look at the underpainting for Leo and see more detail and in-progress images on Instagram. And if you look closely in the wood chips, you’ll find a little friend hiding on a leaf.

Please take a look at my commissions page for information about commissioning your own portrait and visit the pet-portrait and portrait gallery to see more examples of past commissions.

 

Pet Portrait Commission Underpainting of Leo the Cat

Cat-painting_in-progress_rebecca-luncan

The pet portrait of Leo the cat is seen in the first stages of the underpainting, where you can catch a glimpse of my process.

I like to make quick, loose underpaintings on top of an underdrawing before I get fussy with details. Many people like to do monochromatic underpaintings (also called grisaille) but I prefer to use full color because it helps in balancing the composition. I blocked this painting out as seen above, but I often start painting with just black (mixed burnt umber and ultramarine blue), as in the Bride of Frankenstein Mismatched Portrait, then go back to block in the rest after it’s dry.

Why do an underpainting?

First, it’s helpful to figure out the composition quickly before too much time is spent adding details that may need to be changed later. Small alterations are part of the process, but this step can help prevent big changes later.

Second, having multiple layers of paint creates a depth and richness that is visible in the final painting.

And third, when done properly with a “fat over lean” technique, a lean underpainting can help prevent cracking in later years. A lean layer uses very little oil medium (though you can use artist’s grade turpentine or similar) and typically uses paint colors that dry quickly. Because a lean layer has a high proportion of pigment granules per volume of oil binder, the paint film has a rough surface that allows subsequent layers to grab and stick more effectively. This lean layer is brittle on its own, but it is protected by subsequent ‘fat’ layers (lower pigment to oil ratio) that are more flexible and resistant to cracking, though they take longer to dry.

My Underpainting Palette

Oil paint colors dry at different rates and those that dry more quickly are ideal for use in the underpainting. For my underpainting, I typically use a Flake White Hue (a less toxic lead-free replacement to traditional Flake White), Cobalt Yellow, Venetian Red, Cobalt Blue, Ultramarine Blue, and Burnt Umber. Other quick drying colors are Cobalt Green, Manganese Blue, Prussian Blue, Manganese Violet, Raw Sienna and Burnt Sienna.

Have an underpainting palette you love? Please share in the comments!

Infrared reflectogram detail of Jan Van Eyck’s painting

Take a look at this wonderfully detailed conservation report of Jan Van Eyck’s Margaret, the Artist’s Wife. I love seeing the infrared reflectogram details showing how the underpainting was slightly different than the final painting. The Italians have given us a word for this phenomenon: pentimento.

Visit the Commissions page if you’ve ever considered commissioning a portrait of your own, and follow me on Instagram to see more images of paintings in-progress.