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Miniature Portrait of the Daughter of an Artist

Childern of artists, Miniature Portrait 

Tim Marsden used to say my dog Buster made him want to have a dog. His daughter Olwyn, the subject of this months miniature portrait, is the kind of kid who makes you want to have a kid, like the opposite of birth control.

When I first met the Marsdens at Seattle’s SOIL Gallery, Olwyn was still in a stroller. Tim and I became friends and soon hatched the plan to start Artnight. We met like clockwork to make art, each Thursday night for 14 years, and Artnight grew to over a dozen artists.  

It’s hard to fully express how meaningful that time was for me, to work in a studio full of artists, inspired by the driven people creating all around. I was privileged to watch artists mature, develop themes in their work, and perfect their craft.

Since moving north years ago, Artnight is my greatest loss. This is so hard to write. Until now, I have not realized how much I have missed my friend. While this series is about artists inspiring me to take up the challenge of parenthood, of all the artists participating, none has inspired me more than Tim.

I love spending time with Tim and Sandy. They are a warm and loving couple, and it just feels great to be around them. Tim loves nothing more than telling a funny story to a room full of people, and Sandy is Tim’s straight man. But nobody makes Tim laugh more than Sandy.

Whenever Artnight got together at Tim’s studio, Olwyn joined the group to work on her own projects. Even then, Olwyn was like a little adult to me. I don’t talk about my friends Tim and Sandy and their daughter, but rather my friends Tim, Sandy and Olwyn. Now suddenly my little Olwyn is all grown up and going to college. I don’t know how Tim and Sandy are managing it.

Olwyn is confident and headstrong and knows her mind. She is also funny, insightful and warm. I have painted the whole family over the years (including their late dog Nippy), and this is my second painting of Olwyn. See all my paintings of the Marsden’s in my previous post.

Olwyn and Tim playing with artist, Christian French’s UFO (photo Christian French)

Olwyn and Tim playing with artist, Christian French’s UFO.

From Tim:

After Olwyn was born both Sandy and I both worked part time (I was working a little less than part time, more like infrequent time) until Sandy returned to a more typical schedule. We are both happy we did. The front loading of time with your kid is best done right away and I am sure it helped with the strength of bond we all feel as a family. At the time I was renting studio space from the Two Bells, a small shop front right on 4th Avenue. Olwyn would be in a playpen we had set up in the studio and we would put serious miles on the stroller, running errands and just generally getting overstimulated until Sandy came home. The studio was right next to the apartment as well so everything was within striking distance. Apart from a fairly short stint of having a studio in a factory under the West Seattle bridge I have always had the good fortune to have my studio in the house. While there are a few restrictions borne of such a situation, the pros far outweigh the cons. It also means there is art hanging around all the time which I am certain has had a massive hand in Olwyn’s attitude to the Arts and also in how she navigates the world.

Olwyn’s presence rarely, if ever, interfered with with making art. There was no censorship for young innocent eyes, no closed door policy and she was always encouraged to work on her own projects or give me a hand stretching canvas as well as other studio practices. Having to work another job interfered far more with the making of work than having a child. Actually, the Art Museum was a pretty good place to work when Olwyn was younger and sometimes she would join me in the storage areas and write down accession numbers of pieces in the collection. Olwyn has strong memories of the Museum storage right up to the point that she was no longer welcome.

Much like if you are raised by wolves, you are not afraid of wolves, so it is with artists and their offspring. Olwyn is neither intimidated by or afraid of art. She sees it for what it is, an exploration of our world through a variety of different means- some more than successful than others executed by human beings as best they can. Warts and all we are all just people…making stuff.

Tim Marsden

"Short Stories" exhibit at Studio E Gallery

“Short Stories” exhibit at Studio E Gallery (Photo: James Arzente)

Tim Marsden has been a practicing artist for over 30 years. In that time he has shown work internationally but has been based in Seattle since moving from Europe in 1997. Primarily trained as a painter, Marsden’s work has expanded to embrace a number of different media, including but not limited to, sculpture, drawing and animation (film). Marsden’s interest in narrative has been a major influence on his work and he uses storytelling in a variety of different ways to explore the foibles and absurdities humans are subject to.

His most recent show entitled “Short Stories” was an installation composed of a number of stand-alone pieces (each composed of a number of stand-alone pieces) in order to create an overall composition in the exhibition space. Artistic influences are far too numerous to mention, although Goya, Turner and the German Expressionists are ever-present ghosts at the feast. Outside of visual art Marsden is also influenced by literature (Notably Nikolai Gogol) and films, again most notably Ealing Comedies. Marsden is currently working on a body of work tentatively titled “Sardine vs. Anchovy, two books of recipes (one in collaboration with Chef Chavez from the eponymous restaurant) and an installation (show) imagining a personal world to which you are all invited.

Contemporary Portrait Miniature of a Young Woman

Contemporary  portrait miniature  painting of a young woman by Rebecca Luncan

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.

Artist Rebecca Luncan holding her miniature portrait painitng of young woman

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.”