post

Monthly Miniature – In Season, Still Life Paintings

Each year I do a themed Monthly Miniature series and for 2019, I painted still life paintings. For much of my art career, I’ve been a “figurative” painter. Meaning almost all of my subjects for my paintings have been human figures. Since I first started my Monthly Miniature series of rabbits several years ago however, I’ve been inspired to enthusiastically embrace new subjects.

There’s nothing too terribly new about still life paintings. They’ve been around for hundreds of years and though artists are still creating beautiful, creative and inspiring works today, the basic principals are the same. My inspiration for the series “In Season” goes back to the roots of the still life genre.

Influence of The Dutch Still Life Genre

Before starting this series, I had only made one still life painting in the last 15 years so a refresher art history course really helped. The artist of this genre studied in Northern Europe and were at their prime from around 1600 – 1800. Though I examined the artwork made by more than two dozen artists, each painting in my series had one predominant artist that influenced it. I’ve listed them all below, and upon close inspection, you’ll notice some duplicates.

It’s really hard to pick a favorite, but if I was forced to choose, I’d go with Adriaen Coorte (whose name you’ll find three times). His paintings are easily identifiable in the genre of Dutch Still Life’s because his paintings are unusually unpretentious. Another name you will find more than once is George Flegel. His paintings were more complicated than Adriaen’s, but the way he spaced the items in his compositions felt very ordered. The balance of objects felt sensible to me and I kept coming back to his work. I tend to like simple compositions and studying his work helped me feel more comfortable when I wanted to add more objects to my compositions.

  1. January- Jacob Marrel
  2. February – Adriaen Coorte
  3. March – Ambrosius Bosschaert
  4. April – Gerard Van Spaendonck
  5. May – George Flegel
  6. June – Adriaen Coorte
  7. July – Jan van Kessel the Elder
  8. August – Adriaen Coorte
  9. September – Otto Mardeus van Schrieck
  10. October – Osias Beert the Elder
  11. November – George Flegel
  12. December – Jacob van Hulsdonck

In Season vs Seasonal Impossibility

One thing that struck me about the historical paintings was the fact that they often feature blossoms, insects and food that could not be found out of hibernation or in season at the same time. They are constructs of seasonal impossibility, pieced together from earlier studies, signifying impermanence and the perception that earthly life is transitory. For my series, I wanted to do the opposite.

In Season pays homage to Northern European still life, while also contrasting modern and past experiences. Expectations have changed; perennial availability is the norm now, and seasonality is hardly acknowledged. In Season features combinations of fruits, flowers and insects that occur together naturally, in appreciation of the beauty of the cyclical and ephemeral. Most modern viewers looking at a Dutch still life would have no idea that tulips and chrysanthemum would never bloom together. 

Keeping everything in season took a lot of planning and compromising. Lucky know a floral designer and have a 1/4 acre garden filled with flowers, fruit trees and vegetables (sometimes) ripe for the picking.

Blue Blossoms

Finding the perfect blue blooms for paintings with lush bouquets was tricky. I heavily relied on my sister in law Molly (a floral designer) for help. Finding the perfect spring blue for my April painting, “Flowers, Bird’s Nest and Insects” seemed so easy at first. I’d mocked it up with Delphiniums and was all ready to start paintings and I sent the image to Molly for her stamp of approval. No Delphiniums till summer! After hours of searching and trying out different ideas, I finally redesigned the composition with Grape Hyacinths instead and got the nod of approval. Similarly an early mock up of my “Vanitas with Flowers and Butterflies” painting included blue anemones. I got the shake of the head again – blue anemones are not blooming in October. I needed the blue to balance the colors, so kept searching and was even happier to include thistles.

You could find just about any fruit, flower or vegetable any day of the year that’s grown in a hot house or on the other side of the globe. It’s interesting to have the limitation though and gives me a feeling of connection to the world outside my artificial constructs.

To learn more about specific works withing this series, visit the “In Season” entries on my blog.

post

New Series! Flights of Fancy

Duel Over Porcelain

I’m excited to share my first 2020 Monthly Miniature and announce the new “Flight of Fancy” series. I hadn’t done a still life painting for more than 15 years until last year’s series, so studying the Dutch masters for insight into the genre was crucial to that project’s success. This year I will continue in the spirit of Dutch still life and featuring birds together with items from the Seattle Art Museum collection, with which I’ve worked for the last 13 years. It’s too early for me to understand how the two relate to each other over a series of twelve, but that is the fun of the monthly miniature, to see where the journey takes me.

Inspiration From SAM

The first featured Seattle Art Museum object is a Square Serving Dish. It’s one of my favorite pieces in the collection, and I feel it’s the perfect piece to open the New Year and the new body of work. The piece gives me contrasting feelings of chaos and grace, yet feels so perfectly balanced. I have installed this piece numerous times, including twice in Japan. Most recently, I helped install it at the Asian Art Museum, scheduled to reopen February 8th after a recent renovation and expansion.

Pacific Northwest Gardens and Birds

If you live in the Pacific Northwest, you are likely familiar with the Anna’s Hummingbird. I used to have 6 hummingbird feeders all around my house, and at any time of day I could see an Anna’s feeding from some window or another. Once feeders are up in winter, though, Hummingbirds become dependent on the feeders for the season; after one very cold winter of continually defrosting a feeder for several weeks, I have given up the practice. Instead, I have filled the garden with plants that will feed them through the winter, including an Oregon grape outside my bedroom. I love waking and going to the window to watch these territorial birds feed from the yellow blossoms. My Oregon grape has become huge over the years, but that doesn’t mean anyone is willing to share.

Along with a sprig of Oregon grape in this month’s painting are Yuzu lemons my friend Hiromi let me pick from her tree in Seattle. (I also used these fragrant lemons in last month’s painting.) The beauty of these two plants comes at a price though. Both the Yuzu and the Oregon grape demand careful attention when you’re near them as they hide painful spikes. And yes, both these plants are also in season, a theme I enjoyed from the last series and will continue. 

SQUARE SERVING DISH

Edo period (1603–1868), Japanese, Stoneware with underglaze decoration, 1 7/8 x 7 3/4 in.

Collection of The Seattle Art Museum
Photo: Paul Macapia

Written by Hattie Branch, Blakemore Intern for Japanese Art:

“Employing vivid colors and energetic, abstract designs, Oribe ware is the most dynamic type of Japanese tea ware. The style takes its name from Furuta Oribe, 1591-1615, the great tea master of his age. Designed for use in the meal accompanying the tea ceremony, a square dish like this would be used to serve fish, slowly revealing the image beneath as the meal was eaten. Oribe ware, as this tray excellently represents, broke with a tradition of elegant restraint to embrace an unprecedented level of vivacity.
This tray is meant to depict water, earth, and sky. We read it from bottom to top:
Starting in the lower left corner, the tray was dipped into a green glaze which visibly pooled during the firing process, evoking water.

Moving upward, a pink-tan band provides a bed for two semi-circles with radiating patterns. This common decorative motif represents ox cart wheels soaking in water—wooden  cart wheels needed to be soaked regularly to prevent warping. Between the two wheels, the pattern of squares and dots could represent a piece of dyed fabric. These are colors, images and activities associated with the earth.

The upper-most, tan portion encompasses a single large star, surrounded by three circles with trailing tails, likely comets. In the upper right corner, three arcing stripes abstractly render the long trailing clouds popular in Japanese painting. This band depicts the sky.

The ebullience that makes Oribe ware stand out amid tea ceramics reflects both the power and dynamism of the Momoyama Era (1573-1615), and, amidst political and social upheaval, a move to rebel against previous aesthetic rules, and the power structures they represented.”

I hope you enjoy the new Flight of Fancy series!

How to Purchase

Subscribe to my newsletter to get an email when each Monthly Miniature is finished and the chance to purchase the latest painting. I usually announce when the newest painting will be released for sale on Instagram and Facebook within 24 hours before sending the newsletter.

post

Happy Birthday Pet Portrait

A pet portrait is a gift that will last a lifetime (and beyond!)

Pet portraits take some time to make. But they are worth the wait. The most important part of the process is the planning stage. I like to get the composition figured out right away and take the time to get it right. Carrie and I worked through several ideas until we found the perfect composition.

I put a lot of care into my portraits for two reasons. The biggest reason is that a true representation of the subject honors the connection my clients have to their pets.

I’m also doing it for myself. It’s important to me that my paintings last and using the proper materials and techniques is only part of the equation. Making a work of art that will be interesting to future generations means future generations will take care it long after we are all gone. Likewise, every time I exhibit my work, win an award, or have a painting published I’m adding to the provenance of all of my paintings. Which means they will have a historical context that will add to the future value of my work. Adding value to my work means it will be taken care of.

The Best Part of a Pet Portrait

All of that longevity is important, but the best part of a pet portrait is preserving a well loved smiling face. It’s incredibly meaningful for me to make the special connection humans have to our pets tangible. My glimpse into the bond shared between Carrie, Derek and Sophie was truly a gift and it was an honor to make Sophie’s portrait.

Please visit my commissions page to learn about my process and contact me to get started.

From Carrie:

We received the painting and it’s absolutely beautiful! It’s perfect. Thank you so much! Derek can’t get over how closely you managed to capture Sophie, you’re just SO talented. I hope to work with you in the future!
post

Monthly Miniature – In Season, Still Life Paintings

Each year I do a themed Monthly Miniature series and for 2019, I painted still life paintings. For much of my art career, I’ve been a “figurative” painter. Meaning almost all of my subjects for my paintings have been human figures. Since I first started my Monthly Miniature series of rabbits several years ago however, I’ve been inspired to enthusiastically embrace new subjects.

There’s nothing too terribly new about still life paintings. They’ve been around for hundreds of years and though artists are still creating beautiful, creative and inspiring works today, the basic principals are the same. My inspiration for the series “In Season” goes back to the roots of the still life genre.

Influence of The Dutch Still Life Genre

Before starting this series, I had only made one still life painting in the last 15 years so a refresher art history course really helped. The artist of this genre studied in Northern Europe and were at their prime from around 1600 – 1800. Though I examined the artwork made by more than two dozen artists, each painting in my series had one predominant artist that influenced it. I’ve listed them all below, and upon close inspection, you’ll notice some duplicates.

It’s really hard to pick a favorite, but if I was forced to choose, I’d go with Adriaen Coorte (whose name you’ll find three times). His paintings are easily identifiable in the genre of Dutch Still Life’s because his paintings are unusually unpretentious. Another name you will find more than once is George Flegel. His paintings were more complicated than Adriaen’s, but the way he spaced the items in his compositions felt very ordered. The balance of objects felt sensible to me and I kept coming back to his work. I tend to like simple compositions and studying his work helped me feel more comfortable when I wanted to add more objects to my compositions.

  1. January- Jacob Marrel
  2. February – Adriaen Coorte
  3. March – Ambrosius Bosschaert
  4. April – Gerard Van Spaendonck
  5. May – George Flegel
  6. June – Adriaen Coorte
  7. July – Jan van Kessel the Elder
  8. August – Adriaen Coorte
  9. September – Otto Mardeus van Schrieck
  10. October – Osias Beert the Elder
  11. November – George Flegel
  12. December – Jacob van Hulsdonck

In Season vs Seasonal Impossibility

One thing that struck me about the historical paintings was the fact that they often feature blossoms, insects and food that could not be found out of hibernation or in season at the same time. They are constructs of seasonal impossibility, pieced together from earlier studies, signifying impermanence and the perception that earthly life is transitory. For my series, I wanted to do the opposite.

In Season pays homage to Northern European still life, while also contrasting modern and past experiences. Expectations have changed; perennial availability is the norm now, and seasonality is hardly acknowledged. In Season features combinations of fruits, flowers and insects that occur together naturally, in appreciation of the beauty of the cyclical and ephemeral. Most modern viewers looking at a Dutch still life would have no idea that tulips and chrysanthemum would never bloom together. 

Keeping everything in season took a lot of planning and compromising. Lucky know a floral designer and have a 1/4 acre garden filled with flowers, fruit trees and vegetables (sometimes) ripe for the picking.

Blue Blossoms

Finding the perfect blue blooms for paintings with lush bouquets was tricky. I heavily relied on my sister in law Molly (a floral designer) for help. Finding the perfect spring blue for my April painting, “Flowers, Bird’s Nest and Insects” seemed so easy at first. I’d mocked it up with Delphiniums and was all ready to start paintings and I sent the image to Molly for her stamp of approval. No Delphiniums till summer! After hours of searching and trying out different ideas, I finally redesigned the composition with Grape Hyacinths instead and got the nod of approval. Similarly an early mock up of my “Vanitas with Flowers and Butterflies” painting included blue anemones. I got the shake of the head again – blue anemones are not blooming in October. I needed the blue to balance the colors, so kept searching and was even happier to include thistles.

You could find just about any fruit, flower or vegetable any day of the year that’s grown in a hot house or on the other side of the globe. It’s interesting to have the limitation though and gives me a feeling of connection to the world outside my artificial constructs.

To learn more about specific works withing this series, visit the “In Season” entries on my blog.

post

Puggle portrait painting (cape implied)

Most of my pet portrait commissions are based on images that come from my clients. I have a couple of blog posts for suggestions on getting photos of cats and dogs that can help get you started. What usually ends up working best though, is to take lots of photos (for dogs at least) when you’re running around at the park. I’m often altering the background of images to simplify it so that the attention is going to the subject of the painting. It’s not often that the background truly compliments the subject. When it does, though it’s something special.

The Historical Portrait Miniature

If you do a search for “Portrait Miniature” you’ll find countless classical miniatures, mostly from the 16th – 18th century. Popular in England, France and in the United States (There are probably a million portrait miniatures of George Washington).

At least a third of the paintings that come up in these searches have a blue sky with clouds in the background. They put it perfectly in an article about the representations of clouds in art by the Lawrence Wilson Art Gallery of the University of Western Australia. “The physical position of the clouds, situated between heaven and earth, associates them with a higher order, a characteristic that recurs in art through the ages.” The association is then tied to subject placed in front of the clouds. I’ve been dying to do a portrait like this for ages. And was fortunate that Theo (aka Thelonious Monk ) has the bearing to pull it off. I can’t look at this painting without imaging a cape on her back. I think of it as puggle portrait painting that reveals the true size of the personality held in such a tiny body.

From Tina:

It’s perfect!! Thank you so much!  Melanie LOVES it, and we found a central spot to hang it. Just in time for her birthday and a gift for the ages…both with Theo, and beyond.
Eternally grateful

post

Chicken Painting a Finalist in National Competition

A few months ago I reached out to my Instagram and Facebook community to help me choose which chicken painting to enter in the annual Portrait Society of America’s member’s only competition. I was having trouble picking and thought there would be a clear favorite. After almost a hundred votes though, it was almost exactly a tie! Even so, it still helped me choose. People were very passionate on either side, but people typically liked the hen because the painting was more unique. For right or wrong, I liked that rational and went with it. I’m happy to share that she was a finalist in the animals category. Perhaps the rooster would have done even better in the competition, but you never know!

chicken paintings by Rebecca Luncan
The rooster or the hen?

Both of these paintings have backgrounds that reference Rembrandt self-portrait’s. I’ve always been a huge fan of his work and wanted to portray the chickens in a formal Dutch Portrait style. I helped install an exhibit at the Seattle Art Museum of artwork from the Kenwood House Collection from London several years ago. One of my favorite pieces in the exhibit was his Self-Portrait with Two Circles. This was the painting that inspired the background of my hen. She’s one of four girls that lives in Seattle in my friend Paige’s backyard. As the henpecked bird, she was making a grand show of bring larger and fluffing out. I was very fortunate to actually get a shot of the demonstration during my photo shoot for reference images.

You can find her on display along with the rooster at Winfield Gallery. Go to my Available Works page to see all my paintings currently available in galleries and from the studio.

post

Waffles! Miniature Still Life painting

Breakfast takes center stage in November’s miniature still life painting featuring waffles, apples, small floral arrangement and red dragonfly. I love breakfast. I believe starting every day with a nice leisurely breakfast is absolute perfection. I’ve spoiled my three year old son to believe the same. When asked what he wants for breakfast his reply is usually, “scrambled eggs, pancakes and bacon”. And that’s usually what he gets. Special occasions substitutes the pancakes for waffles.

Dutch still life paintings of breakfast are nothing like the photos of food you see online. Photos of food never seem that appealing to me, but the paintings are delicious. Antoine Vollon’s painting of “Mound of Butter” from the 1800’s was on view at the Seattle Art Museum a few years and it was a feast for the eyes. If they could make a small mountain of butter look delicious, you have to see paintings of eggs and waffles.

Waffles, apples and dragonfly still life painting detail
Waffles, apples and dragonfly Miniature still life paintingby Rebecca Luncan

Finding My Models: Waffles, Blooms and Insects

I knew I wanted the waffles to sit on one of the Dutch silver plates used in so many of my favorite paintings and my own waffle iron is very special to me. It’s an antique cast iron waffle maker from the 1800’s that my sister gave to my years ago, but my circular waffles just weren’t working. It had to happen, but it felt so wrong to buy rectangular frozen waffles to pose for the paintings when I love my own waffle maker so much. But for art, we suffer. I’m kidding, the waffles were delicious. 🙂 

I was having a hard time finding flowers in bloom in November and was about to give up. I take ballet classes from The Ballet Studio in the University district in Seattle and I looked out the window while at the barre to see a flower box in full bloom. Kristen, my teacher gave me a pair of scissors after class and let me bring home some of her last remaining blooms for the painting. I’m amazed I found roses blooming in November, but Seattle is a pretty special place.

The red dragonfly is a frequent visitor to my backyard. I live near several likes north of Seattle in Lynnwood. One summer my husband wore red swim trunks while going for a swim and he was surrounded by dozens of them as he floated.

Hope you enjoy the painting and hope you have a happy holiday season!

Go to my Monthly Miniatures page to see the whole series. Sign up to my monthly newsletter for upstate and for the chance to purchase paintings before they’re public on the site.

post

Miniature Vanitas

Vanitas with Flowers and Butterflies

As the flowers and trees fade and die back, fall is the perfect time for a miniature vanitas painting. Vanitas paintings were created long before and after they became a common genre in Netherlandish art of the 16th and 17th centuries. They are symbolic and are meant to remind us of the inevitability of death or change.

My grand show of color and life punctuates the shift toward winter, one last “Hurrah!” from the warmer seasons. The hint of the coming winter is found in the tiny, almost hidden hummingbird skeleton. But if you dig into the meaning of the items in the painting, you’ll find that both the cut flowers and skeleton symbolize the same things – death or transience. The cut flowers are preserved my painting in full bloom glory, but they began to fade even before I’d finished the paintings. But don’t worry, the butterflies are a symbol of regeneration, resurrection and the cycle of life. Everything’s going to be fine.  

Detail of Miniature Vanitas with Flowers, hummingbird skeleton and Butterflies oil painting by Rebecca Luncan

Hope you enjoy my newest miniature vanitas and I hope you’re keeping warm and healthy. Thanks to the flowers of my garden, to the dahlia garden at Volunteer Park, and to my sister-in-law for the hummingbird skeleton and the biggest dahlia I’ve ever seen. And a big thank you to you for your continued support.

Go to my Monthly Miniatures page to see the whole series! Sign up to my monthly newsletter for upstate and for the chance to purchase paintings before they’re public.

Detail of Miniature Vanitas with Flowers, oil painting by Rebecca Luncan
Miniature Vanitas with Flowers and Butterflies oil painting by Rebecca Luncan
post

Forest Floor Still Life Painting with Rabbits

My English Spot rabbit, Harriet, makes her debut in my newest monthly miniature painting. I was inspired by the forest still life paintings of Otto Mardeus van Schrieck a Dutch painter from the 1600’s. 

Otto Mardeus van Schrieck

Otto Marseus van Schrieck, Snakes, toads and butterflies, 1639, oil on canvas, 24″ x 19.2″

Van Schrieck’s paintings juxtapose light and dark. A sinister snake might lurk in the gloomy foreground while a radiant bloom or a moment of light glows from the background. The New York Times published an article about a new book that explores his work last November. It’s a really colorful read, and I highly recommend taking a look, if only to see some of his fascinating paintings.

Though some elements in my painting come directly from the careful study of a work of van Schrieck’s, I definitely took a lighter approach to my painting. I told my husband that, “I didn’t have such severe subject matter in me.” But after the painting was finished and signed, filled with flowers that reminded me of my family, a mountainous landscape that reminds me of my Pacific Northwest home, and insects, frogs and rabbits that remind me of my childhood, I had a miscarriage. It was the fifth since my son was born three years ago. After finding out, I picked up my paint brush and added a snake. I’m doing fine and my spirits are higher by the day. It’s just interesting, after all these years of painting, to recognize how much of myself I put into each one, however subtle or unconscious.

I hope you enjoy this month’s painting. Take a look below for some detail images. The Silvery Blue butterflies were particularly trying on the eyes!

post

Swallowtail Butterfly over Japanese Plums

Still life paintings, both universal and highly individualized

For my Into the Country monthly miniature series from a few years ago, I included one still life with plums and bees (pictured below) in the mix of portraits of animals. This was the first still life painting I’d done since art school, and it helped direct the focus for this years series, “In Season”. This is my eighth painting of this years still life series. I find the still life to be one of the most universally accessible genres of painting. I was amazed to find that still life paintings are also quite personal. Each item I place in my composition is carefully chosen and has personal meaning to me and I hope to my viewers as well.

From the Garden

My Japanese plum tree is the star of my little quarter-acre garden. Almost every August, I get around 2,000 plums from my one tree. Over the years my incredibly juicy plums have been eaten as is (watch out for juice going everywhere!), been made into jam, wine, sweet bread, liqueur, filled up my freezer for winter enjoyment and now they’re models for paintings.

The yellow of the plums make them the perfect companions to the equally golden and plentiful swallowtail butterfly. Swallowtails are found all over the world, and the Western Tiger Swallowtail I’ve featured in my painting makes its dazzling appearance in the Seattle area. And swallowtail butterflies are always fluttering around the garden. One friend said he’s never visited my garden without seeing at least one. This painting feels like distilling some of the beauty and magic of my garden.

Honey Bee and Japanese plum still life, oil paitning on copper by Rebecca Luncan
Into the Country- Honey Bees, oil on copper, 4″ x 4″