Contemporary Portrait Miniature of a Young Woman

Artist Rebecca Luncan holding her Portrait Miniature of young woman

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.

Contemporary miniature portrait painting of a young woman by Rebecca Luncan

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.

Portrait Miniature of Sam

Portrait miniature of child painting of young boy by Rebecca Luncan

Portrait of Sam
oil on copper
4″ x 4″

Six months in, I’ve just finished my third monthly miniature!

Although I find enough time to finish a steady stream of paintings, it goes toward commission work first. Yet it feels oddly appropriate that this series of portrait miniatures should be (comparatively) neglected: while it celebrates both parenting and art making, it also considers them as competing needs.

And I contemplate some of the people in my life that I love most, and what they bring into the world. On that note, allow me to introduce Sam Keefe, son of Andrea Wohl Keefe and Colin Keefe. When I had the idea to do this series, I thought of Sam first. His mom Andrea was my studio mate in college, and she is still a dear friend, though we’re thousands of miles apart. When I came to Seattle, she went to the opposite coast, braving the lion’s den of New York City, and is now settled in Philadelphia. We’ve stayed in touch, and I’ve had the privilege to watch Sam grow from afar.

From Andrea:

“Sam is this really great human being and I feel so lucky to have him in my life.  He’s so smart, caring, incredibly loyal and good through and through.  I really can’t believe that I’m his mom.  He’ll be eleven next month, and sometimes I still feel like his real mom is going to show up.  It’s crazy that one day you’re pregnant and the next there is this human being in your life and you’re helping to raise them.  Needless to say, I’m still figuring all this out – one day at a time.  Colin and I are both artists, and we knew we wanted to have a kid together.  But where we both have masters degrees in studio arts, there was nothing we did besides a two hour infant CPR class to prepare for becoming parents.

As for balancing parenthood and being artists, we are also still figuring this out one day at a time.  In addition to being parents, we both have full time jobs, run an exhibition space, Mount Airy Contemporary, and have our studio practices. I have decided that there is no such thing as balance, at least for me.  I am always neglecting one thing or another (like responding to your request for a statement – ugh!).  That part kind of sucks.  Thankfully, Colin and I are in this together and we do a lot of “taking turns”.  On a positive, I think Sam gets to be raised by two parents who love him unconditionally and who also are committed to making art and staying engaged with the art community.  And until his real mom shows up, he’s kind of stuck with us :)”

Artist Andrea Whol Keefe

Andrea Whol Keefe

Andrea Wohl Keefe was born and raised in Bridgewater, NJ. She received a BFA from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, MI, and an MFA from Miami University in Oxford, OH. Andrea currently lives in Philadelphia, PA with her husband, Colin Keefe, their son, cat and dog. She teaches art at Central High School in Philadelphia and works in her studio. Andrea and Colin also run Mount Airy Contemporary Artists Space.

Coln Keefe

Colin Keefe (born Boston, MA) received an MFA from Cranbrook Academy of Art and a BFA from Washington University.

Recent solo exhibitions include Robert Henry Contemporary, New York, NY, Abington Arts Center, Jenkintown, PA, and RHV Fine Art, Brooklyn, NY.  His work has been reviewed in the New York Times, Village Voice, Bushwick Daily, Philadelphia Inquirer, Philadelphia City Paper, Toronto Globe and News, LA Times, Sculpture Magazine, theartblog.org and Title Magazine.

In addition to his studio practice, Keefe has been curating since 1995 – first, as co-director of 57 Hope in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn, NY (1995-2001), and currently as co-director of Mount Airy Contemporary (2009-present).

Keefe is represented by Robert Henry Contemporary in New York.

 

Children of Artists, Portrait Painting of a Little Girl

miniature childrens Portrait painting of Maggie by Rebecca Luncan

Maggie
oil on copper
4″ x 4″

The muse for my March miniature oil portrait painting of a little girl is Maggie, daughter of Adria and Michael Magrath.

This lucky kid has two kind and creative parents, and the family lives on a dreamy property on Vashon Island. Michael works in an absolutely amazing sculpture studio he built on the property. I’ve known Michael for years and have always admired his work. I was excited for the opportunity to learn more about his lovely family for my Monthly Miniature project.

Michael sent me around fifty images for inspiration. It was great to see Maggie romping around in the water, the woods and the studio. Whether tromping through tall grass, splashing in the water or goofing around, she had a grin in almost every photo. Like when I first met her mother Adria during an artwalk years ago, I had met a kindred spirit. I think of her as a ‘wild’ child, at home in nature, so I painted her snuggling into the leafy floor of an imagined forest.

From Michael:

about Maggie, “she is such a Joker! She loves hide and seek, but wants to be sure you know where she’s hiding so you won’t get lost”

About the portrait, “Your timing could not be better. Today was Maggie’s’ 6th Birthday, so your picture arrived like a present. Its lovely and right on the essence. You nailed it. Thank you so much! thank you for pouring your heart into this, as you do into everything. You shine through every thing you do and I am honored to be your friend

Michael Magrath and his daughter Maggie at work in the Vashon Studio

Michael Magrath and his daughter Maggie at work in the Vashon Studio

About Michael Magrath, figurative sculptor

Michael Magrath has spent most of his life in the Pacific Northwest. He discovered figurative sculpture while in his early thirties, and has since dedicated his life to the betterment of his craft and the furtherance of sculptural art. Primarily self taught, he has nonetheless studied and taught in a number of rich sculptural environments, including the University of Washington, the Florence Academy of Art in Italy, and Gage Art Academy.

Reflecting a decade spent in the building trades as a carpenter, painter, foundryman, and shop technician, he brings a craftsman’s approach to his work. Regardless, his interest in the figure naturally steers toward the narrative and symbolic. Of no particular denomination of religious faith, Magrath attempts to excavate, understand, and depict the universal truths that lie at the core of religious and human experience. His primary focus lies in the embodiment and reinterpretation of mythology in contemporary contexts, and is most interested in its potential to reinvigorate the human spirit, particularly in the face of the cynicism of the modern world.

Please go to Mike’s website to see examples of his beautiful work and to learn more about him!

The Children of Artists Series Begins: A Portrait of my Son

contemporary Miniature baby painting, Portrait of my son by Rebecca Luncan

Portrait of Isaac
oil on copper
4″ x 4″

A portrait of my Son: My newest and greatest inspiration kicks off the new Monthly Miniature series

My first Monthly Miniature of 2017 is a portrait of my son Isaac. I was worried about how I was going to balance motherhood with being an artist, but I’ve been amazed at how well the two are coming together. And how could I not love making this painting? I think every artist parent wants to capture all of their favorite expressions in their little muse. I’m so happy I could record, one careful brushstroke at a time, his sweet little six month old face as it was becoming more aware and loving by the day.

For Isaac’s portrait, I chose an image of him looking directly at me. Those of you with kids might be able to remember back to those very early days when something as simple as a direct gaze was a small miracle. Most babies first make eye contact around 4-8 weeks but it’s not uncommon for it to happen as late as 3 months. Isaac was on the later side and didn’t make eye contact frequently when he was little, so when he did, it was very special.

The Children of Artists: A New Monthly Miniature Series

Each month of the next year, I celebrate those who have taken on the parenting challenge before me. They’ve givin me the courage to trust that, with determination, I could be a mother and continue to make my art. I will paint a portrait a different artist’s child each month for the next year. The Children of Artists explores my wonder at watching someone grow and develop, and loving them more than I could have imagined. I meditate on balancing two great passions. And I thank each artist I know who continues to work, particularly those who manage to raise children at the same time.

Visit my commissions page to learn about commissioning your own miniature portrait.

Commission In Time for a Special Ocassion

oil painting miniature of little girl at the beach by Rebecca Luncan

Portrait of Maddie at the Beach, oil on copper, 4″ x 4″

My commission schedule is booked out almost a year in advance, but if there’s a special occasion you’d like a portrait for and it’s coming up soon, it doesn’t hurt to ask!

I like to leave a little wiggle room in my schedule to accommodate one or two unexpected commissions each year that need to happen right away.  The timing for this painting worked perfectly, and I’m really happy I was able to make it as a special gift for a very special person.

This painting was presented to Michele as a tribute to ten years as a hardworking, knowledgeable and efficient registrar at the Seattle Art Museum. But for her colleges to commission such a gift to commemorate her time at SAM, it’s also a tribute to the genuine warmth and love that she has always been so quick to share. We coordinated with her daughter who she sent me several images, and this one immediately stood out to me as “the one,” both a portrait of her very loved granddaughter, and an image of a young girl, going confidently to the ocean on a glorious sunny day. I hope Michele’s new adventures are just as sunny, and I know she will go into them with confidence and brighten the lives of all she meets.

My thanks to everyone at SAM and to her daughter for the commission, and for your trust that I could make a gift worthy of Michele. And thank you, Michele, for all your help and support, both professional and personal over the past ten years. Enjoy and visit your old friends often!

From Michele’s daughter

“Wow, Rebecca.  I don’t even know what to say… this is so beautiful.  My mom is going to love it.  We are so blessed that you’ve used your incredible talent to commit such a wonderful memory into an ever-lasting work of art.  Thank you.”

From Michele

“Amazingly talented, kind, sweet, wonderful. …I will always admire you when I look at the portrait…”

On the Easel: July In Progress

Works In Progress, Monthly Miniatures Rabbit and Honey Bees, oil on copper, 4" x 4" each

Works In Progress: Monthly Miniatures ‘Rabbit’ and ‘Honey Bees’, each 4″ x 4″ painted in oil on copper

Busy as a bee! Working on two Monthly Miniatures at once.

Being a new mom means I really have to make good use of my limited studio time, and I have to be ready to use any spare moment. Though I am already the sort of artist to work on several pieces at once, it’s now especially useful for me to have several paintings in the works. Working in oils, one layer has to dry before the next one starts, which means lots of downtime where I can’t work, if I’m only working on one painting at a time. The drying time can be up to three days (‘Titanium White’ is the worst, it can take a week to dry if it’s cold in the studio). Though I only plan to finish the bees this month, I already have a head start on September’s miniature painting, and I’m excited to see it take form (‘Rabbit,’ above)!

Work In Progress, Rabbit Portrait, oil on copper, 2" x 2" by Rebecca Luncan

Work In Progress, Rabbit Portrait, oil on aluminum, 2″ x 2″

Even more rabbits for a group show in October at Childhood’s End Gallery

I’m really excited to be a part of an anniversary exhibition featuring small works at Childhood’s End Gallery in Olympia this fall. This little guy I found has lots of great colors in his fur, and I’m anxious to finish it! It will be displayed along with two portraits of my rabbits, Charlie and Ellie: I’ll post them all together when they’re ready!

 

artist Rebecca Luncan working in the studio on figurative oil painting

Work in progress, Oil on aluminum, 24″ x 36″

Steady as she goes! Progress on my figurative painting series

Somehow I’ve officially been working on this painting for a year! It’s large and detailed, and there has been a lot on my plate. But I am eager to wrap it up and continue with the series, so I have set a deadline to finish it by the end of the year! Expect to see more progress shots in coming months.

Two very different approaches to painting the landscape

trees

Left: Landscape in the nursery, Right: Vigil (in progress)

A playful mural and a very serious oil painting

For the last two months, I’ve been working hard on two very different projects featuring landscapes. The landscape doesn’t often play such a primary role in my artwork and it’s turned out to be a fortunate coincidence that I’m working on both of these paintings at the same time.

 

WIP-Vigil-Barn2

This is a painting featuring my sister-in-law Molly, the second of a planned series of five (check out the first painting in the series, Vigil). In this painting, she surveys her property on the outskirts of Seattle. In terms of hours, I’d say it’s just over half done, and although I’m feeling good about my progress, it’ll be a while before I can call it finished. But I finally feel like I’ve got the sky figured out, after going back and forth between it and the trees session after session.

 

mural1

This landscape painting couldn’t be more different from the first one. It’s a mural I painted for the baby’s nursery (I’m in the ninth month of pregnancy!) with the help of several friends. It has been quite a learning curve for me, since I normally paint small works in oil, typically referencing a photograph closely, whereas this is a full-height, wall-to-wall painting in acrylic, stitched together on the fly from many images, views out the window, and even painted from imagination.

It has been really interesting to compare the very different ways of going about the actual painting process, and very freeing for me. I am noticing changes lately in how I approach my work, as I become more spontaneous and intuitive in both the planning and execution of my paintings. In the oil painting above (Molly looking into the landscape), for instance, my head is spinning trying to keep track of every little tangled branch, and I am coming to realize that maybe they don’t all need to end up in the painting at the same exact location as in my source image. I’ve been working so closely from a reference for my paintings for so long that I don’t allow myself much freedom. But it feels like such a relief to think that I can still look and reference this image, but rely a bit more on my intuition in future.

I hope you’ll keep an eye out for a more in-depth post about the mural and to see how the oil painting turns out!

Shadowbox: Group Show at Ghost Gallery

interactive oil painting of Sisters by Rebecca Luncan

Two of my double-sided paintings will be included in a show at Ghost Gallery this month!

Though the theme of “shadowbox” seems specific, the work will be extremely varied in subject matter and the use of materials (from taxidermy to crochet and everything in between). The exhibition features more than thirty local & national female-identifying artists. I’m looking forward to seeing my paintings displayed in such a diverse context and I hope some of you locals out there can make it!  Here’s the Facebook Invite.

The artist reception is from 5:00 – 9:00 during Capitol Hill’s Second Thursday Artwalk on August 13th. Show is open August 13th – September 3rd, 2015. 

Ghost Gallery, 504 E Denny Way, Seattle, WA (entrance faces Olive Way) Hours: TUE-FRI 11-7pm, SAT-SUN 11-6pm Monday by Appt

Double sided interactive oil painting of Solider going to war by Rebecca Luncan

Participating artists include:

Amber Imrie-Situnayake (CA)
Amber Maykut (Brooklyn)
Anastasia Zielinski
Anne La Fever
Bunneah Munkeah
Caitlin McCormack (PA)
Clarita Hinojosa
Crystal Blanchflower
Danielle Schlunegger (CA)
Domonique Alesi (PA)
Donia (NYC)
Elizabeth Arzani
Emily Marie Clark
Holly Martz
Ilona Brustad
Inna Peck
Jessica Bonin
Jody Joldersma
Kaitlin Beckett (Melbourne)
Karla Fuller-Palmer
Krisna Schumann
Kristine Helgager
Laura Tempest Zakroff
Lisa Mei Ling Fong
Michelle Smith-Lewis
Meredith Stafford
Patricia Sullivan (NJ)
Rebecca Luncan
Rebecca Reeves (PA)
Shayna Yasuhara (CA)
Whitney Bashaw
Zoë Williams (NY)

 

Phthalo: the Forbidden Blue (July Monthly Miniature)

Rabbit Painting Miniature Rebecca Luncan

My fourth Monthly Miniature is featured with a phthalo blue background, a color long excluded from my palette.

How embarrassing that I was afraid of a tube of paint. I like to think of myself as not really afraid of anything, but I gave my last tube of phthalo blue away many years ago because I was afraid it would invade my paintings.

Phthalo blue is a relatively new pigment, accidentally discovered and rediscovered in the lab before its potential was finally recognized by the company Scottish Dyes in the early 1900’s. It was introduced as an artist pigment in the mid 1930’s and has been highly valued ever since for it’s resistance to fading, intense color, and high tinting strength.

That high tinting strength is the source of my fears. You have to understand how invasive phthalo blue is: during the course of a painting, hues naturally blend and migrate. While most pigments can be blended into entirely new colors, either dominating and being dominated by other hues, phthalo blue tints so powerfully that it is extremely difficult to blend away in that manner. If it’s on the pallet, I can see it in the painting everywhere! Typically as a figurative painter, creating warm skin tones helps give the person a more vibrant, lively feel, so my general rule has been to only use Cobalt Blue (which has a weak tinting strength) so that the warm tones are easy to pull forward with a greater sense of control. Whereas a tiny bit of phthalo blue on the pallet has a way of invading everything and can quickly force you to scrape your entire palette clean and start again, thus the expulsion of the color from my studio.

Two paintings changed my perspective, and now I can’t imagine working without it.

I spend a great deal of time at the Seattle Art Museum, where I help create mounts that stabilize objects on display and mitigate earthquake risk. And though I’m mostly working with sculptural pieces, I love spending time with the paintings. March of 2014 brought “France: Inside and Out“, an ongoing show in the fourth floor galleries (co-curated by Chiyo Ishikawa and Julie Emerson), and though the portrait below was painted before the advent of phthalo blue, it started me questioning my fear of a dominating cool pigment in a portrait. The blue is everywhere in this painting: the frame, the hair, and the skin, not to mention the blue dress and background. But at the same time, it’s neither monochromatic nor muddy. This painting planted the thought that maybe it’s okay to let go of some control and let the paint surprise me.

Berthe Morisot, Lucie Léon at the Piano, oil on canvas, 1892 Collection of the Seattle Art Museum

Berthe Morisot, Lucie Léon at the Piano, oil on canvas, 1892 Collection of the Seattle Art Museum

That planted thought found unexpectedly fertile ground this February, when my partner Evan and I showed up at his sister Molly’s small farm in Arlington, WA just before dusk. I wanted to begin a series that actively connected the figure and landscape, and we had come to gather images. The winter fog rolled into the valley, across the fields, and all around the trees, barns, and all of us. The sun had begun to set, turning the foggy hills a deep and vibrant blue, and mysterious lights haunted in the distance. As a subject, Molly is as dramatic as the background that evening, and as we finished, I couldn’t wait to begin the new series.

But as I began to paint, I tried blue after blue but none of them worked. Nothing came close to the shockingly blue sky we had witnessed. I finally conceded that I needed phthalo blue, and I bought my first tube of it in over 10 years. It delivered where other blues had fallen short, and although I only used it in the background in this painting, it helped me shake off some of my longtime inhibitions. In my fourth Monthly Miniature, I also used phthalo blue, and if you look closely, I have used it much more freely, adding it to the floor and the figure. Adding it in the highlights in Charlie’s soft belly fur was truly freeing and a moment of joy. Instead of fearing the phthalo invasion, I invited it in and listened to what it had to say. I’m pleased to say it had some nice ideas, and we’ll be working together again soon.

Portrait oil painting Rebecca Luncan

Vigil, Oil on Aluminum panel, 15″ x 15″, 2015

Father’s Day

Portrait of father Rebecca Luncan

My father gave me a foundation, not only in art, but in all I hold dear.

An extremely social person and an engineer by trade, my father was my earliest influence as an artist, gardener, and animal lover (we had bunnies, dogs, and cats, a pig, goats, chickens, horses, pigeons, and probably more that I’m forgetting). Dad took art classes throughout college and always kept up drawing when he could. When I was little, I loved studying his drawing exercise books and sketchbooks. I remember one book in particular that had printed at the bottom of every page, “you learn to draw by drawing,” and that mantra has always stayed with me.

By the time I went to college, my dad’s Multiple Sclerosis had progressed pretty far, but I know he would have supported me in my decision to be an artist. Above is a paining I did of him while in art school, when my style of painting was much looser (I’ve been painting on metal since my junior year). My passion for making things, and for nature bonds me to my father and keeps the sharp and lively man from my childhood strong in my mind and heart.

I love him dearly and I’m thankful to everyone back home that helps take care of him. Especially my sister, Theresa, who diligently and lovingly visits several times a week and whose FaceTime calls from the nursing home make him seen not so far away.  My aunt Carla recently found and framed the certificate below for him from when he was the Art Club President in high school.

DadDocument