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April Bouquet Miniature Floral Painting

Spring has officially sprung and i hope that my newest Monthly Miniature floral painting reflects that. You may have noticed that my first four paintings in this series all have a slightly different feel (see them all on the Monthly Miniature page). Part of the change is the increase in plants and insects awakening to populate each months painting, and for April, I wanted to pack the painting full of new lush blooms. I have included seven types of plants (some in different colors), three insects and the nest of a Dark-Eyed Junco that my husband found in our yard. You can find a complete list at the end of this post.

In addition to changing the subjects in my paintings, I’m also changing how they are composed. For each of my twelve miniatures this year, I’m studying a different master of still life paintings from Northern Europe (1600-1800). I’ve long admired paintings from this era and this series is giving me the opportunity to luxuriate in the detailed little worlds created by so many different artists. See the inspiration behind all of the “In Season” miniatures in previous posts.

Abundance of blooms: Gerard Van Spaendonck

Flower still Life, oil on canvas, 22.5″ x 16″

Gerard Van Spaendonck (1746 – 1822) was an influential Dutch painter, who settled in Paris early in his career. He is known for his fabulously dense oil paintings filled with a wide assortment of flowers and a variety of other living creatures. Gerard was a master at creating an explosion of color and texture.

I’m generally drawn to simple compositions, but I wanted to go in a different direction with this painting and he was the perfect muse. I’ve been excited to change the subjects of each Miniature and highlight what is currently in season. It’s been an interesting challenge to also think of creating a mood that is reflecting the sparsity or abundance of things available as well. I have each month sketched out for the rest of the year already!

I carefully choose each of my blooms, but heavily referenced his composition from the painting, “Flower Still Life”. My plants came from a variety of places; some I found online, others were purchased, and some I picked from my garden which is starting to explode! The Seattle Growers Market is a great resource, with public hours on Fridays, 10 am – noon. I took photos and mixed everything together on the computer for the composition (Pixelmator for Mac). I posed as much as I could in a Frankenstein taped up heap to reference from life but used my digital mock up as a primary reference for plants. The birds nest with egg and caterpillar were painted solely from life (my three year old son got caterpillars for his birthday!)

What’s in my painting?

Birds and Insects:

Bumblebee
Housefly
Painted Lady Caterpillar
Dark-Eyed Oregon Junco nest and egg

Plants:

Anemones – white and yellow
Euphoria
Grape Hyacinths
Kale

Ranunculus – red, white and pink
Salal (leaves)
Tulips – rainbow parrot, flaming white parrot,  Absalom, mint green parrots

 

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Influences Abound: Jacob Marrel Floral Paintings

The paintings in my new Monthly Miniature series “In Season“, are inspired by still life paintings from Northern Europe that were at their prime from around 1600 – 1800. Each painting is influenced by a different artist from within the genre. My first painting in the series is inspired by the German artist Jacob Marrel. He primary made floral paintings and you can almost always find an insect somewhere in his work. He studied still life painting in Utrecht under Jan Davidsz. de Heem who is a major representative of that genre in both Dutch and Flemish Baroque painting. Later Jacob taught painting to his own students including his stepdaughter, Maria Sibylla Merian, who became a scientific illustrator and one of the premier entomologist (scientist who studies insects) of her time.

Paintings from this genre can get quite complicated both in composition and in subject matter. Marrel could compose an intricate composition to rival the best of them, but I was drawn his paintings with only insects and flowers. This fit the mood I was wanting for my first painting in the series. Since this series will only feature produce, flowers and insects that are in season, I wanted to start simply to demonstrate how sparse it is in winter. Look carefully at Joseph Marrel’s painting below and you will find my simplified take on his composition.

Please visit an earlier blog post for an introduction to this series. You can also find previous Monthly Miniature series by scrolling down on the Monthly Miniature page.

Jacob Marrel artist known for floral paintings, "Still Life With A Yellow Iris, A Parrot Tulip, A White Rose And Insects On A Wooden Table Ledge" oil on Canvas.

Jacob Marrel, “Still Life With A Yellow Iris, A Parrot Tulip, A White Rose And Insects”, oil on Canvas.

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Self Portrait – Expecting

The idea for the painting “Self Portrait – Expecting” came back when I was six months pregnant with my son and most of my reference images were gathered at that time. Rabbits were a big part of my childhood and I had two rabbits that lived in my painting studio. My rabbit Eleanor, was a natural addition to the painting. Not only did she sit at my feet while I painted, her species has been seen as a symbol of fertility for more than seven-hundred years.

I didn’t start painting “Self Portrait – Expecting” until my son was two and a half and after a series of miscarriages, I had recently learned that I was pregnant again. Eleanor had passed away since the photos were taken and right in the middle of working the painting, I lost yet another pregnancy, the fourth since my son was born. The act of making this painting was such a bitter sweet experience. The painting is about fertility, yet while making it, I was experiencing so much loss. I think that some of my resolve, the strength that I had to keep up for the sake of my two-year old made its way into my expression which changed throughout the painting process. In the end, the painting has become a reminder for me to be grateful and never give up hope.

This painting is on view at Arcadia Contemporary in the group show “ARC Visions 2019“ through March 2nd 2019.

Arcadia Contemporary
39 E. Colorado Blvd.
Pasadena, CA 91105

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Travels with My Uncle

The family traveled with me to Barcelona for my recent exhibit “13th annual ARC Salon” at the Museu Europeu d’Art Modern (MEAM) and my Uncle Bill joined us from Ohio. My uncle bought me my very first canvas when I was in high school and was instrumental in my artistic pursuits. He took me to galleries and museums and his own collection of original art was such an inspiration for me. It means so much that still, so many years later, here he is standing by me believing in what I do. It was also great to have him with us to see the sights, meet new people and for my son to get to visit with his great uncle. My sons middle name is William, named after my Uncle Bill.

Learn more about the exhibit on my blog and see more paintings from the series, “Monthly Miniature: Into the Country” and “Into the Country (larger works)

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Painting cows: Going afield for inspiration, and preparing for an exhibition

The Nashville area has become a special place for me. Two of my sisters and my adorable nephew and niece are there, so it’s become a go-to spots for family travel. And just outside Nashville, I have discovered the wondrous Holly Belle on Instagram. Even if you didn’t grow up with a dad that brought home a baby cow in the back of the station wagon (true story!), Holly’s “puppy cow” jumping around in the dining room of her house is sure to make you happy. Her mini cows have inspired my paintings and drawings in the recent past, and I have three paintings of cows started, shown above in various states of completion.

Please visit my Into the Country series to see more paintings of animals.

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Painting of a Young Man, a Portrait Miniature

Conor is the son of two artists. I’ve known his father, sculptor Tom Gormally for years. And although we only recently met, I have known of his mother as one of Seattle’s most talented portrait artists.

From the first look, I saw Conor as having a classic look. I immediately thought of one of my favorite portrait painters, Gerald Leslie Brockhurst. Brockhurst was born in the late 1800’s and painted portraits of the English gentry and Hollywood stars in the 1930’s. So I dressed Conor up a bit and added a backdrop of Mount Rainier, painted in Brockhurt’s muted style.

As Malayka and Tom write about Conor, it feels like looking into my future; and when Malayka describes her conversation with Faye Jones, I remember having the same conversation with my dear friend Andi. More and more I feel bonds of common experience, even with people I have yet to meet, like Faye Jones.

Parenthood can strain lives and challenge friendships, not to mention art making, but it is wonderful how connections are built and strengthened too. So once again I want to thank everyone who has agreed to participate in this project! And without further ado, the Gormally family:

Malayka, Tom and Connor

From Makayla:

Our son Conor turned twenty today, and we enjoyed visiting with him at his college dorm via Facetime. When I first became pregnant, I didn’t know how I would handle being an artist and a mother. Now we have a wonderful grown son, and I’m also grateful for the ways in which being a parent has affected my art practice.

I remember being pregnant and walking on Alki beach on a cloudy day with artist Faye Jones, whom I had asked to talk with me about how she combined parenting and being an artist. She had raised four children while building a successful career, and explained to me that she had painted small works at home when her children were very young, and from then-on worked a full day, every day, at a studio down on First Avenue. I remember her saying, “I just did it.”

Before becoming pregnant, I painted abstract work. I was so fascinated with my body’s changes that I started painting myself in the mirror and then painted Conor as a baby.  Over the next couple of years, I developed a commission portrait painting business which I’ve maintained to this day. In the last several years, as Conor has become more independent, I’ve been able to focus on my non-commission paintings and expand my career.

I’ve always painted at home which allowed me to be there for Conor in the afternoons, on sick days, and for school events – for which I’m grateful. It also means that Conor has been involved in every part of the art-making process. He regularly gave me feedback on portrait paintings in-progress. Conor is now my go-to business advisor as he has a good head for pricing, negotiation, etc. As a skilled writer, Conor has played a crucial role in that he serves as our editor and composition aid for every grant application, artist statement, and bio that his dad and I write. We consider Conor to be a crucial part of the family art business.

Makayla, Tom, Connor, Sean and Delvin

From Tom:

I’m the father of three boys; Conor is my youngest son. It was a surprise for me to become a father again so late in life; I love him…he is a gift. It’s been amazing to watch Conor develop as a human being and as a student; he is a wonderful young man and it makes my life richer to journey along with him. I’ve appreciated Conor’s help with writing art applications and creating work in the studio. We enjoy cooking together, watching films, and especially talking sports together and with Conor’s half-brothers Sean and Devlin.

Malayka Gormally artwork

We Are All Immigrants, oil paint on Arches oil paper, 22″ x 30″

Malayka Gormally

Malayka Gormally’s paintings are in over one hundred collections nationwide, including the collections of Safeco Insurance, the City of Kent, and the City of Seattle Portable Works Collection. Her portrait clients have included individuals who have been board members at the Seattle Art Museum, the Henry Gallery, and the Palm Springs Art Museum. She currently has work in 10x10x10xTieton 8th International Small Works Exhibition, and she is preparing for an upcoming two-person exhibition at Spaceworks Gallery in Tacoma. She completed the Artist Trust EDGE Professional Development Program in 2015 and was awarded a 2017 Art Projects Grant by 4Culture to create portraits of immigrant and refugee women in King County. Her website is MalaykaGormally.com.

Tom Gormally sculpture

“Rough Road to the Apocalypse”, installation view;
wood, resin, paint, favric, lights, electronic motors, 48″ x 168″ x 36″

Tom Gormally

Tom Gormally is known for his whimsical and thought-provoking sculptures that incorporate wood craftsmanship with found objects, diverse materials, and LED lighting. He has exhibited nationally and internationally for 40 years, including the Katonah Museum (NY), Des Moines Art Museum (IA), Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art (KS), among others. He created site-specific sculptures in Seattle and Belfast, Northern Ireland, for the Horsehead International Outdoor Sculpture Exhibitions.Tom has also exhibited large-scale sculptures at the Bellwether International Sculpture Exhibitions, Bellevue, WA. Press coverage includes reviews in Sculpture Magazine and The New Art Examiner as well as BBC TV and radio interviews. Tom is a past-recipient of an NEA award for sculpture and was awarded a 2015 Artist Trust Fellowship. His work can be seen at TomGormallySculpture.com.

Learn more about other paintings in the Monthly Miniature, Children of Artists series

Rabbits in retrospect, looking back from the final Monthly Miniature painting

Rabbit Painting

A Forest Still Life, after Matthias Withoos, March, 2016, oil on aluminum, 4.25″ x 3.25″

With the first year of Monthly Miniatures finished, I have more to paint than when I started

I often begin a series of paintings with a plan in mind, so although painting itself an act of exploration, I know roughly where I am going, so to speak. My Monthly Miniatures turned that process on its head, since when I began, I did not have a plan so much as a commitment: to make one miniature painting each month, for a year. It was only in the second month that I even decided to focus on rabbits.

Having so much freedom was hard at first, but trellised by limited structure, ideas continued to emerge and branch as I worked through the series. I began to realize that I could push my ideas further by taking my rabbits out of the studio and into new and imagined places, which in turn can creative narrative, or even pay homage to an artist or tradition I admire.

Now at the end of Monthly Miniatures: Rabbits, I have a few themes I am eager to develop in future work, and it feels great. Although the work makes no strong statement as a series, it became surprisingly meaningful for me, all by approaching the work more as a notebook or conversation than as an essay or a speech.

Charlie stands in for a 17th-century mushroom

Moon Rabbit, miniature oil painting of white rabbit by Rebecca Luncan

Moon Rabbit, oil on aluminum

Following from the painting, Moon Rabbit, I’ve placed Charlie in a romantic setting from a work of art I enjoy (“A forest floor still life with a frog and mushroom, mountains beyond”). As you can see, there is no mushroom but a rabbit instead.

The last of my first Monthly Miniature series pays homage to the 17th Century Dutch painter Matthias Withoos. I love Withoos for his naturalistic paintings, full of botanical specimens and insects and animals of all sorts. Withoos trained all seven of his children how to paint – even his daughters. It was expensive to give your children an education in the arts in the 1600’s and if you were lucky enough to be a woman trained in the field, you often worked in your fathers or husbands studio and your work was attributed to them. One of Matthias’s daughters Alida, however, is one of the rare women artist who had success creating artwork under her own name. Part of her success was likely from the fact that one of her biggest patrons, Agnes Block, was also a woman.

What’s next for Rabbits and Monthly Miniatures?

My studio walls are still covered in rabbity mockups and drawings. Although my commission schedule will keep me busy, do expect to see more and larger rabbit paintings and drawings the next year or two. As to the Monthly Miniatures, next week I will announce the new theme that will encompass the next 9 months and finish out 2016. Check back for details!

New Monthly Miniature Series, Into the Country

New Model!, Photo by Evan Grim

An eager model (we’ll have our people call your people, Martin)

Next up for the Monthly Miniature 

I have fond memories of the animals my Father kept during my childhood, from bees to pigs to chickens (and yes, rabbits). So when I first met my mother-in-law Margot, I was endeared by her own small farm. Having animals “in the family” now bridges my adult life with my childhood.

This second Monthly Miniature series, called Into the Country, will feature subjects from Margot’s menagerie. Each month will feature a different kind of animal, painted in the style of the classical Dutch portrait, with a simple, dark background to emphasize the subject. Even without picturing their environs or activities, I think you will find these creatures to be very expressive all on their own.

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Moon Rabbit, A Miniature Oil Painting and My Journey from the Studio to a Land of Myths

The Myth of the Moon Rabbit

As I paint the rabbits in this series of Miniatures, I am also researching their historical role in artwork and mythology. I am especially captivated with the many stories that connect the rabbit with the moon. This month, I am paying homage to this cross-cultural body of mythology.

Busy Bunny, An Example of Virtue and Hard Work Across the Globe

Rabbits do like to keep occupied. Mine busy themselves remodeling their cardboard condos. But cultures around the world have had different ideas about what the rabbit in the moon might be up to.

Asia

A Japanese story written during the late Heian period (794-1185) has him pounding mochi for rice cakes (you can find the story in the anthology Konjaku Monogatarishū). In a Chinese story, he is mixing the elixir of life for the moon goddess Chang’e.

The root of those and other Asian myths is the Buddhist story from Jataka tales (Tale 316),
circa 4th century BCE. The tale opens with the deity Brahmā (Hindu god of creation), coming to the Earth in disguise as an old man. When he begs for food, four animals offer to help: a monkey, an otter, a jackal and a rabbit. The monkey brings fruits, the otter fish, the jackal steals a lizard and a milk-curd for him, but the rabbit only has grass to offer. Knowing that the old man can’t eat the grass, he instead offers himself and jumps into the old man’s fire. The deity then reveals himself and quenches the fire before the rabbit is burnt. He is so touched by the virtue and self-sacrifice of the rabbit that he carries him to the heavens, leaving his likeness upon the moon to remind us of his noble example.

South America

From the opposite side of the globe, a similar Aztec myth features the god Quetzalcoatl, who makes a journey on the earth as a man and finds himself unable to find food or water after walking a long way. Just when he thinks death is certain, a nearby rabbit offers herself as food to save his life. Moved by the rabbit’s offer, Quetzalcoatl elevates her to the moon, then lowers her back down. Her shadow remains on the moon for us to remember how a little rabbit touched the heart of a god.

Adventure and Fertility

And other myths connect the rabbit with the moon as well. Native American (Cree) myth describes the rabbit as an adventurer that visits the moon with help of a friendly crane. In Chinese folklore, the rabbit is so prolific that they can conceive with just the touch of moonlight.

My Muse, the White Rabbit

Rather than feature my rabbit in her ‘natural environment’ (i.e. the painting studio), this month Eleanor dashes into a romantic, otherworldly nighttime scene inspired by German Romantic painter Caspar David Friedrich. I am studying his work for a series of portraits, and his dramatic cliffs made a home first in my imagination, and now in this latest miniature.

My Ellie has been fixed so she won’t be doing any reproducing, moonlight or not. I also have my doubts that she’d impress the gods with shows of selfless generosity. Stealing her brothers treats is one of her favorite pastimes. In this painting, though, she is my Moon Rabbit, running wild and free. Who knows how far she can go!

Though the original painting is sold, you can still get greeting cards of all of the rabbit Monthly Miniatures in the series in my Store.