I’ve always loved Art Museums and have been working at the Seattle Art Museum for 13 years. It seems as though I’ve gotten to install paintings by just about everyone that has graced an art history book with my own two hands. It’s been inspiring to see the works up close, but it’s also wonderful to work with so many other artists who help contribute insight into the work at the museum and my own artwork. It was actually a SAM exhibition that rekindled my love of Dutch still-life paintings, “European Masters: The Treasures of Seattle”.
My first year at the museum was spent just making mounts for the porcelain room. Because of my connection to SAM, including porcelains in this series feels natural. I’ve chosen to include this exquisite 16th century Jingdezhen-ware porcelain bowl from SAM’s collection. It’s perfect for the month of February. It features “three goats (yang) and the Three Friends of the Cold Season (pine, blossoming plum, and bamboo) all carrying a message of renewal appropriate to the beginning of the new year. Winter ends and spring arrives; yin is on the wane and yang is on the rise, heralding the rebirth of nature.”
I chose to make this month’s still life painting of Brussels sprouts for two reasons. I love that the vegetable is named for a city in the region where these paintings reached their maturity, and they are one of the only vegetables growing in my yard right now (the rabbits love them!).
See more Monthly Miniature paintings from this and past series in the Monthly Miniature gallery.
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, “Still Life With A Yellow Iris, A Parrot Tulip, A White Rose And Insects”, oil on Canvas.
Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!!
It’s been easy to forget all the good that there is in the world when I’m plugged into the computer, but I’ll spend my Thanksgiving offline, appreciating my little slice of happiness with my family. I wish you all health, wealth and happiness, and as much joy as I felt today, watching my (almost) eight-month-old son take his very first steps!
Now go to the store and order some of my new holiday cards, and send a bunny to someone you love. 🙂
The White Rabbit – September 2016, oil on copper, 4″ x 4″
A Memorial Portrait: The passing of Ellie
My Ellie passed away quite suddenly this past month. The vet saw her for an eye irritation but found nothing too concerning, just a tiny scratch on her eye. But Ellie died the very next evening. We don’t know why she died so suddenly, but we miss her.
It’s a sad thing, but having so many animals in childhood helped teach me to be thankful, that death doesn’t diminish the gifts of life. Ellie was a sweet friend to her brother Charlie, and I’ll miss her hopping around the house, and snuggling at my feet while I paint. She was a great muse, and it comforts me that I was painting her portrait when she passed for the Monthly Miniature – Into the Country series.
We kept one early painting of Ellie for ourselves, and I’m glad we did. A portrait has a freshness and a life of its own that makes the subject feel close, that keeps them alive and well in our hearts. It’s a hard thing to explain why a painting should feel more significant than, say, the photo it’s based on, but I think it’s the care put into making it. Because it’s a totally unique object, we give it meaning.
Please enjoy the newest painting of Ellie and join me in remembering her fondly. You can find more paintings of her in the Monthly Miniature – Rabbit’s series.
Rest in peace little Ellie! You will be very missed.
Reclining Rabbit – November 2015, oil on aluminum, 4.25″ x 3/25″
“Reclining Rabbit” selected as finalist in Artist’s Magazine annual art competition
I didn’t win the top prize, but it’s still nice to be selected as a finalist from among 7,300+ entries. A selection of finalists will be featured in online and print publications in the coming months, and all of the finalists will be announced in their January/February 2017 issue. I look forward to seeing the line-up, my congratulations to everyone selected!
Into the Country- Honey Bees, oil on copper, 4″ x 4″
Making a painting, one layer at a time.
As a new mom, my time is more precious then ever. Over the last few months, I’ve been finding ways to use the big and small (more like small and smaller) chunks of time so I’m sure to use all of my art making time wisely. To do this, looking at all the steps one by one was very useful for me. The process of making a painting is different for every artist, and below you will find the steps it takes for me to compete a painting, from start to finish. Commissions are slightly different, and I’ll share the steps for one of those in a future post.
- Sketching out the idea. First I need to know what I’m going to be painting. I brainstorm ideas in my sketch book, do research, play with different approaches to the composition and try to get an overall sense of what I’m wanting to accomplish. This is my favorite way to use small blocks of time.
- Photo session. I work from photographs, so now’s the time to get some images to paint from. It helps to have a strong concept in mind before taking photos, but it’s equally important to stay flexible, and to be open to new ideas as they come. Sometimes it goes just as planned, but occasionally it takes two photo sessions to get what I’m looking for, or I may even go with a different concept entirely!
- Photo editing. Because my paintings are so detailed, I like to work out bugs in the composition in this stage, rather than as I paint. My reference image can look pieced together, but as long as the composition is balanced and the lighting is more or less how I want it, then the reference image does its job. I rarely make any alterations to the composition after this stage. Having worked as a graphic designer, doing this on the computer is really quick and natural for me.
- Painting Support. Once I figure out what the size and shape of my painting will be, I cut out the shape in either copper or aluminum and lightly sand the side I will be painting.
- Under-drawing. I always do a fairly detailed drawing on the metal before I begin applying paint. Since I’m not using paints here, I can do this step anywhere, and I can stop and start anytime. My new routine for the little paintings is to do my underdrawing while nursing, taking little breaks in the drawing to reflect on how cute he is.
- Under-painting. And now we’re finally going to start painting! The first layer of paint can be applied in full color or monochromatic, depending on the painting. Check out some of my paintings in this first stage in the In Progress category of my blog. This layer is usually fairly quick, but it’s best to have at least an hour to devote to a miniature. Larger paintings will need several hours. I like to finish the underpainting all at once.
- Second Layer. I was taught in art school that you should work on every section of the painting during each painting session. This is to keep continuity in the palette and level of detail. After years of painting, however, I’ve found that it works for me to break up painting sessions during the second layer: working on the background first, then middle ground, then foreground. I do like to get every area of the painting to the same level of finish before adding much detail in any one area, though.
- Third layer. This is where the magic happens. Things start to look how they’re supposed to, and my subjects begin to come alive. It’s really important to have a nice long painting session for this layer. A focused two hours is the minimum. For a large painting, those nine-hour painting days (I kind of remember those!) feel amazing. It’s good to step back and look at the painting often during this stage. Sometimes an area that felt resolved will need some changes after another area is more finished, and my third layer, begins to become a fourth. Two good tricks during this stage are to take a photo or look at the painting in a mirror. Any “somethings just not right” mysteries are much easier to solve with a new perspective.
- Final touches. Here I’ll add a little or a lot, depending on how well that third (or fourth) layer went. This is my chance to make sure all the areas of the painting are tied together in terms of color mixing and for level of finish. I usually do this with glazing which is a painting process of adding translucent layers of paint.
- Finished! That’s it, right? Nope. Now the painting needs to be signed, varnished, and documented. There! Now it’s finished.
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 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!
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.
Quarter Horse Portrait in progress, oil on copper
No matter your style, or your talent as an artist, the tools you use to make your artwork must also be up to the task.
An inventory of fresh brushes with nice, crisp points is essential, but sometimes even that isn’t enough. I go through several brushes even in these little paintings, and occasionally my worn brushes find new life when I need something finer than what I can buy. For instance, to get the fine detail in Chex’s eye, I trimmed a fraying brush down to a single hair.
The completed painting,Quarter Horse (Chex My Cal Bar) – July 2016, oil on copper, 4″ x 4″
It’s hard to get a sense of how small this painting is, using my brush for reference in the in-progress image above, there’s already plenty of detail too fine for stock brushes.
This painting features my mother in law’s stallion, Chex. Chex My Cal Bar is a registered quarter horse with an excellent pedigree. A stallion for the first seventeen years of his life, he sired several foals. He was amazingly talented and athletic in his younger years, especially in his element “cutting” cows. He was gentle enough to put children or inexperienced riders on his back, and still is. Now retired, he spends his days with his daughter April and his longtime buddy Romeo, a miniature horse.
Woman’s Best Friend – June 2016, oil on copper, 4″ x 4″
I have to admit a soft spot for dogs, and I love working to capture these special creatures’ personalities in my portraits.
For my Miniature painting of the month, my mother in law’s best friend Penny posed for me, as many of her barnyard friends have done before her. All my life, a dog has been part of my household and the series wouldn’t be complete without one.
Though dogs are often working members of a farm, Penny is about as useless as my Cavilear King Charles Spaniel as a herd dog. Penny decided sheep were best suited for dinner right around her second birthday. My Mona would never try to kill a sheep, but she certainly wouldn’t dream of herding one either. In fact, when I let my rabbits out into the back yard, my cat would help herd them in. Yes, you read correctly. She was amazing and would chase them into the house. My dog would usually sit in the doorway, blocking their entrance. As useless as working animals as they can be, they are unparalleled in the animal kingdom for their loyalty and companionship and are a must for any house in the country (and the city!).
Belgian d’Anver Bantam, oil painting on copper by Rebecca Luncan
4″ x 4″
A New Series brings new challenges and a new style of frame
I was excited to realize that this is not only my first painting of a chicken, but my first painting of any bird! It was a wonderful challenge to create volume from all those feathers, and I look forward to painting more birds. Anyone out there want to commission me to paint your special feathered friend?
The artist and her painting of a Chicken
Custom Frames for Into the Country
The multi-talented Daniel Carrillo, owner of Gallery Frames
in Seattle, made custom frames for this series. If I can’t do it myself because of time or lack of proper equipment, Dan is my favorite framer in Seattle. I’m very thankful that there is a framer in town that can actually cut such tiny frames (most can’t!) with such a high degree of workmanship.
Custom frames by Gallery Frames for “into the Country” miniature painting series
Besides being a fantastic framer, Daniel is also a very talented photographer. His recent work makes use of antique photography methods such as Daguerreotypes and wet plate collodion Ambrotypes. Take a look at his website
to see some of his beautiful work.