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.

Life of a Paintbrush

Quarter Horse Portrait in progress, oil on copper by Rebecca Luncan

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.

Horse Portrait painting miniature, oil on copper by Rebecca Luncan

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, A Painting of a Dog

pet portrait dog, oil on copper, 4" x 4"

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!).

Portrait of a Belgian d’Anver Bantam (aka Chicken!)

Belgian d'Anver Bantam, oil painting on copper by Rebecca Luncan

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 Rebecca Luncan and her painting of a Chicken - May 2016 oil on copper

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 by Rebecca Luncan

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.

 

Seattle Magazine Feature

seattlemag-weba copy

Check out the April edition of Seattle Magazine!

I am pleased to be featured in the April edition of Seattle Magazine.

When I sent my husband out to grab a couple extra copies, he sifted through the contents page but couldn’t find any mention of Rebecca Luncan or any Monthly Miniatures. Then he noticed the in-progress photo he had taken, very large and high on the page where he expected just a line of text!

Thanks to Haley Durslag for her very kind words about my Monthly Miniatures, and for plugging my other artwork and commissions, too! I so appreciate all the support for the Paintings of Rabbits series of Monthly Miniatures, and I hope the new series gets just as much love (or even more)! <3

‘Into the Country,’ a New Monthly Miniatures Series

Sheep painting

 

Miniature Portrait of a Miniature Cheviot Sheep

The Miniature Cheviot Sheep is an old breed of sheep that ranges wild across the hilly interior of Britain. As a lineage preserved distinct from modern, meat-producing breeds (including other Cheviot breeds), they are known for being hardy and wild, and their wool is prized for its warmth and durability due to its crimp. Very few Miniature Cheviot Sheep exist in the Americas, and my mother-in-law Margot keeps them because she values their ability to lamb and thrive unassisted. They are fast and agile, with intact instincts for motherhood and self preservation, and they were difficult to photograph!

Artist with baby sheep

Me and one of Margot’s Easter babies from a couple years ago. They’re softer than you can imagine!

I grew up on twenty acres with all sorts of creatures. When I was still very young, my father was disabled by multiple sclerosis, so my memories of the animals he kept are childlike impressions, images and feelings without stories attached. I don’t remember why we bottle-fed baby goats (my sister does), but I do remember how the goats looked and sounded. Memories of those days are warm and fuzzy in every sense, and they are all bundled up tight with memories of my dad, who also introduced me to art. Now I have a mother-in-law, Margot, with her own farmyard animals, and these animals still bring me a sense of warmth and love and the endless wonders of childhood.

“Into the Country” is my second series of Monthly Miniatures, in which I plan to develop one of several ideas sparked by painting “Paintings of Rabbits” (the first Monthly Miniature series). Each month will feature an animal from Margot’s animal family, in a style inspired by classical Dutch portraiture, with naturally-lit subjects against a dark, simple background to emphasize and personify the subject.

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.

The Business of Art, 2015 Retrospective Part 3 of 3: Selling Artwork

Facebook original painting auction

Facebook painting auction

New ways artists can sell artwork online

Originally, my website was set up like most artist sites. If you were interested in purchasing one of my paintings, you would be instructed to contact me or the gallery that represented me – the end. There was no indication that any specific paintings on my site were available for purchase, much less a purchase button. Doing research into how I wanted my site to look I found some amazing artists and I was tempted to purchase artwork myself, but even I never wanted to contact the artist! It seems obvious, but having a clear price list and detailed process outline for commissions and a purchase button for completed paintings, makes it so much easier for you to even begin to think about bringing one of my paintings into your home. It’s the way I would like to purchase a painting so it makes sense that that’s how I should be selling them.

Making artwork clearly and readily available was the first step. But if no one sees my website, no one knows my paintings are available. It was time to take another step and venture into using social media and marketing to help sell my paintings. With the help of posts from sites like artbusiness.com, I’ve been learning, among other things, better ways to optimize my images and text so that I come up in google searches more often. This has helped me get painting commissions from people that never knew my work before. Also, allowing you to click a purchase button directly from my Newsletter, and putting new works up on Facebook has made a huge impact on my sales. I even ended the year with a successful art auction on Facebook. I’m used to the old gallery situation, where I meet people in person and putting a painting up on for sale Facebook really took me out of my comfort zone. My end goal was not only to sell the painting and raise some money for two well deserved charities, but also to expand my audience.

I love selling paintings. I know that’s a silly statement, but it’s true. Selling paintings means I can work a little less at my day job and still pay the bills. Which in turn means there are less compromises in the studio and I can spend more time making paintings I don’t currently have time for.  Selling paintings also means these paintings are going out into the world to be enjoyed instead of being stored in my studio. I’m thankful that you appreciate what I’m making enough to bring my painting into your home and take such good care them.

Where will 2016 take us?

February is already almost over and I’ve been busy ironing out my plan and trying to take into account a new addition to the family. Even with this addition, I expect much of the same from last year, with a few little steps ahead (and maybe even a few leaps!). I’ll be starting a new Monthly Miniature series in April, plan to finish some larger figurative paintings this year and have room for just a few more commissions in the schedule. I’m also going to try to post as consistently as possible and have two new venues for you to learn more about my paintings – a short video published on Vimeo and my website by Aaron Boruget from a recent studio visit, and an upcoming article about my paintings in the Seattle Magazine in April.

I am taking into consideration that a newborn will likely throw a wrench in the works, so if I fall short on my plans, please forgive me! I promises not to be late with your commissions though.

 

Monthly Miniatures - Rabbit oil paintings by Rebecca Luncan

Part 1 of 3: Planning Paintings

 

Rebecca Luncan Instagram account

Part 2 of 3: Communication