Happy New Year everyone! I’m celebrating the new year by starting a new Monthly Miniature series. For each month of 2019, I will create a miniature still-life painting in the Dutch Still-Life tradition and I hope you will enjoy following along. As a newsletter subscriber, you’ll be the first to see them, and they will be available for sale as soon as they are announced.
The Historic Still-Life tradition with a modern perspective
Still-life paintings from Northern Europe were at their prime from around 1600 – 1800 and 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.
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.
The first painting of “In Season” features the camellia flower and cave cricket. The camellia is one of few flowers in bloom here in January, and you may also be startled to find a cave cricket in your basement. Most insects are dormant this time of year, but these little creatures are actively scurrying around ready to frighten unsuspecting people in cool dark places.
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.
With this series, I celebrate those who have taken on the parenting challenge before me. They’ve given 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 dozen different artist’s children. 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.
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!
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.
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.
Ellie, oil on aluminum, 4 1/2″ x 3″
This miniature painting of a rabbit marks the beginning of a big commitment.
It may not seem like much in the world of countless artists hosting “daily painting” blogs, but it’s a big deal for me. While continuing to make all of my other, larger works and commissioned pieces, I will make one miniature painting of a rabbit every month.
This first miniature is of my bunny Eleanor, who sits under my desk with her brother Charlie when I paint. House rabbits are a bit of work to keep out of trouble (chewing anything from cords to sofas) but once you get them trained and your house bunny-proofed, they’re a lot of fun. Having a rabbit run and leap onto the rug in front of you makes it all worth while.
Thanks for looking and I hope you check back the first Monday of the Month to see more of the miniatures as they progress!
Hand Finished Antique Frame
Each of the paintings of rabbits will be framed and ready to hang when posted. Although they are very small, they sometimes take a surprisingly long time to paint. I’ve also been known to spent almost as much time on the frame, so it adds up to a lot of work. The frames for this series were sent to me from my sister, Theresa, who found dozens of unfinished, dirty and wonderful wooden frames from the 1920’s. Below you can see what the frame on Ellie looked like just before the wonders of the french polish.
Antique Unfinished Frame – French Polish in progress