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.

See my work at the Edmonds Arts Festival, Father’s Day Weekend

edmonds art's festival

Image from the Edmonds Arts Festival website

See three of my miniatures, on display at the Edmonds Arts Festival, June 16-18, 2017

“As one of the longest-running Northwest premier arts events, the Edmonds Arts Festival is a three-day event that celebrates the arts in our community. Scenic downtown Edmonds, just 15 miles north of Seattle and overlooking Puget Sound and the Olympic Mountains, gives patrons a beautiful setting to view and acquire original works of fine art and crafts. The event provides three days of entertainment, shopping, dining, and gallery exhibits to area locals and visitors alike. During the Festival you can enjoy:

  • More than 240 artist booths with original works of art for sale where you can meet every artist in person
  • Three juried art galleries where award-winning work in all media are on display and for purchase
  • Performers who provide entertainment at an outdoor amphitheater, including music and dance
  • More than 20 food vendors who provide ethnic and healthy food choices along with plenty of traditional fair food options
  • An exhibit of more than 1,000 selected pieces of art from students residing within the boundaries of the Edmonds School District
  • A “Kids Create” area that provides children with guided art enrichment activities and hands-on experiences, as well as the ever-popular face painting
  • The Festival Store, where you can purchase art posters, logo clothing, and other Festival memorabilia

The Edmonds Arts Festival Association is a not-for-profit organization staffed entirely by volunteers who are passionate about its mission. All profits from the Festival are transferred to the Edmonds Arts Festival Foundation that distributes it back into the community in the form of art scholarships and community grants.”

Go to the Edmond’s Art Festival website for parking info and directions. Hope to see you there!

Belgian d'Anver Bantam
“Belgian d’Anver Bantam”
oil on copper
4″ x 4″
Owl drawing by Rebecca Luncan
“Owlie”
graphite and charcoal on paper
4″ x 4″
Bruno the cat, miniature oil painting on copper by Rebecca Luncan
“Bruno”
oil on copper
4″ x 4″

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.

Memorial Portrait: An Unexpected Loss

The White Rabbit, Oil painting miniature by Rebecca Luncan

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.

Busy as a Bee! How many layers does it take to make a painting?

Into the Country- Honey Bees, oil on copper by Rebecca Luncan

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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!
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. Finished! That’s it, right? Nope. Now the painting needs to be signed, varnished, and documented. There! Now it’s finished.

 

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.

 

 

Pet Portrait Birthday Gift

 

Oliver, pet portrait miniature oil painting by Rebecca Luncan

Oliver, oil on copper, 2.25″ x 2.25″

What could be a more perfect gift for someone you love, but a tiny painting of someone they love?

Many of my commissioned portraits are given as gifts. And while I enjoy creating each and every painting I make, those made for an unsuspecting recipient are made with an extra element of excitement and joy in the air. The charming Oliver was carefully captured in oils as a gift for his owner’s birthday. His owner’s sister, who commissioned the painting, was a big fan of Ollie, and I’m very grateful for the commission. Check out the painting of Oliver, as well as a few other animal portraits, in their beginning stages.

Learn More

See Oliver’s first coat of paint in one of my On the Easel blog posts featuring works in progress. I work in a traditional lean to fat method that ensures my paintings will survive for hundreds of years and this first thin coat is essential to the process. To see more finished paintings, please take a look at my pet portraits gallery and my human portraits gallery. And if you’re interested in commissioning a portrait for of your own, take a look at my commissions page to learn my process and contact me to get started!

From Lisa

“I LOVE him!!!! Ollie looks perfect. Thank you Rebecca for all your patience and guidance. You are a talented artist with a true eye. And best of all I KNOW my sister will love it! It’s a given….”

And here’s what her sister posted in Instagram:

Portrait Commission Testimonial