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Miniature oil painting of Birds of the Pacific Northwest

For the Month of May, I’ve made a still life painting of birds of the Pacific Northwest. I’m paying tribute to the painter George Flegel. He was born in what is modern day Czech Republic and did his training in Austria and Germany but ended up in Holland in the early 1600’s. His strange compositions, bursting with life are a study of technical perfection. I love how he incorporates birds in his still life’s in such a natural way. Between looking at his paintings, spending more time out in the yard, working on chicken paintings for a show in August, AND having a Stellar’s Jay nest in the eaves right outside my bedroom window, birds have been on my mind lately.

George Flegel, Still Life of Birds and Insects 1637

George Flegel, Still Life of Birds and Insects 1637

I’ve made a painting that is heavily inspired by one of his most unusual composition filled with birds and insects. I’ve chosen birds and insects that can be found in my backyard in the Seattle area. My dad always knew what birds were in the yard when we lived in the farmhouse in Ohio. I never studied them enough to be encyclopedic about the different species like he was and I had trouble identifying the different little brown ones. My friend, Chris Keenan (who also helped identify the nest in last months painting) helped me figure out more species than could possibly fit into one painting. I did my best, though!

In this Months Painting:

I have 8 birds in the 5″ x 5″ painting; American Crow, American Robin, Anna’s Hummingbird, Dark-Eyed Junko (Oregon), Northern Flicker, Plaited Woodpecker, Red-Breasted Nuthatch and a Stellar’s Jay. Insects are: Darkling Beetle, Painted Lady Cocoon and Butterfly (did you find the Caterpillar in last months painting? They transformed!), Grasshopper, and a Pholcid House Spider (also called a daddy long-legs). Also included: black sunflower seeds and a Blue Flag Iris I plucked the from the garden.

Detail of Miniature oil painting of birds on copper by Rebecca Luncan, 5" x 5"

Detail of Miniature oil painting of birds on copper by Rebecca Luncan, 5″ x 5″

It was incredibly challenging to figure out such a complicated composition. Getting that many birds in there, meant I had to paint them at a very small scale. I have some detail images below to help you get a sense of the size of this painting. It took a lot of careful consideration to try to make the painting look right upon careful close inspection, but also from even a short distance away. Some of the details are lost, even from two feet away!

I hope you enjoy this painting as well as your own backyard birds! Go to my Monthly Miniatures page to see all of the paintings in this series. And join my mailing list for a Monthly Miniature Preview, to get a chance to purchase them before before they go for sale on the website, and to see what’s new in the studio.

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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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Feature in The Stanger 2019 Pet Issue

Every year Seattle’s last surviving newspaper, The Stranger, does a feature issue all about pets. Art critic Jasmyne Keimig interviewed four different artists who immortalize animal friends and I was delighted to be among them. Read the full interview on the Strangers website.

Thank you to the folks at The Stranger that continue to produce such a well loved local paper and for the yearly focus on animals. And a big thank you to Jasmyne for putting so much into writing a lovely article. I’m honored to be included!

They used an image of my portrait of Shiloh, oil on aluminum, 18″ x 12.5″ for the article. Go to my Pet Portraits gallery to see more examples of my work and go to the commissions page to learn about having your very own painting made.

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Finding inspiration in art history: Adriaen Coorte

For latest painting in my series of Monthly MIniature’s I painted a bowl of brussels sprouts inspired by the works by Adriaen Coorte (ca. 1665 – after 1707).

With each of these paintings, I learn more about the Northern European still life tradition and I was drawn to the simplicity of Adriaen Coorte’s compositions. Because of my classical art training and experience of working at an art museum, I can usually identify the artist or at least the era in which a painting was made. Adriaen Coorte’s paintings are easily identifiable in the genre of Dutch Still Lifes because his paintings are unusually unpretentious. Many painting from the era have extravagant compositions, featuring priceless (at the time) tulips with a riot of color. By contrast, his painting are quiet and incredibly tender.

His painting of a bowl full of strawberries became the inspiration for my painting of brussels sprouts. I chose a bowl from the collection of the Seattle Art Museum, where I work part time, and picked brussels sprouts from my garden (just about the only thing in the garden in February!).

Learn more about my painting, “Brussels Sprouts and Porcelain Bowl” in an earlier blog post and see all of the paintings in the series on the Monthly Miniature gallery page. You can also sign up for my newsletter to see each painting right when they are finished and get the first opportunity to purchase, a day before it goes public on the web site.

Adriaen Coorte, Wild Strawberries in a Wan Li Bowl, Oil on paper, mounted on wood, 11 5/8 x 8 7/8

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Monthly Mintiaure: In Season, Still life painting of Brussels Sprouts and Porcelain Bowl

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.

 

Brussels Sprouts and Porcelain Bowl still life painting oil on copper by Rebecca Luncan

 

Brussels Sprouts and Porcelain Bowl detail still life painting oil on copper by Rebecca Luncan

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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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New Monthly Miniature Series: “In Season” Featuring Still-Life Paintings

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.

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Owen and Silvan, a Miniature Portrait of Brothers (as birds)

This month’s miniature portrait of brothers features the sons of artist Jennifer Zwick. Jenny is a fixture in the Seattle art community, and I’ve known her since long before she had kids. I’ve always been a great fan of her work, her contagious grin, and her breathtaking beauty (I’ve nicknamed her Snow White, and yes, she is the fairest of them all!).

detail of Miniature portrait of brothers. oil painting by Rebecca Luncan

Detail of, “Portrait of Owen and Silvan”
4″ x 4″
oil on copper

I did a painting of Jenny once upon a time, and I’ve been excited to make a portrait of her boys. I originally imagined a classic miniature, but these two just didn’t quite fit the mold. Jenny sent me dozens of images, some of which fit my original idea, but there were so many goofy shots. These kids are definitely raised in a very creative household, and I felt more and more that their portrait should reflect this. There were several images that fit, but I love the expressiveness of the two of them in this image in particular. You see so much about their relationship, and capturing it in a painting was worth the madness of painting such tiny faces and hands.

This is the smallest-scale portrait I’ve made in a long time, and if I never work so small again, I’ll be glad the last time was for Jenny. Please take the time to enjoy a peek into her life as an artist mom, through her words and images below.

Please visit the gallery of Monthly Miniatures, and learn more about all of the Artists featured in the series in the Archive.

Words from Jennifer, on being an artist and mother:

Jenny Zwick, art and family

Jenny Zwick, art and son Owen

My first thought is to write about how the restrictions of parenting have affected my work: how, when I was first pregnant, I could no longer build large sets, so instead made tiny wearable rooms (which I call “head sets”) with dollhouse hardwood floors and framed artwork which attach magnetically and look hilarious and unreal; or when I was pregnant a second time, and so large I could barely move, and my art grew even smaller still, making miniature watercolors of Nintendo game systems.

But if I focus away from how parenthood makes one’s artistic career smaller (no residences; harder to attend openings; expensive child care; higher stakes and confusion about if making art really is a priority), I see that it was a very natural thing for me to incorporate parenthood into my artistic practice and output.

Jenny Zwick, art and sons Owen and Silvan

Jenny Zwick, art and sons Owen and Silvan

Before pregnancy, my work often focused on what I experienced as a child – things I thought might be possible, or wished could happen, or might as well have.  My obsession with optics, with the disconnect between how our senses literally perceive the world, and then how our brain translates these into the impression of a coherent experience, this was amazing to see firsthand as my children learned about object permanence, or how proximity affects scale (older son’s first airplane trip: “when do we get small?” since he’d only ever seen airplanes flying overhead, in perfect miniature distant detail), or what aspects of a world we will completely take for granted, and what sticks out as wrong, or as special, or as notable.  One ongoing photo series of mine involves building set-based narrative photographs depicting young girls in surreal circumstances, staging remembered childhood ideas and atmospheres.  I was recently able to create several new images, and for the first time, there are adults – two of the photos have mothers; one with her daughter, and one hugely pregnant.

Jennifer Zwick, "Hello 2" 2010 21" x 31" Archival pigment print

Jennifer Zwick, “Hello 2”
2010, 21″ x 31″
Archival pigment print

During my first pregnancy I had a show called “Partum” which was hung in three sections: First Trimester, Second Trimester, Third Trimester – the work was all very distinct, as I adjusted to giving up Ritalin, then as I became anemic, and then as I dealt with acute nervousness and humor about the impending birth.

Recently I revisited a photograph I made for that first “Partum” show, which was about how the female body is treated as a public object. For that photograph I stretched chaotically patterned fabric on a frame, cut a hole in it, and stuck my third-trimester belly through. Photographed head-on, it is a strange exercise in depth, with the flat fabric directly parallel to the picture plane, and the belly jutting out, impossibly round. In the new iteration, I mounted the life-sized photo on foam core, cut the belly button out, and attached it to a small motor which I wired to rotate, comically spinning in the middle of this huge belly, just as weird and humorous and insane as it is to grow a freaking person in your body.

Whenever possible, I love having my kids help with my projects, building or installing or whatever won’t 1) derail the project 2) ruin everything or 3) kill them.

Jenny Zwick, art and sons Owen and Silvan

Jenny Zwick, art and sons Owen and Silvan

Additionally, making large-scale art projects means I end up with interesting and odd materials – one project involved taking site-specific photographs of banal locations at Seattle Center, then printing them out life-sized and reinstalling them on location as photo opportunities.  In order to ensure I had the exact right focal length and composition I made several rounds of large black and white test prints at copy centers.  I did not end up creating a piece at the Kobe Bell Pagoda location, so my then 5-year old son had a great time using all the huge images for his own purposes.  One of them became the backdrop for a “play” he wrote about ghosts, and we brought it to the pagoda and he performed the play (which involved a surprising amount of jumping in dried leaves).

Jennifer Zwick, "The Moment" 2017, 28.8" x 40" Archival pigment print

Jennifer Zwick, “The Moment”
2017, 28.8″ x 40″
Archival pigment print

Jennifer Zwick

From Jennifer about her artwork: Trained in photography, I work in a variety of media, including large-scale installations, wearable sculptures, painting, interactive video installation, printmaking, and photographic processes. I am particularly interested in optics, symmetry, humor, one-point-perspective, anxiety, repetition, repetition, and repetition.  I create artwork which requires the viewer to reorient themselves, using one-point-perspective, in- camera techniques, site-specific construction, and sculptural installation, presenting nonlinear narratives depicting the fraction of a second where something fundamentally concrete is shifted just enough to turn an ordinary moment into something gently surreal.

I firmly believe that by making art which looks fantastical but is constructed rudimentarily, “in real life”, an opportunity is created for the viewer to think about what we will accept as real; about how much our brains miss when we move through the world; about what we take for granted and how much power we truly have to reshape our reality.

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Children of Artists, Miniature Portrait Painting of the son of Barbara Robertson

Portrait of Sean

Sean, the happy kid featured in this month’s monthly miniature, is the son of artist Barbara Robertson. I was first introduced to Barbara in the basement at the Seattle Art Museum many years ago and have been following her brilliant career every since.

There is a fear for many women that their career will not recover after being put on hold to raise kids. That is no less true for artist moms, who deal with the additional challenges in being a woman artist who have historicaly been less recognized in museums, galleries and art history publications. Every step forward in a victory, and Barbara is another inspiring example that it can be done. Among other things, the story she tells below highlights how powerful it is to have a role model. Thank you Barbara, for being another incredible inspiration!

Paintings in this Monthly Miniature series fall somewhere between commission work and my original works. Like a commission, source images for these miniatures may come from family photos or be taken by me. But whereas I involve clients in my commissions, both in selecting photos and composing the painting, I take full control in the Monthly Miniatures. Most parents see these portraits for the first time when you do, here in the newsletter. I love the process of composing a painting in collaboration, but having complete freedom gives me a different connection to the painting, and it is helping me develop confidence in my choices.

Barbara (far right) pictured with her family. Her son Sean (left middle row with green hat), husband, step children, grandchildren and nieces and nephews.

Words from Barbara, on being an artist and mother:

When my son was born, I really didn’t know what it was like to be an artist, or anything else, except being a young girl. I had wanted, and dreamed, of being an artist since I was fourteen when I met my first professional, working artist. I was full of the enthusiasm and optimism of youth.

She was the mother of my best friend. I had not dreamed of being a mother. But when I had my baby at age 19, at least I had a great role model for how to be an artist and a mother. My friend’s mother had a studio in her home, with a door that she kept closed; her own private space. I was often invited in to see her work and receive her advice when I was in high school.

My baby was a surprise, of course…who plans a baby at 19? I was a freshman in college, so had taken a few introductory courses and loved it. I was determined to get my degree in art and determined to get my MFA, which I did. It took me ten years, going part time, to get my BFA. I was so naïve, that I did not know that no one takes you seriously as an artist if you are a woman and certainly not if you are a mother. If someone had told me that, I would not have believed them. I had my friend’s mother as an example and I just proceeded as if I had no impediments.

By the time I was in graduate school, my son was ten, and being a parent and a beginning artist was much easier but still a challenge. I was always juggling commitments to find time to make some art. My son often came to UW with me in the evenings and rode his skateboard down the halls of the art school building befriending and charming some of the other students.

Being a young parent definitely has its advantages; you can carry your child around for a long time without getting tired, have endless energy and certainly no carpel tunnel stress that most mature mothers experience. You have lots of stamina and optimism but, the downside is that you are not very smart. And you don’t know what you don’t know. I’m pretty sure that was a disadvantage for him. So my son and I grew up together. He went everywhere with me and lived around creative people and “alternative” life styles and was always a welcome part of the group. This has, I think, contributed to him being a tolerant, wise, independent and intelligent person. As he got older, I devoted more of my time to my art and I think that he thinks that having an artist mother is a natural thing. He is a self -employed craftsman and an amateur chef.

"Rough Cut 3" acrylic and collage on paper, 44" x 30", by Barbara Roberts

“Rough Cut 3″ acrylic and collage on paper, 44″ x 30”, by Barbara Roberts

Barbara Robertson

Seattle based artist Barbara Robertson is known primarily for her work in experimental printmaking. Recently, she has expanded her practice to include digital animation and sound installations. Awards for her work include grants from the Seattle Office of Arts and Culture City Artists program, 4Culture Individual Artists award, 4Cullture Artists Projects grants, Artists Trust GAP grant, a KALA Art Institute Fellowship and the Neddy Fellowship from the Behnke Foundation.

In 2004 her work was included in “Events,” a collaboration with the Merce Cunningham Dance Company, Joyce Theater, New York. In 2012, her work in animation was exhibited at the 4Cutlure Electronic Gallery in Seattle, in 2012 at “aproject space” in Seattle, Washington, at Trykk 17 Art Center, in Stavanger, Norway and at the Eleftherias Art Center in Athens, Greece.  In the winter of 2013, her animation “Three Phases,” was exhibited on a large outdoor screen at the Gates Foundation in Seattle.  In 2014, three animations and one work on paper were part of a large special exhibition at the Tacoma Art Museum, titled “Ink This! Contemporary Print Art in the Northwest.” Robertson’s work shown in 2014-2016 as part of “The Intersection Between Science, Art and Technology” exhibition at the American Embassy in Bern, Switzerland. In 2015, her work in animation and print was exhibited at “Impact”, Hangzhou, China. Three animations were shown in 2016 at 4Cullture’s E4C electronic gallery.

Robertson’s work is included in private and public collections including the State of Washington Percent for Art, King County Public Art Collection, the City of Seattle Portable Works Collection, Harborview Medical Center, Tacoma Art Museum, University of Washington Special Collections, US Trust and Safeco Corporation. She has a Master of Fine Arts degree from the University of Washington, Seattle. She established the print art program at Pratt Fine Arts Center in Seattle, served on Pratt’s board of directors and is the founder and past president of Seattle Print Arts. In 2016 she curated and organized a satellite exhibition in conjunction with the Seattle Art Fair, “In Context” exhibiting large scale work by thirteen regional artists. In 2017, her large scale, sight specific animation installation, “Architectonic” was exhibited at Oxbow Art Space in Seattle.

 

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Memorial portrait of Jackson, painted in diptych as puppy & dog

Clark worked hard to make this pair of portraits happen! They were an anniversary gift, and getting all the old photos of Jackson scanned and mailed in secret took time and cunning. Clark was up to the task though, and he supplied me with lots of great images. Although we talked at first of painting Jackson as an adult, he sent me a few pictures from his puppy stage as well. I couldn’t resist mocking up a puppy portrait—the images were too adorable! Clark was tempted too, and instead of one portrait, he commissioned two paintings, each from a different stage in Jackson’s life.

Framing the Portraits

puppy pet portrait oil painting framed by Rebecca Luncan

“Jackson as a Puppy” oil on copper, 6″ x 6″

I sent Clark a selection of frames to choose from and he picked a 1 1/2″ wide natural wooden frame. The color brings out the warmth of Jackson’s Golden Retriever silky coat, and the pair of portraits look great together. Take a look at my Pet Portraits Gallery to see more examples of my work, and visit the Commissions page to learn how to commission your own pet portrait oil paintings.

pet portrait oil painting of golden retriever by Rebecca Luncan

Portrait of Jackson
oil on copper
6″ x 6″