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.

Pet Portrait of a White Cat and the Tradition of Glazing

pet portrait painting of white cat

Shiro
5″ x 5″
oil on aluminum

 

Painting pet portraits is a journey of discovery

Years of training in traditional painting techniques and my past pet portraits form the foundation for each new piece I make. Yet with each portrait I still learn new things. Mixing just the right color still feels like making magic, and finding the precise technique to create a new texture of fur or feathers is an enchanting challenge all its own.

A perfect example is my recent cat portrait of Shiro, a fluffy white fellow with piercing blue eyes. In this case, the key technique to capture the luminosity in those beautiful eyes, as well as the soft sense of fluff, was glazing.

Glazing is a little like magic

Evidence of glazing is found in the earliest examples of painting. The idea is to apply transparent layers of oil paint atop the dried lower layers. I use Gamblin’s Galkyd media for the upper layers of my paintings and when glazing, I increase the medium enough to create transparent layers, which offer a sense of optical depth. This is one reason why painting always look better in person than when reproduced. In reproductions all the colors are flattened out and the transparent layers are lost.

Glazing is typically used in just a few key areas of a painting. The areas of optical depth attract the viewer’s eye more than surrounding areas of opaque paint, so it’s a great way to help direct the eye of the viewer around a composition and create focal points. Gamblin has a list of pigments that are ideal for glazing on their website. I used Phthalo Blue, Phthalo Green, and a touch of Indian Yellow in Shiro’s eyes.

From Dawn:

We absolutely love the picture.  You rendered him so beautifully!  We have a special spot in the house to hang the picture so we can look at it every day and it looks amazing.

Thank you again.  It is such an honor and a treat to have a piece of your art and it is so special that it is of Shiro who we love so much.

Thanks so much for the commission, Dawn!

See more examples of my paintings on the Pet Portraits page and learn about the commission process on the Commissions page.

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.

 

Octagonal Frame for a Miniature Family Portrait

Family portrait painting in miniature, oil on aluminum by Rebecca Luncan

Family Portrait of Heather, Courtney and Olivia, oil on aluminum, 6″ x 4.75″

Inspired by a 17th century artwork through 21st century social media

I’m always on the lookout for new ideas not only for what I’m painting, but also for framing. When Richard Christie, picture framer of the Cotswolds in the UK, posted an image of a painting on Instagram, I gasped aloud. I had been debating how to frame the miniature family portrait above and I instantly knew this was “The One!”. My delight was due to a beautiful frame worthy of a truly spectacular little painting (pictured below) of “A Winter Scene with Skaters near a Castle”. Painted by Hendrick Avercamp over four hundred years ago, it’s the inspiration for the frame I made for the commission, “Family Portrait of Heather, Courtney and Olivia”.

antique_frames Instagram post, A Winter Scene with Skaters near a Castle. By Hendrick Avercamp about 1608. Seen in the National Gallery. #antiqueframe

Posted by: antique_frames, A Winter Scene with Skaters near a Castle. By Hendrick Avercamp about 1608. Seen in the National Gallery.

Bringing out the details with subtle framing

Dutch style frames are a particular favorite of mine because I find that they lend a formality without adding distraction. The dark, wide and simple profile brings my eye into the details of the image and helps keep it there. I’m also happy to find that the geometric shape of the frame draws my eye around the arms and hands of the loving family encircling one another.

 

Detail of hands, Family portrait painting in miniature, oil on aluminum by Rebecca Luncan

Detail of hands, oil on aluminum

Instagram for inspiration

I have a wide array of interests and they are all covered on Instagram. Among the folks I follow, there are visual artists, picture framers, musicians, weavers, farmers, and family members. You never know how or when inspiration will hit and it’s always fun to take a break and see what people are up to. If you’re on Instagram I hope you’ll check out my account!

March In the Artist’s Studio: Commissioned Paintings and Custom Frames

pet portrait painting of cat in progress by Rebecca Luncan

Shiro in progress
5″ x 5″
oil on aluminum

 

Child Portrait painting in progress by Rebecca Luncan

Robbie in progress
oil on aluminum
17″ x 15″

Painting in a traditional style, takes many layers of paint and lots of time.

Visiting an artist’s studio, you will see multiple painting in the various stages of completion. By first doing a thin coat of paint and mixing more oil medium with my paints for each successive layer (known as working lean to fat), my paintings will last for many hundreds of years without cracking or buckling. Not all artists care about the longevity of their paintings, but for me, I care out of respect for what I’m doing and for the work countless others have done throughout the long history of painting to figure out best practices. It also creates a rich depth that you can’t get with just one layer of paint!

Please take a look at my pet and human portrait galleries and visit my Commissions page to learn more about my commission process!

 

Octagonal picture frame

Octagonal picture frame in progress

Artist Rebecca Luncan cutting a liner for a custom frame on a scroll saw

Cutting a liner for a custom frame

 

An artist’s studio isn’t only for painting!

I often hire local framers (my favorite in Seattle is Gallery Frames) but sometimes I like to make and finish them myself. This frame, pictured in multiple parts above, will be for an oval family portrait I made several months ago. It took some brainstorming to figure out the perfect frame I’m really excited for it to be completed!

I hope you’ll check back soon to see how these pieces progress!

Big Henry, meet little Henry! A French Bulldog Portrait Painting Miniature

My latest french bulldog portrait painting traveled across the country and has arrived in his new home.

I’d been looking forward to working on Henry’s portrait and it went almost too quickly! The wait list for one of my painting is currently about eight months. Though it seems like a long time, the anticipation is part of the fun both for clients receiving the paintings and for me to get working on them. What better way to spend your day than to look at that cute little face? I already miss him in the studio.

I found three miniature antique plaster frames and they are to be used for the portraits of two dogs (Oliver and Henry) and a cat (Corinna). For my pet portraits, I mostly work from photos taken by my clients, so I can take commissions from just about anywhere in the world. These three little paintings will split ways and make their independent journeys to California, Pennsylvania and Virginia. If you’re interested in a portrait of your own, please visit my Commissions page to learn about the process or contact me to get started today.

 french bulldog portrait painting miniature by Rebecca Luncan

Henry, oil on aluminum, 2.25″ x 2.25″

 

From Sandy:

Just received my portrait of Henri. It’s so small and so perfect! I love it.
Thank you again, Rebecca

Commission In Time for a Special Ocassion

oil painting miniature of little girl at the beach by Rebecca Luncan

Portrait of Maddie at the Beach, oil on copper, 4″ x 4″

My commission schedule is booked out almost a year in advance, but if there’s a special occasion you’d like a portrait for and it’s coming up soon, it doesn’t hurt to ask!

I like to leave a little wiggle room in my schedule to accommodate one or two unexpected commissions each year that need to happen right away.  The timing for this painting worked perfectly, and I’m really happy I was able to make it as a special gift for a very special person.

This painting was presented to Michele as a tribute to ten years as a hardworking, knowledgeable and efficient registrar at the Seattle Art Museum. But for her colleges to commission such a gift to commemorate her time at SAM, it’s also a tribute to the genuine warmth and love that she has always been so quick to share. We coordinated with her daughter who she sent me several images, and this one immediately stood out to me as “the one,” both a portrait of her very loved granddaughter, and an image of a young girl, going confidently to the ocean on a glorious sunny day. I hope Michele’s new adventures are just as sunny, and I know she will go into them with confidence and brighten the lives of all she meets.

My thanks to everyone at SAM and to her daughter for the commission, and for your trust that I could make a gift worthy of Michele. And thank you, Michele, for all your help and support, both professional and personal over the past ten years. Enjoy and visit your old friends often!

From Michele’s daughter

“Wow, Rebecca.  I don’t even know what to say… this is so beautiful.  My mom is going to love it.  We are so blessed that you’ve used your incredible talent to commit such a wonderful memory into an ever-lasting work of art.  Thank you.”

From Michele

“Amazingly talented, kind, sweet, wonderful. …I will always admire you when I look at the portrait…”

Nine on the Beach: a Portrait of More than a Person

9-on-beach

“Nine on the Beach”, oil on aluminum, 14″ x 14″

A first-person perspective captures the intimacy of a unique moment.

This image is so rich in textures to explore, from the surface of the water over the rippled sand, to the skin and all the various textiles. But what really makes this painting special is the story that inspired it and brought nine people together for a day to remember.

When I was first approached to make this painting, I admit I was a little skeptical. My client mentioned that he had taken the image the previous weekend and wanted a portrait made from it, with some slight modifications. It seemed like such a casual request to warrant countless hours making a painting that will last hundreds of years. I was compelled enough by the image to do a mock-up and give an estimate, yet I was curious, what made this image so special?

When my client accepted the estimate, he gave me the backstory:

Detail-9-on-beach

This image is from this past Saturday when we scattered my Mother-in-law’s ashes at the beach and I shot this photo when we were all standing in a circle before the ashes were scattered.  My idea of this painting is to give my wife a gift and a memorial from a really beautiful day.  Part of what I like are how different all of our feet are, dress shoes and suit from the service bare feet, etc. The idea of the seagull is a representation of Jean in the middle of us.

The story was so moving that it completely transformed my perspective on the commission, from being slightly skeptical to feeling deeply honored. What a stunning reminder of the power of a story to give meaning, that a few words of insight into a shared experience can make an image so deeply moving.

What a beautiful memorial, and what a loving husband to bring the idea to life.

 

framed-9-on-the-beach-Chris-Cummings

The final painting, framed and ready to gift wrap

Horse Portrait Commission Finished – Complete with Frame

Horse portrait Painting commission.

Shiloh, oil on aluminum, 18″ x 12.5″


The Portrait of Shiloh is finished, complete with a coat of varnish and frame. I love painting animals, and though we had horses when I was a kid, this is my first painting of a horse. Thank you, Lisa for having confidence in my abilities to capture your very special friend!

He is all ready to ship out 2,000 miles away to Ohio. I’ll miss having those sweet eyes in the studio!

See more of Rebecca’s pet portraits.