My English Spot rabbit, Harriet, makes her debut in my newest monthly miniature painting. I was inspired by the forest still life paintings of Otto Mardeus van Schrieck a Dutch painter from the 1600’s.
Otto Mardeus van Schrieck
Van Schrieck’s paintings juxtapose light and dark. A sinister snake might lurk in the gloomy foreground while a radiant bloom or a moment of light glows from the background. The New York Times published an article about his work last November. It’s a really colorful read, and I highly recommend taking a look, if only to see some of his fascinating paintings.
Though some elements in my painting come directly from the careful study of a work of van Schrieck’s, I definitely took a lighter approach to my painting. I told my husband that, “I didn’t have such severe subject matter in me.” But after the painting was finished and signed, filled with flowers that reminded me of my family, a mountainous landscape that reminds me of my Pacific Northwest home, and insects, frogs and rabbits that remind me of my childhood, I had a miscarriage. It was the fifth since my son was born three years ago. After finding out, I picked up my paint brush and added a snake. I’m doing fine and my spirits are higher by the day. It’s just interesting, after all these years of painting, to recognize how much of myself I put into each one, however subtle or unconscious.
I hope you enjoy this month’s painting. Take a look below for some detail images. The Silvery Blue butterflies were particularly trying on the eyes!
In art school I was known as the “bug girl” because almost all of my painting had insects in them. Insects were a huge inspiration, and though they are no longer the primary focus on my work, they have continued to appear in my paintings throughout the years. I find that the closer that I look at the insect I’m painting, the more I feel a sense of empathy for it. I imagine a personality in there, and wonder about the history of it’s life.
My insect collection has been with me since my art school days. Some of my insects were gifts from Cincinnati Zoo entomologists, while others I sought out myself. I learned to pin insects from a friend I met at the frame shop where I used to work.
The insect specimens in this painting are from a very special part of my collection. These creatures came from three prized boxes put together by photographer Anita Douthat when she was a girl in Northern Kentucky. I knew Anita through her husband Cal Kowal, who was my photography teacher at the Art Academy of Cincinnati.
Still life paintings can tell a secret story through the symbolism of their elements. These pale raspberries grow in my garden and are symbols of kindness. The shell came from my husband’s pocket (he’s always collecting shells and rocks on his adventures) and are a symbol of birth and fortune. Insects are all around us, yet their forms, life cycles, and social structures couldn’t be more different than our own. Dragonflies symbolize change, and grasshoppers luck. Bees have had close ties with humanity and throughout the ages have variously stood for power, love, and industry. All of these types of insects can be found in the Northern Kentucky region where my models were originally collected over forty years ago (I exaggerated the blue in the dragonfly which was quite faded).
This painting is 5″ x 5″, oil on copper. Go to the Monthly Miniature page to see more of the paintings from the series, In Season.
Jan van Kessel the Elder, Flemish still life master that inspired this months painting
Jan van Kessel the Elder had big shoes to fit into. He was the great-grandson of Pieter Bruegel, who is cited as the most significant artist of Dutch and Flemish Renaissance painting. His grandfather Jan Brueghel the Elder, was a close friend and collaborator with Peter Paul Rubens and the two artists were the leading Flemish painters in the first three decades of the 17th century. Not to mention his uncles and great uncles… Let’s just say, he came from a family that made a big and lasting impact on the art scene.
Starting his training at the age of nine, he was particularly influenced by the work of his grandfather and was quite versatile. He worked in many genres including studies of insects, floral still lifes, marines, river landscapes, paradise landscapes, allegorical compositions, scenes with animals and genre scenes.
I was drawn to his insect still life paintings by his playful compositions that fill every section of the page, while carefully balancing color and shape in a seemingly effortless manner. The results of his carefully painted tiny subjects do not come across as cold scientific illustrations, but instead are warm and lively portraits. And if that weren’t enough, he also painted these miniature still lifes on copper (my hero!).
When I was starting my Monthly Miniature still life paintings last January, I got a serendipitous invitation from curator Jeremy Buben. He operates The FoodArt Collection and was putting together a show of still life’s and tuliperies inspired by still life’s of the Dutch tradition and tuliperies made in the 1600’s. I happily accepted the invitation to be one of the artists.
The show hosts a great mix of styles and mediums, each artist creating lush, elegant pieces. And you don’t often get to see tulipieres! A tuliperie or tulip-holder is an ornate vessel made specifically to display tulips. They were common during the 17th c and were often designed to grow the bulbs right in the vase. I hope you’ll get the chance to stop by the gallery to see all of the pieces in person. If you can’t make it, you can go to the gallery website and see all of the pieces from the exhibit online.
Flowers, Bird’s Nest and Insects, oil on copper 5″ x 5″
Opening Reception: Sunday April 28, 2-5pm
Shows up through the month of May, with Sunday hours and by appointment.
From the gallery:
“The FoodArt Collection is thrilled to present a group art show of tulipieres (tulip vases) and Dutch Golden Age inspired still lifes from seven local artists.
A brief explanation: upon returning from a holiday in Holland I became obsessed with the tulipiere, a strange and fantastical vase designed specifically for tulips. To my delight I learned that local ceramic artist Carol Gouthro shared the same interest and had even curated a tulipiere show just a few years earlier at the Museum of Northwest Art (MoNA) in La Conner. When the chance to put together this show came about I reached back out to Carol and asked her if she’d like to make her first tulipiere and show it alongside art inspired by the Dutch Golden Age. A few more invites went out and thus Going Dutch was created.
I’m excited to share my passion for tulipieres, a very useful vase in my opinion, and gorgeous classical inspired art from some extremely talented local artists! Please join us for the opening this Sunday and see these tulipieres for yourself. There will also be a healthy amount of Samish Bay cheese to eat.”
Visual Art from:
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
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.