post

Monthly Miniature – In Season, Still Life Paintings

Each year I do a themed Monthly Miniature series and for 2019, I painted still life paintings. For much of my art career, I’ve been a “figurative” painter. Meaning almost all of my subjects for my paintings have been human figures. Since I first started my Monthly Miniature series of rabbits several years ago however, I’ve been inspired to enthusiastically embrace new subjects.

There’s nothing too terribly new about still life paintings. They’ve been around for hundreds of years and though artists are still creating beautiful, creative and inspiring works today, the basic principals are the same. My inspiration for the series “In Season” goes back to the roots of the still life genre.

Influence of The Dutch Still Life Genre

Before starting this series, I had only made one still life painting in the last 15 years so a refresher art history course really helped. The artist of this genre studied in Northern Europe and were at their prime from around 1600 – 1800. Though I examined the artwork made by more than two dozen artists, each painting in my series had one predominant artist that influenced it. I’ve listed them all below, and upon close inspection, you’ll notice some duplicates.

It’s really hard to pick a favorite, but if I was forced to choose, I’d go with Adriaen Coorte (whose name you’ll find three times). His paintings are easily identifiable in the genre of Dutch Still Life’s because his paintings are unusually unpretentious. Another name you will find more than once is George Flegel. His paintings were more complicated than Adriaen’s, but the way he spaced the items in his compositions felt very ordered. The balance of objects felt sensible to me and I kept coming back to his work. I tend to like simple compositions and studying his work helped me feel more comfortable when I wanted to add more objects to my compositions.

  1. January- Jacob Marrel
  2. February – Adriaen Coorte
  3. March – Ambrosius Bosschaert
  4. April – Gerard Van Spaendonck
  5. May – George Flegel
  6. June – Adriaen Coorte
  7. July – Jan van Kessel the Elder
  8. August – Adriaen Coorte
  9. September – Otto Mardeus van Schrieck
  10. October – Osias Beert the Elder
  11. November – George Flegel
  12. December – Jacob van Hulsdonck

In Season vs Seasonal Impossibility

One thing that struck me about the historical paintings was the fact that 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. For my series, I wanted to do the opposite.

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. Most modern viewers looking at a Dutch still life would have no idea that tulips and chrysanthemum would never bloom together. 

Keeping everything in season took a lot of planning and compromising. Lucky know a floral designer and have a 1/4 acre garden filled with flowers, fruit trees and vegetables (sometimes) ripe for the picking.

Blue Blossoms

Finding the perfect blue blooms for paintings with lush bouquets was tricky. I heavily relied on my sister in law Molly (a floral designer) for help. Finding the perfect spring blue for my April painting, “Flowers, Bird’s Nest and Insects” seemed so easy at first. I’d mocked it up with Delphiniums and was all ready to start paintings and I sent the image to Molly for her stamp of approval. No Delphiniums till summer! After hours of searching and trying out different ideas, I finally redesigned the composition with Grape Hyacinths instead and got the nod of approval. Similarly an early mock up of my “Vanitas with Flowers and Butterflies” painting included blue anemones. I got the shake of the head again – blue anemones are not blooming in October. I needed the blue to balance the colors, so kept searching and was even happier to include thistles.

You could find just about any fruit, flower or vegetable any day of the year that’s grown in a hot house or on the other side of the globe. It’s interesting to have the limitation though and gives me a feeling of connection to the world outside my artificial constructs.

To learn more about specific works withing this series, visit the “In Season” entries on my blog.

post

Citrus in Porcelain Bowl, Still Life Painting

I’ve been planning this still life painting since April when I made a special In Season larger work of citrus fruit. A common pairing to citrus fruit is the pomegranate, and although you can find some citrus growing in early spring, the pomegranate’s growing season is limited to September through December. 

Seattle Art Museum Porcelain

The Seattle Art Museum has a beautiful bowl in the Porcelain Room with pomegranates that I’ve really wanted to paint, but I’ve had to wait for months for pomegranates to be in season. You can’t see it in the painting, but this SAM page shows the four-toed dragon that decorates the center of the well of this piece. Four of the eight panels are decorated with pomegranates, the other four with precious objects. You can also see it on display in the Porcelain Room in the museum.

Cara Cara, Yuzu, and Pomegranate in Chinese Porcelain still life painting by Rebecca Luncan
Cara Cara, Yuzu, and Pomegranate in Chinese Porcelain, oil on copper, 5″ x 5″

I’ve paired the red fruit with Cara Cara oranges and three spectacular Yuzu lemons from my friend Hiromi’s garden in Seattle. She took me into her unique and magical garden and handed me a pair of cutters with instructions to watch out for the huge thorns that grow on the Japanese trees. 

I’ve loved working on this series of still life paintings and hope you enjoy the final miniature of “In Season”. See them all on my Monthly Miniatures page! And sign up for my monthly newsletter to see new painting for 2020.  

post

Miniature Vanitas

Vanitas with Flowers and Butterflies

As the flowers and trees fade and die back, fall is the perfect time for a miniature vanitas painting. Vanitas paintings were created long before and after they became a common genre in Netherlandish art of the 16th and 17th centuries. They are symbolic and are meant to remind us of the inevitability of death or change.

My grand show of color and life punctuates the shift toward winter, one last “Hurrah!” from the warmer seasons. The hint of the coming winter is found in the tiny, almost hidden hummingbird skeleton. But if you dig into the meaning of the items in the painting, you’ll find that both the cut flowers and skeleton symbolize the same things – death or transience. The cut flowers are preserved my painting in full bloom glory, but they began to fade even before I’d finished the paintings. But don’t worry, the butterflies are a symbol of regeneration, resurrection and the cycle of life. Everything’s going to be fine.  

Detail of Miniature Vanitas with Flowers, hummingbird skeleton and Butterflies oil painting by Rebecca Luncan

Hope you enjoy my newest miniature vanitas and I hope you’re keeping warm and healthy. Thanks to the flowers of my garden, to the dahlia garden at Volunteer Park, and to my sister-in-law for the hummingbird skeleton and the biggest dahlia I’ve ever seen. And a big thank you to you for your continued support.

Go to my Monthly Miniatures page to see the whole series! Sign up to my monthly newsletter for upstate and for the chance to purchase paintings before they’re public.

Detail of Miniature Vanitas with Flowers, oil painting by Rebecca Luncan
Miniature Vanitas with Flowers and Butterflies oil painting by Rebecca Luncan
post

Forest Floor Still Life Painting with Rabbits

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

Otto Marseus van Schrieck, Snakes, toads and butterflies, 1639, oil on canvas, 24″ x 19.2″

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 a new book that explores 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!

post

Swallowtail Butterfly over Japanese Plums

Still life paintings, both universal and highly individualized

For my Into the Country monthly miniature series from a few years ago, I included one still life with plums and bees (pictured below) in the mix of portraits of animals. This was the first still life painting I’d done since art school, and it helped direct the focus for this years series, “In Season”. This is my eighth painting of this years still life series. I find the still life to be one of the most universally accessible genres of painting. I was amazed to find that still life paintings are also quite personal. Each item I place in my composition is carefully chosen and has personal meaning to me and I hope to my viewers as well.

From the Garden

My Japanese plum tree is the star of my little quarter-acre garden. Almost every August, I get around 2,000 plums from my one tree. Over the years my incredibly juicy plums have been eaten as is (watch out for juice going everywhere!), been made into jam, wine, sweet bread, liqueur, filled up my freezer for winter enjoyment and now they’re models for paintings.

The yellow of the plums make them the perfect companions to the equally golden and plentiful swallowtail butterfly. Swallowtails are found all over the world, and the Western Tiger Swallowtail I’ve featured in my painting makes its dazzling appearance in the Seattle area. And swallowtail butterflies are always fluttering around the garden. One friend said he’s never visited my garden without seeing at least one. This painting feels like distilling some of the beauty and magic of my garden.

Honey Bee and Japanese plum still life, oil paitning on copper by Rebecca Luncan
Into the Country- Honey Bees, oil on copper, 4″ x 4″
post

Insect Painting Miniature

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. 

Anita’s Insects

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

A Dragon-fly, Two Moths, a Spider and Some Beetles, With Wild Strawberries, Oil on copper; 9 x 13 cm

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!).

post

Still Life Paintings in Group Show “Going Dutch”

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, still life oil painting by Rebecca Luncan

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.”

Tulipieres from:

Carol Gouthro
Lois Harbaugh
Terry Siebert

Visual Art from:

Michael Doyle
Rebecca Luncan
John Rizzotto
Jennifer Zwick

Facebook Event Page: Going Dutch

For Details and Directions click HERE

post

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

post

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