I’m thoroughly conditioned to associate November with food. Though we had an unusual Thanksgiving, we did our best to maintain tradition. This year, for me, it felt more like a necessity than ever. I also felt the need to make a painting about not just what I’m thankful for, but also my hopes for the future. So this month’s painting is full of bright colors, food and reminders of family.
I’m originally from Ohio, and my family still reside there, apart from a nephew in California. I was excited to bring a little of Ohio into this month’s painting a male and female Cardinal, which is the state bird. Although they are common, I would never call them commonplace. Their color is extraordinary, especially when you find them on a snowy-white day, sitting on a bare branch.
My mom has a huge garden and chyrsanthemums are one of the few flowers still blooming at the beginning of November, though they disappear by the end of the month with the first snow of the season. I thought of mom especially when I added these ‘mums. Though I haven’t been back for Thanksgiving for many years, I have seen my mom and step-dad at least once a year since I moved out here around twenty years ago. Until this year. I am hoping for a future when we can visit again, and where the world my son grows up in is a little closer to the one where I grew up. I think one thing that people across the globe will all soon have in common (at least for a little while) is not taking the time we have with friends and family for granted.
The plate pictured from the Seattle Art Museum is one of my favorite pieces in the Porcelain room, and I’ve been hoping to figure out a composition I could fit it into. It is so cheerful and bright and makes me smile to look at it. When I was thinking of it, I had it in my mind that it was Japanese, but it’s actually a perfect example of chinoiserie. Chinoiserie is the European interoperation and imitation of Chinese and other East Asian artistic traditions. The porcelain is English and was made in the late 18th century.
I hope you made the most of your Thanksgiving holiday! Although we put off our feast a day to make cooking easier, we made up for it with waffles for breakfast (they’re a favorite around here, but you probably noticed that already). We had an intimate Thanksgiving dinner celebration with just my husband, four year old son and myself. We made far too much food and got all dressed up. Isaac had a blast. We did end up cooking a turkey, despite shortages of the smaller birds, but I don’t know how much longer my son will partake; we might have a budding vegetarian on our hands:
Isaac: “Where’s the turkeys head?” Me: “Well they cut it off when they killed it.” Isaac: “They killed the turkey?! Did they go to jail?!”
Thanks so much for continuing to follow my work! All my best to you and yours for the holiday season.
CA. 1772-75, ENGLISH, WORCESTER
Collection of the Seattle Art Museum, on view in the Porcelain Room Gallery
Soft paste porcelain, Diam.: 8 1/4 in., Kenneth and Priscilla Klepser Porcelain Collection, 94.103.79 Provenance:[Mr T. Leonard Crow, Tewkesbury, England, 1948]; sold to Mr and Mrs Kenneth and Priscilla Klepser, 1948-1994 (cf. Mr Crow’s letter dated March 6, 1948 to Mr Klepser); gift from Mr and Mrs Kenneth and Priscilla Klepser to Seattle Art Museum, Washington, 1994
I’m in love with the subject for my latest pet portrait commission. Harrison is a flame point rag doll Siamese and those eyes!! Harrison is 10″ x 8″ and is made with oil on aluminum.
During my tiny thanksgiving gathering we talked about things we were grateful for. My clients that commission me to paint their beautiful furry friends came just after friends and family. Thank you. ❤️
I worked as a picture framer during my college years and have continued to frame my own work since then. I frame most of my clients commissioned works and for Harrisons portrait we choose this georgeous bronze colored carved frame. My client has synesthesia and she loved this frame in particular because the swirls looked like how Harrison’s meows sound. Sounds like a pretty incredible experience with the world.
Ahhhh!!! It’s BEAUTIFUL! I feel like you totally and perfectly captured his essence. It’s wonderful! I love how the background brings out his eyes and various fur colors and textures. His little nose is so cute!! And he looks so fluffy!
Thank you so much!!!
Traditional Techniques: Layer by Layer
I made a short video that shows how my paintings evolve, using the time tested technique of “lean to fat”. The first layer starts with big shapes and paint thinned with odorless mineral spirits (Gamsol). This is the lean layer. For the oil, I use Galkyd slow dry painting medium. As the detail increases with each layer, so does the oil content added to my paint mixture. By working in this way, the paint has ideal conditions to adhere to its substrate. It also ensures that the bottom layers of paint will dry more quickly than the top layers which prevents cracking in the future. I also find that this technique gives painting a luminocity and depth that is essential for capturing fluffy fur and pearlecent eyes.
If you’re interested in a pet portrait of your own, please visit my commission page to lean more.
This colorful painting is made with hopes for the future. We’ve all had our share of negative transformations over this past year, and I am reminding myself and you that not only is our current situation temporary, but everything is temporary. Seeking the best of every situation will keep us strong and help us persevere.
I recently went to the Asian Art Museum at Volunteer Park and found a shocking patch of weeds where the Dahlia garden usually resides. The Puget Sound Dahlia Association, whose members have been planting the garden each year since 1984, didn’t get to plant this year due to Covid-19. I assumed the decision not to plant was to discourage people from congregating in close proximity. They were a favored feature of the park, and I have high hopes they will return next year.
Luckily for me, I also used dahlias in last October’s miniature and had taken dozens of reference photographs that I could use for this painting. I paired the blooms with a Korean vase from the Seattle Art Museum’s collection. I love the subtle colors and the design that reflects the joy of the flowers in full bloom. I want to celebrate and remember the beauty that we once so freely enjoyed and will enjoy again.
I was saddened to hear earlier this week that the Seattle Art Museum’s downtown building would need to close again due to wintertime’s rising Covid-19 numbers. It does make sense to close nonessential businesses to keep us safe. But my gosh, I’m just so happy that I decided to highlight works from the museum back in January. It reminds me how grateful I am to have these beautiful pieces on view to the public, and I hope it reminds you as well. Please think about your local art museum this holiday season. These closures make a huge financial impact, so if you can help them out, please do so.
I was invited to participate in a three person show at Antler Gallery alongside Thomas Jackson of Australia and Vasilisa Romanenko who is based in New England. It’s pretty incredible that three artists that come from all over the world have so much in common! It was great to see my work alongside such creative and beautiful pieces. The show is up from October 29th -November 22nd.
I think it’s important to see your work outside the bubble of your studio. It helps me understand my perspective better, when seen alongside other contemporary artists, especially when those artists are investigating similar topics (in this case, looking at the natural world). It’s particularly exciting to see the dazzling technical care put into the artwork. Some people may see the word “technical” and think it’s cold and uncaring, but when in context of painting, I find it to be intimate and incredibly tender.
Three New Paitnings
I’ve been working on miniature still life paitnings for almost two years now with my Monthly Miniature project. For this show, I have made three new larger pieces within the still life genre. I love making miniatures, but it’s great to be able to expand on my ideas. Both literally and figuratively! I’ve added some in-progress images at the bottom of this post so that you can get a sense of scale. Even though two of the paitnings are still quite small at 10″ x 9″, they’re just about twice the size of my miniatures! So you see how much more detail I can get into my insects and furit.
I hope you enjoy the new paitnings! Please take a look at Antler Gallery’s website. They have a great variety of beautiful and interesting work.
Did your favorite painting sell too quickly? Or are originals just out of your price range right now? I’ve been getting lots of requests and have a few specifically for a rabbit limited edition print or two. 😉 Go to my store to order yours today!
This month, I’m adding a limited edition print from the original painting, “Forest Floor with Rabbits”. This painting was part of my In Season monthly miniature series. I was studying a different master from the Dutch golden age of painting (roughly the 1600’s – 1800’s) and I came upon artists Otto Marseus van Schrieck and Rachel Ruysch. They made forest floor still life’s. I love how they combine the the detail and compositional elements found in still life paintings with the wild and unpredictable of the natural world.
My first monthly miniature series saw an entire year of rabbit paintings. I was very excited to pull rabbits into this series of still life paitnings as well. The English spot rabbit you see here (in duplicate!) is my own rabbit, Harriet. You can learn more about this painting on a previous blog post.
This rabbit limited edition print is an edition of 50. They are printed on high quality acid free paper and come with a signed Certificiate of Authenticity. I’ll be offering a new print each month for the next year so keep checking back. If you have a special request, please let me know and I’ll get it on the list!
Antler Gallery in Portland is hosting their ninth annual group exhibition, Unnatural Histories. Artists are asked to depict mythical creatures from existing lore, or their own imagination, with reference to traditional natural history paintings, drawings and sculpture. When invited to make a piece for the exhibit, I had no choice but to make an oil painting of a unicorn.
I have a four year old son who is obsessed with these horned beasts. Unicorn drawings and parts of unicorn costumes have found their way all over my house and my painting studio.
I wanted ground my fantastic creature in traditional equine painting. I love the full body paintings of horses that were popular in early Georgian England. The masters George Stubbs and Jacques-Laurent Agasse are particular favorites of mine with their mix of landscape and formality.
The model for my unicorn was my sister in law’s Polish Arabian horse Vibey. Molly used to spend one day a week with Isaac until he was two years old and I wonder if she my have influenced his love of unicorns? When she saw the painting, she said, “you’ve painted the unicorn horn that I could always see”. Vibey was a rescue horse and she and Molly were very close. When asked to write a story about the painting, I imagined a fantastic setting with a little Molly saving Vibey, mirroring the true story between these two. Go to the galleries website to read my story.
Vibey was born on Whidby Island here in the Pacific Northwest. Placing her in a setting where she could see and hear the water felt like I was paitning her at her home.
The last several months have brought so many unforeseen changes to each one of our lives. It’s been disturbing in the best of circumstances and devastating in the worst. For this month’s painting, I chose subjects that bring me peace.
The black-capped chickadee came to mind first. Of about five different species I watch splashing in the birdbath while I sip my morning tea, the chickadees are my most frequent visitor. They are also the only type of bird I’ve seen sharing the bath with another species.
The vase is another from the Porcelain Room at the Seattle Art Museum. In this gallery, the curator, Julie Emerson, filled each niche in the room with pieces related by color and theme; usually they’re grouped by nationality, manufactory, or date. It was a pretty revolutionary idea, and it so clearly demonstrates our common search for perfection and beauty. My favorite niche is the green one. The color green simply makes me feel happy. Though I didn’t get to make the mount for this vase like many of the other works I have painted, it gives a feeling of contentment.
The pears are from my own little pear tree. There’s nothing like spending time harvesting in my garden for grounding me. It brings life, health and joy to my family and fills me with such gratitude for the bounty of nature.
I hope you enjoy this month’s painting. I’m sending you as much strength to hang in there as I can. Embrace uncertainty and change because it’s not over yet, but keep looking for the silver linings, and keep faith for better times to come.
From the Seattle Art Museum website: “This large flask-shaped vase features a special monochrome glaze that is poetically known as “tea-dust.” In Qing dynasty texts it was referred to as “imperial kiln official glaze.”
Hard paste porcelain, 19 x 15 (48.3 x 38.1 cm), Eugene Fuller Memorial Collection, 37.109 Photo: Paul Macapia
I’ve had several people ask me to make a limited edition print from various paintings I’ve made over the years. People wanted a print from one of the paintings that was already sold, or they wanted a more affordable version of the original. It took a while for me to offer them, but I was listening! Finding a printer that could make accurate and high-quality reproducsions was a must. After trying out several printers and having around a dozen test proofs made, I finally found a printer that meets with my demanding standards.
My painting, “Birds of the Pacific Northwest”, got the most requests and it is now being offered as a limited edition print of 50 in the shop. Each limited edition print is printed on high quality acid free paper and comes with a signed Certificiate of Authenticity.
I paired this exquisite Japanese vase from the Seattle Art Museum collection with Japanese plums from my back yard. The gold leaf complements the gossamer glow of the plums, while this month’s birds are nested in my depiction of another artist’s work.
I’m beginning to feel a bit like a captured bird myself. Now it’s not the pandemic keeping us inside but the dangerous air quality from wildfires raging across the west coast, with no end in sight. But we are making the most of our time with projects and creative play, and I try to think of my own netting as a shining protector, not just a restraint.
Vase Decorated with Flying Birds in a Net is porcelain with an enamel glaze, gilding and wire. Now think about that for a minute, how much skill must it have taken to make this object by hand! It was made in the late 1800’s, and the intricate perfection in the wire net is astounding.
I can’t look at this vase without thinking about the precise labor that went into its perfection. I’ve long admired it but never considered how intense it would be to paint such an object. It turned out to be a great challenge, but the effort only deepened appreciation for this splendid piece.
Different curators have different ideas over the years about the ideal front of the piece, and that means that sometimes a new mount is required. I’ve made two mounts for this piece myself, and it was the first that our new mount maker Ken Kelly made in preparation for the reopening of Volunteer Park (fall ’19). Sadly, VP wasn’t open long before COVID shut it down again.
I do have some good news though. The Seattle Art Museum is finally OPEN! Unfortunately, the Seattle Asian Art Museum, where this piece is on display, and the porcelain room in the downtown building, are still closed. I’ll keep sharing as many porcelains as I can in the coming months, though. 🙂
We all continue to survive this difficult year, and I hope my work brings you some peace and joy in these crazy times. I also hope you can look at your own situation and count your blessings from within your own gilded net. Some people are not so lucky.
Vase Decorated with Flying Birds in a Net
Japanese, Late 19th century
Porcelain with enamel glaze, gilding and wire, 6 1/8 in. (15.56 cm) Diam.: 4 5/8 in., Nasli and Alice Heeramaneck Collection, 66.71 Photo: Elizabeth Mann
Poison Garden, Antler Gallery, July 30th – August 23rd
Forgotten Garden, oil on aluminum, 9″ x 16″
In my “In Season” Monthly Miniature still life series, I studied and paid tribute to different artists of the Dutch golden age of still life paitning throught the year in which I completed that project. One of the artists I stumbled upon was Otto Mardeus van Schrieck. He created these incredibly detailed paintings that so perfectly contrasted the dark and light of the natural world. For that series I made a painting titled, “Forest Floor with Rabbits“. This painting was quite different than the others in the series that were more tradidional table top still life paintings. I think it was an important one to make for me to understand more fully the genere of still life in the 1600’s though.
I’d been toying with the idea of dedicating my next series of miniatures to “forest floor” paintings and decided on something different. When I got the invitation from Antler Gallery to participate in their Poison Garden exhibit I immediately knew exactly what I wanted to paint.
Years ago, I invited my neighbors foxglove flowers into my own garden when she was digging them up in fear that her dogs would eat them. The poisonous but beautiful flowers quickly bagan popping up in new places throught my garden and I encouraged them. When I had my son, however, I began to question that decision. Especilly since he loved foraging for different edible berries on his own. I began pulling them up, but there was no way I could get them all. The model for his painting is one of my survivors. My son still forages, but he’s a quick leaner and is very careful around the flowers. He actually held up a huge sheet of black paper behind the plant for me while I photographed it for reference for this paitning so that I could make the shadows and highlights more accuratly.
I included insects that are also poisonous, some with stings, others bites and I didn’t know this, but most butterflies are also toxic. Not that I’ve ever tried to eat one.
I hope you enjoy the painting and I hope you’ll go to the Antler Gallery website to see some of the other artists beautiful pieces for the exhibition.