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.
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 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 pears, 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
The rooster in this portrait, Jupiter, is the master of over 30 hens in his little slice of paradise at a friends little farm on Vashon Island. My friend Michael has so many beautiful chickens, but this guy demands respect and admiration in a way that only an alpha rooster can. I work from photos and he was happy to oblige. He stayed right in front of the camera, though he never stopped moving.
My work is influenced by paintings made during the Dutch Golden age. Behind Jupiter, I have a background that is inspired by one of Rembrandt’s self-portraits. My intention in giving the painting of Jupiter a formal composition and background is not to anthropomorphize him, but to give him dignity of his own and to signify that this is his portrait, not just a portrait of a rooster.
Jupter, oil on aluminum, 15″ x 15″. Go to my available works page to purchase Jupiter and to view more works in this series.
When I started this painting back at the beginning of May, Italy was often in my thoughts with its explosion of COVID-19 casualties. Having spent a little time in Italy, it felt especially devastating because it struck me as a place so full of life, beauty and passion. This painting became my homage to Italy during a time of so much suffering, to remember the Italy I had known and to wish for it’s speedy recovery.
I chose two porcelains that seemed to speak to one another, each made in the Capodimonte porcelain manufactory Real Fabbrica di Capodimonte, operating in Naples Italy, 1743 to 1759. One features the two men playing cards in the sunshine, and the other a playful figurine of Columbine, a saucy and clever character of comedic Italian theater.
At times I felt like I was going to make myself go blind with some of the tiny details in this piece, but my quilting magnifying glass was a life saver—I can almost see numbers on the cards! These two objects are part of the Seattle Art Museum’s collection, and both can be seen in the Porcelain Room when the museum reopens. Links to the objects on the SAM website can be found below.
I wanted the painting to burst with the same life and passion I felt in Italy. My son and I cut a rainbow of blossoms from the garden, including the beautiful namesakes of Columbine. I count my blessings every day, and am thankful for my little pocket of paradise I have been so fortunate to be able to build.
DISCOVERING THE CAPODIMONTE PORCELAIN MANUFACTORY
For over a year I helped create mounts for the Seattle Art Museum’s porcelain room and learned about how Europeans were obsessed with learning the secrets of how the “white gold” was produced. With over a thousand objects in the one room, I completely overlooked the Capodimonte pieces. It wasn’t until recently that I learned about porcelain from this region when SAM hosted the exhibition, Flesh and Blood, Italian Masterpieces from the Capodimonte Museum. The exhibition had little to offer in the manner of porcelains, but it was a feast for the eyes for a painter. I studied many of the pieces in the exhibition while in college (I even wrote an essays on one of them!), and it was such a privilege to see them in person. This led me to research the Capodimonte collection, and as it turned out searches for Capodimonte turn up not paintings but porcelains.
The factory was founded by King Charles and his wife Queen Maria Amalia Valpurga, who was the granddaughter of Augustus the Strong, the founder of the Meissen factory and one of the earliest champions of European porcelain. They recruited chemists, painters and sculptors to work at the factory. One of the biggest challenges in creating porcelains in southern Italy was that kaolin, a type of clay considered essential to porcelain, was in short supply. By experimenting with different combinations of clay, they developed a unique recipe that resulted in a warm white tone, bringing a distinctive appearance to the works from the Capodimonte factory. The factory was in operation a short time, between 1743 and 1759. In 1759 Charles inherited the Spanish throne, and when he left, the entire factory went with him to Madrid, becoming the Real Fábrica del Buen Retiro.
Though the Capodimonte manufactory did create pieces in a chinoiserie style (the European interpretation and imitation of Chinese and East Asian artistic traditions), I was struck at how very Itallian these two pieces felt to me. The attire, setting and even the poses of the figures were likely taken from direct studies taken from life in the region. I remember when I was making mounts many years ago and being particularly fascinated by the chinoiserie style. It felt a bit clumsy and seemed just a bit off in what I found to be a very interesting way. These clearly European pieces felt too fussy in contrast. Now here I am, years later, learning everything I can about Capodimonte porcelain.
URN-SHAPED JAR 1750-57 CAPODIMONTE MANUFACTORY, ITALIAN Soft paste porcelain, 6 1/4 in. (16 cm), height, Dorothy Condon Falknor Collection of European Ceramics Photo: Paul Macapia
COLUMBINE 1750 CAPODIMONTE MANUFACTORY, ITALIANThis figure represents a character from Commedia dell’arte, the farcical Italian theatre. The character of the servant Columbine is witty, bright, and full of intrigue. She is often depicted dancing.
Soft paste porcelain, 6 in. (15.2 cm), height, Dorothy Condon Falknor Collection of European Ceramics Photo: Paul Macapia
More Images of “Capodimonte“, oil on aluminum, 4.5″ x 5.5”
Taking the time to smell the roses (or peach blossoms) is making a big comeback this year. One of the unexpected benefits of our isolation is finding time to connect with what’s growing and living outside our front doors. I have five fruit trees in my garden that I spend time with every year while I prune, mulch, and harvest the delicious bounty they finally bring me. Yet I rarely get the opportunity to marvel at the beauty they bring me each spring, when they are covered in a plethora of delicate fluttering blossoms. This year, I’ve been able to take that time. There’s are so many things still to be done, but now simple enjoyment is on that list.
My fruit trees were the first inspiration for this painting, and since the Seattle Art Museum is now closed, I searched their online database for my SAM inspiration. I choose this lovely piece, one of my favorite treasures of the porcelain room. It’s just as much a sculpture as it is a vase, and the masterful painting recalls the delicacy of the garden. Filling it with the branches from a fruit was an idea that came from a recent commission (pictured below) for Ping Foong, Foster Foundation Curator of Chinese Art at the Seattle Art Museum.
The violet-green swallow can be found all over the western coast of North America, but you’ll most likely find them near open evergreen and deciduous woodlands. In the Seattle area, keep an eye out from March to September to spot one!
Wishing you all warm, healthy regards and some time to smell the roses.
JINGDEZHEN WARE VASE
1736 – 1795, Qinglong period, Qing dynasty (1644-1912) Chinese Hard paste porcelain 8 1/4″ x 13 1/2″ stamped Qinglong reign mark in seal script Seal mark of Ch’ien-lung on base Eugene Fuller Memorial Collection Photo: Paul MacapiaCollection of the Seattle Art Museum
The Qianlong emperor’s love of antiques inspired porcelain imitations of ancient lacquerworks and bronze vessels. The burnished dark green appearance of this vase recalls an ancient bronze.
My work as a mountmaker at the Seattle Art Museum has brought me into contact with some pretty extraordinary people. Curator of Chinese artwork, Ping Foong, is one such person. I’m very grateful that she and her partner choose me to make a special portrait of their cat Lila that reflects her love of Chinese porcelains.
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.
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.
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.
I’m excited to share my first 2020 Monthly Miniature and announce the new “Flight of Fancy” series. I hadn’t done a still life painting for more than 15 years until last year’s series, so studying the Dutch masters for insight into the genre was crucial to that project’s success. This year I will continue in the spirit of Dutch still life and featuring birds together with items from the Seattle Art Museum collection, with which I’ve worked for the last 13 years. It’s too early for me to understand how the two relate to each other over a series of twelve, but that is the fun of the monthly miniature, to see where the journey takes me.
Inspiration From SAM
The first featured Seattle Art Museum object is a Square Serving Dish. It’s one of my favorite pieces in the collection, and I feel it’s the perfect piece to open the New Year and the new body of work. The piece gives me contrasting feelings of chaos and grace, yet feels so perfectly balanced. I have installed this piece numerous times, including twice in Japan. Most recently, I helped install it at the Asian Art Museum, scheduled to reopen February 8th after a recent renovation and expansion.
Pacific Northwest Gardens and Birds
If you live in the Pacific Northwest, you are likely familiar with the Anna’s Hummingbird. I used to have 6 hummingbird feeders all around my house, and at any time of day I could see an Anna’s feeding from some window or another. Once feeders are up in winter, though, Hummingbirds become dependent on the feeders for the season; after one very cold winter of continually defrosting a feeder for several weeks, I have given up the practice. Instead, I have filled the garden with plants that will feed them through the winter, including an Oregon grape outside my bedroom. I love waking and going to the window to watch these territorial birds feed from the yellow blossoms. My Oregon grape has become huge over the years, but that doesn’t mean anyone is willing to share.
Along with a sprig of Oregon grape in this month’s painting are Yuzu lemons my friend Hiromi let me pick from her tree in Seattle. (I also used these fragrant lemons in last month’s painting.) The beauty of these two plants comes at a price though. Both the Yuzu and the Oregon grape demand careful attention when you’re near them as they hide painful spikes. And yes, both these plants are also in season, a theme I enjoyed from the last series and will continue.
SQUARE SERVING DISH
Edo period (1603–1868), Japanese, Stoneware with underglaze decoration, 1 7/8 x 7 3/4 in.
Collection of The Seattle Art Museum Photo: Paul Macapia
Written by Hattie Branch, Blakemore Intern for Japanese Art:
“Employing vivid colors and energetic, abstract designs, Oribe ware is the most dynamic type of Japanese tea ware. The style takes its name from Furuta Oribe, 1591-1615, the great tea master of his age. Designed for use in the meal accompanying the tea ceremony, a square dish like this would be used to serve fish, slowly revealing the image beneath as the meal was eaten. Oribe ware, as this tray excellently represents, broke with a tradition of elegant restraint to embrace an unprecedented level of vivacity. This tray is meant to depict water, earth, and sky. We read it from bottom to top: Starting in the lower left corner, the tray was dipped into a green glaze which visibly pooled during the firing process, evoking water.
Moving upward, a pink-tan band provides a bed for two semi-circles with radiating patterns. This common decorative motif represents ox cart wheels soaking in water—wooden cart wheels needed to be soaked regularly to prevent warping. Between the two wheels, the pattern of squares and dots could represent a piece of dyed fabric. These are colors, images and activities associated with the earth.
The upper-most, tan portion encompasses a single large star, surrounded by three circles with trailing tails, likely comets. In the upper right corner, three arcing stripes abstractly render the long trailing clouds popular in Japanese painting. This band depicts the sky.
The ebullience that makes Oribe ware stand out amid tea ceramics reflects both the power and dynamism of the Momoyama Era (1573-1615), and, amidst political and social upheaval, a move to rebel against previous aesthetic rules, and the power structures they represented.”
I hope you enjoy the new Flight of Fancy series!
How to Purchase
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A pet portrait is a gift that will last a lifetime (and beyond!)
Pet portraits take some time to make. But they are worth the wait. The most important part of the process is the planning stage. I like to get the composition figured out right away and take the time to get it right. Carrie and I worked through several ideas until we found the perfect composition.
I put a lot of care into my portraits for two reasons. The biggest reason is that a true representation of the subject honors the connection my clients have to their pets.
I’m also doing it for myself. It’s important to me that my paintings last and using the proper materials and techniques is only part of the equation. Making a work of art that will be interesting to future generations means future generations will take care it long after we are all gone. Likewise, every time I exhibit my work, win an award, or have a painting published I’m adding to the provenance of all of my paintings. Which means they will have a historical context that will add to the future value of my work. Adding value to my work means it will be taken care of.
The Best Part of a Pet Portrait
All of that longevity is important, but the best part of a pet portrait is preserving a well loved smiling face. It’s incredibly meaningful for me to make the special connection humans have to our pets tangible. My glimpse into the bond shared between Carrie, Derek and Sophie was truly a gift and it was an honor to make Sophie’s portrait.
We received the painting and it’s absolutely beautiful! It’s perfect. Thank you so much! Derek can’t get over how closely you managed to capture Sophie, you’re just SO talented. I hope to work with you in the future!