Happy holidays! I give you a portrait of a chocolate cake and propose a toast to the hearth, a place of warmth and closeness and to all things chocolate. Let us find cheer in our creature comforts and appreciate the time we can spend together.
For this painting, I’ve pulled together different things that make the time of year special to me. The holidays are a little different for me because of all the December birthdays in my family, and chocolate cake is a birthday tradition for me. This portrait of a chocolate cake summs up my perfect birthday. The three glasses of port are a tribute to dear friends.
My sister recently moved into an old farmhouse, among its charming features are several large hearths. My fireplace is humbler, but when my son and I gather around it to sing songs, it feels perfect.
As the year concludes, I remember how hopeful I was at the end of 2020 for a year with vaccinations and the return of a more normal way of life. But the world is still in flux, and our plans with it. We have to adjust, to find a way to stay warm and find cheer through the long winter.
Please enjoy the last painting of my Creature Comforts series of Monthly Miniatures, and I hope it helps you find your own sense of warmth and cheer.
I framed this painting in a handmade Dutch Ripple frame with a unique wavy ripple. Tom Matthews created 12 custom frames for this series and each one had a unique combination of ripples. I love this wave pattern – it reminds me of icing. 🙂
Despite the bumpy start to 2021, I still have high hopes for where this new year will take us. I’m looking forward to saying goodbye to the “new normal.” Meanwhile I thought we could all use some warmth and comfort to cheer us along the way. Each painting of this year’s monthly miniature series will have the theme of “creature comforts”, such as food and drink that makes us feel warm and cozy.
Let’s start this year with a toast. I made you a pomegranate champagne cocktail. Pomegranates are a symbol of plenty, youthfulness, fertility and good luck. Combine that with champagne, overflowing with abundance and joy, and you have the perfect drink to welcome the new year.
Here’s my toast:
The last year has been both terrible and wonderful. Despite a calamitous year, I’ve had the rare privilege to begin painting as a full-time artist without also working a second full-time job. I could not have done it without you, so I propose a toast of thanks.
Your subscription to my newsletter cheers me along. Every time you share my work, you help me grow my audience. Every time you buy a painting, a print or a greeting card, you support me doing something I love for a living. So cheers, and thank you for your continued support. I wish you a new year that overflows with good luck, plenty, and joy!
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 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.
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.