The most studied of all swallowtails, this iconic butterfly was the first to be given the name, “swallowtail.” It is the only swallowtail in most of Europe, and I’m guessing that’s where it gets one of its two most-used common names, “Old World swallowtail” (the other, simply “swallowtail”). But its actual habitat is widespread and extends across much of the Northern Hemisphere, including North America.
The painting includes both a male and female, the male with his wings folded, and the female with hers open.
This species feeds mostly on plants of family Umbelliferae. The giant cluster of tiny flowers were a bit intimidating to paint, but it was worth pushing through. I love the contrast between the cloud of flowers and the black background.
Though these flowers are not currently blooming, spring is just around the corner, so it won’t be long now. Stay warm if you’re in the middle of a snow storm! And cool if you’re in the middle of a heatwave! The weather’s been crazy this past week.
For this latest monthly miniature, I knew I wanted to make a camellia painting. One of the few blooms you can find here in the PNW in winter months, their stunning color helps brighten my mood with our grey winter skies.
Over the course of the last few years, I’ve studied hundreds of still life paintings made in Northern Europe from the mid 1500’s through the late 1800’s. It’s fascinating to see how one artist influenced the work of another, and then another, often from parent to child.
Inspiration by female artists from the Past
German artist Maria Sibylla Merian is one of my favorites. She was trained by her step-father Jacob Marrel; the influence he left on her work is apparent, but it was merely a springboard for the work she accomplished in her lifetime. When thinking through the composition for this camellia painting, I immediately thought of her work and that of another female artist, Barbara Regina Dietzsch.
These two women were born almost almost 60 years apart, but I suspect something in the work of Merian informed the work of Dietzsch. Merian is known for her etching and engraving, while Dietzsch composed her work similarly but used gouache and watercolor. In this way, Dietzsch created dark and rich backgrounds that lift the subject off the page.
Now here I am, hundreds of years later, looking at their works and trying to learn as much as I can about technique and composition. But I am also trying to get a grasp on just what it is that fascinates me in this work, and how it can inform my own work, just as the long chain of artists before me have done.
I hope you enjoy this new painting, and if you’re a fan of scientific illustrations, you should take a peek at Maria Sibylla Merian’s book, Metamorphosis insectorum Surinamensium. The book was originally published in 1705 and it’s been beautifully reprinted recently.
A group exhibition celebrating 10 years of Antler Gallery
Antler Gallery in Portland, OR is celebrating their tenth anniversary with a huge group show “Untamed Splendor”. The show opens tonight, January 27th at 5pm. I’m so happy to be a part of celebrating the gallery and hope for their continued success.
My painting, “My Grandfather’s Poppies” will be in the show along with works by 60+ internationally renowned artists. oil on aluminum, 12” x 16”
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
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.
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.
Each painting in this “Flights of Fancy” still life series includes a piece from the Seattle Art Museum collection. Unlike all the other miniatures in this series that included bowls and vases from the collection, the piece featured in this miniature painting is another painting.
Albert Bierstadt was known for rendering these sweeping, romanticized scenes, this one of a place he had not yet been. In this piece, “Puget Sound on the Pacific Coast”, Bierstadt portrays Native Americans and the Pacific Northwest in a scene equally idyllic and dramatic.
The flowers in the painting are peace roses and love-in-a-mist nigella. I worked on this painting during the time when protests began to sweep across the world calling for justice against racial discrimination. My work is not political, but it is very personal. My response is subtle, but it is genuine. I wanted to bring something into the world that held these two ideals. That of peace and love, hence the flowers and the title.
The birds are a pair of house finches, common in the Pacific Northwest, that I found in my pear tree in the back yard. I heard a rustling noise and upon investigation, realized they were mating! Something I’d never actually seen before. I’m hoping that’s a good sign for things to come.
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.
Happy New Year everyone! I’m celebrating the new year by starting a new Monthly Miniature series. For each month of 2019, I will create a miniature still-life painting in the Dutch Still-Life tradition and I hope you will enjoy following along. As a newsletter subscriber, you’ll be the first to see them, and they will be available for sale as soon as they are announced.
The Historic Still-Life tradition with a modern perspective
Still-life paintings from Northern Europe were at their prime from around 1600 – 1800 and 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.
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.
The first painting of “In Season” features the camellia flower and cave cricket. The camellia is one of few flowers in bloom here in January, and you may also be startled to find a cave cricket in your basement. Most insects are dormant this time of year, but these little creatures are actively scurrying around ready to frighten unsuspecting people in cool dark places.