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Oil painting featuring Ohio birds and Chinoiserie

Breakfast for Two


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.

plate in the collection of the Seattle Art Museum

Plate

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

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Botanical Vanitas still life painting

What Was Will Be Again

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.

VASE
11th-12th century
Korean
From the Seattle Art Museum collection

Stoneware with iron underglaze painting and celadon glaze, 11 1/8 in. (28.26 cm) Girth: 18 in. Diam.: 4 5/16 in. Diam. bottom: 3 1/8 in., Eugene Fuller Memorial Collection, 35.86
Photo: National Research Institute of Cultural Heritage, Republic of Korea
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Peace and Love, new still life floral paitning

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. 

Albert Bierstade, Puget Sound on the Pacific Coast

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. 

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Capodimonte Porcelain Still Life Painting

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. 

Visit my Monthly Miniature page to see all of the paintings in this series.

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”

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Peach Blossom Miniature Still Life

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.

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Vase in the collection of the Seattle Art Museum

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.

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Spring Flowers Still-life painting

Spring Flowers, oil on copper, 5.5″ x 4.5″

Finally! My March spring flowers still-life painting was a bit late. After we suffered nasty bout of illness in early March, followed by the challenging transition to working-and-schooling from home, we’ve finally figured out my new painting schedule.

Being sick while caring for a 4-year-old was really difficult. My husband and I were both sick for most of March, and we took turns resting while we did our best to keep Isaac fed and out of trouble. I have never been so thankful for the sunshine and spring flowers.

The flowers for this spring flower still-life painting came straight from my backyard garden. I had to include daffodils, since they are the subject of my favorite poem (included below) and one of the first of my flowers to come in bloom. I have always told Isaac that daffodils are his special flower, since they were in bloom when he was born. 

I wanted bold, bright colors to remind me that despite the unsettling news and unknowns in the world, spring is here, just like it is every year. The smaller blooms felt like the perfect companions for the strong and dramatic daffodils. These red and blue flowers come from my red flowering currant and Jack Frost plant. The red-breasted Nuthatch seemed to follow me around as I gathered my bouquet, and I decided he was as thankful for spring as I am. 

The beautiful glass vase in the Seattle Art Museum collection is just the same bold yellow of a daffodil. It looks as if it could have been made by a contemporary Seattle glass artist, but it was was actually made in China sometime the 1700’s! Read below for more information on this piece featured from the SAM collection.

I hope you’re all staying healthy out there. If you feel sick, reach out and don’t be afraid. Despite the isolation, it’s been incredible to see how people have been coming together and supporting each other in unexpected new ways. Thank you to everyone who brought us groceries when were were quarantined, and for all the well wishes. Now if you can, go enjoy the sunshine, the flowers, and your own lovely company! 

Got to my Monthly Miniatures page to see all of the paintings I’ve made for the series. And sign up for my newsletter for a first glimpse of the newest painting and for updates from the studio.

Fluted glass vase in the collection of the Seattle Art Museum

FLUTED VASE

Collection of the Seattle Art Museum (not currently on view)
1736-1795
Chinese
Glass, 6 × 2 1/8 in. (15.2 × 5.4cm), Gift of the Estate of Robert M. Shields
Photo: Elizabeth Mann

From the Seattle Art Museum website:

“This fluted yellow vase inscribed with the Qianlong emperor reign mark characterizes high-quality glassware of the imperial workshop in the Forbidden City during the 18th century.

Although glass was used in China as early as the Western Zhou period (ca. 1046-1771 B.C.), the technology developed slowly and intermittently. It was used primarily in accessories, e.g. beads or imitations of jades. As a medium, it was overshadowed by (and often imitated) porcelains: a 12th century glass dish from the Thomas D. Stimson Collection (47.152) is one such example. To some extent, this current piece was also inspired by a ceramic form (Song-dynasty vases of Ge/Guan ware), although the main catalyst for glass production in the Qing palace came from the Jesuits, who also served as artists and scientists in the court. It was through them that the Qing court re-discovered the beauty of glass. Octagonal, fluted glass vases featuring diverse colors were a common form. This type of vases was first made during the Yongzheng period (1723-35), and became popular – and thicker – during the Qianlong period, when this piece was made. According to the Archives of the Department of Imperial Household, this type of glass was given to high-ranking Tibetan monks. As such, their function extended beyond to serving as imperial playthings.

Robert Shields may have been known as “one of the Grand Old Men in Northwest architecture” (Pacific Northwest Magazine), but it is his enduring passion for art that leaves a lasting legacy at SAM. When Mr Shields passed away in the summer of 2012, he left his entire estate to the Seattle Art Museum, its value to be used in support of the Asian art program.”

I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud

by William Wordsworth

I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o’er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Continuous as the stars that shine
and twinkle on the Milky Way,
They stretched in never-ending line
along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced; but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A poet could not but be gay,
in such a jocund company:
I gazed—and gazed—but little thought
what wealth the show to me had brought:

For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.

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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.

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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.