The Artist’s Magazine 33rd Annual Art Competition

Reclining Rabbit oil painting miniature by Rebecca Luncan

Reclining Rabbit – November 2015, oil on aluminum, 4.25″ x 3/25″

“Reclining Rabbit” selected as finalist in Artist’s Magazine annual art competition

I didn’t win the top prize, but it’s still nice to be selected as a finalist from among 7,300+ entries. A selection of finalists will be featured in online and print publications in the coming months, and all of the finalists will be announced in their January/February 2017 issue. I look forward to seeing the line-up, my congratulations to everyone selected!

Rabbits in retrospect, looking back from the final Monthly Miniature painting

Rabbit Painting

A Forest Still Life, after Matthias Withoos, March, 2016, oil on aluminum, 4.25″ x 3.25″

With the first year of Monthly Miniatures finished, I have more to paint than when I started

I often begin a series of paintings with a plan in mind, so although painting itself an act of exploration, I know roughly where I am going, so to speak. My Monthly Miniatures turned that process on its head, since when I began, I did not have a plan so much as a commitment: to make one miniature painting each month, for a year. It was only in the second month that I even decided to focus on rabbits.

Having so much freedom was hard at first, but trellised by limited structure, ideas continued to emerge and branch as I worked through the series. I began to realize that I could push my ideas further by taking my rabbits out of the studio and into new and imagined places, which in turn can creative narrative, or even pay homage to an artist or tradition I admire.

Now at the end of Monthly Miniatures: Rabbits, I have a few themes I am eager to develop in future work, and it feels great. Although the work makes no strong statement as a series, it became surprisingly meaningful for me, all by approaching the work more as a notebook or conversation than as an essay or a speech.

Charlie stands in for a 17th-century mushroom

Moon Rabbit, miniature oil painting of white rabbit by Rebecca Luncan

Moon Rabbit, oil on aluminum

Following from the painting, Moon Rabbit, I’ve placed Charlie in a romantic setting from a work of art I enjoy (“A forest floor still life with a frog and mushroom, mountains beyond”). As you can see, there is no mushroom but a rabbit instead.

The last of my first Monthly Miniature series pays homage to the 17th Century Dutch painter Matthias Withoos. I love Withoos for his naturalistic paintings, full of botanical specimens and insects and animals of all sorts. Withoos trained all seven of his children how to paint – even his daughters. It was expensive to give your children an education in the arts in the 1600’s and if you were lucky enough to be a woman trained in the field, you often worked in your fathers or husbands studio and your work was attributed to them. One of Matthias’s daughters Alida, however, is one of the rare women artist who had success creating artwork under her own name. Part of her success was likely from the fact that one of her biggest patrons, Agnes Block, was also a woman.

What’s next for Rabbits and Monthly Miniatures?

My studio walls are still covered in rabbity mockups and drawings. Although my commission schedule will keep me busy, do expect to see more and larger rabbit paintings and drawings the next year or two. As to the Monthly Miniatures, next week I will announce the new theme that will encompass the next 9 months and finish out 2016. Check back for details!

post

Moon Rabbit, A Miniature Oil Painting and My Journey from the Studio to a Land of Myths

The Myth of the Moon Rabbit

As I paint the rabbits in this series of Miniatures, I am also researching their historical role in artwork and mythology. I am especially captivated with the many stories that connect the rabbit with the moon. This month, I am paying homage to this cross-cultural body of mythology.

Busy Bunny, An Example of Virtue and Hard Work Across the Globe

Rabbits do like to keep occupied. Mine busy themselves remodeling their cardboard condos. But cultures around the world have had different ideas about what the rabbit in the moon might be up to.

Asia

A Japanese story written during the late Heian period (794-1185) has him pounding mochi for rice cakes (you can find the story in the anthology Konjaku Monogatarishū). In a Chinese story, he is mixing the elixir of life for the moon goddess Chang’e.

The root of those and other Asian myths is the Buddhist story from Jataka tales (Tale 316),
circa 4th century BCE. The tale opens with the deity Brahmā (Hindu god of creation), coming to the Earth in disguise as an old man. When he begs for food, four animals offer to help: a monkey, an otter, a jackal and a rabbit. The monkey brings fruits, the otter fish, the jackal steals a lizard and a milk-curd for him, but the rabbit only has grass to offer. Knowing that the old man can’t eat the grass, he instead offers himself and jumps into the old man’s fire. The deity then reveals himself and quenches the fire before the rabbit is burnt. He is so touched by the virtue and self-sacrifice of the rabbit that he carries him to the heavens, leaving his likeness upon the moon to remind us of his noble example.

South America

From the opposite side of the globe, a similar Aztec myth features the god Quetzalcoatl, who makes a journey on the earth as a man and finds himself unable to find food or water after walking a long way. Just when he thinks death is certain, a nearby rabbit offers herself as food to save his life. Moved by the rabbit’s offer, Quetzalcoatl elevates her to the moon, then lowers her back down. Her shadow remains on the moon for us to remember how a little rabbit touched the heart of a god.

Adventure and Fertility

And other myths connect the rabbit with the moon as well. Native American (Cree) myth describes the rabbit as an adventurer that visits the moon with help of a friendly crane. In Chinese folklore, the rabbit is so prolific that they can conceive with just the touch of moonlight.

My Muse, the White Rabbit

Rather than feature my rabbit in her ‘natural environment’ (i.e. the painting studio), this month Eleanor dashes into a romantic, otherworldly nighttime scene inspired by German Romantic painter Caspar David Friedrich. I am studying his work for a series of portraits, and his dramatic cliffs made a home first in my imagination, and now in this latest miniature.

My Ellie has been fixed so she won’t be doing any reproducing, moonlight or not. I also have my doubts that she’d impress the gods with shows of selfless generosity. Stealing her brothers treats is one of her favorite pastimes. In this painting, though, she is my Moon Rabbit, running wild and free. Who knows how far she can go!

Though the original painting is sold, you can still get greeting cards of all of the rabbit Monthly Miniatures in the series in my Store.

The Second to last of the Monthly Miniature – Rabbits

Dream of the White Rabbit - February 2016 oil painting on aluminum, by Rebecca Luncan

Dream of the White Rabbit – February 2016
oil on aluminum,
5″ x 3 3/4″

Completing the eleventh miniature painting in a series of twelve continues a great journey for me and my rabbits.

Each one of these paintings I’ve been completing once a month over the last eleven months brings my rabbits and my mind further out of the studio and into my imagination. I’m fascinated by the progression of the works and how they have evolved and at the same time, stayed confined into the original idea: create and release one new miniature painting each month for one year of my house rabbits (complete with hand-finished antique frame).With only one more to go in this series, deciding what to paint last will be quite difficult.

I do plan to continue the Monthly Miniatures after March, but the theme will be different – details to come! Perhaps the rabbits will make a comeback for 2017. I’ve loved working on the series more than I would have ever expected and already have ideas drawn up for a dozen more! Until then, I hope you’ll enjoy the new series just as much and there is one more rabbit painting to come next month.

Snow Rabbit Painting is Open for Bidding!

Snow Rabbit oil painting miniature by Rebecca Luncan

Snow Rabbit – December 2015, oil on aluminum, 3.75″ x 5″

 

December’s Monthly Miniature painting auction is now live!

Half of the proceeds from the sale of this painting will be donated to Special Bunny and Seattle Animal Shelter Foundation. Please visit my Facebook event to bid and to follow the auction over the next week. The auction will close on Sunday, December 13th at 5:00 PM Pacific time.

Thank you for your interest!

Charity Auction for December’s Monthly Miniature Rabbit Painting

 

Snow Rabbit In progress oil painting

Snow Rabbit – December, 2015 in-progress, 5″ x 3.75″, oil on aluminum

Get your bidding cards ready, this painting is going up for auction December 7th!

Painting the Monthly Miniatures has been an amazing journey. Each month I’m creating one new painting of my rabbits, and I love how each new painting ends up inspiring new ideas for the next two or three paintings.

I’ve been humbled by all of the support from everyone out there. Each painting has sold, most within 24 hours of being released (sometimes in minutes!). For the paintings to go to loving homes is such a huge blessing. My heartfelt thanks to all you Monthly Miniature owners out there.

Why an auction this month?

First, since they’re selling so quickly, I thought it would be nice to give more people the chance to purchase one of the little paintings.

Second, I’d like to engage my audience and get more exposure. I love painting, and the more people that know I exist, the better for my art career. So please spread the word!

Third and most important, 50% of the sale price of this painting goes to two local nonprofits who helped my rabbits and their litter mates. Read the story of my two long-eared muses and how Special Bunny and Seattle Animal Shelter Foundation helped them come into my life on my last blog post.

How to bid?

Bidding will be simple and take place on Facebook (but I will do my best to accommodate anyone interested who does not have an account). Bids will be entered directly in reply to a post featuring the finished and framed painting. It will be live for about a week, Monday December 7th at 8AM PST to Sunday December 13th at 5PM PST. Bidding instructions will be found under the “Notes” tab on Facebook, but basically each bid will look like:

Bid $100

If you are the winning bidder, please confirm your method of payment within 48 hours of winning the auction. I would like to get the painting shipped as soon as possible!

No Facebook account or want to be anonymous?

If you don’t have an account or if public bidding will ruin a surprise (or it’s just not your thing), contact me with your maximum bid, and I’ll post for you, complete with an Anonymous Bidder Codename. I will periodically update the leading bid by increments of $10, up to your maximum bid, and send you an update email if you aren’t on Facebook.

Payment Method

Paypal is easy for most people, but I happily accept checks and credit cards. Just make sure I have a current email and mailing address for you, and confirm your method of payment within 48 hours of winning the auction. If paying by check, make sure to get it to me within five business days to keep your winning bid status.

Will I continue to do auctions?

If all goes well, I may do another one next December, but expect all the future monthly Miniatures (at least January – November) to sell directly from the website as usual.

Questions?

If I seem to have missed something important, please contact me. Thanks for you interest, and happy bidding!

 

Packing November’s Reclining Rabbit Painting for her Cross Country Journey

Reclining Rabbit oil painting miniature by Rebecca Luncan

Reclining Rabbit – November 2015, oil on aluminum, 4.25″ x 3.25″

I’m a huge fan of miniature artwork, and the ease and affordability of shipping them safely is one reason why.

Miniature paintings are great for so many reasons. They are intimate and powerful, easy to hang in any house, and much more affordable to commission than larger works (even with a custom, hand-finished frame).

And while miniature paintings are cheaper and easier to ship than larger artwork, they also need some special treatment.

Medium-sized paintings typically ship wrapped in plastic and 2″ of bubble wrap surrounded in a cardboard exterior . That will normally be enough for small miniatures as well, but because the packages are small, they are more likely to get tossed around, stacked, and generally treated roughly.

Years of working in a museum have trained me to go the extra mile in prepping artwork for shipping.

Here’s how I packaged this miniature painting to ship across the country to her new home.

Art packing materials

Art packing materials

Materials

  • 2.25″ grey foam *sub wadded brown paper for more environmentally friendly packing
  • Ethafoam (Styrofoam can also be used) the thickness of the artwork (you can glue multiple layers together)
  • plastic bag (polyethylene or food grade)
  • tape measure
  • packing tape
  • straight edge
  • “fragile” sticker
  • utility knife (I like Olfa)
  • cardboard (box)

Step-by-Step

  1. Determine what size box is needed. Measure the painting and add 4″ to get the length and width. Stack your grey foam, Ethafoam and one layer of cardboard, then measure to get your box’s ideal height. *I’ve been subbing brown paper for the grey foam more recently to make my packing materials more environmentally friendly. If you do this, leave two inches of space for both above and below your artwork and use double thick cardboard. Add a second layer of cardboard under your artwork.
  2. Find or cut out the box. A box that is within a few inches (but at least 2″ larger on all sides)
    of the painting is ideal. The height should be trimmed to fit the height of the foam exactly. If you don’t have a box handy, you can make your own: the image above shows how you would cut a box from a flat piece of cardboard. To get the creases for the bends, use a bone scorer or completely retract the blade on the utility knife and use the (dull) metal edge. Tape the bottom of the box together.
  3. Cut each piece of foam and cardboard to fit. I also like to take out a corner notch in the top layers to make unpacking a little easier. My favorite knife is the Olfa utility knife with a 25mm blade. Fantastic knife for cutting foam (and everything else). Make sure to keep your fingers out of the way of the blade, these knives are incredibly sharp!
  4. Cut a hole in the Ethafoam that will snugly fit the painting.
  5. Wrap the painting in plastic, making sure to seal the
    edges completely and that the surface of the painting does not come into contact with the plastic. If the painting is unframed and very dry, wrap
    with Dartek first, then plastic.
  6. Phew! Everything’s cut and now it’s time to put it all together.
Packing miniature paintings, step by step

Packing miniature paintings, step by step

7. Remember to add the packing slip and a thank you note, then say your goodbyes and seal it all up. Make it official with a fragile sticker, and it’s ready to post out to it’s new home!

Ship-Finished

If you’re interested in receiving your very own hand painted miniature, contact the artist to commission one just for you or sign up for the monthly newsletter for a preview of the newest painting up for sale!

September Miniature Painting, Life with Rabbits in the Studio

Studio Rabbits, oil painting by Rebecca Luncan

Studio Rabbits – September 2015, oil on aluminum, 5.25″ x 3.75″

A glimpse into the artist’s studio, halfway through the “Monthly Miniature – Rabbits” series

I live on a quarter acre just north of Seattle and this is where you’ll find my studio, in a converted garage at my house. I love having company in the studio while I paint, and some of that company is very furry. My dog Mona curls up neatly behind me and keeps me warm (it can get chilly in Seattle), and rabbits Charlie and Ellie lie on the rug at my feet. It’s a good thing I wear grubby painting clothes anyway, because the rabbits nip at my pant legs to remind me when it’s dinner time. There are plants and birds to see out windows on two sides. Today there are stellar jays feeding on sunflowers.

Though they have the run of the house, the rabbits spend most of their time in the studio. When not under my desk, Ellie naps in her favorite blue chair. Charlie likes to flop on his side on a rug near the wall. And they both like to sit in the windowsill looking out. I love when I’m picking strawberries in the front yard, and I hear people walking by exclaiming, “Oh my gosh, there’s a rabbit in the window!” Sometimes I open the back door and let them roam the yard, but Ellie has become a cunning escape artist, so they’re on house arrest until the yard is better secured. It would also help if the neighbor behind us could resist tempting them with carrot treats.

At 17′ x 24′ it’s a big space for someone working so small, but it’s very full of framing supplies and tools, painting and drawing supplies, lots of art books, and printers. The walls are lined with finished paintings and works in progress. I usually have around six paintings at various stages of completion, in addition to handpicked frames and prepared metal surfaces for at least 20 more. In this month’s “Studio Rabbits” painting, you can see three paintings from my “Open, Closed, Away” series hanging in the background.

I finally convinced my soon-to-be husband (and editor, web developer and photographer) to move his office from a spare room to a corner of the space in here. It’s a big room, and he doesn’t seem to mind having a giant mat/glass cutter mounted to the wall in his area. So far it has been working great, but I hope we’ll be able to keep it warm enough in the winter. My little space heater can only do so much! But we’ll figure that out when the time comes. The bottom of his pants are as yet mostly intact. (There’s a cozy rug under my desk, and I give them more treats.)

 

Phthalo: the Forbidden Blue (July Monthly Miniature)

Rabbit Painting Miniature Rebecca Luncan

My fourth Monthly Miniature is featured with a phthalo blue background, a color long excluded from my palette.

How embarrassing that I was afraid of a tube of paint. I like to think of myself as not really afraid of anything, but I gave my last tube of phthalo blue away many years ago because I was afraid it would invade my paintings.

Phthalo blue is a relatively new pigment, accidentally discovered and rediscovered in the lab before its potential was finally recognized by the company Scottish Dyes in the early 1900’s. It was introduced as an artist pigment in the mid 1930’s and has been highly valued ever since for it’s resistance to fading, intense color, and high tinting strength.

That high tinting strength is the source of my fears. You have to understand how invasive phthalo blue is: during the course of a painting, hues naturally blend and migrate. While most pigments can be blended into entirely new colors, either dominating and being dominated by other hues, phthalo blue tints so powerfully that it is extremely difficult to blend away in that manner. If it’s on the pallet, I can see it in the painting everywhere! Typically as a figurative painter, creating warm skin tones helps give the person a more vibrant, lively feel, so my general rule has been to only use Cobalt Blue (which has a weak tinting strength) so that the warm tones are easy to pull forward with a greater sense of control. Whereas a tiny bit of phthalo blue on the pallet has a way of invading everything and can quickly force you to scrape your entire palette clean and start again, thus the expulsion of the color from my studio.

Two paintings changed my perspective, and now I can’t imagine working without it.

I spend a great deal of time at the Seattle Art Museum, where I help create mounts that stabilize objects on display and mitigate earthquake risk. And though I’m mostly working with sculptural pieces, I love spending time with the paintings. March of 2014 brought “France: Inside and Out“, an ongoing show in the fourth floor galleries (co-curated by Chiyo Ishikawa and Julie Emerson), and though the portrait below was painted before the advent of phthalo blue, it started me questioning my fear of a dominating cool pigment in a portrait. The blue is everywhere in this painting: the frame, the hair, and the skin, not to mention the blue dress and background. But at the same time, it’s neither monochromatic nor muddy. This painting planted the thought that maybe it’s okay to let go of some control and let the paint surprise me.

Berthe Morisot, Lucie Léon at the Piano, oil on canvas, 1892 Collection of the Seattle Art Museum

Berthe Morisot, Lucie Léon at the Piano, oil on canvas, 1892 Collection of the Seattle Art Museum

That planted thought found unexpectedly fertile ground this February, when my partner Evan and I showed up at his sister Molly’s small farm in Arlington, WA just before dusk. I wanted to begin a series that actively connected the figure and landscape, and we had come to gather images. The winter fog rolled into the valley, across the fields, and all around the trees, barns, and all of us. The sun had begun to set, turning the foggy hills a deep and vibrant blue, and mysterious lights haunted in the distance. As a subject, Molly is as dramatic as the background that evening, and as we finished, I couldn’t wait to begin the new series.

But as I began to paint, I tried blue after blue but none of them worked. Nothing came close to the shockingly blue sky we had witnessed. I finally conceded that I needed phthalo blue, and I bought my first tube of it in over 10 years. It delivered where other blues had fallen short, and although I only used it in the background in this painting, it helped me shake off some of my longtime inhibitions. In my fourth Monthly Miniature, I also used phthalo blue, and if you look closely, I have used it much more freely, adding it to the floor and the figure. Adding it in the highlights in Charlie’s soft belly fur was truly freeing and a moment of joy. Instead of fearing the phthalo invasion, I invited it in and listened to what it had to say. I’m pleased to say it had some nice ideas, and we’ll be working together again soon.

Portrait oil painting Rebecca Luncan

Vigil, Oil on Aluminum panel, 15″ x 15″, 2015

Follow the White Rabbit! June Monthly Miniature and my Social Media Journey

White rabbit oil painting Rebecca Luncan

The White Rabbit
oil on aluminum
4 1/2″ x 3 1/4″

I’ve been following the white rabbit down the social media rabbit hole, and with every post, I’m growing out of my social media dread.

Until this past year, my social media presence was limited to a Facebook account with 5 posts, ever. But a lot has happened since then, and I’ve started a Facebook business page, this blog, an Instagram account and registered as a business on Yelp and  Google+. Most recently, I have even started a Newsletter to help friends, fans and fellow artists follow my Monthly Miniature rabbit paintings or get updates on my blog. Phew!

I love people, but putting myself out there on the internet was an emotional hurdle. As a social media novice, the first few posts were extremely difficult, and the “post/publish” button would fill me with dread and anxiety. But with time and practice, it has gotten MUCH easier. Reading other blogs has taught me that consistency makes a huge difference and I’m finding it’s not just for the typical reasons such as people looking for new content. Constancy also helps keep me on track and allows me to think about meeting my goals instead of thinking about my fears.

Now I actually feel pretty good when I get something up. Connecting with people in a real world kind of way is part of what I live for. The sharing is starting to feel much less like I’m exposing myself and more like I’m connecting, largely due to all the support that I’ve gotten from everyone out there. Heartfelt thanks to everyone looking, sharing and buying, and to everyone enjoying my newsletter. And special thanks to everyone commenting and leaving reviews. It lets me know I’m on the right track.

If you are a beginning blogger or artist, or you are thinking about starting a blog, my advice is to dive right in. Do the best you can this time, and then do it a little better next time. There is so much to know that you can’t learn it all ahead of time, and so much is just conquering your fear.