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. 🙂
September has been a crazy month. As you may have noticed, my little garden gives me a lot of produce, and I’m a bit obsessed with not letting it go to waste. I feel like I jumped from a plum roller coaster right into an ocean of pears! I’ve canned 50 jars of pears (underestimate), eaten a million pears (overestimate) and baked a decadent French Pear Tart.
My mom gave me my pear tree 12 years ago, and it’s getting really big. Since our cherry tree came down, the pear is the new favorite for the birds. Our resident Steller’s Jays like to nip at the fruit on the top of the tree, so it felt perfectly natural to invite this Jay to the French Tart party.
Speaking of a crazy month, my own little bird (five your old son) started kindergarten, and talk about roller coasters. My emotions keep going up and down with excitement and fear. Except for a few school bus mishaps in the beginning, it’s been a pretty smooth transition. He is such a sweet little guy, and he really appreciates special homemade treats like this. He loved the tart, but he REALLY loves the canned pears. I have every faith that we’ll go through those 50 jars! The tart was incredible, but with a 21 step recipe, it’s a once-a-year occurrence.
I haven’t quite accepted that fall is already upon us and plan on staying in denial for as long as possible. I hope you enjoy the sunshine and warmth while it lasts and take some time to enjoy a special treat too.
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 find a healthy dose of silly shenanigans is good for me. And after a long difficult year, we all deserve some. 🙂
I usually know what kind of mood I’m going for when I plan a painting, and I seek objects that work together to tell a story that fits. For my final painting of the series, I wanted to make something lighthearted and playful. This one makes me smile every time I look at it, and I hope you enjoy it!
Since I started making still life paintings last year, I am always on the lookout for subjects. Anything that catches my fancy is studied, posed, photographed, then added to my growing reference library. The parts of this painting fell into place by scrolling through those images and intuiting which pieces of this puzzle would fit together.
Meyer lemons are an annual treat for the exhibition crew at SAM. Each year the head Exhibit Designer, Paul Martinez, would visit his family in California and pick lemons from their abundant orchard. Last year I took dozens of photos of them, just in case I wanted to use them in a painting. The squirrel visited us during one of our lunch breaks on a park bench in Volunteer Park while reinstalling the Seattle Asian Art Museum last summer-another batch of “just in case” images. And the dish was too hard to pass up when I noticed it in the conservation studio – more photographs. As I collected each of those images, I had no idea what they would become together.
Because I’m using pieces from the Seattle Art Museum collection as my models, I can’t actually place fruit inside bowls or plates. Instead I use something of my own that’s a similar size, shape and color for my mock ups. That helps me get a good idea of the shadows and light sources. Then I merge everything together, first in my imagination, with sketches, and then digital compositions. It’s still pretty rough at this stage, but finally through the process of making the painting, the scene starts to come to life.
It’s been such a privilege have a “day job” that has put me into direct contact with so much beautiful art. The museum has been closed for almost all of 2020, and it feels so fitting that I’ve made this series of paintings as a tribute to its collection, and to my experiences with the people there who have become very dear to me.
This body of work is my “thank you” to all of the past artists that worked to perfect their craft and push the limits of their artistic pursuits, to all of the countless people that have cared for these objects for hundreds of years after they were created; and to those that continue to care for these objects, ensuring that they will be treasured and viewed by countless people to come. I found the passion museum workers have for the preservation of objects for all of us to enjoy is contagious. I hope I’ve been able to pass a little of it on to you.
DISH WITH PHOENIX AND FLOWER MOTIFS, Collection of the Seattle Art Museum
Chinese, early 14th century Porcelain with underglaze cobalt-blue decoration , Diameter: 18 3/4 in. (47.6cm), Purchased in memory of Elizabeth M. Fuller with funds from the Elizabeth M. Fuller Memorial Fund and from the Edwin W. and Catherine M. Davis Foundation, St. Paul, Minnesota, 76.7 Provenance:Purchased for Seattle Art Museum with funds from the Elizabeth M. Fuller Memorial Fund and from the Edwin W. and Catherine M. Davis Foundation, St. Paul, Minnesota, January 6, 1976 Photo: Paul Macapia
From the Seattle Art Museum website:
“Brilliant cobalt pigment and a refined porcelain body are essential to the striking beauty of blue-and-white wares, which rose in Chinese ceramic production in the fourteenth century largely as a result of huge demand in the central and western Asian markets. This large dish manifests the taste for elaborate designs derived from Islamic art, and its massive size was intended to accommodate communal meals customary among Muslims.”
Lots of people had been asking if I would release prints from recent paitnings. I found a local printer I love and am now offering some for sale in my store. I just received several beautiful images from my lovely client Theresa, showing how she framed hers. The backdrop of her beautiful farmhouse in Indiana decorated for the holidays is just magical. I loved seeing these images and I hope you do to!
She very kindly offered to share where she purchased her frames and mats. Contact me if you’d like information on where they came from and I will pass it on! Everything was ordered online and she was able to easily fit them together herself.
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
I was invited to participate in a three person show at Antler Gallery alongside Thomas Jackson of Australia and Vasilisa Romanenko who is based in New England. It’s pretty incredible that three artists that come from all over the world have so much in common! It was great to see my work alongside such creative and beautiful pieces. The show is up from October 29th -November 22nd.
I think it’s important to see your work outside the bubble of your studio. It helps me understand my perspective better, when seen alongside other contemporary artists, especially when those artists are investigating similar topics (in this case, looking at the natural world). It’s particularly exciting to see the dazzling technical care put into the artwork. Some people may see the word “technical” and think it’s cold and uncaring, but when in context of painting, I find it to be intimate and incredibly tender.
Three New Paitnings
I’ve been working on miniature still life paitnings for almost two years now with my Monthly Miniature project. For this show, I have made three new larger pieces within the still life genre. I love making miniatures, but it’s great to be able to expand on my ideas. Both literally and figuratively! I’ve added some in-progress images at the bottom of this post so that you can get a sense of scale. Even though two of the paitnings are still quite small at 10″ x 9″, they’re just about twice the size of my miniatures! So you see how much more detail I can get into my insects and furit.
I hope you enjoy the new paitnings! Please take a look at Antler Gallery’s website. They have a great variety of beautiful and interesting work.
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
Gifts of Summer, finding gratitude in difficult times
Sometimes inspiration comes from distant shores or precious objects, but for me, most comes from the world outside my window. In my backyard garden I find plants and creatures that add meaning to my life, remind me of my community, and inspire my work.
I just reached the fourteenth anniversary of moving to my house. It came with four fruit trees, a half dead lilac, and rhubarb plant. The rest was grass, weeds and more weeds. Now hundreds of plants grow in the garden where I designed and built 14 tons of slate walls and paths, with the help of some very kind friends.
Central to my garden’s design was a prolific cherry tree. Although it came with a forked trunk and showed some evidence of rot, we cared for it as best we could. It started to lean more this spring, yet it also produced more fruit this year than it has for many years past, which encouraged us. The cherries on this tree have always brought so many wonderful visitors to nibble on cherries, which are neither too sweet nor too tart. Each year brings a new surprise bird: last year a huge pileated woodpecker gorging on cherries, and this year several vibrant yellow and red Western Tanagers. I’ve never seen these timid birds in the yard before, and I was able to photograph them from my bedroom window.
Two days after the photos were taken however, we woke to find that overnight, the leaning tree had become the laying-on-the-ground tree. We didn’t hear a thing, but just like that it was gone! Luckily we had a cold spell and over the next two days, I went through the branches and saved all the cherries I could. It was a surprisingly huge amount, since I could easily reach all the branches!
Some of those cherries are here in my painting, beautifully paired with a vibrant yellow porcelain from the Seattle Art Museum. This bowl is one of a pair recently installed at the Seattle Asian Art Museum in Volunteer Park (hopefully soon to reopen!). When I held these bowls during their installation, they immediately reminded me of a piece I got to know early in my career at SAM.
Many years ago, I made mounts for the Porcelain Room, and I handled hundreds of fine porcelains (just about everything had a custom mount for earthquake mitigation purposes). I would carefully pick up each object and take it to my work table to fit for its mount. I picked up a bowl that was one of a pair, remarkably similar to the yellow bowls but glazed blue. I stopped halfway to my table in surprise. I could feel it. After holding hundreds of pieces in my hands, I could feel absolute perfection. The yellow bowls have the same breathtaking feeling of quality, and are identical as far as I can tell, which is quite a feat for a handmade piece!
Every other detail of the painting is special to me in some way. The dragonfly visits me almost daily in my vegetable patch, flying in precise yet economical loops. The pink poppy I grew from seeds originally gathered almost 10 years ago from my neighbor’s yard. I grow poppies because my dad grew poppies, and his dad before him. The delicious orange orange raspberries come from plants given to me by the talented artist, Rachel Maxi. And last but not least, Isaac found a weed on a recent hike that he picked for me to put in my next painting. I treasure his involvement and interest, and his selection balanced out the yellow in the composition nicely. Plus, how could I resist his imploring little face!
In these times of social distance and other disconnection, I hope you can look around and enjoy your own personal gifts of summer. Please enjoy this month’s painting, keep well, and enjoy the sunshine!
1723-35, Porcelain with yellow overglaze height 2 5/16 in., diameter 4 in., Gift of Mrs. John C. Atwood, Jr., 70.37.1 Photo: Paul Macapia
From the Seattle Art Museum website: Colored wares require a second firing at a lower temperature to fuse the enamels to the transparent porcelain glaze beneath. They distinctly reflect the imperial taste for exquisite design and potting. The combination of white interior and yellow exterior is a color code for wares made for the first-rank concubine, as specified in the Regulations of the Palace of the Qing Dynasty.