Saturday, October 31, 2009

Birthday Portrait

"Eric", 8 1/2" x 8", pencil portrait of my nephew for his October birthday (click on the drawing to see it larger)

I'll replace this with another scan after I put some final touches on the clothing in this, but I'm going to visit Eric's family in a few hours, and he has been waiting so patiently for his birthday drawing! Happy Birthday, Eric!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Tea Party

"The Bluebird of Happiness #2", 1"x 1", egg tempera on vellum

                "Ona and Corin with Bluebird", 11" x 7", graphite portrait drawing

                                                                                                                                                              Last week I was invited to tea with my friends Martiina, and her daughters, Ona and Corin, who also used to be my neighbors. They have moved to another spot in the area, so on this occasion we had some great fun catching up, eating cake and cookies with hot chocolate and tea, practicing our yoga and dance moves, and playing with pet gerbils! 

Some of you who follow my blog will recall how I made a second miniature painting of my lucky glass bluebird, "The Bluebird of Happiness (#2)" for them to have in their new home. It's an honor that it is posted in a special spot right in between the girls' rooms, and since they posed for a few pictures how could I resist making a drawing of them?!

Friday, October 23, 2009

Visiting Miniature Masterpieces Behind the Scenes at the NYC Metropolitan Museum of Art

Last month friend, fellow miniaturist, and Royal Miniature Society member, Justine Woodward contacted me to let me know she would be visiting her daughter in New York City in October, and we thought it would be great to try arranging an appointment similar to one we had arranged five years earlier to view miniatures in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. It takes some advance planning to arrange such a visit, but it is possible for serious artists, especially those interested in viewing for research purposes or for specific professional inspiration to make an appointment to view works of art in the Museum's permanent collection which are not currently on display.

Collection databases searches are available online at
(Metropolitan Museum of Art) so I did a search for European miniature paintings, and it took about five hours of research for me to narrow down a list of suggestions. As it turned out, Ms. Mattia of the European Art Dept. brought the suggested portraits out in archived boxes, enabling us to see much more. Although a few including several by Hans Holbein the Younger were in conservation and not available to view, we did see one by Holbein, several by Nicholas Hilliard, as well as the portraits of Jean Baptiste Isabey, Etienne Bouchard, and other French, English, and German miniaturists spanning several centuries.

Justine views one of the archival boxes that we saw. For several hours Ms. Mattia brought out an absolutely thrilling array of miniatures for us to view, providing us with wonderful inspiration from master miniaturists.

When we arrived, Ms. Mattia greeted us and brought out the first box of miniatures, a white cotton glove to carefully check tag numbers, a strong magnifying glass, and a copy of the museum's definitive book on this collection: "European Miniatures in the Metropolitan Museum of Art" by Graham Reynolds, which provides some interesting background infomation on each miniature.

A peek inside one of about nine archival boxes that we saw. This particular box featured some of the miniature works of Jean Baptiste Isabey. The variations in his approach within this box helped us to see how Isabey's style changed over a thirty year span of time.

Taking a closer look at "Madame Jean Baptiste Isabey" (See below a black and white copy from the Met online of this miniature portrait which Isabey painted of his first wife.)

"Madame Jean Baptiste Isabey (Jeanne Laurice de Salienne, died 1829)", 3 3/8" diameter, on ivory, was painted by Jean Baptiste Isabey between 1796 and 1800. She is pictured sewing with a small basket, spools of white thread, and a tiny, tiny pair of sewing scissors. Stylistic differences are revealed between this miniature and the one below, "Mrs. Rufus Prime", which Isabey painted about thirty years later.

"Mrs. Rufus Prime (Augusta Templar Palmer), 5 3/8" x 4", on card, an American bride portrayed by Jean Baptiste Isabey in 1828. I can't adequately convey enough detail with my photograph of this miniature to duplicate the experience of seeing it first-hand, but because this was a larger miniature, it was great to study it's details and brush strokes. It's pastel tones and colors, the translucent fabric and ribbons, were so finely and delicately handled in this later work by Isabey that I found it to be a wonderful source of inspiration.

One box we saw held two bracelets which consisted of linked ovals, each of which held a miniature portrait of a family member, with the mother at one end, each child in the middle and the father on the other end. We imagined and discussed ways that one could create a modern miniature portrait bracelet. Some of the miniatures held sentimental inscriptions on their backs or frame covers, and jeweled trim, or scrimshaw on the back of the ivory. There were also about half a dozen eye portraits, in rings or brooch pins, which I very much enjoyed seeing.

Ms. Mattia kindly copied an interesting article for us to take home which I look forward to reading called "Secret Arts: Elizabethan Miniatures and Sonnets" by Patricia Fumerton. I'm also purchasing the above mentioned museum's book on this wonderful collection as a memento of my visit and to read more about the fine portraits we saw.

Mini Meeting at the Met!

Giant frames loomed on floor to ceiling vertical racks at one end of the inner offices of the European Art department at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, next to where Justine Woodward and I sat behind the scenes to view selections of the European Miniature art collection

Yesterday I had a thrilling experience in tandem with friend and British miniaturist, Justine Woodward of the Royal Miniature Society, when, thanks to the gracious and kind help of Ms. Mattia of the European Art Dept., we went for a private appointment to view miniature masterpieces at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC! I am still absolutely soaring inside from all the inspiration we were so fortunate to absorb from miniature master portrait artists such as Holbein, Hilliard, Isabey, and many more. Stay tuned for photos and a full report of our visit in my next post....

Monday, October 19, 2009

Four Other Entries Submitted to MASF

I promised to post you about which other four miniatures I've sent off to MASF, Miniature Art Society of Florida, for their annual show, January 17 - February 7, 2010. Since I've recently made a few improvements here and there on my website, I thought you might enjoy viewing these four paintings directly on my website in my miniature gallery, so here are the titles and the link to see them:

"Carribean Ship Flag," "Madonna in the Leaves," "The Bluebird of Happiness," and "Memory Rose," can be found at in the Miniature Gallery.

Just a few notes of clarification---Only once in a while do I have a later thought about an improved title for a painting, and when I do, I allow myself to re-name the painting. I've done this on two of my entries. Also, on my website the miniature portraits appear in both the Miniature Gallery and the Portrait Gallery.

Monday, October 12, 2009

"The Piano Recital---It's Mary's Turn" completed

"The Piano Recital---It's Mary's Turn," framed

"The Piano Recital---It's Mary's Turn," art and image © Mona Diane Conner 2009
5 1/2" x 4 1/4" egg tempera miniature on gessoed panel, (Sold)

The five entries I have submitted to the Miniature Art Society of Florida 35th annual miniature show at Leepa Rattner Museum of Art in Tarpon Springs (January 17 - February 7) include "The Piano Recital---It's Mary's Turn," shown above in it's final form. This portrait of Mary has sold, pre-show, to her parents, but they are allowing it to go into show competition this year, prior to receiving it, and I am grateful for their support.

More on the rest of my entries for the Florida show later this week.

Monday, October 5, 2009

(Interim post to see it larger)

(This is just an interim post of the same stage of the painting as below so you can click on this one to see it larger, since the click-on in the post below was not working.)

Friday, October 2, 2009

A Few Points About Competitive Miniature Painting

Post Script: Here is the portrait of Mary almost completed. While it's Mary herself who inspires its details, and I hope I am doing justice to the person who inspired it, a question recurs from time to time about how 'it looks finished already' when its still in progress, and I know it's sincere, so just once I want to take a moment to go over a few specific points from my own perspective about competitive miniature painting.

It's throughout the year that I am developing my miniatures for competition purposes, so if at times it seems I get into minute details, it's often a conscious effort on my part if I feel I may be preparing a painting for competition---something which usually takes longer than non-competitive miniature making. Added into the mix, my medium of egg tempera is also more time-consuming than other mediums because it consists of many superimposed thin layers of paint, but I hope it feels worth the extra time to others because of its effects, and because it is my preferred medium for painting. At times I can unconsciously get into a higher level of detail even when I am doing a simpler miniature study, and some of you have purchased good bargains from my blog in this way.

Because my particular style lends itself toward detail, to the extent it feels important, I go as far as I can go with detail to be on target for a competitive entry. But at miniature competitions I have seen that other styles are also respected, and what I have witnessed over the past six years as a participant in competition is that for those with a different style, such as a pastel artist or an impressionistic painter, it is simply a matter of preserving that specific style and scaling it down more finely for its miniature size and scale. Making miniatures is about an effort to fit into a small area and scale the same level of painting that we can paint larger.

When it comes to minute detail at miniature scale, ultimately it becomes important to see a miniature painting in person in order to truly appreciate it. I can come close, but I can't duplicate it entirely online either if it's this tiny, so I hope if you have never seen a miniature show in person, you may have an opportunity in the future to do so.

Next post I'll show you the final version of the portrait of Mary.

"The Piano Recital, Mary's Turn," (in progress), 5 1/2" x 4 1/4", egg tempera miniature on gessoed panel

Here's another update on my progress, and with her dress now finished, I'll do one last post of the completed painting in a few more days. I want to work on her hands and hair a little more and refine certain details and values in the painting.