I was one of 20 artists in and near the Conejo Valley in Southern California this year chosen to paint a giant 5.5ft rabbit for a public art project promoting arts in the community. Check out the nonprofit Art Trek in Newbury Park online and learn about all the other amazing things they are doing in California.
I knew right away I wanted to paint him in a coastal theme since that's usually what I like to paint and post on shannonceliafineart.com & seashop.com and I was thrilled when after he was completed, we moved to the beach after many years in the Thousand Oaks area. I worked in my garage for many weeks with Nova acrylic paints and enjoyed almost every second. I typically work in oils so it took some getting used to using paint that dried so quickly. There were a few days when the sun was blazing on the back of my legs or the wind kicked up so much I had to close the door and stop working so I didn't get debris in the wet paint. But most of the time, I felt so inspired I couldn't get his nautical elements down fast enough. After I painted him in three colors representing sky, sea and sand, I added sand to the tan paint for texture. I knew the first thing I'd paint on him was an anchor for his nose and mouth, a nautical compass for one eye and after seeing one on a morning walk, an egret over his other eye. However, some of the elements unfolded as I worked and surprised me. I used to lie in bed at night and dream about all the possibilities. I considered naming him Beach Bunny or Buoy Bunny but stuck with CottonSail since he's a cottontail, the most popular kind of rabbit that abound in this valley. My very funny friend Dane came up with the name during a walk in the park and it still makes me smile. I added a large sail boat up his back next to a huge palm tree and that made lots of sense since I really enjoy doing commissions of people's boats. I also really like to capture in paint the commercial fishing vessels going in and out of Ventura and Oxnard harbors.
Adding a cruiser bike onto the ship's wheel I painted on one of his flanks made me laugh and adding subtle mermaids around the bottom for kids to find if they looked hard enough was a joy. I also made up an information sheet for kids if they want to learn about the creatures and elements on CottonSail. On the back there are pictures to color too, so email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you'd like it sent.
I can't pick a favorite thing but I was really pleased with how the sandpipers turned out, with the buoy up his front which was challenging because of all of his curves and the moon jellies swaying in the water. I remember fondly how my daughter and I used to love watching the ones at Aquarium of the Pacific when she was little. I also really like the flip flops since I wear them often and the lobster, which reminds me of growing up in New England. Many days while I was working on him, the mailman and neighbors young and old walked by and their reaction to this giant fiberglass rabbit truly encouraged me. Public art can invoke thoughts, feelings and joy and I hope that's exactly what COTTONTAIL does!