Monday, February 13, 2012

30 Bunnies of Spring – Bunny #1

Inspired by the little brown bunny in my backyard, I have undertaken a personal sculpting project

30 Bunnies of Spring

Over the next few months I will be sculpting a total of 30 bunnies. These little critters will range from Complex realistic scale OOAK (one of a kind) sculptures, to cute whimsical color miniatures

Bunny #1 of 30

Starting this great adventure is Bunny #1 – A young curious chubby creature. He is not based on any one breed, but rather a ‘cute’ image composed of all the cute rabbits out there

‘cute’ creatures come to life on their own, so this little guy began without a proper ‘plan’.
Or rather, he began with a ‘plan’ to come to life of his own accord
The basics for sculpting any furry creature is quite similar so I will skip the nitty-gritty details.
You can read about them HERE in my Bodewell the Yorkie Post

The Head:

The head began as a blob of brown clay over a foil core. I added bulk to the top of his head, and the side of his cheeks. I added, blended and added some more till he looked ‘rabbit-like’

Rabbits are not Dogs

Feature placement is very important in animal sculptures. One of my earliest rabbit sculptures actually turned into a dog due to a few minor ‘misplaced’ features. He has since been dubbed ‘bunnogie’ from Bunny-Doggy and proudly sits on my shelf, unique and bizarre, a happy reminder of attention to detail.

He has taught me the following
- Rabbit eyes are placed more to the side of the head, dog eyes are more forward
- Rabbits have a rounded facial profile, dogs have a rather protruding snout
- Dog ears are placed to the side of the head, rabbit ears are towards the back, just behind the eyes
- The rabbit nose does not protrude that much from the profile
I gave the bunny a large set of wide curious eyes with distinct eyelids

Rabbit Body and Legs

The body began as a foil core covered in a layer of polymer clay. I added a few extra ‘pancakes’ of clay to the chest and rump

Since this bunny will be seated, his front paws are ‘decorative’ rather than supportive, so they were each formed from a simple log of clay

The hind legs which will be the only source of support were sculpted with bent wires for stability
I chose a thick-gauge wire over an inch long and bent each at a 90 degree angle. This will allow the bottom of the wire to run the length of the legs while the upper portion will be inserted into the foil body core.
Each hind leg was given a basic ‘shoe’ shape and the wires measured against them. I bent the heels back slightly and forced the wires in towards the tip of the toes. The heels and front toes were marked and shaped.

Using a long needle I poked 2 holes into the foil core of the bunny and inserted the feet. 2 large pancakes formed the hind legs/thighs
With the major ‘abuse’ complete (picking up, poking, squeezing, shaking, turning), it was safe to add the final fragile details like the ears and tail


The rabbit fur was creating by stroking the clay with a tapestry needle following the natural hair-line
Fur can be a little tricky since the slightest pressure will flatten or undo the texturing.
To avoid having to redo any area I chose the easiest the upper thighs as the holding spot and textured everything else first. Once satisfied with his fur I placed him on the baking tray and textured the thighs.
This ensured that I would not have to lift or touch him to move to the oven


Dark bunnies have dark eyes, not white. I added a thin layer of brown oven-safe paint (see below) and settled him in for the long bake. I set the timer, positioned my 2 oven thermometers (OCD/burn fear) and waited. An anguished hour later and my bunny looked ok.
I let him sit in the oven overnight to cool slowly and evenly for added durability

Adding Color

In the past I have used acrylic paint to add color detail to my sculptures with less than satisfactory results. Having recently acquired ‘Genesis Heat Set’ Oil paints I set about to experiment
Genesis oil paints require high temperatures to set (250 degrees F) which is a good thing if you don’t want the paint to dry, but it can be a problem for large or fire-hazard projects
Another ‘concern’ is that the genesis paint is very thick, whereas fur-texturing requires a runny consistency

My Newest Brainstorm

Many artists use tinted liquid Polymer Clay to add transparent color to their projects. However, TLS (liquid clay) is very runny and too transparent
And so…. I decided to mix the TLS with my genesis paints
(Warning: this isn’t necessarily advisable – I was simply ‘experimenting’)

The First Coat

Ever wonder how bunny’s stay warm in the winter? They wear underwear under their coats of course :)
Kidding aside, even dark colored bunnies have a short light layer of fur in white/gray.
This first ‘coat’ was achieved using a thick mixture of white paint with a little bit of TLS. My goal was to paint the tips of his fur rather than the in-betweens created by texturing. This layer will layer ‘show through’ the dark clay for a realistic under-fur appearance.
I added a heavier layer of white to nose, cheeks, and chest

Another layer of brown was added to his eyes
Back to the oven he went. TLS requires 15 minutes however, knowing that he’d be back a few more times I baked him for just 5-10 minutes to ensure the color ‘sets’ without scorching

The Second Coat

The goal of the second coat was to give the bunny back his brown coat, while still allowing the white base-coat to show through.
This was achieved by using a high TLS to low paint ratio giving a nearly transparent brown color. My little bunny was given a generous layer of this brown ‘wash’ letting dark pools settle in between his needle-stroke texture lines. A dry brush was used to remove excess paint from the lighter areas by the cheeks, chest, tail, paws, and toes
Another layer of brown paint was added to his eyes, and a thin white layer for his eyelids

Back to the oven he went for another 5-10 minutes

The final Coat

The final coat was mixed as the second coat with heavy TLS to low brown paint followed by a thin white wash to the lighter areas (chest…)
Details were perfected with a very thin brush such as the whites around the eyes, the faint pink in his nose, and the tips of his ears
A small amount of tinted gloss was added to his eyes, to be followed by the final bake
15 minutes of baking marked the completion of Bunny #1 of 30

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  1. Wow... he is adorable... and so much work.

  2. Love him!

    You do know that Genesis makes both a thick and a thin extender, right?

    Thick extender also makes a really strong clay-to-clay bond, and is sticky enough to hold bits of clay in place while raw.

  3. Great information! Love the bunny. You're right. A bunny is not a dog. LOL (Stumble Reviewed this Blog)

  4. So very cute Leah! it will be one gorgeous playful collection!

  5. Your sculpting work is amazing! I love this series.

  6. OMG I love your bunnies, such detail!!!! I want one!

  7. Leah, he is truly adorable! I am very impressed with the level of craft needed to make your art!

  8. Love this little guy, Leah! Can't wait to see his siblings as they are "born" from your talented little fingers!

  9. I really enjoyed this tutorial! thanks so much for all of the photos & detailed explanation.

  10. O.M.G AMAZING Leah !!! The process looks long but at the end of it the bunny looks SO real :) Thank You for sharing so much about your art process ....
    Xo Rachel

  11. OMG! I Love bunnies! very nice work!

  12. Cute. Great work. These look manufactured.

  13. Awww, this is so cute! It almost looks like a chocolate bunny before being painted. I wanted to eat it! :)

  14. As with everything you do, Leah, Bunny #1 is a work of art! Beautiful and detailed; and your illustrated step-by-step process is fantastic!! Thank you so much for sharing this with all of us!

  15. I made a pepto bismol pink bunny in grade school on a green "field". My mother thought it was a frog. Go figure :) Your bunny is much more realistic than mine was :)