Inspired by the wild bunnies in my backyard, I’ve decided to sculpt a series of bunny rabbits in honor of spring. Having grown up in the city (Brooklyn NY) the idea of wild rabbits simply amaze me. As a kid I’d only even seen pet bunnies and zoo bunnies.
Planning the Bunny Sculpture
My curious brown bunny is not based on any single rabbit breed. Instead, he is a magical compilation of cute + rabbit + imagination. ‘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.
This little guy began in a manner very similar to my sculpture of Bodewell the Yorkie, and so I will glance over the nitty gritty details.
To follow along you will need the following tool which can be purchased through my amazon affiliate links by clicking the individual items below:
- Aluminum foil for the armature
- 17 gauge wire for the armature
- Premo Polymer clay in brown, white, or other desired colors
- Dedicated Clay oven (I use the Deni Table-top convection oven)
- Genesis Heat-Set Oil Paints
- various Sculpting tools (click to read about what I use)
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 half-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.
The Bunnogie 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 bulk out 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 17-gauge wire, over inch in length, 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 for maximum support.
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 my tapestry need tool.
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.
Texturing the Bunny
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 previous texturing.
To avoid having to redo any area I held the bunny securely by its upper thighs. This allowed me to texture the remainder of the rabbit without any movement or shifting. Once satisfied with everything else, I placed him on the baking tray and reached in with the needle tool to texture the upper thighs.
Already on the baking tray, I don’t have to touch the bunny when moving him into the oven.
Baking the Bunny
Unlike humans, bunnies have dark eyes. Using my genesis heat-set oil paints, I added a thin layer to the eyes before 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.
Painting the Bunny
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 thin/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
(Note: this is an EXPERIMENT, I don’t know how advisable this is. Once more confident in my results I will try to create a more detailed tutorial)
The First Paint 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-between crevices created by texturing. This layer will later ‘show through’ the dark clay for a realistic under-fur appearance.
I added a more opaque layer of white paint to the nose, cheeks, and chest.
Added another layer of brown was added to his eyes.
And back to the oven he went. Perhaps down the line I’ll invest in a genesis heat gun so that I don’t have to constantly rebake my sculptures. For now I settled for a semi-bake of just 5-10 minutes to prevent potential scorching.
While TLS does require 15 minutes, I think it’s ok to do just 5-10 minutes knowing that he’s about to go back a few more times. I will ensure a proper bake time for the final round.
The Second Coat
My goal with 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 of paint for his eyelids.
Back into the oven for another 5-10 minutes.
The Final Paint Coat
The final coat was mixed like the second coat with high ratio of TLS to low brown paint. This was 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 sculpey gloss mixed with paint was added to his eyes, to be followed by the final bake
15 minute later, my curious brown bunny is ready to exit the oven and explore the world.
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