This young dutch bunny is my second serious bunny sculpture for this spring. Catch the first one HERE. This sculpture was inspired by my childhood pet rabbit pictured below. Dutch bunnies are magnificent creatures, common as pets around the world, and recognized by their ‘formal’ black-tie attire. The average Dutch bunny weighs 5 pounds and measures over a foot in length.
My Dutch bunny is sculpted in 1:3 scale, where 1 foot of ‘real’ rabbit is sculpted at 3 inches.
Tools and Supplies to Follow Along:
To follow along with this project you will need to assemble the following supplies from your studio, or click the individual links to purchase supplies through my amazon affiliate links:
- Aluminium foil for the armature
- Premo polymer clay for sculpting
- Sewing needle and tapestry needle for texturing
- Oven to cure clay (I use a Deni table-top Convection Oven)
- Genesis Heatset Paints for painting
- TLS (Translucent Liquid Sculpey) to dilute the paint
Planning My Bunny Sculpture
Dutch rabbits are easily recognized by their black and white color pattern. I started with a simple sketch of a resting alert rabbit.
The Rabbit Armature
Since my bunny will be resting on all-fours, he will not require as strong an armature. Instead he will be supported by his 4 paws resting solidly on a flat surface. However, for this sculpture I did play around with a new armature technique.
Till now I’d sculpt the animal’s head first, then attach to the body. There was always the issue of an insecure attachment and constant turning to mess up the pose. Since rabbits have very little neck, this is even trickier to accomplish. And so, for this sculpture, I created the entire body armature with the head already attached. I did this by crumpling a large piece of foil and shaping it to the desired pose.
Once satisfied with the overall structure I added very thin layers of scrap clay to ‘set’ the armature. I was very careful to smooth in the clay and pop any air bubbles. Air will expand when heated in the oven, which can be disastrous to a complete project as it forcibly escapes the clay.
Sculpting a Black Dutch Bunny
I plan to detail my bunny using genesis heat-set oil paints. Since the color will come mostly from the paint, I chose to sculpt the bunny in a solid dark color. This will allow me to focus on the sculpture itself for now, and colors later.
I used approximately one 2-ounce package of Premo polymer clay for this 3-inch bunny. In addition to providing structure and support, a foil armature helps reduce the total amount of clay used 🙂
I started with a thin layer of black clay to hide the scrap clay.
The eyes are created from a single baked ball of clay cut in half.
I added clay pancakes to the face forming the individual cheeks, patch of whiskers by the mouth, and forehead. I added the eyeballs to the face and surrounded them with thin ropes of gray clay (mix of black and white) to outline the eye-socket and create the wide eyes young rabbit look.
Sculpting the Body and Legs
I padded the body with additional clay pancakes on the rump, belly, and sides, for an overall plump look. I kept one side thinner than the other to match his pose of ‘face turned’ as if he’s leaning curiously to see something. Additional pancakes formed his hind legs/thighs, and small tapered logs formed his front and hind paws. Individual toes were marked with a small exacto blade
And finally a rounded tuft of clay formed his fluffy tail.
Sculpting the Bunny Ears
With the basic structure in place it’s now safe to add the delicate ears. Each ear was formed with an elongated clay ‘log’ hollowed at the center and tapered at the top. I textured the sides and back using a needle tool, then added deep veins inside the ears. Since the ears are so fragile, I find that adding texture and details prior to attaching is ‘safer’ and easier. Once attached the ears should not be touched to prevent breaking them off.
Once textured the ears were carefully attached to the bunnies head with minimal loss of texture or detail.
Texturing the Bunny
This is my favorite part with any animal sculpture. Using a thin needle for the short furs, and a tapestry needle for the longer furs, I went to town adding fur lines all along the bunnies face, back legs and tail following the natural rabbit hairline.
The First Bake
The rabbit was baked for approximately 1 hour. Baking time depends on the thickness of the clay. Using foil as the bulk of his core allowed all the clay to be cured in just an hour. A solid clay rabbit of this size would require 2-3 hours of baking and lots of prayers. (Finer details like ears can burn/crack)
Turning a Black Bunny into a Dutch Rabbit
I painted the bunny using genesis heat-set oil paints, diluted with a few drops of TLS (translucent liquid sculpey). Heat-set paint and TLS both cure with high temperature which meant baking the bunny after each layer.
The First Coat
Even black-furred animals have a light sheen from the short ‘under-fur’ and the reflection of light. This was accomplished using a nearly dry paintbrush to partially coat the dark areas.
A diluted ‘wet’ layer of white paint was added to the white-fur areas to ensure the paint seeped into the texture grooves. I also added a thin layer of white inside the ears to ensure the next layer (red) shows up on the black
Into the oven he went for 5 minutes to ‘set’ this layer. Notice how the black clay shows through under the paint.
The Second Paint Coat
The second coat is the first color coat. I added a thick (concentrated) layer of white paint to the white-fur areas. This starts to create a 3-D fur effect and hide the black clay beneath. The black areas were painted with dilute black tinted TLS allowing it to seep in between the white.
I painted the inner ear with a dilute layer of TLS tinted red allowing it to seep into the vein grooves carved on the inner ear. (The red shows up well given the white layer beneath)
Back to the oven for 5 minutes to set the paint
The Third Paint Coat
The third coat is about strengthening the colors. I repeated the white and black coats as in coat #2. I also added a thin layer of black to the inner ear to dull the red around the veins.
Back to the oven for 5 minutes
The Final Paint Coat
The third coat should have been the final coat, however, the black clay under the white fur was difficult to conceal, so I gave it yet another layer.
I added another thick layer of white paint mix, and then added half strokes to the area between black and white to mimic the natural transition between fur colors.
The inner ears received another thin layer of black for a dull-red effect with deep red veins.
To bring the bunny to life I added genesis glaze to the eyes along with a hint of white paint. I allowed myself to get a bit carried away with the mouth-nose area. I added a faint layer of pink at the base of the nose, and then slowly feathered the color out to mimic the natural pink to white transition.
A few red brush-strokes for the tongue, and my Dutch Bunny is ready for his final bake.
I skimped on curing time between layers knowing that he was about to go back into the oven. I gave him the proper 10-minutes of curing time for the final coat to ‘set’ all of the paint layers.
And here he is, ready to join my bunny collection
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While there are some obvious imperfections with this sculpture, I am very proud of how he turned out. But I’d love to hear your thoughts, critiques, and feedback in the comments below.