Year Of The Rabbit - from guest blogger Courtney Davis

Year Of The Rabbit - from guest blogger Courtney Davis

Hello, again friends! I’m excited to write another blog post today. The blog post I’m going to share is dear to my heart because it reminds me of my childhood. My father served in the US Airforce, so I lived all over the United States. One of my favorite places was Hawaii. We lived in Hawaii for about eight years. Most people don’t realize that Hawaii has a significant Asian influence. In elementary school, we grew up celebrating Chinese New Year. I have vivid memories of going down to China Town and watching the dancing lions and dragons, feeding them money in red envelopes while they danced, moving their ears and blinking their eyes. Then we would walk to the street vendors and eat moon cakes and other yummy foods. Then we would watch the brilliant fireworks celebrating the new year.  This year Chinese New Year began on January 22nd this year and will go on until February 6th.

Chinese New Year is typically associated with the Chinese Zodiac signs which are: rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, goat, monkey, rooster, dog, and pig. The reason they are these animals come down to several different stories with several different variations. The one I heard growing up is the Emperor of China is wanting guards for his palace and set up a race for the different animals in the kingdom to race to his palace. The first twelve that made it to the palace were to become guards. The animals had different hardships because they are all different, and they even played tricks on each other as well. The order above is the order that the animals finished. The 12 zodiac signs represent the 12-year zodiac calendar. Each sign is said to have certain attributes that apply to the people born in that year. To see what your Chinese Zodiac sign is you can check here:

2023 is the year of the Water Rabbit! To honor and celebrate the holiday I wanted to put a piece together. I wanted to stick with the traditional Chinese colors of good fortune, joy, and happiness - red, and gold - wealth. In today’s post, I want to focus on the little details and how they can completely change a painting. I started this painting by sketching out the rabbit and the small details (which are typically done on animals in Chinese culture during the New Year) in pencil. I then use a thin micro alcohol pen to pen in those tiny details. Then use a slightly thicker pen and outline the rabbit. I then take a large brush and put down the background colors. I use a large brush because I just want a simple background and lay down my colors quickly. I then take my fine-point paintbrush and paint the rabbit red. I use my small point to go around the small details on the rabbit I am going to paint gold. I then wait for the paints to dry before going on to the next step - adding the gold!

I then use the same small point paintbrush and add a blob of water to the brush then mix it with the gold paint from The Smiling Hippo. I then mix the water and paint together, until I can start to see the colors swirl and easily stick to the brush. I do this so I don’t damage the bristles on the brush by pushing the brush into the paint. I then go in and add the gold paint in all of those small spaces. I then take the light gold paint from The Smiling Hippo and color in the rabbit’s eye, and tail. I then go over the tail with the darker paint - because I didn’t think the lighter gold looked as good. (You can always cover a light paint with a darker similar paint when it comes to watercolor, just make sure your paper doesn’t have too much water on it before you lay down your next paint layer). I then went over some of the dark gold paint areas with a second coat of paint if needed.

I then paint fireworks. I do so by taking the gold paint and adding a small dot of paint in the sky, I then do small tear-drop, ovals, and circle shapes originating from the main dot. I work my way around the dot, but not adding a dot right underneath the original dot. I continue to layer up the different shaped layers, avoiding putting them right under the original dot. I don’t add dots under the original dot because it will appear more flower & stem-like if I put dots/lines right underneath the original dot. I want these to look like fireworks, not flowers.

I continue this step two more times, in two other colors for additional fireworks. I also paint 2023 as a firework in the sky, but I paint it in a dot format so it also appears as a firework. 

When looking at how this looks overall, the gold appears to mix with the rabbit’s fur and doesn’t stand out as much as I would like it. So to help those small details pop more, I take my thin alcohol pen again and re-outline those small gold details. Which immensely helped the painting come together overall.

I then go over the outline of the rabbit in a thicker alcohol pen, to help the rabbit stand out from the tall grass background. I then take the pen and make thinner lines in the grass (foreground and background) to add texture to the grass. 

I absolutely love how this piece turned out. If you have a moment, take the time to learn about this unique holiday and enjoy the culture behind it. Until the next post, stay safe and be kind to one another!

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