How A Rabbit Runs – part 1

One of my goals this year was to see if I could sculpt an image that could create an animation in a person’s mind through touch. Can I carve an image that makes it seem like a moving picture?

I have to have a strong curiosity in my subject matter because it has to be sustained through many weeks of carving. For this sculpture I chose rabbits.

Near my neighborhood is a trail that follows a stream flowing through some wetlands.A sidewalk / bike path curves around a wetland swamp. The path is lined with trees and lawn. From one year to the next the rabbit population seems to boom and then diminish in direct proportion to the number of coyotes in the area. This year there seem to be fewer, but bolder, coyotes. The result is that the coyotes are well fed and we still have lots of bunnies.

A photo of a rabbit that I crossed paths with on a walk one morning.

A rabbit resting on the trail.

Directly behind the swamp is a large field with a coyote den. A coyote is standing dead center.

A coyote is right in the middle of this picture.

As I walk along I can’t help but think about the place rabbits hold in the food chain. Each rabbit’s life seems so tenuous, their situation so vulnerable. But as a species they flourish. When I see them running they actually look strong and free. I can’t help wonder how they see themselves. I wonder how similar our perception of our own life is…

I love drawing animals that I haven’t drawn before because I get to learn how they are put together. I start with a gestural drawing just to capture the “feel”, the motion and emotions, of what I want to sculpt.

Messy red chalk drawing of three running rabbits. The rabbit pushes off from both of its large back feet and, stretching forward, launches itself into the air. As it arch back to earth it lands on its small front feet. It pulls its hind feet up past its front feet, on the outside, as it readies itself for the next stride. Placing both back feet on the ground again it repeats the sequence.

Once I have that picture, I cutout a skeleton to see if what I am thinking of drawing is even something a rabbit could do. I fit the skeleton into each rabbit and use that as a guide as I draft my working drawing.

Chalk drawing in background with a cut out paper skeleton of a rabbit positioned on top.

The working drawing is the sketch that gets blown up for sandblasting. (See July 1, 2015 blog: Stone Carving – The First Step Is a Blast)

A graphite drawing of the rabbits in

I love seeing how a rabbit uses its body as compared to how I use mine. Rabbits and humans have homologous parts but use them in very different ways. When I get down to the bones I can see this and feel it as I sculpt. I find myself imagining what it would feel like to be able to run like a rabbit. I wonder what it would be like to see out of the sides of my head. How much more could I hear with those ears!

The finished slate sculpture illustrating a rabbit's stride.

“Sequence,” by Ann Cunningham 2015 slate 14x 60x 3/4″

Next week, when I teach class at the Colorado Center for the Blind, I will be able to give this baby a test run. I’ll post video results.

Photo close up of rabbits head, the eye is the shape of a sunflower. Parts of the rabbit are very smooth and other parts have the rabbits fur in fine detail.