Which painting should I print next as a greeting card? Cast your vote today in the Comments section below.
Turtle took the leg on the 24 hour #RabbitRacesTurtle Twitter poll, but I am accepting votes here through January 31st! Scroll below to learn who won!
First contestant: Rabbit
The original version of this article was first published in my March 2015 newsletter, Off the Easel, as “Counting Rabbits!”
In February 2015, I tweeted the painting above, The Manifestation of Rabbit. I asked followers to count how many invisible rabbits they could find, and I think a few people all over the world are still counting rabbits!
Local subscribers may recall seeing this work in person, and if you have visited my downtown studio, I probably had you looking for rabbits. But do you know the full backstory of the piece? As I always say, everything I paint really happened.
On our first trip to Ireland in the fall of 2001, I was thrilled to visit the Lough Gur region, around half an hour south of Limerick. Lough Gur is an area rich in both archaeological remains and legend. Nearby, in Knockainy, is the sacred hill Cnoc Áine,the ceremonial inauguration site for the ancient kings of Munster, the southwestern “fifth” division of Éire.
Cnoc Áine features several prehistoric sites, including a burial mound at the summit said to be the sidhe1 mound of the Irish Celtic Goddess Áine. A Goddess of love, fertility, animals, and prosperity, Áine created Lough Gur, and local legends about her abound. Honored on Cnoc Áine at Midsummer, in more recent times, she also became known as Queen of the Faeries.2
My map of the sites on the cnoc left a lot to be desired. I was searching for what was labeled a holy well, but we were completely turned around. Once we started heading in the correct direction, we crossed field after field, carefully dodging the electric wire fences that ran between each segment of land. Then at last, in the distance, we saw a fairly short standing stone.
As we approached, a rabbit ran out, appearing to form out of the stone itself! He is depicted here, but how many invisible rabbits can you find? Be sure to take a few moments with the painting before you read further.
There is also a secret to the stone. Do you see it?
After our rabbit friend ran away, I felt compelled to run my hands along the edges of the stone.3 It felt quite smooth, as if I was not the first person to have this idea — though it had likely also been rubbed by generations of cattle.
What surprised me, though, is how for all the world, the stone felt like the contours of a woman’s body. Inspired by the art of the Celts, in which they represented neither one thing nor another but both, I wanted to depict the stone as a woman with raised arms.
I did not have to alter the stone’s actual appearance much at all to create this effect. I tried to put the semblance of facial features on the stone with lichen to play with the balance, but this was way too much — thus confirming that I had the illusion exactly in the middle where it needed to be.
When seeking rabbits, some viewers see a running hare in the long, low cloud on the right — I wish I had thought of that! Some find a rabbit in the stone instead of a woman — her breasts become the cheeks; her arms, the ears. Rabbits multiply, and I agree she looks rabbit-like. Some viewers see her raised arms as angel wings.
I imagine she is Áine.
Want to know how many intentional rabbits there are and their location? Email me for the answer and the rest of the story!
Keep counting rabbits! High quality giclée reproductions, printed on archival rag watercolor paper with archival inks, are available of this painting. Visit my shopping cart page for details on pricing and available sizes.
1. Sidhe (singular sidh; pron. “shee”) or sí is Irish Gaelic for fairy. For example, Bean Sidhe is Bean (woman) + Sidhe (fairy) = Banshee.
2. These beings are respectfully referred to by a more indirect phrase, such as the Fair Folk or Good People.
3. Please note that when visiting such sites, one should take great care not to disturb any lichens or mosses growing on standing stones or other antiquities. In many cases, they can be quite old and valuable in their own right!
Second contestant: Turtle
The original version of this article was first published in my April 2015 newsletter, Off the Easel, as “Turtle Always Gets There.“
Not all of my paintings are derived from physical sacred sites — some are a result of meditation. One such work is Turtle’s Progress.
A few years ago, I experienced a temporary knee injury. During the rehab process, while meditating on the issue, I saw myself as a turtle, heading towards my higher self — my future healed self, if you will. The uplifting thought I came away with from this image was,
“It may take Turtle awhile to get there, but Turtle always gets there.”
My husband took the reference photographs of me in a field at a park just north of our city. I was pleased that daffodils were blooming at the time, because I saw them as a symbol of the new beginnings and growth that I felt was inherent in the message of the painting.
As for the turtle, my model was Jack from a nearby Nature Science Center. I selected him from three candidates, and after I described what I needed to the Center’s helper, she placed Jack on the floor, heading in the direction of the light.
That box turtle could really move! He was quite the sprinter — I have several reference shots that are out of focus because he was moving so quickly! A couple of years later, I was delighted to see Jack again and to learn that he and his wife were expecting, as she had recently laid a clutch of eggs: Turtle’s new beginnings.
Who will win, Rabbit or Turtle? Vote now in the Comments section below!
Fans of the animal last to the finish line need not despair, however — eventually, images of both works will be available in the greeting card format.
Thank you for voting!
All the best, and Namaste,
And the Winner is…Rabbit!
In the end, Turtle couldn’t maintain his initial lead even with some additional votes, and his long-eared friend overtook him. Rabbit won by more than a “hare” with a final total of 61% of the votes.
I deeply appreciated the various thoughtful comments I received about both works. Several people remarked that they liked both paintings, and found the decision to be a difficult one. Much appreciation to all those who voted!