Photographing one of many raccoons at the Zoo Ecomuseum in Montreal, Quebec that would serve as the reference for “The Alchemist.” 

Photographing one of many raccoons at the Zoo Ecomuseum in Montreal, Quebec that would serve as the reference for “The Alchemist.” 

Hello! My name is Julia.

It’s nice to have you here.

Wood Rabbit Arts is my online art studio where I get to share what I’m working on, what it means to me, and create community around that meaning. The name Wood Rabbit comes from the eastern system of astrology which is categorized into 12 animals signs and 5 elements. I’ve always appreciated my eastern sign’s meaning, as it describes me to a tee. And in terms of animal mythologies of the North American continent (which largely drive my creative process) Rabbit also holds special meaning to me. It signifies the unstoppable creative spirit! 

The creative spirit has been my companion since day one, and it has always manifested itself through the visual arts. I like to say I became an artist the day I received my first Big Box of 64 Crayola Crayons with the built-in sharpener. I believe every human being has the same innate creative abilities, which come through differently for each of us depending on our Soul Purpose. 

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WHAT INSPIRES ME  

Though our natural world has never been more imperiled than it is today, I believe we are at a moment in human development that will bring a renewed reverence to our union with all living things. We are not separate from nature in all of its forms—no more than we are separate from each other. We are living in a time of enormous change, a rushing surge of awareness, stewardship and advocacy for our living planet, and at the same time, a tidal wave of fear, insecurity and uncertainty. 

In 2004 I moved to Vermont and formed an instant bond, not only with the pristine land and abundant wildlife, but also with the culture of interconnectedness with the natural world that seems woven into the fabric of everyday life here. I have always been drawn to the magic of shamanism, and during my time in Vermont my artistic focus has naturally shifted from figurative work to one of my greatest loves—animals—as a language to translate the spirit into the physical world. (Read about how that shift transpired in one of those epiphany-style moments of clarity on my very first blog post.) For me, animals have always provided that grounding connection to what is sacred—a serenity that pulls us out of our everyday chaos and focuses our attention on simply being.

Indigenous cultures all over the world have long held the animal kingdom in the highest regard, creating mythologies to help translate their powerful messages. Their stories can help us navigate our own inner landscapes, or speak to larger external challenges that can feel insurmountable. The idea of working from a place of connectedness—both in the spiritual and physical realms—is one I believe begins to heal and nurture our spirits as individuals, and simultaneously the challenges we face as one human family.

 

my process 

Some artists like to use every color they can get their hands on. I use about five. 

Okay, sometimes up to eight, but let’s not get crazy! The above is my main palette for every painting I do. It was created through years of experimentation, trial, and research of my artistic idols. A “limited palette” like this one creates a consistent tone throughout a series of work, in my case, a very cool tone. For medium, I use a mix of Linseed Oil and Gamblin Gamsol Odorless Mineral Spirits. 

My new favorite brushes of all time are Winsor & Newton Monarch flats. This is a synthetic brush which mimics natural mongoose hair. I do not use materials that have been sourced from the needless trapping, hunting or breeding of animals for this purpose. There is no need for animals to suffer for art or commerce in any form. I invite you to use your power as an informed consumer and compassionate individual to eliminate the market for natural hair in the art (and fashion) world. I have a special vehement outrage for anything made with Angora... moving on!

My process actually begins with finding my photo reference, which I prefer to photograph myself. This takes me to animal sanctuaries, nature centers, sometimes zoos (ones that treat their animals really well), and simply into the outdoors. I pour through the hundreds of images I've captured that day, then narrow my choices down to just a few—the ones that really capture emotion and expression best. If I need to, I'll use Photoshop to change backgrounds, combine images, color-correct, and really solidify my vision for the completed painting. I make a print of that final image on heavy, semi-gloss paper stock, sometimes color correcting and reprinting until the color and tone is right. This step is really important, since my photo reference is what informs the color and tone of my finished piece. That said, I always make adjustments as I'm painting. 

I prepare my canvas by priming it with a coat or two of Bob Ross Gray Gesso. I have tried many different kinds of gesso, and I'm telling you, it's Bob all the way. (For a dose of happy in your day, treat yourself to this Bob Ross Remix). A gesso coat provides a really nice base layer for my oil paint to adhere to, and the gray provides a middle tone that helps me choose my lightest lights and darkest darks as I'm beginning to lay in the foundation. 

Once I have a basic outline of my subject on my primed canvas, I start with the darkest darks. My darkest tones are created with a mix of either Ultramarine Blue and Alizarin Crimson, or Ultramarine Blue and Burnt Sienna (I don't own black paint). Next, I'll block in an overall middle tone, one that will help all of my lighter colors on top create depth. Next comes the lights and whites. The rest of the painting is really an ongoing examination of my reference to figure out what order things go in. For instance, I generally lay in the background first, then shift to whatever is next furthest away, and keep working from farthest to closest, choosing color that will lay the best groundwork for the most detailed parts, which come last. I always paint the eyes last, just because I'm one of those 'save the best for last' kind of people. The eyes are my favorite part, they bring the whole painting to life. 

Watch the whole thing happen in under 3 minutes here. 

Note: You may notice that some of my paintings are signed “Jandrisits.” This is because before May of 2016, I had a really hard to say last name. Then ALL that changed, I got married, my last name became a beloved hipster breakfast side, and I never again had to spell Jandrisits over the phone... mutliple times... Now I just say, ‘Like Kevin Bacon.’ Done.