By KENDRA SITTON | Uptown News
Over a year ago, Bonnie Woods was sketching inside her Bankers Hill home when the circles and lines she was charcoaling in as a background took shape. Specifically, the shape became the face of a hare with long legs outstretched. Situated next to the figure of a woman that typically dominates her art pieces, a new creature came to the forefront.
“If you look at my website, it’s mostly about women because I love to draw and paint women. And then, all of a sudden, when I was drawing, this hare appeared. I did this little face and thought, ‘Oh my goodness! Look, he’s so cute!’ and then they kept coming,” Woods explained over coffee at Harley Gray in Mission Hills, where an art group she is in regularly meets.
Woods said she feels like she is channeling the creatures. They are often hopping through her mind when she wakes up and slip into her imaginings.
Since drawing that first hare, Woods has yet to stop. She has since created a series of watercolor paintings featuring the women iconic to her style sitting next to a hare. She has another 50 unfinished works in her home. The series has earned awards and propelled Woods into the biggest financial windfall she has had since she began painting 20 years ago.
“Ever since I did that, they’ve been in major shows, they’ve won awards, they have sold. And I’m saying ‘Wow, these little hares are just taking off,’” Woods said. “They’re doing their thing and they keep wanting to come into my life.”
In many of her paintings, the two figures of woman and hare do not touch or even interact. To Woods, the hares are a symbol, not a pet. She notes that hares represented different things across cultures and times, and can be found in Egyptian creation stories, Celtic myths and Greek legends.
“There’s multiple meanings. It’s never harmful. There’s always good things attached to it. They just are trying to come through me, through my work to be shown to the world,” she said. “The reason that I think it is working is because it is different than what everyone has ever seen in my work. Jurors in the major shows I’ve been in have gone, ‘I’ve never seen anything like this.’”
Hares could be mistaken for rabbits except they have longer ears, more powerful legs, and do not burrow. While hares are associated with a variety of characteristics such as diligence, swiftness, impatience and even immorality, Woods resonated with them as protectors.
“These hares have come to me in a male form. Each one looks a bit like it’s masculine. I feel like they are a symbol of protection for the women — like a guardian. They’re not a playmate. They’re there as a presence,” Woods said. “They love her and are there to be some kind of protection or guardian for her.”
Now, those paintings are collected in one place — a book Woods created with the help of printer Scott Schaffhausen at So Cal Graphics. “Women and their Hares: An Artist’s Journey” includes Woods’ writings about how she drew that first hare, growing up in Texas, going to the circus as a child (an aesthetic that still informs her work), and musings about animals.
Part of the proceeds from sales of the book will be donated to San Diego Humane Society’s Project Wildlife.
Woods has yet to see a hare in the wild, but from her home, she can look out onto Maple Canyon and see skunks, squirrels and sometimes rabbits.
“The reason I decided to involve the Wildlife Project is because I love those little critters in the canyon and I worry about them,” Woods said with a laugh. The division gives injured, orphaned and sick wild animals a second chance at life. They are released back into the wild once they are healed.
Some of Woods’ work can be viewed at Inspirations Gallery at 2730 Historic Decatur Road #204 or at the San Diego Water Color Society inside Liberty Station. To order a book or find out more, visit bonniewoods.com.
— Kendra Sitton can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.