When describing his work, Rabbitville artist Steven Van has a rooted fascination with the visual luxuries of the ancient Suessian and a commanding hunger to explore native charm within the disciplines of the real and unreal cultures. The southern Californian artist submitted a prospectus for the Rabbitville public art project that won the heart of sponsor Coca-Cola. Together Steven Van and Coca-Cola collaborated on an amazing addition to the growing herd of rabbit sculptures.
Steven Van was born in Fallbrook, CA in 1986, and for the last ten years, Van’s work has been exhibited at commercial, private collections, galleries, and museums in California, Nevada, Oregon and Washington.
How did you hear about the Rabbitville program?
Steven: A friend of mine on Instagram shared the “Call for Artists” post. So I applied and spent a good week on the proposal. This is when I discovered the project had a spell on me….In a good way.
Are you classically trained?
Steven: Yes, I studied under and traveled around painting murals with a world-renowned artist for 7 years. I spent a lot of time appreciating art history, making faithful copies from dead heroes and old masters. Then I landed representation with an Italian gallery painting 15th and 16th century inspired Italian Art and elaborate ornamentation or Art Nouveau inspired art.
What got you into graphic design/ visual art?
Steven: Visual art had me at an early age. I remember collecting rocks, cracking them open and being so fascinated seeing inside them. I guess that was my first art lesson on contrast. The shock and awe of an ugly rock and its inner beauty…. Nice drama there. It spoke and communicated to me so loudly it almost felt like someone was actually there teaching me some serious life lessons.
What was it like collaborating with a sponsor like Coca-Cola?
Steven: Honored! Working with one of the worlds largest brands was such an incredible experience and gift. The collaboration was a huge success. The amount of trust I was given had an immense impact on the final delivery and execution. They threw some ideas at me and let me run with it. Came out seamless. We connected well. I hope we do this again in the future.
Tell us about your design?
Steven: For the rabbit’s ears I was really drawn to the architecture of the Louis Bank of Commerce and Yuma Building. I also wanted to paint a abstract portrait of Alonzo Horton. I made Alonzo holding the first coke bottle from 1899 and then there is a progression of the bottle shape that wraps around the sculpture. There’s the heart of San Diego, beneath the Gaslamp Quarter Arch and Coca-Cola logo. San Diego’s palm trees with straws and trunks into bottles. Rabbit eyes have Coca-Cola bottle cap eye pupils. The colors are the Coca Cola red, black and silver but the other colors involved are from the Coca-Cola porfolio like Fanta orange or Sprite green (to name a few).
Have you ever painted a 3 dimensional sculpture before?
Steven: Yes, everything from marbleizing pillar columns, fireplaces, plenty of skulls, shoes, leg casts. This rabbit was by far my favorite and largest sculpture project to date. It’s amazing to see a painting come to life in such tangible form.
What challenges did you face?
Steven: Painting the belly of the rabbit and trying to maneuver a brush in and out of the legs was fun. And finding level and center lines on a 3-D object was interesting. I love a good challenge.
How was prepping the sculpture?
Steven: It’s all in the prep work! Took me 1 week to sand and prime the rabbit. I applied 7 coats of primer like a living rabbit would have 7 layers of skin.
Did this project inspire you to do other 3 dimensional work?
Steven: Absolutely, I’m always thrilled to be expanding my fine art endeavors. Sculpture or not, I am excited about what the future holds.
Steven’s Coca-Cola Rabbit got the name Rudy! Right now he sits with the other rabbits in the lobby of the Hard Rock Hotel, and then will continue on the downtown exhibition promoting the 150th anniversary until May 24, 2018. Make sure to check in as to where the colony is headed next at gaslamp.org/rabbitville. Also make sure to post your picture with Rudy or the other rabbits and #rabbitville!