Shayla Dang

The constant feeling of waiting has been extremely tolling on me due to covid. I found myself becoming more unproductive and unable to concentrate. I realize I have been taking going out for granted, and it has been affecting my mental health. The feeling of not being able to see family or friends is difficult, especially since we as human beings need to be socially interactive with others. Sometimes there are days where I just want to do nothing and forget all about my worries. Other days, I attempt to be more productive. Luckily, art has been a way for me to express myself, and ease my mind during these difficult times. Will this feeling ever go away after the pandemic? I’m uncertain. I feel like most people are in a constant state of waiting…Waiting to succeed, to find a job, to plan their next step towards their future…but all our hard work eventually pays off, and that’s what makes it all worth it.

Growing up, I’ve only drawn digitally, and eventually integrated that into my art-making process with oil painting. I’m always making sure to prep everything before starting on any type of artwork. The usual, making sure I have all my supplies out and protecting my clothes and hands with a glove and apron. I usually make a variety of sketches from my imagination and try to decide which ones I like the best. Afterward, I put down the base colors of the painting and try to figure out where each figure would be sitting on the canvas.
series 2 base, oil on canvas, 18×18, 2020

Looking back at all my drawings and paintings from the past to the present, I’ve noticed there is always a constant appearance of a rabbit or a character having rabbit traits. I never really knew why, I just really love rabbits. I’m not going to lie, I have an adoration for cute things. Most of my artwork comes from my imagination. I love tying in a bit of a horror factor into something cute. A lot of my thoughts end up concentrated on one piece when they could also become multiple different ones. A movie that inspired me is a movie called “Us”. What intrigued me the most was when there were rabbits everywhere and were used to be eaten raw and alive. It was the people’s source of food, and they were able to offspring so much there was always a neverending supply. What was strange was…why rabbits? In a short article, written by Cindy Lang, she had an interview with the director of “Us”, who mentions that rabbits are often symbols of pure and well-natured creatures, but when placing these types of creatures into a horrifying setting, they can become more fearful because it was unforeseen. This became my biggest inspiration and made me further my research into how something so cute and innocent can appear so deadly. Depending on the culture, the meaning changes. In East Asia folklore, there is a story of the Jade Rabbit who sacrifices its body for the Jade Emporer and is sent to the moon to be immortal because of the sacrifices the Jade Rabbit made for the Emporer. The rabbit in this tale is a symbol of putting oneself before another and giving rather than receiving. In African¬†folklore, know as the Brer rabbits, were perceived as tricksters. The Brer rabbit represented the oppressed, who are seen as frail, but when coming together they can fight against the force they’re put up against. With these different symbols of rabbits from various cultures, I try to input those similar traits into my work. When I first started exploring my ideas for my series, I tried to integrate multiple different ideas into my series 1 painting. I always thought that every work needs to have meaning, but as I continued to create more paintings it didn’t really matter. I want my work to be judged based on other people’s perceptions, meaning they can interpret the painting however they’d like. I didn’t want to solely point it towards one direction since there are all sorts of symbols that can be interpreted in my work. I really enjoy having my paintings give off that soft, smooth texture.
beginning progress, oil on canvas, 20″, 2020
close-detail, peonies, oil on canvas, 2020
close-up, oil on canvas, 2020
series 1, oil on canvas, 20″, 2020

For the second painting in my series, I wanted to experiment more with texture and making my brushstrokes appear more. For the concept, I had the idea of foxes always being the one’s hunting…so what happens when the fox is hunted instead of the rabbit? Besides sticking to the theme, I wanted to explore outside of my comfort zone and see if I could steer away from softer strokes and show more painterly ones. Unfortunately, I didn’t really like the results on certain parts, so this painting was more of figuring out my limits on what I really enjoyed and didn’t. I tend to use a softer palette since it radiates that innocence of cuteness, but the paint kept mixing too much, and the dark purple shadows began appearing pitch-black. I also struggled a lot with trying to figure out where the shadows would hit, so I set up a mock-up still life to see how the light would hit the objects and drew a digital block-in of that.¬†
series 2, digital blocking, 2020
series 2, value study, digital, 2020
texture, close-up, oil on canvas, 2020
series 2 progress 1, oil on canvas, 18×18, 2020
series 2 progress 2, oil on canvas, 18×18, 2020

“Piece of Cake” is one of the first pieces that brought my ideas to life. I first became interested in the idea of sweetness and gore when I was exploring my ideas after transferring into UW. As time went on, more of my pieces continued to develop, and I was able to push my ideas a bit further. Looking at this piece, it has a lot of connections with my current series and inspires me to continue developing my work and ideas. The rabbits in “Piece of Cake” appears in my series because it reminded me of those toy stuffed animals you see in your local stores that are so cute but have such a creepy stare. Moving onto the third painting of my series, I really pushed my thoughts more and tried to create a series of compositional digital studies to help me explore different methods of what can be sweet and scary.¬†
Piece of Cake, digital composition, 1920x2450px, 2018
series 3, digital compositional studies, 2020
series 3 base, oil on canvas, 18×18, 2020

I’m still trying to get a grasp of my ideas and what I enjoy painting, but I believe I’ll always have some sort of rabbit concept in my work. Thanks to the help of my fellow peers and professors, I am able to receive great feedback that can help me improve my artwork. In the beginning stages, I’ve always had a hard time figuring out what I loved creating and was always scribbling out my ideas. Now, I’m focusing on researching and referencing artists that have similar styles and ideas, which has been helping me become more inspired to come up with greater ideas than before. Thanks to art, I’m able to relieve myself from this uneasy feeling of waiting for this pandemic to end.


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Shayla Dang by Timea Tihanyi is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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