Angela Raines describes her art and her personality with the same phrase: Addicted to whimsy.
"If there is a fort to be built, I'll be the one to build it," explained Raines, whose anthropomorphic bunny paintings caught our editor's eye at the Mississippi Street Fair in Portland last month.
Raines' entire life is full of whimsy. When she's not painting, she works at the Goorin Brothers Hat Shop on NW 23rd St. in Portland, a job she describes as "really charming." She spends the rest of her time painting rabbits—rabbits wearing clothes, rabbits going camping, rabbits drinking coffee, rabbits going on dates—all with anthropomorphized expressive faces.
SW: Tell me about yourself and your art.
AR: Where do I start? I've been a painter for—oh, gosh—12 years now. I've always wanted to be an artist. I briefly wanted to be an astronaut after I saw the movie Space Camp, but I realized I was terrible at math so I went back to wanting to be an artist.
I do the anthropomorphic thing because I'm obsessed with the human condition. Everything that has to do with what makes us human. The little stuff, like interactions between two people who meet each other for the first time—[meow] oh, there's my cat, she wants to be interviewed too, she's the most talkative cat ever.
SW: What is your cat's name?
AR: Ruby—oh, and I don't have a rabbit. Everyone always wants to know if I have rabbits. They just poop all the time and chew through wires. Having a rabbit would take too much out of my anthropomorphic style. It would put bunnies in the category of realism, and I want them to exist in this world that I create for them.
SW: What is it about rabbits that you love so much?
AR: This is the first question people always ask me. It's not an obsession with rabbits. Rabbits have their own weight, their own story and ideas and assumptions are attached to bunnies—like "Doin' it like rabbits." I include them as a storytelling tool.
SW: Your art is very surreal—anthropomorphized—that's really hard to say. I bet it's also hard to paint.
AR: I do a lot of commissions. I paint portraits of people as rabbits. They send me pictures of themselves, things they love, clothes they want to wear, backgrounds they want to be in. If they find a Chanel dress on the cover of Cosmo I can paint them in it, as a rabbit. It's a dream world. It usually turns out borderline creepy. You really have to learn who the person is and then start painting.
SW: Have you painted yourself as a rabbit? Or any celebrities?
AR: I try to do a self-portrait every five years. It's funny, I've thought about painting celebrities. They are people that everyone recognizes. Honey Boo Boo would make an awesome rabbit. She would be the biggest, fluffiest bunny—an angora ready to be shorn.
"The Great Whale" (see the cover) was an interesting painting because it was the first time I painted "assumed bunny." People who have been buying my work for a long time expect rabbits. The whale is the first one where you can't see the bunnies—you assume they're there, about to be eaten by the whale. When I posted it people responded with that kind of discussion: "Oh, my God, the bunnies are going to be eaten!" I have trained them all so well, I don't even have to paint rabbits. Everyone just knows there are rabbits on that boat and they're going down.