“Rabbits are a lot smarter and tougher than most people give them credit for.”
– Monica Laake Beavers
Monica Laake Beavers was born and raised in the rolling hills of Northern Kentucky. She has always had a love for art and believes creativity is the spice of life. Monica received her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree, focusing in Graphic Design & Drawing, from Xavier University, and was at one time the Design Coordinator for Louisville Visual Art. She recently finished writing and illustrating her second children's book, "The Big, Brown Bunny Huh?".
When did you first think you would be an artist?
I’m pretty sure I was in kindergarten. The teacher pretty much wasn’t able to take the pencil away from me. I just kept drawing rabbits on everything – my fascination with rabbits started very young.
Who or what inspires you now?
My main inspirations are:
- Walt Disney: say what you will about him, but I’ve always been a Disney kid from an early age. I respect his creative genius, ambition and persistence he carried throughout his career. He failed so many times early on in his career, but he kept on going.
- Movies, specifically Indiana Jones. I want my art to be able to force people to take a breather from the seriousness and monotony of life and just enjoy a moment, even if it’s fleeting.
- Saul Bass inspires me artistically. (Bass 1920 – 1996) was an American graphic designer and Academy Award-winning filmmaker, best known for his design of motion-picture title sequences, film posters, and corporate logos). He always focused on the communication of design and art. He was able to take complex opening scenes to films and simplify them to their bare minimum. When creating my books, I’ll try to start with a complex idea and try to simplistically break it down using a rabbit or other animals to typically convey the message in a lighthearted manner.
- I’m very much fueled by quotes as well, specifically Charles Bukowski and Rudyard Kipling.
Why rabbits? Tell us about the real-life “Bun.”
The bun, the myth, the legend! I’ve loved rabbits as long as I can remember.
I chose rabbits because of my own pet rabbit, Grumpy, as well as my love for personification. Grumpy has a unique personality and had a very rough upbringing. I wanted to bring this personality to life. Grumpy may appear crotchety and not very trusting of those who first meet him, but he has a heart of gold!
Grumpy, aka “Bertie McBean” (his stage name for the books), is a French lop by nature and a bunny jam packed with disdain. Hailing from Cleveland, OH, he was saved from a hoarding situation and relocated to Indyclaw Rescue in Indianapolis, IN. One fateful day, he was adopted by a lady (me!) and meandered to Louisville, KY. His knack for traveling and zest for life blew him upstream to Bellevue, KY where he currently resides. He is a free-range rabbit who loves acoustic music (especially Eddie Vedder), the smell of feet, and apples.
You also are heavily into sharks, and there is at least one shark painting on your website. These two animals wouldn’t seem to be a natural match, yet they dominate your unique sensibility. Why is that?
I think from both sides of the spectrum, they are extremely misunderstood animals and ridiculously interesting. Rabbits are a lot smarter and tougher than most people give them credit for. They have a lot of admirable qualities and unique habits (thumping, chinning, binkying, etc.). On the shark end, I’ve always been fascinated knowing they have been in existence practically since the beginning of time and yet have never had to evolve nearly as much as most animals have. Again, they are extremely misunderstood animals but carry a very weighty reputation.
Additionally, both animals have such unique characteristics they’re a lot of fun to play around with and personify.
You can draw and paint old school, but why do the two books you have published rely on computer graphics?
I think this stems from my college Graphic Design professor Jonathan Gibson. He very much emphasized the importance of keeping a human touch when creating a design piece. He stressed the importance of texture and use of mixed media when designing. Too often people rely on a computer to create textures/effects and as a result, a lot of art can begin to look monotonous and generic and lack personality.
My love of art began with drawing and transitioned into graphic design, but I like to use the two interchangeably. When creating my illustrations, I actually start by sketching them all out on a notepad. I then take photographs of textures that have personal meaning to me. For example, I’m a Red’s fan, so a lot of the grass used is from the Red’s stadium. Additionally, the furs used for Grumpy/Bertie McBean are actual photographs of his fur.
Additionally, depending on the project I first start with the idea and what my main message is. From there I select the medium to work in accordance to the theme of the piece. My current style wouldn’t necessarily be used if the message were different. I felt like this style captured the personality of Bertie McBean and what I was trying to convey.
If you could do anything else but make art, what would it be?
I would be a marine biologist or zoologist, travel the world and study sharks.
What frightens you the most?
I hate caterpillars - really, …I do. In all seriousness though, my biggest fear is losing the ones I love the most and not following my dreams and looking back years from now and asking “what if…?”
What challenges you more than anything?
The question “what if?”
What is your favorite music to listen to when making art?
I typically mix it up between Eddie Vedder/Pearl Jam, Pokey LaFarge, Jim Croce, or the Eagles.
I usually listen to pretty chill music when making art. I’ve been listening to the Into the Wild soundtrack a lot lately.
Favorite movie? Besides Jaws, that is?
Ha! I think, “I’m going to need a bigger boat” for that question (wokka wokka). Although it is hard to beat, Indiana Jones & the Last Crusade is my favorite. In my eyes, it’s the perfect storyline and end to a trilogy (the fourth movie didn’t happen). It includes a just the right amount of campiness, wit and quirk that separates it from a standard action/adventure movie.
What are you reading right now?
I’m in between three books, “Ham on Rye” by Charles Bukowski, “A Separate Peace” by John Knowles, and David Sedaris’ “Chipmunk Seeks Squirrel.”
What advice would you give a young artist just out of college?
Don’t get frustrated. Each path and experience will lead you where you want to be as long as you don’t lose sight of where you intend to go. After graduating you leave feeling like you’re on top of the world and reality starts to sink in with work, but remember, you chose art for a reason. You always have options and you chose art because you didn’t want a boring life.
If you were given a $100,000 what would do with it?
Start my own company full time and work on branding The Big, Brown Bunny. Start up my own rabbit rescue and probably travel to Egypt, Greece or South Africa- great shark diving area.
What does art mean to you?
Art means happiness. It’s my escape. It allows me to take a break from the real world and just create. It means taking a closer look at things and not accepting things as they are, it means endless possibilities.
If you could meet any celebrity who would it be and what would you ask them?
Walt Disney – What inspired you? What would you hope people remembered you for? What kept you going on the hard days?
Harrison Ford – I would have to ask about Indiana Jones.
Hometown: Villa Hills, Kentucky
Education: BFA, Xavier University
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