Cherokee artist follows in father's famous footsteps

Traci Rabbit's Cherokee heritage is the inspiration behind her paintings, but her passion is something she inherited from her dad. (KTUL)

The world of Traci Rabbit is in full color.

“I don’t think I could ever paint or do everything that I have bouncing around in my imagination in this lifetime,” she said.

Her Cherokee heritage is the inspiration behind her paintings, but her passion is something she inherited from her dad.

“You get so in the moment of working that it almost becomes second nature,” said Traci.

Born in 1946, Bill Rabbit was never professionally trained as an artist. He went from painting Army tanks in Vietnam to transforming canvases with a unique palette that earned him national recognition. His last name became the inspiration for his trademark signature, a rabbit with a brush and a palette.

From the moment Traci entered his life, Bill Rabbit’s little girl became his colorful shadow and his protege.

“(Painting) feels complete,” said Traci. “It feels like you’re doing exactly what you’re supposed to be doing.”

The two painted and traveled around the country together. It was a father-daughter bond that was unbroken until April 2012 when Bill passed away.

“I remember having the conversation with him. You were there when I came into the world, I’m here with you as you’re going to the next. How special is that?” said Traci.

She didn’t paint for two years until she found the strength to pick up her dad’s brushes once again.

Since then, Traci realized her dad is always around.

“You know what, I wasn’t supposed to paint with this palette,” said Traci, looking at a smudged paint palette in her hand.

On closer look, she pointed out a profile in the paint smudges of a man wearing a Native American headdress.

“There (is) this headdress, it’s a profile, nose and a chin,” said Traci.

It’s not just profiles in palettes that reinforce Traci’s faith. One day while watching the sunset, she asked her father for a sign he was still here. Traci said she snapped a photo of the sunset and posted it on Facebook. The next day, someone commented how they saw a something in the sunset. It was then that Traci looked closely at her picture.

“It would be just like my dad to not send something small, but send the whole sky to me,” said Traci.

Instead of a canvas, Bill’s trademark rabbit was painted in the sunset.

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