When I worked at the Art Institute, I wrote some copy for a calendar sold in the museum store featuring cats in art. I wrote that as animals that are asleep more hours than they are awake, cats make great still life subjects. Many times when I walked past my own cat, I’d poke him to make sure he was still breathing.
I’ve painted him a few times, and he’s a favorite subject because of his ability to stay put, yes, but also his shape. Cats have great lines. Pointy ears, tails, joints, whiskers, and chins make great silhouettes, even when they’re curled up on a sofa. A master of capturing all those articulated lines was illustrator Theophile-Alexandre Steinlen (1859-1923). I bought a little book of his studies Steinlen Cats (Dover Art Library 1980) that I turn to when I need a reminder about what makes the animal look distinctly catty.
My dear cat recently passed away. I’ve been flipping through a bunch of pictures of him I had taken for art reference. He’d often fall asleep in a sunbeam, creating great shadows (thank you, Cat!). He could fall asleep on top of anything, making funny juxtapositions with other objects (books, keyboards, stovetop). He’d fall asleep on top of anyone, making endearing pairings of man and animal. I’ll do more paintings of him, I’m sure. He gave me lots of rich source material, lots of love, and he let me dress him up in a bow tie for special occasions. I owe him for all of that.
Later is what?
After settling into various desk jobs, I always said I'd get back to painting later in life, and later is now. Again means that I tried once before. I decided to write about my painting endeavor, too, as a learning tool, an accountability tool, and to stay sharp in case I have to go back to a desk job. Again.
I love periodicals, and if I weren't trying to devote more time to painting I'd mail paper copies. Sign up here, and I'll conveniently send it (blog posts, sales, and new work) by e-mail instead.