Art Break: Cat Paintings

Today I thought I would highlight a fun little painting project I did earlier this year. Best of all, it stars our two kitty cats, Gustave and Iris.

For years, Brandon has been wanting me to paint our cats. Not that I haven’t wanted to do this, but the cats can be challenging to draw. They do not care about your needs or interests as an artist. They do not hold poses for you, and if you are not careful they will either sit on your supplies or try to eat them. This can be good for learning how to draw quickly, as they move when they feel like it, but can be challenging when it comes to trying to document anything in terms of detail. So, beyond some quick sketches, I really haven’t done much with the cats when it comes to making art.

When the pandemic started though, I decided that it was time to paint our kitties because Brandon and I were both feeling stressed and in need of positive images in the home. Since we both derive great enjoyment from the cats, I decided that cat-themed art was the best antidote to our collective anxiety.

I chose to paint the works in acrylic because I wanted to finish these quickly. As much as I enjoyed oils in my last project, I’m more familiar with acrylic and knew there would be less of a learning curve. I already had two canvases in the same size that I had found by the recycling bin near our apartment, so beyond covering the images that were already there, I was ready to go in terms of painting. 

While my regular art style is naturalistic, for this project I decided to create abstracted versions of the cats based on their respective personalities. For the backgrounds, I took inspiration from my painted abstractions from last year’s art challenge because I wanted to include bright, happy colors. So I went through my individual color blocks and picked out a couple that I thought were especially colorful and whimsical in nature.

For Gustave, I decided to forego my usual modeling, both to emphasize his luxurious black coat and evoke a sense of drama reminiscent of German Expressionism. I exaggerated his tail and ruff in particular, to emphasize this dramatic quality. Anyone who has met Gustave in person will know that he is not particularly subtle when it comes to seeking attention, so this sstyle felt appropriate.

For Iris, I decided to emphasize her cuteness. Brandon and I have both noticed that she will roll over and act adorable when she wants attention, so I decided to paint her while lying on her back. I also made a point of portraying her with what we call “the face,” when she looks at you with her eyes mostly closed and what appears to be a contented smile.

I finished these two paintings in about a week. Once I had the backgrounds in place, it didn’t take all that long to complete the cats. After trying out a few places around the house, we decided to hang them in the front room. We don’t know when we’ll be able to have visitors again, but when they do come over, they’ll see right off who really runs the house.

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