One of the photos I included in my post earlier today about our Sunday in the studio reminded me of yet another artifact from my collection of feline-themed things from my childhood…
Above is that artifact, a satin-covered notions box, about the size of a shoebox but not as deep, given to me by my aunt, I think. To be perfectly honest, this one was my mother’s and it’s in quite good shape since she kept hers in a dresser drawer with her cotton and silk gloves from years ago—mine, on the other hand, was always out on display because I liked to so much, and I still have it, though you can barely see the image on the lid.
And that’s what I wanted you to see—what is that? A girl wearing a beret at an easel painting a black cat sitting on a stool?! Did someone know something I didn’t, or was the universe sending me signs?! Why did it take me so long?
I think cute little girls with unnaturally big eyes were the fad then, and so were little girls and kittens. But I really did always love this notions box and displayed it on my vanity wherever I lived. Mine had a gold base with a Victorian flocked pattern, and the little girl was wearing a gold cowl neck and the kitty a gold polka-dotted bow—and was also a tabby. No matter, it still fascinates me to see this and remember how much I loved it from all those years ago. I don’t remember not having it, I must have been very young when I received it.
But the other cute thing is Jelly Bean himself, who is the cutest thing on four legs, and who is really getting to like this attention from all the photos. I set up the black velvet on the table by the window to photograph these two boxes and he came hopping down the steps and sat by the box as if he had an appointment! Then he stayed around as we did a number of shots.
Note that the kitty in the painting also has a generous white area on his chest, much larger than the Bean’s which is more of a smear, but he does have his big belly spot. I’ll have to get him a red tie with polka-dots and maybe a gold one too, and he and I can pose for a silly photo.
But I don’t think I’ll have to pose Jelly Bean—he’s got the runway method perfected. I’ve included the slideshow below so you can see how Jelly Bean posed himself in this little shoot. He really did come noisily hopping down the steps as soon as I set the box on the velvet, and moved himself around and posed. In between he brushed a little dust off his lapel and shined his white spots. I’ve eliminated the really blurry images but included the rest of them. Of course, had I known he would join me I would have used something else as the backdrop. It just fascinated me that he had been sleeping and showed up for this and acted like a professional! Something else I don’t know?
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My Sunday in the studio ran overtime yesterday just because I was in the mood and didn’t want to stop—and had such feline assistance and inspiration I may have gone all night but for the need for feline dinners. Cats in my studio are both an asset and a liability, but especially now that I’ve finally committed my 8′ x 10′ spare bedroom for art activities we can all find a comfortable place in the drama.
My cats like to join in anything I do even if it’s laundry or cleaning the bathroom—they just enjoy activity, especially when I’m putting on the show. But more than that, being the sensitive creatures they are and reacting to my joys and sorrows, they are just as aware of my state of being and love being near me when I’m at my creative work.
Just looking at my cats has long been an inspiration even before I began drawing them, or anything at all for that matter. Fluid motion, graceful shapes, that particular self-possession which enables me to observe without interacting all feed my aesthetic senses, and add to this the interactions of a household of cats with each other, with the space and with me, and it’s a feast for my senses. For years I’ve begun each day with a photo session and a sketch or two as a warm-up to a day of graphic design, awakening my senses to shapes and colors and composition, this inspired by watching my cats and eventually including activities in the garden. Through the day they continue to be their graceful little selves and so I continue photographing them and enjoying the visual and physical breaks they give me during the day.