The Artists’s Life: A Day in the Studio, With CatsPosted: November 14, 2011
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.
When I spend time or a whole day in more traditional artwork, still watching their movements, highlights and shadows in their fur, the way the light falls in their eyes, enhances my work even if my subject is not a cat or an animal at all; just taking those cues from the natural world enriches my work and gives it dimension regardless of medium or style. And if I am working on a cat, or even a dog or other animal, I’ve always told my customers for commissioned portraits that my cats are always my models when I’m working on portraits, even if the animals I’m painting looks nothing like them, just observing them in life fills in where even the best photo doesn’t give me enough information.
Those are the assets, but having cats walking around my studio has its own set of issues while interacting with my stuff, such as walking on my artwork, drinking my painting water, knocking expensive pastels on the floor, getting into the cabinets, dropping cat hairs onto a mat while I’m framing, and dangers, such as lots of sharp instruments, glass in picture frames, perilously-stacked items while I’m preparing my work space or sorting materials, and while I keep toxins outside, even non-toxic items can be a danger to an animal that experiences its world by smelling and tasting. If I really need to, I can now close the door when I leave the room or while I’m working, though you can imagine that doesn’t go over too well!
But a session in the studio is like a session in the kitchen or anywhere else in the house I set up to work for a while, and the beginning involves giving my curious household the time to walk around in the space and investigate any new materials I’ve introduced until they are satisfied with whatever they need to know, and then they’ll settle back for supervision or naps and leave me to my work. Of course, stealing my warm and comfortable chair whenever I get up is perfectly legitimate!
Here’s a slideshow of our day.