The photo above shows my household in the summer of 2006, and the youngest kitty in the photo is Kelly, in the center, who was 12 at the time.
From the left, Stanley, 25, is hard to see curled up behind Sophie, 17; on the desk turning around to bathe is Kelly at 12, then Namir at 13; Cookie,15, is curled up on the other side of the papers from him, then there’s Peaches having a good scratch at 16. Recently with us were Moses, 19, and Cream, 16, and joining us months later was Lucy as a young kitten.
A few things to be observed here, first that senior cats have no problem getting up on the desk, even at the advanced age of 25, as Stanley was.
Second, Peaches had come in the previous year at age 15 and fit in as if she’d always been there, so the idea that pets must be adopted young in order to fit into the household and be sufficiently bonded with its people is a myth, at least as far as I’m concerned.
Third, it’s been a while since my desk was neat, and one of the reasons has always been the habit of cats sleeping all over it! But for anyone who only knows my current household of the two senior torties, then the big jump in age to the family of black cats, Mimi and her children, here is the group that came immediately before them.
Something about the light today reminds me of being out on my deck with Stanley, so I’ve posted one of my favorite photos of him.
This photo doesn’t show you much about Stanley, but for me it is a reminder of how my cats have inspired me at every moment since I’ve lived with them, training me to keep my eyes open and always be ready for that unique image, keeping my creative spirit alive and my creative intellect in top condition, in a way living two lives at once, to live the moment, and to record the moment.
I often called Stanley “Stripe” because he was a tabby, and in this photo the confluence of all those stripes was just breathtaking. Straight geometric stripes in the shadows from my deck rail coming in at an obtuse and unsettled angle, the deck boards themselves and the gaps between at a normal and comforting angle, and striped Stanley breaking all the straight lines as he curled in a perfect circle; I could never have posed this or composed this, but what a moment to remember. And if Stanley had not been there I probably would have noticed the shadows but not taken the photo, so I have him to thank for this moment.
Sunshine and fresh air is a perfect tonic for an old cat. This was from Stanley’s last summer with me, when he was “somewhere in his twenties” and we were keeping the chronic renal failure at bay with doses of subcutaneous fluids, enticing foods, and a morning visit to the back yard and a nap on the deck every day the weather permitted. Stanley forgot all about feeling a little queasy and tired as he pranced around the back yard from bush to tree to post, smelling the messages—downloading his “pee-mail” and uploading his reply, as I always called it. Back up on the deck, a little bath and quick nap in the sun, then inside to eat ravenously as if nothing was the matter.
I have decades of memories of Stanley; he came to me several years into adulthood and lived with me for 21 years, suffering from chronic urinary issues for which he had obviously been violently punished. A sweet, silly, friendly kitty underneath it all, it took years to wear down the aftereffects of Stanley’s early abuse. But he appears in many, many images, including my painting, “After Dinner Nap”, which inspired many commissioned portraits, but before that it inspired me to find a way to share my feline inspirations with the world. Thank you, Stanley.
Here is one of my favorites, “Stripes”, because those are his “racing stripes” down the back of his head; it’s my Stanley sleeping on a little bolster filled with buckwheat intended for me to use as a neck pillow. I think he liked the sound it made when he curled up on it and he practically glowed with contentment as he settled for his post-breakfast nap. I sketched this in one of his last three years of life when he slept long and deep, sometimes relaxing so much that he’d slide off the furniture. He was always vital, though, and a real character who I’ll never forget. I knew I’d frame this image for display at least and sell it as a print, and I also had it printed as a notecard, notepaper and memo pad in the “Feline Sketches” set. He’s a favorite as both a general purpose greeting cat and as a sympathy cat as some people have chosen this card to use for an animal sympathy card.
And my other favorite from around the same time, “In the Box”, my Sophie, having stuffed herself into a box too small for her size, uses it as an observation point to watch out the door. Sophie was a little larger than average and had lots of fur, but she thought she was just a small cat. If I’m trying to accomplish something on my desk that I don’t necessarily want kitties walking across or through or knocking over or sitting on, I grab a handy box or two or more and set them near me. As if a magnet had pulled them there, each box I’ve set out will immediately have a cat in it. They tire of them, though and I’ll usually put them away. I don’t know how many months Sophie used this box, but it was falling apart by the time she finally tired of it and I recycled it. I knew I’d frame this image also and sell it as a print, and I also had it printed as a notecard, notepaper and memo pad in the “Feline Sketches” set.
And this pencil sketch of Peaches with watercolor washes, “Peaches’ Nap Spot”, is the other that’s been framed, sold as a print and made into notecards. Dear little old Peaches in her pastel beauty, I just love how she sleeps in a circle. I’ll never know what is so inspiring about her, but I’m so glad she entered my life, even at the grand old age of 15. She’s still going strong four years later, and is the subject of many a sketch, painting and photo.
This is probably why the sketchbook was “lost”—I scanned or photographed several works in it and framed them, so it ended up in a cubbyhole in my upstairs workroom/studio instead of returning to my downstairs office/studio. Until I recently cleaned out and reorganized things upstairs, this was in a “safe” place. Don’t get the idea that my house is really big with all these upstairs and downstairs studios—it’s 15 ft. x 22 ft., and every room is involved in all I do! That includes the kitchen and bathroom, since that’s where I print items sometimes, dye fabrics, wash my brushes and even hang artwork for inspection sometimes. That’s why the sketchbook accidentally got “lost”, space is so tight that when I tucked it away I literally had to take apart a shelf for books and art supplies to see it in the stack.
I’ve been working my way through my desk and studio, cleaning up and organizing, and in my studio I found a sketchbook I’d used years ago.
These are examples of the quick sketches I do to awaken my creative senses during the day. This was the sketchbook I kept at my desk in order to have it handy for quick sketches. All the sketches are of my cats except for the bird’s nest at the end, and all are pencil, my favorite medium.
I have no idea when I did this first sketch—it’s of my Stanley curled and sleeping. He must have moved his paw while I was sketching or he had his paws together; he would do that sometimes with those white mittens of his. I lost Stanley in January 2007, so this was prior to that. How good to see him again and remember a morning when he was still with me, as were several others, and he was relaxed and sleeping comfortably. I could never resist his stripes and sketched him repeatedly to capture those!
Pencil is very difficult to scan or photograph. I photographed the sketch for this, and you can see the dark area to the top and right where the light is uneven. When I scanned it I lost all the small details. I may have more luck photographing on a day that’s got more light.
When all is done here, I will offer these sketches for sale; on rare occasions I offer them, framed, for art auctions to benefit animal shelters. I have plain black frames for them, and either use plain mat board or a color.