What?! It’s been cats, cats, cats, and now a bird’s nest?
This was a general purpose sketchbook and I used it for many things in addition to extemporaneous sketches; that’s why it was at my desk.
The story behind this one, though, doesn’t have to do with my backyard wildlife habitat or my love of wild birds. I’m a member of a small business organization, and several years ago I was included in an article about small business owners setting up a retirement plan for themselves. The theme, of course, was “nest egg”, and the editors wanted some illustrative photos of us showing the nest egg theme. The nests and eggs the photographer brought were not like any I’d seen in real life, and in part because I was to be photographed out in my backyard wildlife habitat and I’d say something about studying and sketching birds and their nests, I wanted to use one of the nests I had on hand with a few reconstructed eggs. That was too realistic, perhaps, so I went to the next idea—I make my living as an artist, so I’m literally “drawing my own nest egg”.
Hence the sketch of the nest with eggs. I still like it just as a sketch too. I’ve been meaning to frame it for hanging somewhere in the house, but here it ended up in the sketchbook. Like the others, this one is also for sale. Please ask if you are interested!
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.
It’s obvious in this sketch that Namir had quite the Oriental breed influencing his good looks. The only problem was that he was gray tabby and white, n ot marked at all like an Oriental breed. I used to say that he was an Abyssinian cat who had been painted at birth.
I loved those huge ears, that prominent nose and whisker pads—especially since his muzzle was white and quite stood out—and those tourmaline eyes. His tail was very expressive, long and slender with a little bend about an inch from the end that only showed when he was feeling especially intense.
He fought hypertrophic cardiomyopathy and congestive heart failure for his last four years, but with his social nature, congeniality and general busy agenda no one would have known he was even ill. Instead of “he fought” I should say “he ignored” his illness, because he did. I lost Namir on July 1, 2009, and I’ve written a remembrance of him which is not sad, just remembering all his ways and days with lost of photos and artwork, and his last day. He is also the subject of several other works, including the art in the header of this page. You can find him on my website under “My Cats” in the first page of color artwork, and under “pencil” as well as in my Marketplace in individual and sets of notecards.
I was trying another style here, that simple outline with little dimensional shaping or shadow. Sometimes I get all caught up in shape and color and texture and perspective that I forget all about simple composition and arrangement of shapes.
This is Nikka, sister to Fawn, born in the first litter whose expectant mother I welcomed and who I fostered. Her name was originally Natasha and one of her brothers was Boris; their father was a big gray serious tomcat with yellow eyes that no one messed with who I had named Prince Igor, hence the East European names. Then there was the little pun from the cartoon Bullwinkle. The person who adopted her, a fan of Thelonious Monk, named her Nikka after Monk’s famous patron, though it should have been “Nica”, but I guess it’s close enough for jazz. I took her back when she was seven after that good household had turned bad.
Nikka was a dilute tortoiseshell, and like so many I’ve seen she had a wonderful soft roundness to her features, and the gray of her fur held a silvery sheen that often hid the peach and cream speckles in the gray. I know on this hot afternoon she was stretching on the corner of the kitchen table just under the ceiling fan, trying to get cool air on as much of her body as possible. I could see all those simple lines and rounded shapes, even the chair and table, though that’s not my usual style, but here she is all those years later; I lost her in February 2003.
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.