Dog Friends

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After my huge build up to summer sketching a few weeks ago, I have to admit that I have not been spending much time with my sketchbook!  I was, however, inspired by a recent visit with friends where I got to pet the bellies of these two. Meet Boudreaux the Dog and Jodie Foster. Both are rescue dogs of unknown origins. In fact, both of them have such quirky personalities, I wish they could tell the stories of how they came to live with their current people.

Watercolor painting of two cute dogs.

Boudreaux tends to walk a little sideways and has a large vocabulary, while Jodie silently contemplates the world, often from a distance.

If you’re wondering how dogs ended up on my cat blog, I’ll just say that I love all of the animals, I just happen to live with cats. But, I would, if it were even vaguely practical, have my own zoo.

You can follow Boudreaux the Dog on Instagram. He’s just that adorable! Also, any resemblance of Jodie Foster, a dog afraid of doorways, to Jodie Foster, the actress is purely coincidental.

Recording Summer

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I was an art teacher for 20 years, so I always considered summer as the time when I could “catch up” on my art making. I couldn’t wait for my schedule to be free so I could start drawing again. Now that I’m working full time as an artist, I draw with more frequency, but I’m still habituated to the arty pull of summer.

I like to record my travels as I am inspired by my surroundings. Sometimes these drawings are quick sketches, with impressions that are grabbed quickly to preserve a memory, color or thought.

Colosseum drawing, Ancona, and gelato

The Colosseum, the coastline of Ancona, and an empty gelato cup from a trip to Italy in 2011 demonstrate on-the-fly sketches I might collect.

Other times, I rework or create new drawings or paintings back in the studio after collecting sketches and photos. These entries are more complete impressions of my surroundings where I incorporate objects, scenes, and details to capture what has seeped in during my visit. Like with the quick sketches, colors, objects, and landmarks dominate the work resulting in a portrait of the place I visited.

St. Francis, Ganesh, and a wildfire

Top: My homage to Georgia O’Keefe after visiting her home and studio in Taos, New Mexico. Bottom: St. Francis and Ganesh were both images I encountered in the mountains of Santa Fe. I was there in 2013 while a large wildfire raged on the mountain.

I rarely leave the house without a means to record the world around me. I wrote a post about what to include in your portable studio, which you can see here.  I find that having a sketchbook is a great alternative to staring at your screen in the airport or on long car rides. The drawings don’t have to be perfect, just a sincere effort at recording your impressions. You don’t have to travel far to find something to put in your sketchbook, either.

Watercolor landscape sketch

The perfect spot to draw. This small beach is just down the street from my house.

After all, as an artist, it is your duty to find the beauty in the seemingly mundane things around you, to find the extraordinary in the ordinary. I’ve drawn things ranging from other travelers to my kitchen serving bowls. I even spent one summer drawing the salt shakers in restaurants in which I was dining. You’d be surprised at the variety!

I hope you are inspired in your own way to record a memory this summer. Happy art, everybody!

I’m Hearing Voices

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Heee-hoo. Heeee-hooo. That’s the sound of chickadees in my neighborhood repeatedly calling to one another from the treetops. They’ve been so insistent (heeee-hoo) that I decided that they must be trying to tell me something.

Pencil drawing of chickadees

Pertinent chickadees. Pencil drawing from my sketchbook.

I recently posted about looking for inspiration in color palettes of artworks. After I wrote that, I went shopping and had a lot of fun choosing fabrics to use as future book cloth. Even so,  I was still a little “meh” about any real direction. I didn’t want to just fall back on the same cats for imagery.

(I know! I can’t believe I said that. I love cats, but it can’t be all cats all of the time, can it?)

That’s where the chickadees come in. But how to print them? The lamp in my Thermofax machine burned out and, despite calling every rare bulb dealer in the US, I’ve yet to find a replacement. That means no easy way to screen print. (If anyone knows where I might find a replacement lamp for a 3M Secretary with 15 amps, let me know!)

Chickadee drawings, fabric, printed fabric

Upper Left: Fabric for soon-to-be books; Upper Right: The inked version of the drawing above; Lower: Birds printed on fabric using ink jet printer

As a possible alternative, I tried my ink jet printer to print the chickadees on the fabric. This isn’t exactly a new idea for me, I kind of re-remembered it as something I tried once and liked. I’m satisfied with how the birds appear on the cloth, but I’m not certain about how archival this method is, or how durable it will be as a book cover.

Ultimately, I want more complex patterns. And I’m not sure if I would print the whole book cloth cover, or perhaps cut out individual birds and sew them to different cloth, or both. Or, something else entirely.

Heee-hoo. I’m waiting for the chickadees to give me a sign.

 

This Is Not About Cats

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Today my route to work was dotted with bright yellow springiness. The daffodils have arrived! So, when I got home, I was inspired to make a drawing in honor of the official harbinger of spring here in the North.

Pen and ink drawing of daffodils.

I don’t usually draw flora, but I was happy to see these in my neighborhood.

Spring Cats by EriN Kotosaka

Postcard from Japan!

As I was inking in the values, I noticed the postcard I had received from the awesome Marc-Andre of Katzenworld lying on the table. And….I noticed….DAFFODILS! The artist is EriN Kotosaka. I was unfamiliar with her work until I got Marc’s card. I love her drawings of cats, they’re so whimsical and mischievous. Alas, I digress because I was not going to write about cats.

I hope it’s spring where you are, and that you find beauty in the ordinary, and wonder in the small connections that make life interesting.

 

Finding Inspiration

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I’m gearing up for art fairs, and looking through my current book inventory. Here is a collection of sketchbooks and journals of different sizes and bindings. I have themes other than cats, but I’ve offered images for feline-lovers for awhile. I’m trying to think of some fresher ways to approach the work, including making the whole collection look more cohesive.

Hand made books with cat covers

A selection of cat themed book covers that I created. The fabrics are all hand-dyed and/or screen printed.

On a recent trip to the Art Institute of Chicago, I encountered a few pieces that, while very different stylistically, employ color palettes that are similar.

Paintings from the Art Institute of Chicago; Whistler, Balthus, VanGogh

Upper Left: The Artist in His Studio, by James McNeil Whistler; Upper Right: Girl with Cat, by Balthus; Lower Panel: The Parisian Novels (The Yellow Books) detail, by Vincent VanGogh

I love how these artists use the primary colors in muted tones and variation to create a cohesive looks. So, I was thinking I would try to emulate some of these colors in my book covers for spring and summer. I particularly love the gray-blues and gold tones interspersed with pink. I also want some patterns that are more intricate, and  viewable from multiple angles without seeming “upside down.” My current cat designs, for example, only face one way, so I’m thinking of incorporating rotational symmetry, and adding other images and shapes to make them more dynamic. Other possible themes include birds, tea, and geometry.

How do you find inspiration for your art work? What resources to you use? How do you keep your work interesting and fresh? I’d love your feedback!

In the meantime, the books above are still available to a good home. You can check them out here on my Etsy site.

 

 

Maybe It Was the Tea

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Tick….tick….tick….tick….I am awake. It is the middle of the night and my brain has gone into monkey mode. No position is comfortable. No amount of yoga breathing will distract my busy mind. No amount of sheep counting sends me into dreaming.

I have a cat firmly asleep on my legs. When I try to move, said cat goes into noodle mode and protests with a tail twitch. The last time I looked at the clock it was 3:42 a.m.

Watercolor close up of a worried cat

If only my cats were concerned about the quality of my sleep.

Eventually I drift off. In what feels like only minutes, I am jarred awake by my husband’s alarm, a song by Queen about bicycles. I groan. For a minute, the bed cat remains a full impact noodle. Another cat thinks it’s time for breakfast. Cat number three starts clawing on the cat tree. Full noodle cat is now walking on my chest. My husband is now snoring and oblivious.

I give up any hope of more shut eye and lurch downstairs to rectify the urgent dish bottoms issues of the cats. Maybe tonight will be better.

Cats Get Around

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You may or may not know that I post a bi-weekly feature called The Friday Art Cat on Katzenworld, an amazing blog about all things cat. Well, it’s turned out to be a lot of fun for me, and other bloggers like what I’m doing enough to re-post my art! You can see how My Daily Musings‘ features My Article Read (this week, The Friday Art Cat is #22 on the list,) and Ravenhawks’ Magazine, a comprehensive site about spirituality and earth-friendly practices, has given The Friday Art Cat a prominent place on their post.

Closer to home, Vera, Lucy, and Bean are starting to get a little supervised outside time on the back patio to soak up the warming sun!

Three cats laying on a patio.

Left: Bean, Right: Lucy, Lower: Vera                                    We love our sunny patio!

Happy Spring weekend, everybody, and thanks for checking out the cats and news this Caturday.

Cats Helpful, Not Helpful

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This is the time of year where I work on costumes for a local high school musical. We’re doing Bye Bye, Birdie, a bouncy musical set in the 1950’s. (Imagine lots of circle skirts and Americana.)  At first, the cats were very interested in assisting, that is, until they realized that there are no actual birds in the show.

Cat looking at vintage patterns

Lucy likes to give design advice and has a good eye for color.

Cat sitting atop clothes.

Bean, ever the rational one, knows when to question my decisions. Here she asks, “you’re not really going to do that, are you?” She’s saved me from bad decisions more than once.

Sleeping cat on a sewing table.

Vera is content to allow work to progress, as long as she has a place on the sewing table.

Shelter

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I may have mentioned it before, but I love Illustration Friday, a site where illustrators respond to a weekly prompt based on a theme. It’s a great place to see a lot of creative responses to the motif, and to post your own theme-related work. This week’s prompt is SHELTER, which fits perfectly with some of my other recent posts. Like this Friday Art Cat on Katzenworld, this previous post about Los Gatos de Panama, and this one about a little kitty who lives in a culvert.

Cat under an umbrella, watercolor painting

Rainy cat.

Here’s a watercolor sketch that was inspired by a rainstorm and my cat, Miss Bean, who is wary of any water that falls from the sky. For me, it’s not only a portrait of my own cat who was a stray, but also a symbol for all the cats, and other homeless animals who need protection, food, medicine and shelter.