Garfield, One Popular Gato

Garfield, right after the move.

Before he came to live with us, Garfield was a neighborhood wanderer who enjoyed lounging in the neighbor’s driveways. Originally abandoned, he was left to fend for himself in our suburban South Texas subdivision. Garfield was one popular gato, and everyone on the street knew him. Some would give him treats when he made the evening rounds. Eventually though, Garfield decided he liked our backyard best, and we would find him asleep on a patio chair, ready to take scruffs on the head. It seemed natural the he would join our cat posse when the elderly couple who fed him moved away. After his history of abandonment, and the fact that he had adopted us, it was inconceivable that we would leave Garfield behind when we decided to relocate.

Ginger cat with signs
Left: My Big Orange Friend, Garfield. Right: Some of the signs we plastered around the area in hopes of a call for his return.

The night that Garfield disappeared, we had only been in the new house for a week. We were busy organizing, and unpacking until late. Our best guess is that Garfield wandered out of a door that was not properly closed all of the way. No human noticed he was missing until well after dark. Despite an exhausting and emotional search that lasted for months, we never saw Garfield again.

Collage of Garfield remembrances
Left: Small garden with cat nip located near the Tabby Shack. Center: My skirt complete with Garfield pocket. Right: Memorial lantern launch in remembrance.

This year, at the one-year mark of his disappearance, we made a small cat nip garden next to the Tabby Shack. I sewed a Garfield patch, that I printed, onto a skirt. And, after dark, we launched nine orange and yellow lanterns in honor of Garfield’s nine lives, and the 9 years we spent knowing him– 5 years in our San Antonio neighborhood, and 4 official years with us. I am still sad and sorry. I hope that Garfield is getting lots of love wherever he is. May he turn up in the old neighborhood in San Antonio, begging for treats.

I’ll Never Look At Tourist Art the Same Way Again

Close Up of Jose de la Cruz of Arte Cruz.

If you live in a tourist area, you are familiar with shop windows rife with ubiquitous images of whatever the local icon might be. Where I live, it’s lighthouses, beaches, cherries, sand dunes, a seagull, the quaint main street with it’s charming buildings. “Real” artists often poo-poo the tourist art as not Art (you know, of the capital “A” variety.) I am guilty of this thinking at times, dismissing that 100th lighthouse painting as not interesting enough. 

Tree sculpture at Arte Cruz
Arte Cruz in Volcan, Panama. Awesome artist!

However, I recently met an artist in Panama that changed my thinking of how I view the artists in my own back yard. His name is Jose de la Cruz, and he is a wood carver and proprietor of Arte Cruz. On the day we visited, Cruz not only welcomed us into his shop and showed us around his wood working studio, he also introduced us to his little dogs, and politely tolerated my hacked-up Spanish until he told me I could ask questions in English.

Cruz studied art in Honduras in the early 70’s, then trained in Italy carving marble. Eventually, he settled back in his home town of Volcan, opened his own studio and has been carving every day for the last 38 years! He gathers and dries his own wood that is sourced locally, and works in a variety of ways from sculpture-in-the-round, to bas relief, to elaborate inlaid furniture.

Cruz is part craftsman and part showman. As proof, he carved my name and a few flowers in a piece of red cedar. He used tools he made himself, without pre-drawing or measuring, and carved decisive, confident marks in the wood with a flourish, all the time explaining his process. He made it look SO easy! This demonstration of his skill was impressive, and inspired me as an example of how true practice of craft yields excellence.

Carving CollageYes, technically, he made a cute plaque with my name, for which, he only took a donation, since it was “for demonstration.” And, yes, it’s exactly the kind of thing you might find in a tourist shop. But, here’s where I started to think differently. Why can’t artists also do work that is the bread-and-butter stuff that appeals to travelers, and also make more elaborate, personal pieces? I mean, Jose de la Cruz is a classically trained master craftsman! He didn’t have to take any time with us, and could have had an assistant pawn his work to us in the already well-stocked gallery.

I guess my rambling point is this — I now look differently at the paintings of seagulls and cherries that I see in my own hometown. Good for those artists if their work is inspiring or brings joy to someone. Isn’t that the point of making things anyway? To elicit emotion from others? I love my Panamanian red cedar slab carved with my name and flowers. It has a special place in my studio and represents an amazing day, spent with people I love, made by an artist — in person — in a place I may or may not never visit again. That is true art.

Thank Mew Very Much

It’s always nice when I see fellow bloggers reach “like” and “follow” milestones. It’s also nice of WordPress to keep track of such things and let me know when my numbers are adding up. I’d like to think it’s my brilliant writing and amazing artwork that compels someone to press the FOLLOW button when they view my blog, but I know the real truth is that Bean, Vera, and Lucy are just so stinkin’ cute, how could anyone resist?

Whatever your reasons, I very sincerely thank you for spending a few minutes of your time on my pages! Happy Caturday!

Cats with 200 followers
You are all the Cat’s Meow! Bean, Lucy, and Vera say, “Thank Mew Very Much!”

The Journey’s the Destination, Especially in Your Sketchbook

A quick drawing from my sketchbook made while in Panama City, Panama.

I used to write in copious detail about the events of my travel day, inserting flowery adjectives, and composing play-by-play explanations. I do not poo-poo that kind of journaling. People write for many of the reasons that artists art. Now, however, I tend to take a more visual approach. Sometimes I pre-divide pages with shapes, not really knowing what content they will hold. On other pages, I respond to a scene, or, just draw things that inspire me on the journey. For the first time on this trip, I included some of the thoughts of my travel companions, and discovered that by doing so, the story became more complete.

Sketchbook Pages from Panama Trip
Left: I designed this page in pen without knowing ahead of time what the squares would contain. Right: Special things I wanted to remember after the trip.

It’s not as hard as you think to make full pages of drawings when you’re traveling. I tend to block a few things in, or throw a few words on a page, and then, when when I’m waiting for a meal, in transit on a plane or in a taxi, or back in the room for the night, I fill in with more drawings or bursts of text. Sometimes, I use photos I took during the day as reference. My travel kit (see this post) allows me a lot of flexibility so that my supplies are easily at hand.  When I get home from vacation, I continue to add color and detail until I have a complete collection of pages from the trip.

Sketchbook Drawings
Left: An unfinished page inspired by molas, fresh avocados and a cat. I’ll paint this in now that I’m home. Upper Right: A quick sketch of the skyline from a photo I’d taken earlier in the day. Lower Left: Memories, impressions from traveling companions, and a description of our hike written on the leaf shapes I’d encountered on the trail.

Don’t Leave Home Without It

Art supplies
Here is what I’m taking along this trip.
Drawstring Bag
It all fits in here!

I can’t bear to be away from my art supplies when I travel, so I always assemble a portable studio to tote in my carry-on. I try include my favorite tools in the most space-economical way I can. The trickiest part is how to bring watercolor brushes without compromising their tips. Normally, I carry them in an old cosmetic bag, but that can results in bent or scruffy bristle issues. So, this time, I used part of a non-skid mat and some elastic to make a carrier.

Paintbrush holder
Left: I wove a piece of elastic through a piece of non-skid mat. Center: Inserted my brushes. Right: Rolled the bundle, and, presto! my brushes are protected in a lightweight, portable blanket.

Here’s what I put in my art travel kit:

  • Pencils, a sharpener, and an eraser
  • Mechanical pencils of different lead sizes
  • Black pens with permanent ink in different tip sizes
  • A few pens with colored ink
  • Highlighters
  • Scotch Tape
  • Mini-scissors (to get past security)
  • Glue stick
  • Travel watercolor kit
  • A few brushes
  • A trusty sketchbook or journal

Do you have any traveling-with-art tricks or tips?! Please share them with me!

That’s a Lot of Cats

Cat Drawing with 100About ten years ago, I decided that I wanted to improve at drawing cats, so I followed some art advice from a teacher. That is, if you want to get really good at drawing something, you must draw it at least 100 times, so I am celebrating my 100th blog post with 100 cats. Okay, it’s maybe not exactly one hundred cats, but it’s A LOT of cats, all of them drawn, or painted, or printed by me over the last 5 or 6 years, almost all from my sketchbooks. Thanks for celebrating with me!Drawings of Cats

Drawings of cats by Carol Parker MittalCollage of cat artWatercolor sketches of catsCat drawings and printsCat drawings from sketchbooksCat drawings

Collage of cat drawings

My Thermofax Machine is SO Mid-century

Thermofax technology was developed by 3M in the 1950’s as a way to make a copy of a document using heat and carbon. Artists use them today to make stencils for screen printing and tattoo art. This works by inserting a filmy plastic sheet and a toner photocopy together into a feeder slot which grabs the materials and passes them through a heated area causing the toner to “burn” the image into the plastic sheet.  I bought my thermofax for around $300 in 2001, back when eBay was still an auction-only site. Due to their popularity with artists, and the difficulty in locating one, a reconditioned thermofax machine like mine can sell for around $1,000, or more!

Vintage Copy Machine
Classic advertising showing the original use for the Thermofax circa 1960’s. You can see more vintage ads at Adsausage.
Picture of thermofax machine
Top: A beauty shot of my Secretary thermofax. Bottom: Photocopy and resulting screen used for printing.

Making screens and transferring an image is magical. You can easily reproduce the exact image onto almost anything from the same screen. Though, screens do wear down or occasionally tear, they are easy to replace, and you can get awesome results. Once the image is burned into the screen, ink is forced through the stencil leaving the image transferred onto your surface.

Hands screen printing with helicopter image
Left: My friend carefully crafting the multi-colored helicopter t-shirt for his son. Right: Finished helicopters in a row.

Recently, some friends came over for a combination dinner and print-your-own shirt party. (The delicious meal was prepared by my friend, Wendy, who blogs at In Other People’s Kitchens.)  One friend has a toddler who is obsessed with helicopters, so he dedicated his printing time to meticulously making a multi-colored image. Our physics teacher friend and my math teacher husband like nerdy math references, hence the speed of light sign. The rest of us preferred decorative birds, and, of course, the Attack Cat Studio cats, Bean, Vera, and Lucy.

Birds, cats, and speed limit sign
Results from the super-fun dinner party and screen printing night.

Life in a Culvert

I should have named my cats Lucky, Fortunate, and Charmed. All three were rescued from stray-dom, and now live a dry, protected, well-fed, and healthy existence. They receive regular scruffing, head pets, and belly rubs if they so choose. There is no chance that, as they lay in a sun puddle by the window, anything dire will happen.  My cats even have an outdoor room built just for them so they can go out to watch the birds and roll in the dirt, despite the sideways looks from my neighbors, some of whom still think the catio is a chicken coop.

Cat at a gas station.
Hello! I live in a drainage culvert.

So, when I encounter stray cats like this sweet, little black kitty, I feel sadness and shame. Sadness because I can tell she’s not getting the health care she needs, or the best nutrition, or shelter from the heat or rain. As far as I know, she’s the only kitty who lives in this culvert, at this gas station, in this wealthy, gated neighborhood area in San Antonio, Texas. Shame because my cats live the feline equivalent life of the 1%. (And do they KNOW how lucky they are?!)

Black kitty could be considered lucky among the feral and stray cats. I asked the gas station attendant who tended to her, and was told that she gets plenty of food and water from the kind people who work there, and from people in the nearby neighborhood. That’s good. There are many, many people who care about animals. And this black kitty is a true feral. She would not respond with purring to a scruff on the head, even if you could approach any closer than about 8 feet.

I can’t possibly help every kitty in the world.  I understand that change comes one kitty at a time. I also know that this black kitty’s story plays out in thousands of culverts, parking lots and abandoned buildings all over the country, and that not every kitty is faring as well as this San Antonio gas station kitty. I try not to be overwhelmed, and give my support where I can.

Here’s a scruff for all kitties, everywhere.

Happy #TRT – Tummy Rub Tuesday (Week 48)

Featured Image -- 1026

Carol:

Give a high paw for Miss Lucy and her tummy, both prominently featured on Katzenworld for Tummy Rub Tuesday. Purrrrrrrrrr, purrrrrrrr, purrrrrrrrr.

Originally posted on Katzenworld:

Hello everyone,

Welcome to another week of Tummy Rub Tuesday! Oh, and if you haven’t subscribed to our newsletter yet, why not sign up by clicking here to never miss a TRT again. :D

The easiest way to join TRT is by sending us photos to info@katzenworld.co.uk.

Please find below the photos for this week:

This cute tummy belongs to Charlie! More of him here.

Morris joins us from Pounce to Life! :)

Say hello to Yuki! We have featured a story about his friends here and of course don’t forget to check out their blog! :)

Mr Laser Eye Kitty? That would be KitKat! More here. :)

lucy-laying

Meet Lucy! More of her on Art is not for Sissies.

Meet Nicky! His mum has a big story to tell about him which you can find here.

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These two cuties have been submitted by our…

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