I’ve always thought of myself as a dog person, but lately I’m questioning if I’m turning into a crazy cat lady. Why? Because of all the cat paintings I’ve done lately.
Watch Out Dogs, Cats Are Looking To Steal Your Spot
While I’ve only painted a few cat portraits recently, it’s significantly more than I’ve done in many years. Dogs have always been the majority of my pet portraits, but I’m beginning to think cats are gaining more social status in society. Uh oh!
It makes sense with all the funny cat videos on YouTube and the growing popularity of events like CatCon (ya, that’s a thing). And it also makes sense when I get to paint cats like Jorge & Nacho, as seen in the painting above.
H I L A R I O U S
When I was asked if I could paint a couple of beloved cats for a friend’s sister I was hesitant. After all, I’ve always had a block when it came to painting cats. I simply don’t connect to them the same way I do to dogs. However, after one look at the hilarious photo I would be working from, I couldn’t wait to get started.
Nacho, the cat in the foreground, completely cracks me up. I’ve never smiled and giggled so much while doing a painting. He was making me want to get a cat and I KNOW my dog, Penelope, would not be into that at all.
The Progression of Jorge & Nacho
As you can see from the progression photo above, Jorge & Nacho went through a pretty dramatic transformation from rough sketch on the upper left to final painting on the lower right.
I always start the sketch in burnt umber and then build from dark to light, trying not to pollute my lighter colors. This is a good rule of thumb that I sometimes forget to follow, but not this time!
It’s All About The Eyes For Me
In the image on the top right, you can see where I started Nacho’s eyes. I like to have company when I paint and getting the eyes in early makes me feel like the subject is with me. A lot of artists save the eyes till last, but that is just impossible for me to do.
You can see how flat the eyes look in the beginning. I started to get a little anxiety at this point because I’m never sure if I’m going to be able to capture the magic of a realistic eye.
But a few simple highlights as seen on the bottom left and BOOM – eyes! I’ve painted a lot of eyes over the years and it never gets old when I see a set of gorgeous eyes suddenly staring back at me.
The Fur Nearly Made Me Crazy
Fur some reason I was delusional enough to think that the fur would be easy to paint. This was probably a good thing as I may have passed on the job if I had known what a challenge it would be.
There always comes a point in every painting I do where it feels like I’m going to fail big time. Finishing the fur in this painting was that point for me.
My instinct is to paint as photo-realistic as I can, but I’ve found that not to be a satisfying outcome. Also, if I tried to paint every individual hair on a pet I would never finish a painting.
The human brain is brilliant at filling in gaps to make things look “real”. Leaving some loose and messy brushwork visible in the final painting isn’t a big deal as long as the values are right. In the close-up above you can see how undefined the brushstrokes are. By doing this it gives the viewer’s mind something to play with even though they may not be conscious of it.
I think this is one of the many reasons why people like looking at art. It’s entertaining in a way that is virtually imperceptible.
Just when I thought it couldn’t get any better than Jorge & Nacho, I was asked to paint this gorgeous Maine Coon, Prescott, by another dear friend. Isn’t he just about the most dreamy cat you’ve ever seen? (Please don’t tell Penelope I’m talking this way about cats. 😉 )
This painting is very small – only 6″x6″. However, Prescott’s gorgeous eyes allow the work to have a huge presence.
I don’t think the painting above is the final version, but it’s pretty close. What I did with Prescott was have his eyes be the focal point, being as clear and bright as possible, and then allow the fur to be a little loose and messy. Again, the fur was the bigger challenge for me but I was happy with the outcome.
Call Me Crazy, But I Needed To Paint Another Cat!
After I finished up my cat commissions, I started to miss them. To remedy this, I found a beautiful black cat image on a free stock photo site and knew I had to paint it. This time I put down the brushes and picked up the iPad Pro.
As you may remember from a previous post, I’ve been learning a digital program called ArtRage. This program has been a real surprise and has helped me to practice art in a whole new way.
Once again, it was the cat’s eyes that were the focal point of this work. They were more of a challenge than I expected due to the subtleties of color in the iris. This time the fur was much easier because with a black cat you only need to paint the highlights.
What did surprise me about painting the fur was achieving the “softness” of it on the top of the cat’s head. I simply smeared a glob of milk chocolate color around. I was going to fix it but then realized it worked so I left it alone.
Where Did The Term “Crazy Cat Lady” Come From Anyway?
As I was writing this post, I couldn’t help but wonder where the term “crazy cat lady” came from. If curiosity is getting the best of you too, The Boston Globe wrote this very informative article that will tell you all about it.
Thanks for stopping by the studio…
I’ve got a few new paintings in the works and hope to share with you soon!
Help some cool cats out: Jorge & Nacho would love for you to pin them and make them famous!