I was very honored and excited when Deb Barnes, president of the Cat Writers’ Association, contacted me at the end of March with a very special commission. She wanted to know if I could create the artwork for the thank you note that would be given by the organization to the many sponsors, donors and others who helped the conference be a success.
Wow, what an opportunity! To not only be able to create art to support the organization but which would also go into the hands of pet food and product manufacturers and services, sure, even though the conference was about two months away and the art had to be designed, finished and cards printed and delivered, I could do that. She asked for a few quotes, and I mentioned a printer I regularly use who she had used as well.
Then we talked about what she had in mind for the image, and she said she’d like a cat in a garden, maybe painting “thank you” on a canvas or something that brought the words into the image. She mentioned a few of my paintings in styles she liked, and when she said “a cat in a glorious English garden” I was ready. Who would know I’d been planning to start a series of paintings and sketches of Mimi and other of my cats in my gardens over the years?
I started to visualize what it might look like, but I immediately knew I’d have Mimi on the bench that’s out in the back yard. From there I looked at paintings of English gardens, like Victorian interiors so full and colorful and detailed and always paths and such, and went from there. I decided to build it from sections of my own yard, and began pulling my favorite photos of flowers and bushes and groundcovers and started fitting them together like a puzzle. It turned out to be a spring theme because that happened to be when most of the bushes and trees bloomed. And then, the flagstone path curled around into the image and right up to Mimi on the bench.
The painting had to be small in order for me to get it finished in time, so it’s 8 x 10. I created a layout for it in Photoshop, just mashing all the things in the right place to show off a variety of colors and shapes and heights, and then I blocked it out with watercolor, and not washes but heavy coverage since that would help me along in completing it faster.
To include the words “thank you” I didn’t want Mimi painting but at first had a big “thank you” sign on the bench behind her. But when I started working in the wrought iron scrolls on the bench I thought how cool it might be if I made that form the words “thank you”…? I thought it might be a little too cute, but when I blocked it in, I liked the whimsy of it.
Not all the plants that are in it are in my yard now, but they were at one time. The list of plants that are in it, starting at the top center, are wild black cherry, dogwood, rhododendron, rudbeckia, lamium, ajuga, golden iris, multiflora rose, tangerine azalea, bishop’s weed, cranesbill geranium and clematis on the bench.
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