This New Member print is a signed digital print of “Smiling Ginger Kitty” made in archival inks on Epson Velvet Art Paper. It is 8″ x 11″ and matted to fit an 11″ x 14” frame with a single white mat.
About the artwork
In 2011, when I cleaned out, renovated and organized my spare bedroom into my studio, I unearthed a number of works I’d had stored away in a portfolio for safe keeping when I ran out of room on my walls. That included this batik which I’d stretched but never framed, and seeing it again I was actually pretty impressed both with what I had accomplished as a 12-year-old in a media totally new to me as well as how I rendered the colors and stripe patterns on an orange tabby cat when my cat at the time was gray and white. I’d used my cat and cat themes in several art projects at that time and it seems I was determined to render my cats and cats in general in artwork even back then.
I clearly remember watching the teacher show us the batik process of painting melted wax onto the cloth and letting the wax harden and then dipping it in dye baths, using successively darker dyes with more wax coatings in between to resist the new color in those areas. I grew up watching people make pysanky, the highly patterned and multi-colored Ukrainian Easter eggs. I had made a few myself by that time and it was the same principle of covering an area with wax and then dipping it in dye. I actually remember painting the wax on the fabric in the correct areas and dipping the fabric into the dye, then later ironing it out onto newspaper.
But my kitty was gray and white, and to my knowledge I didn’t know an orange kitty of anyone else’s very well at all, though I’m sure, knowing all the cats I encountered around our neighborhood, there was likely more than one tabby I encountered. I have no idea where the idea began, or even if I had a reference photo. I don’t remember actually visualizing the orange kitty with its paws rolled under and an orange kitty smile, like they do, but I remember sketching kitties in this shape at that time.
Since this process depended on the use of color, then, I chose the color of a cat I was sure I had seen, an orange cat; I loved bright colors then as now, and was particularly into pinks and oranges, especially fluorescent colors. Well, it was the early 70s. Well, the whole thing is kind of reminiscent of an early 70s style. And I realize how many things stay with us through the years as I recognize that influence still appears in what I do today.
But it also has echoes of The Cheshire Cat from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, long one of my favorite stories, and being an early cat person The Cheshire Cat was a favorite right away, along with The White Kitten.
Now that I look at it from the perspective of 25 years of drawing cats, I’m amazed at my 12-year-old’s observation skills and ability to visualize. How did I know where and how the stripes fell, how they were shaped, how they curved around the hip, and how some actually came up from the bottom rather than down from the top? And the subtle tone-on-tone orange, and the white bib? Perhaps the white bib was inspired by Bootsie’s white bib. What took me so long to get around to painting cats, like, 20 years later?
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