“The Tortie Girls” are hand printed, hand tinted linoleum block prints of my two tortoiseshell cats, one very round and one very slender, “The Goddess” and “The Roundest Eyes”. Each Image is 8″ x 12″, with mat and frame outside dimensions 11″ x 14″ or 16″ x 20″.
As you know, I am unendingly inspired by my houseful of felines, especially my Tortie Girls. I initially designed these in 2001 because I wanted something I could print myself on a variety of things to offer inexpensively for sale and for donation; at the time high quality home printers and inexpensive digital printing were a few years in the future and all I had to offer was original art and expensive giclees.
Unlike many of the other prints I sell, I print these by hand from a hand-cut linoleum block, then each print is hand-painted in watercolor, and with the slight variations in the printing process and the individualized coloration each print is just as unique as torties themselves.
What enchanted me first about block prints years ago, and what I wanted most to see when I began creating with them, was the clarity of black ink on white rice paper. While I often use other colors of ink and types of paper, when the image is my tortie girls I visualized the tinting with the design, oranges and yellows and green for their eyes, pink for nose.
When I initially print these two in that familiar black ink on white before the hand tinting and I watch the ink reveal all the cuts and trims I made on the surface of the block to create their image, it makes me smile as I remember designing the prints, studying their markings and expressions. I also remember cutting the blocks out on my deck in early autumn, remembering how friends had laughed at the concept of “The Goddess” and loved the idea of block prints, and I couldn’t wait until they were done and I could share them. Most of all, I remember my girls and the inspiration they gave me.
Through the years I’ve also customized prints to a certain extent when I tint them. Below you can read about each print and how I developed the designs, and you can read about several customized prints customers have ordered.
About each print
“The Goddess” came along first and I actually have photos of the process, but I knew right away she’d have to have a companion print.
I looked at Cookie on the kitchen floor, on her back with her toes curled, a defiant look on her face, and it happened—that moment of visualization. I could see a linoleum block print in black ink on white rice paper, hand-tinted with oranges and yellows for the patches in Cookie’s tortoiseshell fur and green for her eyes and pink for her nose. I would call the print “The Goddess” for the many women depicted with generous figures in sculpture and painting through the millennia.
Compare the photo and the print:
From the time I first described the idea to someone, who chuckled at the idea of the image, I knew Cookie was a winner. And through the years she has continued to bring people and stories to my display no matter where I am—everyone knows a cat who looks like Cookie!
Cookie inspired not only a design, but a particular style and technique and a new element to my creative life and my merchandise. With an inspiration that strong, I probably would have done it anyway, but I had other reasons as well. In the late 1990s having my sketches and paintings reproduced was still expensive and not always successful and I wanted artwork that I could reproduce easily and inexpensively myself so that I could have something more affordable than original artwork to sell in my displays.
I’d worked with small linoleum block prints for years and always enjoyed the medium, but this time I decided I wanted something larger and I might actually create a series—which led to “The Roundest Eyes” depicting my other tortie, Kelly, a few months later. Between the two, Cookie gets more notice and stories, but Kelly sells more t-shirts and prints…we just never let Cookie know that.
Capturing all Cookie’s freckles and spots and stripes was indeed a challenge, especially when I went to actually cut them out of the surface of the linoleum block.
Cookie’s face in closeup from the photo:
Cookie’s face in the block:
And here is Cookie’s face, printed and colored!
The Roundest Eyes
In designing the set, I didn’t have a signature photo of Kelly as I did Cookie lying on the floor, but I did know how I thought of Kelly—sitting at attention, paws and tail neatly placed, a little uncertain and with very round eyes. When I pictured her, this was what I saw.
I began with a few photos of Kelly sitting in this position—in the days before digitals so I had to wait for film to be developed—sketched it out, then filled in the details by observation. It was a real trick since Kelly never sits still for too long. And I actually wanted two different orientations so Cookie was the horizontal image and Kelly the vertical one.
The design of “The Roundest Eyes” doesn’t have a long and detailed story as does “The Goddess”, but between the two, while Cookie gets more notice and stories which I’ve collected over the years, Kelly sells more t-shirts and prints…we just never let Cookie know that. Last year a young couple just getting engaged purchased one of each shirt to wear in their engagement photos too!
Order your set
You can order here, or scroll down and read about customizing prints, see some examples and read some stories about other torties.
You can also order these prints individually:
And see the whole collection of prints, tees, trays and table linens on The Tortie Girls Linoleum Block Prints.
Customizing your tortie print
To a certain extent I can take an untinted print and hand-tint it to resemble your favorite tortie. I can’t remove any of the black that is there or paint over it, but I’ve done several to date.
Rosie from the UK
“I found your print of “The Goddess” and think she looks like my cat, Rosie…I live in the UK and was wondering if it was possible to get a print without the frame… If they’re not coloured, would it be possible to get one coloured like Rosie if I sent you a photo? I’m assuming not but thought I’d ask! (Of course I could, and the finished print is below.)
“We got Rosie when I was 11. My dad told me we were going to mum’s boss’s house to pick something up and asked if I wanted to go with him, and as Annie, the boss, had two ginger cats my sisters and I loved to play with I went. When I got there I saw a tiny purring little bundle of fluff and claws and played with her for about an hour. Then dad came in and told me to pick her up, we were going home!
“15 years later, and we’ve moved to another city. Rosie is still going strong, mum had a terrifying moment a few years ago when she felt a lump in Rosie’s belly and [went] to the vets with the instructions to not allow her to be in pain….The vet sent her back with a packet of diet cat food. She’s a wonderful purry old thing, with a beautiful temperament—she had to have one to grow up in a house of 3 little girls and all the neighbourhood kids!
“Whilst we got Rosie as a kitten, Polly is the tortie who holds my heart. She was much more than a cat and was my constant companion for the two years we had her. I adored her, she adored me. Then one night she escaped, and my housemate forgot about her and didn’t let her in. I returned home to find her missing and we spent 4 days looking for her, I was distraught and couldn’t cope without her, but then we got a phone call from the vets, Polly was found by a lovely lady (who was also owned by a tortie – Mitzy) who realised how sick she was and took her to the vets. She lasted 2 days before dying of anti-freeze poisoning.”
A tortie print to honor your favorite tortie
I love a good rescue story, and I am always heartened by the stories of rescues and so much love that people share about the torties who share their lives.
A customer ordered a print of “Dinnertime” along with an unframed hand-tinted print of “The Goddess”. I told her the story of Cookie and she told me the story of Tasha, below.
“I just purchased both of them as an anniversary present for my husband. I really like all your art work, but decided on those two because (1)We have three cats and (2)my husband’s baby is a fat (one-eyed, formerly feral) tortie . . . My husband rescued Tasha (tortie) when she was six weeks old. He was working on a job site near a dairy barn in 2003 and found her — she was really sick with a herpes infection in her right eye. We took her to the vet and she recovered immediately after getting care (although she lost the sight in that eye), and we’ve had her ever since. She has never wanted to go outside again . . . We have two other rescue males, but she’s the queen of the house (most of the time!) and has my husband wrapped around her little paw . . . All the best and thanks so much for rescuing Cookie and other kitties . . .”
Now there’s a cat guy! He gets a print of a tortie and three cats eating for his anniversary present, reminiscent of the cat he rescued. I love knowing my girls have a share of immortality when their prints go off to live in other homes and celebrate other tortie cats. You can also read a list of other tortie stories I’ve collected at shows and festivals when people see “The Goddess” especially in “The Goddess Truly Inspires” and “The Artist’s Life: Still Inspiring” as well as “Featured Artwork: The Roundest Eyes”.
“This cat on the tee looks so much like my cat “Kitty”. She was a rescue cat..she just showed up at my door, and I took her in. I loved her..she slept with me..back to back, lol. But because of my allergy I needed to give her to a good home. I miss her so much..but it was something I needed to do.”
Kitty’s mom ordered a tee to remember Kitty.
SadieCat’s mom bought a hand-colored print for herself as a birthday gift.
“…I especially love the pictures of the tortie cats. When I saw the block print of “The Goddess” my heart stopped. Three years ago I rescued a starving little kitten who soon became the love of my life. I couldn’t help myself from attaching a couple of pictures of SadieCat (seen here). Someplace I have a photo where she looks exactly like your print, but I couldn’t find it.
“[Sadiecat] will only consent to being held when she’s in the mood and she’ll bite if you’re late with her dinner, but I love her and wouldn’t have her any other way. (Well, I could probably do without the biting). And thanks for…putting Sadie out there, I’m too shy. She’s shy too, but what she doesn’t know won’t hurt her.”
Visit the original post, The Goddess Truly Inspires, to read more stories and to add your own.
A customer ordered this matted and framed print a few days ago. I received the notice in e-mail, then just a few minutes later I received an e-mail from that customer with a photo attached.
“Hi, Bernadette…just thought you’d like to see who I’ve purchased your piece in memory of. This is Java…the best little tortie girl I’ve had the pleasure of knowing. Can’t wait to get it.”
Java is lovely with those pale green eyes and lots of speckles all through her fur, and a very direct and focused expression. Torties are unique not only in markings but also in purrrsonality, and whether they be the ones who make it clear they are the boss or, like my Cookie and Kelly, are non-stop sweet, they are devoted and demand your devotion in return.
I’m always sad at the loss of a kitty and couldn’t be more honored than for someone to purchase a piece of my artwork as a permanent memory of a beloved cat. I was very touched for Java’s human to send Java’s photo and her note along with her order and I asked if I could share Java’s photo and her note. It warms my heart, as I remember Kelly and near the first anniversary of her passing, to know that her Kelly’s image is traveling off to another household to provide comfort and love. I promise my cats they will never be forgotten and I always hope my art ensures that.
My sympathies to Java’s human, I know that she will be one of the torties I think about when I look at prints of The Roundest Eyes.
Order your set
You can also order these prints individually:
And see the whole collection of prints, tees, trays and table linens on The Tortie Girls Linoleum Block Prints.Other items with the same art or design To find all items on this site with the same art or design, use the search box for the name of the artwork and you'll find all that's available.
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