I have always been a dog person. So for me to paint a cat, is something I myself would never think of doing.
Don’t get me wrong, I love all kinds of animals, cats included. Throughout my whole life, dogs have always been my preferred pets and I have to admit that I do feel a wee bit uncomfortable being close to cats. One of reason is that they are so tiny, fragile and aloof. So very different compared to dogs.
So what made me do this? Several of my friends thought it was a commissioned piece, which is was not.
Now, do you believe in serendipity? Chance encounters? I do, always have. And this is one good example.
I went to a friend’s house, who is a musician and also a cat lover (they have 3!), with the intention to take some photos of musical instruments for future work references. It so happened that they were also babysitting a friend’s cat for a couple of days. So you can imagine me surrounded by several cats suddenly. I am good with them, except for this ‘visitor’, whose name is Penelope. Quite a character she was. According to my friend, she was not as friendly as the others.
Now, Penelope is a cat that would not usually capture anyone’s attention immediately. She has that brindle brownish/grey, slight orangey shade coat, which does not give her a cuddly look. And that intense look of hers can be quite scary (for person like me).
So, as I was busy going around taking photos of the musical instruments, I felt as though someone was watching me. I turned my head to look and there was Penelope, watching my every move. Now, that made me very curious. I crept closer to her and she stared at me and started hissing. I used the camera as a barrier and took several pictures of her, without the flash of course.
As I gazed into her eyes, I felt something.. something that I cannot explain. It felt as though she was able to ‘read’ my thoughts. I kept looking at her and vice versa until I felt that she started to relax and begun posing for me. That really took me by surprised and that was when I got the perfect photo of her. That few minutes of a close encounter with a cat, left a very deep impression on me, a very nice one. Totally changed my perception of a cat.
With this portrait, I decided to implement some pastel in it, only the background. I have a set of un-used Faber-Castell Polychromos Pitt Pastel sticks and I guessed it was time for me to start playing with it.
It turned out that it saved me a lot of time, easy breezy in getting that nice depth.
Technically, it took me a while to remember how to work on the furs. It has been quite some time since I did animal portraiture. I seemed to have forgotten how to and it was quite frustrating. Felt like I was learning all over again. But luckily, after a few hiccups, my hand started to work on its own. I tend to think too much when it comes to technical applications and with this, I had to relax and trust my hand to do the work. Spooky that my hand has a memory…
Composition wise, I can just leave everything else out and concentrate only on the main subject. But with just that, a clean cut portrait of a cat would be just a portrait. By adding the colourful fabric and the collar, it gives out a sense of softness and perspective to the overall portrait. One can imagine her gently rubbing her head and snuggling up on the pillow.
The most difficult part of the whole process was, surprisingly, the title. I spend so many days thinking and looking up for the perfect one. Until finally, I have to resort to asking a friend, who is also another cat lover for some pointers. For a person who love dogs, I seems to have many ‘catty’ friends. (You know what I meant)
When my friend mentioned that Penelope was giving me a playful pose, I felt such a relieved. As a dog person, I really do not know how to ‘read’ a cat, whether it is annoyed or pissed. Give me a dog anytime and I can tell you straight off how and what it is thinking, but a cat….? I am totally clueless. So that was how the title came about. This beautiful girl not only gave me the perfect pose, she also opened up my heart to the like of her.
Would I have a cat as a companion in the future? Well, who knows? Life is always full surprises….