We had cats when I was growing up. The first cat I remember was a black one named Dicken. The only thing I remember about him is that he liked to gnaw on cantaloupe rinds. I was pretty young at the time.
My brother and I found a cat in the bushes once when we got off the bus from school. She seemed stuck so we got her out and took her inside. It was a rainy, windy day, so we named her “Stormy”. She soon had kittens and they were adorable as all babies are! One day our neighbors from a mile away (we lived out in the country) were visiting and exclaimed, “Hey! That’s our cat!” My mom made us give Stormy back to the neighbors along with all the kittens. She said we had to since she really was their cat and belonged with them. Apparently Stormy had other ideas though, because she carried each kitten, one by one, back to our house. The neighbors gave up – and we had our cat back and all the adorable kittens – which then we had to find homes for once they got big enough. I think at least one went to our neighbors.
Anyway, I think cats are awesome! And as an artist, I would love to be able to paint cats. When I first started painting rocks over 10 years ago, animals were a very popular subject. I had books on how to paint soft, furry animals on rocks, and I studied and practiced – but was not very good at painting fur. My cats would end up looking like a scrub brush. Oh, this was true of other animals I tried to paint too. Some of them actually didn’t turn out half bad – it just took me six days to finish it, because I had to keep going over it again and again and again. I swear some of my rocks ended up with ten coats of paint on them. Which is why I switched to painting snakes. Highly detailed yes – but NO FUR!
I continue to try. I draw cats, I paint cats. And for the most part they end up looking silly. For awhile, cat paintings were all the rage on eBay – and it was infuriating that I had such difficulty with a subject that it seemed every other artist in the world could draw, or paint, or sculpt. Luckily the cat craze is over – at least with eBay artists.
Some people would probably say, “I’ve seen you paint a cat and it turned out great”. Sure, but it took me a week of sweating and starting over again and reworking areas and wanting to throw it in the garbage. Art is supposed to be fun – and that was not fun. So, I tend to paint cartoony cats because they are easier – but there isn’t much money in cartoony cats. I feel like I am less of an artist because I can’t do a decent cat. Which is stupid. My kids tell me, “Mom you are such a good artist!” – and I say thanks, but inside I am screaming, “But I can’t paint a freaking cat!” I have GOT to get over this cat envy!
I don’t know why I torture myself. It’s a silly thing to get upset about. Why can’t I give up this elusive dream? Why is it a dream at all? There are more important things in life. Each time I start trying, I think, “Maybe this time. Just do the face. No, that’s not right. Okay, how about I do this? What? No! That looks stupid! But what if I…..Aah are you crazy?! What made you think you could do this anyway?! I give up!”
I wonder if I will ever be able to do it. And what happens if I can? Will I suddenly become a better person? Will I value myself more? Will I become rich because I can paint a decent cat in a decent amount of time without screaming in agony? I may never find out what happens. But I don’t want my headstone to read, “Here lies Amy Calvert. Daughter, Sister, Mother, but can’t paint a cat to save her life, because if she could she wouldn’t be dead.”
I need to focus on the things I CAN do – not the things I can’t do. I am still a pretty good artist. I paint fantastic snakes. I am starting to do more oil paintings and am excited about learning new techniques. I did a killer still life just this week from a reference photo. It gave me confidence so I am searching for more reference photos online. Last night, I was scrolling through photos – landscape, baby, deer, cat, barn….wait! Was that a cat? Maybe I can – no I should just focus on something like the barn. I look at the barn photo for awhile. And then I go back and download the photo of the cat. You never know….