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  • Writer's pictureKaaren Poole

Portrait of the Artist as a Young Cat

It's finished! Yay! And I'm happy with it! Double yay! I've started setting up my studio in what had been my sister's room (she moved into her own house on the property a few days ago), and I created this piece especially for the studio. I think I'm going to paint the wall it will hang on - but only that wall - a pale color so the white border of the piece will show.

I learned something that surprised me - just a silly little technical thing. I've always been able to paint matte gel medium over graphite without smearing the graphite. Foolishly, I thought satin water-based varnish wouldn't smear pencil either, but it did. Rats! I'll just have to tuck that little tidbit away in a pocket in my artist's toolkit.

As has been usual with this piece, when I sat down to work on it, I didn't really know what to do. I just knew it wasn't finished. As I looked at it, I thought the cat needed more emphasis. As it was, the cat and elements of the background - the paint jars and tubes, for instance - were pretty much equal in both value and contrast. To solve this, I pushed those background elements more to the back by randomly rolling and scraping gesso and light blue paint over them. I was careful not to obscure what they were. I just wanted them to be less prominent.

Next, I felt I needed more going on in the background, so I added a few things, namely another jar of paint (collage), color swatches (painted), more brushes (painted), and the turquoise, yellow, and green swatches (collage) at the upper right.

I knew I wanted to add text, so when I painted the brushes I did so in a way that I thought would give me a good place for the major piece of text I'd add: "From earliest kittenhood, Peanut knew she would be an artist, but she very quickly learned that she already was. It was in her soul. It didn't need to develop. It was there and always would be. An artist can come out of the shadow, but an artist is born, not made."

The color swatches I painted are labeled, but with some careless errors. Oh, well! And there's a bit of text by the turquoise, yellow, and green swatches in the upper right, saying "turquoise, yellow, and green were late to the color wheel."

For the final touches, I lightened the area around Peanut's head, adjusted a few values in the background, and added some splatters. I was tempted to get out the alcohol inks for some blobs, but restrained myself. (Unusual!)

As a final word, I'll just say how much I enjoyed working a little bigger. As I've noted before, I'm usually working in an art journal where the two-page spread is either 9" x 12" or 12" x 16". This piece is about 22" x 24" - not big, but bigger. A few years ago, I stopped working big because I was accumulating too many pieces that took up too much space just sitting around, whereas a finished journal with 16 spreads only takes up the room of a 6" x 9" or 8" x 12" inch-thick or so book. But this was a nice change, and I'm glad I did it. Maybe there will be more!

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