Painting Cats

After many years of painting cats, I've learned a few things.  Every time I start a new cat painting, it follows its own unique path, bringing challenges that I don't seem to face when I paint my more traditional material (landscapes, birds, floral and botanical pieces, etc.)

For example, cats don't stay put for too long (unless they're asleep, and even then they'll often stretch and change positions when you're least expecting it).  To combat this challenge, I end up working mostly from photographs.  That means adjusting the proportions, since the camera angle causes some distortion depending on the position and location of the cat.
"Eye Contact"
Oil Pastel
Not for Sale

"Side Glance"
Oil Pastel
Available on Etsy

 One of the reasons cats are enjoyable to paint is that they have strong facial expressions.  When I'm painting a cat, I get so focused on rendering the cat's facial features and expression, I forget to make sure I'm paying attention to the overall shape of the cat.  It helps to focus on the shape and values of the head,  body, leaving the detailed fur patterns and facial features for the end.
Another issue with cats: their bodies are so flexible, it can seem that they're never in the same position twice!  I know that in spite of the many positions of the cats I've painted and drawn, there's always a new challenge for me based on the tilt of the cat's head or position of its body.

Cats are also popular in art, and I often find myself tempted to stylize them.  I'll give in to that temptation if I'm making collages.  Usually, though, I try to stay true to the cat's personality, build, and features if I'm sketching or painting from my photos.  This would probably be easier if I weren't using photos of my own cats, because I could objectively look at their characteristics without needing to recognize my cat looking back at me through every stage of painting.  Like most cat owners, I spend so much time terrorizing my cats with affection, I know their faces well enough to be instantly put off if any details are inaccurate.

This month, Pinnell Gallery in Fallbrook is having a cat-themed art show-- there are domestic and wild cats, paintings, drawings, and illustrations in the show.  I used parchment paper and pastel to create my piece for the show, which I'm posting here in its "almost finished" state:

Unfinished Sketch "Wild Inside"
Pastel on Parchment
Finished piece display through June
Speaking of shows, I had a great time at Art Off the Walls in Temecula last night!  There were 15 artists invited, with work displayed on easels, unfinished walls, mannequins and tables.  The atmosphere was energetic, and there was music in an adjacent room.  The music was just loud enough to be part of the background, but not so loud that we had trouble talking to visitors.  This was my first time displaying on standing easels (as opposed to walls), so I learned from the experience too!
 The next Art Off the Walls event will be July 3rd.

Temecula also will be holding its annual street painting and art festival June 26th-28th.

Stop by my website to see some recent work!


  1. Hi Niki, how you doing, love your paintings,

  2. Niki, your blog is addictive; thank you for all your fascinating reflections and lovely work. I appreciate your articles on Empty Easel and decided to stop by your blog for a minute or two. Well, more time than that has gone by as I continue to scroll down to see what else you are creating and thinking. I particularly enjoyed your post about restraint with your painting of those captivating birds. Another favorite was your post showing and discussing the stages of painting for you--nice to know I'm not alone in finding the "middle" stage awkward and being in danger of either abandoning the piece or doing something that detracts. Many thanks.

  3. Thank you Sherri and Mary, appreciate your wonderful comments!

    Mary, it's wonderful to know you're out there reading!


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

10 Reasons to Love Pastels: Just Add Water

Flower Mania: An Inherited Obsession

Spring Awakenings