Why Paint Dressed-Up Cats?
The short answer is that I discovered early on I can't paint people. My father was a self-taught artist who painted wonderful portraits. When I tried to develop my own painting style, I came up with these cats. The family always had cats, and of course I was familiar with cat artists like Kleban. I really started with cat angels on Christmas cards for my friends in high school home economics; they really enjoyed them.
One of my early loves was opera. Strange places, strange customs, wonderful costumes, and plenty of opportunity to let it all hang out. I collected opera pictures, especially Callas pictures, because, when she did it, opera looked and sounded real. The picture above is based on a photo of her and Ruggerio Raimondi in Act I of Lucia di Lammermoor.
Gradually, I became interested in painting all sorts of scenes, especially with historic costume. From my father I learned to "look for copy", and I made scrapbooks from Metropolitan Museum of Art catalogs, tracings from fashion books from the library, and similar things. One of my favorite sources is magazines from the 1920s, saved by a relative. Dover Publications is a wonderful source of inspiration. (They also have books of free pictures you can use for painting or embroidery.
Everybody needs a touch of fantasy in their lives. My whimsical cats amuse even non-cat lovers. Many of my best customers are middle school girls, which is why I paint paper mache and wooden boxes to provide a little bit of fantasy at a reasonable price.