a casein bird and an egg tempera cat

“Tiger got to hunt, bird got to fly;
Man got to sit and wonder ‘why, why, why?’
Tiger got to sleep, bird got to land;
Man got to tell himself he understand.”

        ― Kurt Vonnegut, Cat’s Cradle


As I play with these small paintings on paper, I am reminded that in the Spanish language the word used for a new-born baby is criatura, which translates to creäture. I’ve studied anatomy for a good amount of time now, and working these small compositions I am most aware of how much structure we share with the animals.  I believe I have a better sense of why a cat is flexible and can jump high, and why a bird is able to fly.

I decide early on when first looking at cat anatomy, that I will make 4 cats. Very naturally, a bird enters this one set up. And because I have one more sheet of prepped paper, I plan to bring in a rodent because I am curious about their bodies and I admire Banksy’s rats.


I mention in the previous post I am experimenting with a new surface. Usually I work with both casein and egg tempera on one image, sometimes using casein as under-paint. In this case the bird is pure casein and the cat is pure egg tempera.  I wish I could give you a better sense of the surface especially in the image below. Texture shows nicely by the  lines I set in and the lines I carve out.  I think of aboriginal weaving while completing the pieces and play that up some.


I want to mention that I deal very differently with these animal studies as opposed to my large figure work. Though I am looking at basic structure, the figure work is a much more subtle study. One more play with animal structure and design and I then I plan get back to the large paintings.

issa – cup of tea

Here is a small painting titled Homage to the Cat (or Issa – Cup of Tea). The small collage on canvas is for the Mesa Contemporary Art’s annual 10 x 10 Benefit Show. Surprisingly the challenge I have is going from working large (like I have been this last year) to going very small. Small was natural for me. Now I feel confined, unlike the cat I render.

The work is an abstract study of the skeletal and muscular systems of the feline.  I set her into a map of Maricopa County and the surrounding area.  After completing the work, I return to it and add a cup of tea to the lower left corner.

Three years ago we rescued and adopted a gray and white tabby kitten. We drove out to Florence, AZ to see her. Calm and easy, she came to me. She happily laid on her back, in my lap,  as we drove the 60 miles back to Phoenix.

The kitty ran away the first night with us. We managed to hear her meowing in the dark of the night, and my husband scaled several walls to retrieve her. I called her Papillon the next few days, french for butterfly. It was also the name of a 1973 movie about a prison escape. Florence, AZ has 3 prisons. Between her coming from Florence and the great escape, it seemed logical.

Today she is Issa. She loves the car and often travels with us to Texas. We walk her a couple of times a day. She knows all the neighbors, and they her. If not for her jumping ability I might think she’s more dog than cat. I’ve known her to jump rooftop to rooftop and from ground to roof in an instant. One of her favorite games is chasing a ball thrown to the top of the house. She runs up to chase it, or waits for it to drop, we never know how she’ll respond. I’ve often wondered what sort of bone and muscle structure this animal has.

Tiffany, at MCA, reminds me about the fund-raiser and I decide to set aside time to complete this study for it. It’s a light-hearted collage painting that depicts our cat, in x-ray. The name Papillon never stuck. I was too superstitious that she’d live up to it. She’s named after Kobayashi Issa, a Japanese Haiku poet and lay person Buddhist Priest. Today I learn Issa means Cup-of-tea. One of the qualities a haiku poem has is celebrating the ordinary.

Here’s to Issa, and her morning and evening walks.

Reception & Sale: Weds, Oct 10, 2012, 6-8pm

– $10 per person at the door
– MCA Members (and one guest) get in free and 10% off their entire purchase.
Patron  Members receive 20% off their entire purchase.*
– Sweet treats will be served
– Cash Bar

Unsold artwork will remain on display and available for purchase through Sun, Oct 14th.
For more info → Mesa Contemporary Arts

All proceeds benefit Mesa Contemporary Arts Museum exhibition and educational programs.