I love animals in general, but cats are my artistic muses. Felines are a perfect blend of beauty and comic relief. Their grace and aesthetic perfection inspire my artwork, and their "cattitude" provides endless material for the haiku I write.
My work is primarily collaged Asian design motifs, that are often embellished with pen and ink.
I have owned only three cats in my life. My first two cats were from a litter my neighbor's cat delivered on my bed one night. Clam was a fuzzy little gray female who never met a morsel of food she didn't like. She also rarely met a human she didn't like, and would invariably pick the most cat-averse person in the room to try to win over. Her brother Huey was a rather shy black cat with the sweetest disposition ever. He would throw himself in front of the door when I was leaving, and refuse to budge. No one could hide better than my Huey. After Clam and Huey, came Kittyboy, who just followed me home one lucky day. We rescued each other. He was old and deaf with a touch of dementia, but I got to be his person for five sweet years. At present, I have no cats of my own, but am auntie to my landlord's two cats. I live in his guest house which they view as an extension of their domain. I am their auxiliary food dispenser, and hostess to slumber parties when their dad is out of town.
Though I have no formal training in art, I have always considered myself to be a fairly creative person. For years, I have been dabbling in different mediums, and in a way, "Haiku Cats" is a synthesis of many of these different artistic explorations. This is a project that has spanned about five years, and spawned about six hundred cats, definitely giving whole new meaning to the term "Crazy Cat Lady…"
I would be a cat, of course. Why? So that I could possess effortless beauty, boundless grace, ignore all boundaries and nap whenever I damn well please.
I had the privilege of meeting C.B. (on left) and her business partner (designer/producer) Dolores Lusitana, at CatCon 2016 this year. I got a shot of them surrounded by Haiku Cats.
You can find more work by C.B. Fraser at her website:
This week's featured artist creates beautiful wildlife inspired paintings from her garden studio in the Scottish Borders. Her best buddy Ralph, a German Wire Haired Pointer. keeps her company. Besides selling prints, she also creates a line of silk scarfs which showcase her paintings. Visit her website which is listed at the end of this article to see them.
It’s usually a stance or a look that inspires me, that captures my attention. It's not necessarily the animal itself. I can’t really explain why, I just see the image and know it’ll make a good painting.
I paint with Oil on canvas painted with a palette knife.
I have a cat named Ernest and a German Wire-haired Pointer called Ralph. Ernest looks at me all the time with utter disdain, and possibly contempt. Since I met my partner, I’ve been banned and David is his favourite. He’s an awesome hunter, unfortunately weasels are his specialty. Ernest will steal the food out of your mouth and is obsessed with chickpeas.
Ralph is two and does yoga in the kitchen, with his specialty being the downward dog position. He bombards us with vocal yawning every morning. He’s never really grasped that Ernest has utter contempt for him too. He quite often foils Ernest hunting attempt just for the hell of it. Sometimes he stalks us around the garden when he’s feeling frisky, and also likes to bury his head in giant pillows and make muffled pig snorts…he makes a terrible art critique.
I’ve been creating art since I was a child; however I have only painted professionally since 2014 when I realized I needed to start enjoying my job. Luckily, my partner is wonderful and has supported my decision to pack in my project management career and take up drinking gin professionally while painting with a palette knife!
I’m working with the RZSS (Royal Zoological Society Scotland) painting Rhino which are to be auctioned for Rhino conservation. I am doing this in memory of my father, George, who died from cancer in 2015. I’m painting all 5 species of Rhino: Greater One-Horned, Black, White, Javan and Sumatran.
My favourite piece of art is the first Fox I painted. It just seemed to flow correctly when I painted it. There was no scratching off and starting again, and the colours worked together really well. I like its gangly legs and its naive naughty expression.
You can view more of Rebecca's work at her:
Meet Steph Laberis.
Steph is this week's featured artist. Steph's work is colorful, fun, and charming. She specializes in character design for TV and feature animation, as well as illustration for kids books and toys. She has worked on some projects for some really big names like Hasbro, Little Golden Books (remember those from when you were a kid?), Leapfrog and American Greetings, so it's more than likely you've seen her work out in the marketplace. We are thrilled to share her love of animals and how they inspire her work.
Massively! Most of my body of work features animals. There is such a wealth of shapes, sizes, textures and personalities inherent in animals that it's an endless source of inspiration for me. I tend to get bored with drawing people, yet I love projecting the personalities of people I know onto my animal characters. Even better if the inherent features of the animal compliment the personality I am going for.
It's pretty much all digital at this point. The reason why is because digital painting programs having come so far with the feel of their brushes, and the fact that most of the work I've been doing is for clients (children's publishing, TV and feature animation), which means I will have to make frequent changes to my work and it's so much easier to do that digitally. Once in a while I will break out the Acrylagouache (opaque acrylic based watercolor paint that dries quickly) for a painting , or do some needle felting or try sewing a plush toy, simply because I miss the feeling of having a tangible object to work with.
Oh goodness. I grew up with Cocker Spaniels and my love for dogs (ANY breed!) started there! Throughout my childhood I had a lot of different pets, including fish, anoles, hamsters, gerbils, and a rabbit. When I was in college I got the pet I had always wanted - a rat! From then on, I was hooked, and I have had the honor of loving 21 rats over the last 12 years. The rats have been just wonderful and each one I got through a small animal rescue, often coming from terrible conditions prior; some were from hoarding cases, one was abandoned in a terribly small hamster cube on a sidewalk, some were meant to be live food for snakes. They all turned out to be incredibly sweet, full of personality and love in their own way. I also have 2 cats via osmosis of moving in with my longtime boyfriend. One of those cats, Fritzy, is the cat ambassador to people who thought they didn’t like cats (i.e. me!) She is the living embodiment of love, and is so very precious, because she is a special needs cat. She has a seizure condition and most recently we’ve learned that she has congestive heart failure. I am happy to say that she is doing wonderfully with treatment right now, but every day with her is still a gift. And most recently, I have adopted 2 white mice from a wildlife hospital that I volunteer at. The menagerie grows!
For as long as I can remember! I knew very early on that I loved to draw and never questioned having art as a big part of my life. My love for animals is probably the only other passion in my life that rivals my love for creating art, and I didn’t really think about that until adulthood when I started doing animal illustration full-time. It’s funny, back in high school I was voted “Class Artist”, which made sense to me, but also “Class Vet”. That surprised me because I had no idea I was projecting that quality.
1.) The Lion King, because seeing it was a turning point in my life when I decided to pursue animation… way back when I was 13!
2.) This is actually a video game, but Okami was striking in both its art style and the sensation of playing as a wolf goddess.
3.) The Busy World of Richard Scarry books. I loved looking for all of the little details in his illustrations and seeing animals doing humanized things. He also brought in some less common species like mandrills and he drew positively perfect mice!
Jiji (Kiki’s Delivery Service) Dug (UP) and… does the Unicorn from The Last Unicorn count? Because to me, she was the quintessential unicorn and all of the other artwork I’d seen of unicorns just looked like horses with horns on their heads. A unicorn is defined as having the head of a goat, the body of a deer and the tail of a lion, and the Unicorn embodied that in her design.
I do a lot with North Star Rescue! http://www.northstarrescue.org/ They are located here in the Bay Area and for a while now have been my source for ratty companionship! In addition to giving homes to their animal clientele, I often donate prints and artwork to their shop and for fund raising raffles. I also volunteer once a week at Lindsay Wildlife Hospital, taking care of their feeder mouse colony and hand-feeding the baby birds that come in. If I log in more hours, I will eventually be able to take care of the wild mammals and opossums. Looking very forward to that day!
Want to see more of Steph's work? Visit her at the following online locations:
This week we head to sunny Lake Elsinore, California to interview Kristina Kiehn. We aren't actually traveling there, rather a cyber visit, but I'm envisioning chatting with Kristina down by the lake, sipping an iced tea and hanging out with her pups.
Kristina is an amazing clay artist that specializes in custom animal bas-reliefs for pet memorials, decorations, or gifts. As stated in Wikipedia a "Bas-relief is a type of sculpture that has less depth to the faces and figures than they actually have, when measured proportionately (to scale). This technique retains the natural contours of the figures, and allows the work to be viewed from many angles without distortion of the figures themselves."
After creating an urn with her pets face, she realized the memories it created within her. She began making gifts for family members with pets and saw the emotion it evoked. As with many of the artists I've interviewed, an incident with Kristina's own pet spurred on a passion which shaped the direction of her artistic endeavors.
My pets, and love of animals, have inspired me to create one-of-a-kind pieces out of clay. I do my best to capture the animal's personality as I sculpt and glaze each piece.
My medium of choice is clay. I've been working with clay for over 8 years. Last year I decided to make a business out of it. I sculpt unique bas reliefs, tiles or plaques, of favorite animals and loved pets.
I have never been without pets. I've had many different animals growing up; dogs, cats, birds, fish, snakes, rats, even a squirrel. I currently have a family of Chihuahuas, Mama, Stanley, and their two sons Mister Binx and Chubbs. Everyday when I come home I'm greeted by "the family". They are my furkids. I feature them on my instagram @claybykristina.
I have always loved creating art. Early on, I was coloring in the lines and drawing the best stick figures. Many years went by as I learned more styles and mediums. When I took a ceramics class I advanced quickly. My instructor and new friends pushed me as I sculpted piece after piece. Soon, I began appearing in galleries and stared a business!
My favorite piece is my dogs urn. I started making it for my dog Biscuit when I found out that he had tumors at an old age. Biscuit will always be with me in my heart.
If I could be any animal I would have a hard time choosing. It's a toss-up between dog and sloth. I know how my dogs live and let's just say they live a great life. On the other hand I'm a big sloth fan. The sloth is my spirit animal. How about I have the power to choose between the two each day!
My feelings towards animals are strong. For example, when I watch a movie where the animal gets hurt, or worse, it pains me. I physically can't watch certain movies, like Marley &Me, because it hurts so bad.
Want to see more of Kristina’s work? Click on the link & visit her on:
Instagram-click here or search by username @claybykristina
Facebook-click here or search by username Clay by Kristina -this is her brand new page, so go show her a little love and like it!
This week, we have a different kind of animal inspired artist. We are featuring Iva Valentino, who is the author of "Black Cats & Ballet Slippers." This prior middle school teacher and lover of dance, is also crazy for animals. I think she's a cat wizard too, as her cat is 20 years old. She must have a magic 9-lives cat potion brewing.
I grew up with lots of rescue pets. Especially cats… so many cats! When I was a kid in Ohio, I had a black cat named Mitzko. He was amazing. He was always so spunky, with a lot of “cat-titude!” Mungo, the black cat in my middle grade books, is Mitzko’s clone. Mungo plays a big part in “Black Cats and Ballet Slippers,” and will be returning in the sequel, titled “The Ballerina’s Guide to Football.”
I write middle grade fiction for girls. The books are lighthearted and funny, and can be enjoyed by adults, too!
My current furbabies are Xena and Lupo. Xena is a warrior catress all the way! She’s twenty years old—and a little deaf—but still going strong. Lupo is our wonderful rescue dog, who will be turning twelve this year. He’s a mix of lab and shepherd and who knows what else!
I absolutely LOVE animated movies. One of my favorites is The Lion King, which came out when I was going through a particularly angsty phase in middle school. I still sing Hakuna Matata when I feel stressed! I also really love Finding Nemo and Madagascar. And Ice Age… whoops, that’s four!
I volunteer for Pima Paws for Life. They are truly an awesome organization! I walk dogs once a week, and I also try to snuggle with the kitties as much as I can.
Side note- Pima Paws for Life is the main charity Outlaw Kritters supports, so we love Iva even more for volunteering there!
Be sure to check out Iva's book here:
Not too long ago, we attended the Phoenix Pet Expo. We had the pleasure of meeting self-taught artist Giva Solana, who was next to us displaying some of her pet portraits. Giva speaks a lot about capturing the beautiful souls of the pets in her portraits, and I believe she is also transferring a part of her beautiful soul into each portrait she paints. Giva has such a kind spirit and her passion for animals is contagious.
Each animal has an individual personality and character. I honor and love every living being, and I love finding out, who they are. Painting animal or pet portraits allows me to deeply connect with the individual soul through their eyes, which are also called: “The windows to the soul”. Although I paint from a photograph, I can feel their Spirit and capture their very special personality through that connection. It is a very inspiring and fulfilling process. I never forget an animal, I have painted. They become well-known friends.
I work with acrylic paint. It has the flexibility of watercolor, and at the same time the glow of oil paint.
Yes, I cannot even remember a time in my life without pets. I have always had a special connection to animals, and they are like family members to me. Currently I live with a cat family, whose members are getting up there in age. The youngest is about 10 years old. I have raised most of them with a bottle, when they were kittens. My 2 favorite cats, Mira and Benny crossed the rainbow bridge last year at age 18. They are with me in spirit at all times, and they inspire my artwork today.
I have always been an artist, but I seriously started painting animal/pet portraits a couple of years ago. My friend lost her beloved pets in a house fire, and somehow I wanted to keep them “alive” for her, so I painted them. She was amazed how well I captured their characters and personalities, and she cherishes her painting. It is really comforting to have a painted portrait of your pet, especially after they transition. A photograph is not the same as a painting.
Although, I paint mostly pet portraits, I am a big fan of wildlife. I am saddened by the fact that so much wildlife is being threatened by extinction, mostly due to changes in our environment and their habitats. My absolute favorite animal is the tiger. Tigers are majestic beings and represent power and strength. Did you know that their roar can be heard as far as 2 miles away? I support the tiger rescue organizations, Southwest Wildlife Conservation Center in Scottsdale, and various small animal rescue groups.
Want your own pet portrait? You can find Giva at the following locations:
Giva is offering 30% off all portraits during June, 2016 in honor of her birthday!
This week, we interview multi-talented musician, painter, and tattoo artist, Russ Howie. Russ has a soft spot when it comes to animals, which began when he was a kid, and is now being showcased in his beautiful paintings and tattoos. His tattoos take a realistic approach and many happy customers proudly display his work. So, grab a cup of joe, and settle in for a great read. You don't want to miss the part about the Easter bunny...
I mean, not to sound too simplistic but I love animals and they make awesome and endless subject matter. But if you want the “artistic” answer to that question, it actually changes depending on the day, and is also different from piece to piece depending on whatever set of circumstances are involved. Where I end up with a piece is a journey and definitely has about 90% to do with how I feel in the moment, in combination with that specific situation and set of circumstances. I consider the whole process to be the foundation for keeping myself open to inspiration. Also, I do both commissioned work and I do my own art, in my own spare time, for my own personal artistic reasons, and the inspiration for each situation is entirely different. With pet portrait commissions, my inspiration comes mostly from my clients. The relationship, personality, and connection between the client and his/her pet are what inspire me in this specific situation. With this particular type of work, the goal for me is always to capture the most prominent and unique features of the animal so that the collector can have an emotional experience with the piece in addition to the obvious decorative one. Providing this experience is my inspiration in this situation. However, in my own personally inspired -non-commissioned- artwork, when I use an animal in a piece it is definitely under a completely different set of circumstances, and therefore the motivations and inspirations are different as well. More often than not, if I use an animal in a piece, or if I use an animal as the subject in a piece, it is done as a metaphor for some underlying message either within the painting or of the painting as a whole. The message may be open to interpretation, but if you see any animal imagery in my personal work, it is done symbolically. So the inspiration behind this feature in a lot of my work is continuously changing from idea to idea, actually.
I work exclusively in oil on canvas or wood panel, watercolor on cold press or wood panel, and tattoo ink in (human) epidermis.
I honestly began to define myself as an artist at a very young age, and had a lot of encouragement around me to do so. At age 4 I was already drawing pictures of sharks and marine creatures with crayons for my mother’s dental office wall. I’m 40 now, so I would say that I have been creating at least some form of art for most of my life. And I still do art for my mom’s office wall, but I’ve graduated from crayons to paint. In regards to mediums, actually I never really ventured too far from drawing in #2 pencil, to be honest with you, until about 1998 when I learned Photoshop and studied graphic design at a university in my home state of New York. At school I was introduced to other mediums, but unfortunately I was not mature enough at that time to move on from my pencil drawings in my personal artwork beyond the work I did exclusively for school. In 1999 I was introduced to tattooing and by 2002 I had moved to California and found a tattoo apprenticeship situation. After about 6 years of professional tattooing I was introduced to painting and have been painting now for about 7 years.
To be honest, I get new favorites all the time and fall out of love very quickly with pieces that I may have been originally crazy about. I am actually very critical of my own work. Sometimes I hate a piece and stare at it long enough and eventually grow to love it. And sometimes the complete opposite. And to be even more honest, I think my favorite pieces are ones that are still in my mind and haven’t come out yet. But for the sake of answering the question, I have a desert scene tattoo that I have been working on that I am very proud of and super excited about doing more work on. And painting wise I would say that I am very connected to some of my Native American artwork because it is inspired by my father who passed away 7 years ago.
Cat woman, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (Donatello), Grape Ape the 40 foot gorill-ill-ill-ill-aaaaa.
It’s funny. The first thing that comes to mind is that when I was a kid, I would cry if I had to eat a chocolate Easter bunny. I thought the chocolate Easter bunny was so cute, that the thought of biting into its cute little sugar candy nose was like totally traumatizing for me. True story! And the thought still crosses my mind when they start putting the chocolate Easter bunnies out on the store shelves. Growing up, I was the kid who was always saying; “Mom, can we keep him?” I would bring home and/or feed stray cats and dogs and was always bringing home reptiles of some kind. My parents would send me to summer camp and I would ditch camp to sneak off and catch frogs and turtles with friends. Is it wrong if I say that I probably have more faith and compassion for animals than I do for humans at this point in my life?
I am currently seeking new clients who would like tattoos (or paintings) specifically of songbirds or horses done in a classic, realism style. Additionally, I am also working on a series of politically themed paintings and I am seeking models of all kinds who wish to have their images and/or likenesses portrayed in an original If you would like to have your image/likeness used as the subject of an original oil painting, please contact me @ RussFtattoo@yahoo.com for details.
Want to connect more with Russ? Follow him at the following locations:
This week's featured artist, Katie Walker, lives in Hertfordshire, UK. Katie works as a designer and illustrator for an accessories supplier. Her personal artwork reflects a textile background with decorative patterns infusing her many whimsical animal illustrations.
Animals inspire my work for so many reasons. I love the way they look, how they walk, run around, and explore! They’re so cute and beautiful, and just fill me with joy!
I work in water colour, black pens, pencils, and coulouring pencils.
We have a family dog named Penny Walker! Sadly, I live a 100 miles away from home! I plan, in a few years, to re-home a doggy from a homing center.
I love UP -The dogs are amazing! Fantastic Mr. Fox is fantastic! I have recently fallen in love again with Winnie the Pooh – The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh. I love any style of animation and the stories!
Love! Friendship! Happy!
I am a proud Vegan!
You can see more of Katie's wonderful work at the following locations:
This week we are delighted to introduce you to Melissa Benzinger McGlynn of Dancing Vulture Designs. This "selt-taught artist and self-proclaimed swamp hermit" from Northern Pennsylvania creates soft sculptures, art dolls and other works of art depicting local wildlife. A bit of realism, whimsy and a whole lot of talent are infused into each of her unique creations.
I am primarily a fiber artist and utilize the process of needle-felting. I also sculpt with polymer and epoxy clay, and paint my own pieces. Sometimes I also enjoy woodburning on found pieces of wood, and etching in marble. If I can get my hands on something, chances are I'll try making something with it!
While “Dancing Vulture Designs” has only existed since late 2013, I've been creating art my whole life. When I was in middle school, I wanted to pursue comics and animation. Financial troubles kept me from pursuing art college, so after I graduated high school, I decided to try learning more art skills and mediums on my own. It wasn't until 2012 that I finally found myself drawn towards the wildlife of the Poconos, and started sculpting miniatures of them in polymer clay. In 2013 I found needle-felting, and it's been a match made in heaven since then!
I am most inspired to create the local wildlife in my area. As a resident of the Pocono Mountains of northeast Pennsylvania, I'm always surrounded by wildlife. During some dark times in my life, it was actually the turkey vulture that first inspired me into creating animal art after a series of dreams about them and finding two of their massive flight feathers on my property. They're the reason behind my name, “Dancing Vulture Designs”! It was all I could do to not run off into the woods after that! There are so many beautiful neighbors right at my backyard feeders alone. My father and I watch the hawks migrate in autumn from open cliff faces, find our local owls in March, and witness timberdoodles do their mating displays in early April. There's always something exciting to watch in the natural world, and I want my work to convey that joy and fascination of seeing an animal in the wild for the first time.
It's so hard to get my thoughts into one-word answers, but I'll try! Teachers, soul-mates, neighbors, inspiring... I've always felt that animals have a lot to teach us, especially in terms of coping with our overly complicated human society. They remind us that sometimes we get too wrapped up in things that just are not important. Sometimes we just need to forget the stress of everyday life and focus on being with our loved ones, chowing down, taking a good nap, and having fun whenever possible. As someone who has struggled with anxiety, these are all things that I look to our natural world to remind me of constantly.
I had my best friend and art buddy, a cat named Trunks. He sadly passed away in 2015 and I have simply been tending to the backyard birds and my aloe plants since. I miss him every day. Trunks was the best cat a fiber artist could ask for. He only liked playing with the wool while it was still just roving, and never laid a paw on my finished soft sculptures!
I've been involved with a few charities, mostly by donating little felted critters for them to auction or raffle off. I absolutely love seeing my work go off to help such amazing causes.
The Pocono Wildlife Rehabilitation Center is an amazing center that helps raise wildlife awareness and rehabilitates our injured neighbors. Every year they hold an open house to show off their hard work and the animals who are in their care. This will be the second year I'll be selling my fuzzies at their event in June and donating a portion of the proceeds to the center, along with donating a fuzzy for their fundraiser.
The Col. Potter Cairn Rescue Network is a rescue network for cairn terriers! Pets in need are so important, and they need our help.
Billy's New Hope Barn is a local shelter for injured and abandoned farm animals to settle down and live peacefully. These folks do an amazing job and pour all of their love and energy into their herd of rescues.
You can see more of Melissa and her "Dancing Vulture Designs" by clicking on the following links:
Bird lovers unite! We've got some great Outlaw Owl goodies just for you!
Click on the image to find out more information.