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Starting a portrait of a cat

Creating an animal portrait is, strangely, just as challenging as a human one. Firstly their owner is very aware of EXACTLY what they look like. Secondly every animal, like every human, is different…very different and under all that fur there is a bone structure and an expression.

This cat Kitty is the daughter of another cat I painted called Molly. You can see her mother’s painting next to her embryonic one. They both have very different characters. The mother is very affectionate the daughter very independent. Getting them to look at me was a learning curve. The sound of a click of something will do it but only for a moment. Staring at a cat has roughly the same effect as staring at a human without their permission – they start returning the look with a hard stare whilst moving away! This is just the under drawing. It will go through many changes yet. I like to spend some time with the creature (human or animal) and then work from photos and sketches.

Human sitters know why they’re there but animals don’t.

Dogs can be wonderfully difficult because, sensing the attention, they often roll over to get their tummy scratched or advance towards me on the search for food or cuddles. Fortunately human sitters don’t…yet! With one big dog I’ve found myself and my sketchbook and my camera being thoroughly licked before any work is even started!

We don’t get the chance to really LOOK. To look over a period of hours is a great gift. It’s like merging with another being. I have to stop myself staring sometimes – faces are so engrossing. If you really look at someone, say on the tube, they’d worry about you and probably swiftly move away. It can’t be done! Trust me I’ve tried!

Looking – really looking – at the human face is a wondrous thing. Within it we see emotions, thoughts and dreams as well as sadness and the loss of dreams.

I have a crazy idea namely that if we all learnt to really see and draw one another we’d all be much more tolerant. Maybe it’s crazy. But I do know I feel so much more affection for every sitter I’ve ever drawn.