May 15, 2021

A friend’s cat, winter 2021 (oil pastel on raw sienna Colourfix pastel paper)

Several months ago my son asked me to draw a friend’s cat. It seems that the cat had lived with his friend and their partner. As you may have already guessed, the couple split and the kitty stayed behind. My son’s friend now missed their furry friend. My son didn’t specify what medium he wished me to use. But telling me the materials he wanted probably wouldn’t have mattered anyway. This is because I kind of have this process I go through when I take on a request. It probably sounds a little too precious and self-important, on my part, but there it is. Once I saw the kitty’s striking colors, I knew I wanted to use the background as one of the colors of her fur. I had recently bought a packet of warm toned pastel paper (see other examples of drawings on this paper, 1/1/2021, 1/9/2021, 1/15/2021, 1/23/2021) and I was sure I had just the right color for her fur. The 9 by 12 inch size also became part of my “perfect storm” of  bits of art ideas swirling together. Finally, the idea of using my neocolonial II Aquarelle water soluble wax pastels completed the details of my process for this piece of art. I surveyed the colors I had on hand, and decided I needed to order a couple more (silver and pink) to complete the cat’s portrait. (I wanted the pink for just the tip of the nose. Yes, pretty anal, I know, but there it is.) The silver crayon came in the mail pretty quickly, but the pink did not. In fact, I had to call Blick’s to find out what was going on. Of course I couldn’t tell the woman that I needed this particular pink crayon so I could add just the tip of a cat’s nose to a pastel. That would just sound too weird, right? It took several weeks for it to arrive and then it came in a medium size box in a larger plastic bag, and all of this was in yet a larger box. I remember picking it up, wondering why I could hear it rolling around in there. I was glad it hadn’t broken in transit as I couldn’t imagine sending it back, only to wait for another one. Finally, I could go in for the kill and finish the portrait. Going in for the kill is when I add the last bit of a color or nuance to a piece—at least I try to tell myself to stop and not go any farther. Sometimes it works and sometimes even the perfect pink crayon can’t fix it. And just like that, she was finished. The kitty drifted out of my hands, into my son’s hand and then on to his friend. They were so appreciative. I got a very sweet thank you note.

Not really sure what exactly made me think of the little kitty this particular week. Maybe it was hearing that the Obama’s pooch, Bo, had died and the family was mourning the loss. What is it about some pets that make us grieve so? Not sure if you know what I mean by “some pets,” but maybe you do. I remember a guy I dated many years ago and he described what he called his “super dogs.” He said they were the ones that stood out in our lives more than others. I seem to remember that he really liked black labs. (I could be wrong about the breed, but he won’t be reading this so it doesn’t really matter. Of course it would probably matter to him.) He told me of one particular lab that was his “super dog” and that beloved dog was buried under a specific oak overlooking his property. To this day, I can still picture him pointing to that spot under the tree in Danville. 

In my life I have had a few dogs as pets and one in particular breaks my heart every time I think about her, and our very last moments together. In fact, it makes my eyes fill with tears even now to write about her. Her name was Lexi, and she was our golden retriever wonder dog. I have her collar and ashes in a small cedar box in a dresser and every now and then I open the drawer and say hello, and then goodbye. I am sure that there are many of you who have loved and lost a “super pet” so I am not going into great detail about how my life was better because she was there to watch over me and my son when he was little. I don’t think I could bear it. You probably have your own deep felt memories and stories to remember here.

A couple SoCal friends recently lost a beloved kitty to cancer. They invited me to their house the afternoon their treasured Dashiell Hammett (see his 6/1/2019 portrait) was put down by a visiting vet. Wow, that was hard! It brought back all my memories of my last moments with Lexi, except we were in the vet’s office. Well, these same friends have recently acquired a frisky kitten named Hugo. So, welcome little Hugo. You will be loved unconditionally as though you are destined to be their “super cat.” And even though you will inevitably break their heart someday, you will be loved today as though there is no tomorrow.

As far as I know, my son’s friend’s cat has not died. But it seems that she is sorely missed and I hope the sketch for his friend will be a nice reminder of a precious furry friend. Maybe my care and planning for the perfect pink nose was the right thing to do. Maybe waiting for that special color to come in the mail was worth the wait. Silly me, or course it was.

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