Fine Art Felines Friday: Electric Cat by Louis Wain

An Electric Cat painted by Louis Wain.

An Electric Cat painted by Louis Wain.

Happy Independence Day!  I chose today’s painting by Louis Wain because it almost looks like this cat is erupting into fireworks, which is appropriate for my current blogging soundtrack (hint: it’s just before sunset and people in my neighborhood are getting amped up on beer and whiskey and are ready to light things on fire and watch them explode already!).  I could not find a title or a date for this piece, but that’s not too surprising, since Wain painted a lot of cat pictures like this in his later years, many of which were untitled and undated.  But let me back up.

I can’t believe, that as a person who loves cats and who loves art, and even more loves art featuring cats, I’d never heard of Louis Wain.  Seriously.  Just do an image google for “Louis Wain cats” and you’ll see what I mean – what a prolific painter!  He was born all the way back in 1860 in London, and led an unusual life, it seems to me.  He was the oldest of six children; none of his five sisters were ever married, but lived with their mother; all except for the youngest sister, who was declared insane and was admitted to an asylum.  Strangely enough, Wain, who had a cleft lip, did not attend regular school as a child, but achieved modest success as a free-lance artist with his illustrations of animals and the English countryside.  At the age of 23, he married Emily, who succumbed to breast cancer a mere 3 years into their marriage.  However, it was during her time of sickness that Emily and Louis rescued a black and white kitten that they named Peter, who did much to comfort Emily while she was ill.  Louis produced many sketches and paintings of Peter, who changed the course of his art for the rest of Louis’ life.

While Louis’ early work was more realistic, Louis’ intermediate works were anthropomorphized versions of cats, wearing the latest fashions, having parties, and doing other things that humans might do.  During this time, Louis was actively involved with several animal charities such as the Governing Council of Our Dumb Friends League, the Society for the Protection of Cats, and the Anti-Vivisection Society. He was also active in the National Cat Club, acting as President and Chairman of the committee at times.  You gotta love a man who loves cats this much, right???

Sadly, during his later years, Louis was diagnosed with schizophrenia and was institutionalized until someone publicized his plight (he was quite a popular artist for his time, although poorly managed his money).  His new doctor diagnosed him instead with Asperger’s Syndrome, a type of autism, and Louis was moved to a hospital that had a garden and colony of cats, which Louis enjoyed for the last 15 years of his life.  It was during this time that his paintings became more abstract, using bright colors and complex patterns.  Louis died on July 4, 1939, making today the 75th anniversary of his death (seriously, I did not plan this).

H.G. Wells (who wrote The War of the Worlds and many other works of science fiction) said of Louis Wain:

He has made the cat his own. He invented a cat style, a cat society, a whole cat world. English cats that do not look and live like Louis Wain cats are ashamed of themselves.”

If you missed the AcroCats, YOU MISSED OUT!!!

AcroCats and Rock Cats!I just don’t know how to describe the amazing talents of the AcroCats.  It…it was as if a big jar of awesome spilled all over a sparkly purple stage filled with incredible cats.  It was…it was perfectly imperfect, because after all, we were watching cats performing, and they are CATS.  It was incredibly surprising because…because the show did not devolve into a chaotic pandemonium of cats fleeing into the audience and causing a massive storm of attacks on ankles and allergic outbreaks…no no no!  These cats, THESE cats, were simply mindblowing.

And not just cats, but a chicken (named Cluck Norris), groundhog and three rats all BROUGHT IT!  All the animals were clicker-trained using positive reinforcement, which led me to two conclusions: 1) HOLY SHIT YOU CAN TRAIN CATS, and 2) WHY DO MY CATS SUCK SO MUCH???  Seriously.  They don’t do anything except know when to come running when I open up a can of anything.  The AcroCats performed all sorts of tricks, leaping through hoops, jumping obstacles, BOWLING, running around in a non-random order, and jeeze – they even ran INTO their individual crates when a whistle sounded.  My cats, on the other hand, sleep, eat, dirty their litter boxes at an alarming rate, and require a front-end loader to get them into their travel crates.  The AcroCats and Rock Cats:  play actual musical instruments, recognize visual commands, and don’t necessarily seek to cause panic and alarm (except for Tuna, who possibly has plans for world domination, but I’m not sure).  My cats:  play with the horizontal blinds in our bedroom at 2 in the morning, decide that demons are chasing them in the wee hours of the night, and are plotting a biological attack on the world starting with me by weakening my immune system to the point of giving me crippling allergies to these sneaky, plotting kitties.  I’M ON TO YOU, THOUGH!!!  I will not succumb to your evil plotting!

Anyway…how about some pictures of the show?  It was magical, and I hope that you get the opportunity to see them some day.  Go to www.CircusCats.com to learn more, and see if the AcroCats and Rock Cats are coming to a theater near you!!!  Grab yo’ cat ears and yo’ cat leggings and yo’ cat shirts and see these amazing kitties…it’s totally worth it!!!

This just happened.  Gritty Cat meets the Rock Cats!

This just happened. Gritty Cat meets the Rock Cats!

Related Posts:  At Least I’m Not Allergic to Lucky Charms, Bu bu bum! Bu bu bum! Bu bu bu bum…CAT SHOW!!!, Cats cats cats cats cats!

Fine Art Felines Funday: Lying Female Nude with Cat by Pablo Picasso

Because I’m taking Writing 101, my Fine Art Felines posts are now going to be on Sundays instead of Fridays, at least for the month of June.  I chose today’s Fine Art Felines piece, Lying Female Nude with Cat by Pablo Picasso, as a juxtaposition to the last piece I featured, Woman with Cat, also by Pablo Picasso (drawn in 1900).  Today’s piece from Picasso’s later years, completed in 1964, is a great example of the surrealism exhibited by Picasso as his painting style matured and evolved.  However, if you compare it to Woman with Cat, you’ll see that there are some similarities between the two paintings and that (as I mentioned a couple of weeks ago) you can see the characteristic Picasso style even in his earlier work.  For example, the color palate is very similar; the greens and blues, while more saturated than in the earlier painting, still reflect a quiet and intimate mood.  Further, while the previous piece was impressionistic and this piece is more surrealist, there is still a great deal of motion and communication between the two subjects.  Perhaps this is the “bizarro” world version of the earlier drawing…maybe this painting is the view of the person in the portrait and shows what he sees as he looks into the room and gazes upon a woman and her cat.

It seems that Picasso was rather fond of painting women with cats, including several nudes – and to be honest, if I were a painter, I’d probably paint a lot of women with cats, too! What similarities do you see between the two Picasso pieces?  Which one do you prefer?  Leave a comment and let me know!

Lying Female Nude with Cat by Pablo Picasso

Lying Female Nude with Cat by Pablo Picasso

Writing 101: A sense of place (or, as Liz Lemon says, I want to go to there)

I can feel the heat from the sun blazing down on me, and I know my surroundings feel it too.  The top of my head is burning, and my dark hair does nothing to reflect the heat, but only absorbs the constant rays, unobstructed by clouds or rain, at least in this season.  There is a breeze, which I welcome on my skin; it is cool when it rushes across the thin sheen of sweat on my face and arms.  It is a welcome cool.  The breeze brings me dust from the road I am standing on, a dirt road, cracked under the sun with layers of clay crumbling up towards the atmosphere as particles are swept into the air.  They tickle my nose and I sneeze.  I can smell the earth, but I can also smell and almost taste the grasses – it is the sweet scent of dried grasses, uncut, waving in the wind.  I can hear the grasses brushing together as they sway in waves with each breath of air that chases the next across the savannah.  With that wave I hear more sounds.

There are birds chirping in the distance.  Perhaps a loud squawk of a corvid defending its food from another large bird, or the song-like chirps of smaller birds hidden in the leaves of a grove of nearby acacia trees.  I can also hear other animals, larger animals, many animals.  Herds of them, grazing slowly under the heat that surely affects them as much as it affects me.  Their dainty hooves trample the crisp dried grasses that brush up against long legs that slowly move from one patch of grass to another.  Their hooves also make a dull thud on the dusty earth where there is no vegetation, where they are crossing the road in which I stand.  Their mouths make a slow grumble as they tear plants from the ground or leaves from the trees, masticating the tough fibrous materials between their grinding teeth, lazily, up and down, back and forth, before they swallow.  I can smell the salty-sweet excrement they leave behind, that is already drying into chips under the sun.  Insects scurry towards them, clicking their wings and legs as they go, humming as they fly towards their destination.

More intermittently, I hear other noises, those of animals I must be wary of.  Animals that I have come to meet, to encounter from a distance.  At this time of day they sleep in the shade, unless disturbed by their young who play and climb and tug on their fur demanding attention.  I hear the chirpy mews of the cubs, and every once in a while a rumbling growl from one of the adults followed by a quick scamper of paws in the grass as a cub runs from the scene.  I would like a nap too, in the shade.  I can hear tails slapping flies away from backsides covered with fur, paws scratching at something itching underneath a heavy mane.  In the distance, the far away distance, I hear a trumpet-like calling…and another one answering…a family, checking in and letting each other know where they are.

Do you know where I am? What do I see?  Can you see it too?


This is Day 2 of Writing 101.  Today’s assignment was to answer this question: If you could zoom through space in the speed of light, what place would you go to right now?  And the twist:  organize your post around the description of a setting.

I really want to go to Africa to see all those fascinating creatures of the plains.  I’m especially interested in the cats, but all of the animals there call to me.  Africa is at the top of my bucket list, and I can’t wait to start planning that adventure when I am able to go!  I wanted to write a description of the place without using the sense of sight, just information that I could get from touch, sound, smell, and taste (to a lesser extent).  Did you feel it?  Could you see what I was describing?  Let me know how I did in the comments below, and tell me where you would go if you could drop everything and zoom off right now!

Savannah, from Simon at www.GoodFon.su

Savannah, from Simon at http://www.GoodFon.su

 

Fine Art Felines Friday: Woman with Cat by Pablo Picasso

Today’s Fine Art Felines artwork is “Woman with Cat” by Pablo Picasso.  This impressionist pastel sketch was completed in 1900, which is considered Picasso’s early years (Picasso lived from 1881 – 1973).  What I really like about this work is that it is not typically what I picture when I think about Picasso, with whom I associate abstract, cubist art.  There’s a lot of subtle movement in this sketch (e.g., the woman’s hand petting the cat), with muted emotion connecting these two naptime snugglers.  My favorite thing about this sketch, however, is not really the subject, but the picture of the person in the background.  I can just hear an art instructor telling Picasso how to shape and shadow the woman, but then I can also hear Picasso whispering to himself, “screw that, I’m gonna draw this funky little cartoon person right back here just to bring a little bit of myself to this piece”.  It almost looks like a woman with a mustache drawn her…was Picasso a cartoonist or comedian at heart?  I don’t know.

This is a sketch that uses my favorite colors, and I love the layering, the softness, and of course the cat in this piece.  I hope you like it too!  Muah!

Woman with Cat by Pablo Picasso

Woman with Cat by Pablo Picasso

Fine Art Felines Funday: Slim Woman with a Cat by Geza Farago

Slim Woman with a Cat by Geza FaragoI’ll admit I’ve been slacking.  I’m supposed to post Fine Art Felines on Fridays, but since I was being lazy (owning it!), I didn’t get around to writing this post until today.  However, today’s painting is one that I really love.

“Slim Woman with a Cat” was painted by Hungarian artist Geza Farago (1877 – 1928) in 1913.  Farago worked in Budapest as a theatrical costume designer, poster artist, and (my favorite) a cartoonist.  What I love about this painting is the art-deco style of the lines (especially with the cat – it reminds me of Le Chat Noir), and the combination of flat colors used on the cat, dress and sandy background in conjunction with the shaded areas of the woman’s neck, face and hands.  The combination makes a 2-dimensional painting pop, turning geometric shapes into a 3-D illusion full of depth and texture.  I also really like the colors that were used, with the blue and green details on the dress echoed in the night sky and water.  I hope you like it, too!  Happy Mother’s Day!

Ladies I Love: L is for Lioness, badass hunter and watchful guardian!

http://avaxhome.ws/blogs/igor_lvIt may come to you as no surprise that I am a cat person.  I LOVE cats, big and small.  So today, for this installment of the A to Z Challenge, the Ladies I Love are Lionesses.  Lions as a species (Panthera leo) are incredibly majestic creatures and they are interesting in a number of ways.  Aside from Sumatran tigers, lions are the largest cats on Earth, with males weighing up to 500 pounds, and females weighing up to 300 pounds.  One of the most interesting things about lions is that they live in groups of 3-40 individuals called “prides”, whereas almost all other cats live solitary lives.  While the male lions’ primary role is to defend the pride’s territory and father cubs (and sleeping, ahem, up to 20 hours per day…lazy bums…), the female lion plays a much different role.  Here are a few reasons why I think female lions are such admirable and fascinating creatures:

Hunting.  Female lions do the majority of the hunting for the pride.  However, because they are so muscular and large, they are not well suited for long sprints (like cheetahs, for example).  Lions live in environments that are fairly open, and it is thought that one of the reasons they evolved to live in groups was so that they could hunt prey that would otherwise see them coming and outrun their would-be predators.  However, lionesses are skilled in trickery and found ways of outsmarting their prey by hunting in groups!  While lions hunting by themselves capture prey only about 17% of the time, hunting cooperatively nearly doubles the chances of successfully capturing prey.  Using a cooperative strategy, a few lionesses will sneak behind the targeted prey (whether its an individual or herd), crouching in the grass so as not to be seen.  Then, a couple of other lionesses will run at the prey, chasing them towards the ladies in hiding…but it’s a trap!  And even though lions may not be the swiftest predators, they can jump up to 35 feet in one leap, so look out!  It’s no surprise that lions working together using this scheme are more successful in their hunts than lions working by themselves.

Lioness 2But after the ladies have managed to capture and kill a prey animal, who do you think gets to eat first?  You guessed it – the male lions.  They’ll move in on the downed meal, chasing the females away from the kill.  Only after the male lions have fed do the females and cubs get to eat, and sometimes there’s not much left.  But with a good kill, large lions can eat up to 40 pounds of meat in a single sitting.

Raising Cubs.  Besides hunting, another important job of the females is to raise the pride’s cubs.  Females will often stay behind from hunting to watch over young cubs, making sure they are safe from potential predators.  In fact, lionesses will help raise each others’ cubs, ensuring higher rates of survival among youngsters.  Since cooperative hunting results in more frequent and bigger meals, having many mothers to watch over the cubs increases health and growth rates.

Lions are amazing creatures.  Unfortunately, habitat loss and an increasing human population is putting them at risk.  Lions were once found over most of Africa, southern Europe, and into Asia.  Today, however, they are limited to some areas in Africa and a very small game preserve in India’s Gir Forest, which contains only about 250 lions.  Lions need a large enough territory to support ample prey to eat, and protection from humans.  As human populations encroach on land closer to lion territory, prey populations decrease and lions find themselves having to hunt domesticated animals, which often results in humans killing “problem” lions to protect their livestock.  One of the best ways we can protect lions is to preserve and maintain national parks and other refuges that give lions what they need to survive; otherwise, these magnificent animals may continue to decline until they are simply pictures in books that our children read.