A few months ago, I decided to stop uploading duplicate blog content to this account (to appease the almighty Google gods). Although WordPress.com was my initial launching pad into blogging, I transferred my attention to TaraFlyArt.com once the WordPress platform was up and running… and I didn’t have enough spare creative energy to write original posts for both sites.

However, I feel badly for abandoning the remaining subscribers of this blog… and while I encourage anyone who is interested in my work to pop over to my “Other” blog and re-subscribe (for semi-timely updates)… I have, in fact, come up with a solution for this albatross blog as well.

Taking a cue from one of my favorite bloggers, Kathleen Basi, who writes a weekly summary of her recent posts called “Sunday Snippets”…. I’ve decided to write monthly summaries for my content on TaraFlyArt.com. :)

So here is a recap for October….

Regency Cat Art Prints and Greeting Cards

5 Tips From a Procrastinating Cat Artist

October 11th, 2011 – I shared some awesome news regarding a wholesale order for my Regency Cat greeting cards and prints. MuttsandFrutts of Ontario, Canada is an upscale pet boutique located in the popular tourist area of Niagara-on-the-Lake.

The owner, Lisa, contacted me about ordering a large quantity of my cards (which I print and fold individually at home)… and my work load went into overdrive.
Through the stress, excitement, and the unexpected, I learned some lessons about Being Prepared… including:

  1. Purchase More Supplies Than You’ll Need
  2. Always Have Inventory On-Hand
  3. Have Every Size, Shape, Color, and Available Option Listed

Serious lessons for a gal who always waits until she’s down to 3 sheets of paper and 1/8 of a yellow ink cartridge before re-ordering supplies.
I wouldn’t have lasted long as a Girl Scout. :P

TaraFly with AfriCat Painting for charity

Picture of me standing under my AfriCat painting, top center.

AfriCat – An Art Auction for Charity

October 17th, 2011 – I stopped by the local art supply store, Howards’ Arts and Frames on Dual Highway, on October 1st, after seeing their announcement for the 6th annual “Art for the Animals” charity fundraiser.

Each year, they’ve asked area artists to donate artwork (which Howards’ will frame) for a silent auction to benefit animal charity organizations. The last couple of years they’ve supported the local Humane Society. This year, they chose to assist Guiding Eyes for the Blind.

I missed the deadline to enter last year, and didn’t want to miss out on this year’s opportunity to showcase my work locally (and help animals too!)…. but I was almost too late!
The original deadline for entries was Oct. 1st – the same day that I inquired, and I had nothing to offer (as they were accepting only 5″x7″ portraits on canvas panels). However, they generously extended the deadline a couple of days, and I rushed home to work on a fresh new painting… specifically for the auction.

My resulting piece was titled “AfriCat”, inspired by National Geographic photos of African tribal women wearing hundreds of brightly beaded necklaces.

[Update: The final night of bidding ended with AfriCat being sold for $40.00, and announced as 1st runner-up for People's Choice in her category]

Art for the Animals, hosted by Howards' Arts and Frames

AfriCat Painting Video

October 24th, 2011 – With the charity auction ending on the 26th, I gave everyone a brief update on AfriCat’s bidding status (she was holding steady at $26.00 on Monday night, and sold for $40 on Wednesday).

I also edited 3 hours worth of video that I’d taped of myself in the studio, painting AfriCat… condensed it down to approximately 20 minutes, split between 2 videos which I’ve uploaded to YouTube.

AfriCat Painting Video: Part One

AfriCat Painting Video: Part Two

And there you have it! All three of my blog posts for October, in an easily digestible format.
Let me know if you found this summary helpful, okay?

But once again, if you want to catch my blog posts when they’re still alive and kicking, I encourage you to visit my “real” blog on TaraFlyArt.com….
Thank you for lending me your eyes! ;)

I Like Purple People Eating Fridays Myself

Crowd Of Zombies

This isn’t the blog post that is scheduled to appear tomorrow… as this particular post stood a 95% chance of never coming into existence.

Black Friday madness is a disease that retail associates encounter with dread each year. Knowing what bloodthirsty monsters lurk outside my door – the rabid and frothing crowds of shoppers, with sleepless glazed eyes and desperate frenzy reacting with high levels of caffeine – makes me grateful to be alive and well in my home.

The sales are tolerable, I suppose, but not handsome enough to tempt me (to risk life and limb).

The children and I just kissed Joe good-bye, as he departs to serve his company in preparation for “The Event”.. i.e. working overnight as the head of security for our local Walmart.

Zombies looking for bargain brains on Black Friday - photo from Belch.com

I didn’t intend to have a sale for Black Friday… just to be rebellious.
Although I do have a holiday sale going on through December 31st, both in my Etsy shop and my website… I haven’t been actively promoting it.

But as the clock winds down, marking the end of Thanksgiving (…oh, by the way, I made chicken fried rice and a pumpkin pie for Joe and the kids), the excitement builds and everyone has “Sales” on the brain.
I’ve decided to host a minor one of my own, just to say “Thanks!” to everyone who has purchased from me this year. Every dollar counts around here… unlike Walmart, who will never miss me. ;)

Everything will be marked 10% off with free shipping in my Etsy shop… and 20% off with free shipping on my website. I accept PayPal, personal checks, and money orders on TaraFlyArt.com, and (unlike Etsy) I’m under no obligation to pay any “final sales” fees… so you can see where my loyalties lie. ;)

Green Kimono Cat Fine Art Print by TaraFly

Green Kimono Cat 8x10 Print now on sale!

My Purple People Eating Friday sale will begin at midnight tonight, and will run through midnight on Monday, Nov. 29th (EST).

Other exciting news for fans of Zazzle merchandise….

Zazzle is hosting a major Black Friday sales event, which applies to all the cool products in My Zazzle Shop – posters, greeting cards, shirts, mugs…! So here is a glimpse at what is going on:

Every two hours, a different product will go on sale! Four special sales have already begun:

These four sales are going on right now, until those designated times.

Mr Bennet Cat by TaraFly printed on Zazzle T-shirt

This guy loves his navy blue Mr Bennet Cat T-shirt...

Okay, the other sales which begin tomorrow (and last 2 hours each) are as follows:

For the final 2 slots, 8-10PM and 10:00PM until midnight, Zazzle is hosting something called “Friday’s Favorite Deal Repeat” … and I’m not quite certain what that means yet. Perhaps they’ll repeat whichever deals earned the most sales earlier?
When I find out more, I will post an update on my Facebook fan page (which automatically updates my Twitter status as well).

Red Kimono Cat by TaraFly US Postage Stamps Zazzle

Red Kimono Cat on a sheet of US postage stamps

U.S. Residents: Please note that Zazzle also has a Free Ground/Economy Shipping offer in place for purchases over $50.00 (before taxes). The offers ends on November 30th.

Whew! That was a lot to absorb, wasn’t it? If you’re totally confused, I wouldn’t blame you… I subscribe to Zazzle’s newsletters (which is a good idea, really, if you like shopping with them) and I had to re-read it a couple of times to clarify things. Hehe
My brain apparently shut down from sugar overload after digesting the pumpkin pie topped with Cool Whip and a glass of freshly brewed iced tea.

But anyways… Cyber shopping on Black Friday is much safer, more convenient, and definitely the easiest way to get your sales-addiction fix without trading your pajamas for a heavy winter coat and braving the masses for hours of joy standing in line.

And best of all, you can’t catch rabies over the internet!

The snarling, foaming monsters are far, far away from you… trapped behind the glass or plasma walls of their computer monitors.
And you needn’t worry, because I don’t bite.

Unless you are that last slice of pie…
slice of pumpkin pie on a red plate

Black Cat Eye digital painting by TaraFly in a frame

My oldest daughter has only been in third grade for a month, and she’s been reprimanded twice for talking in class. She swears, however, that she’s improved greatly…
“They yelled at me for talking a lot more last year.”
My dear, it’s only October.

She inherits this gene from my mother, and the incessant chatter can be really irritating. Before you make any further comparisons, I must defend myself by saying that my incessant, rambling thoughts are contained in my mind… and in my writing. If you read my 3,000 word blogs and ridiculously mundane Facebook posts, you’re only receiving half the story… because offline I’m typically quiet, and downright unsociable at times.

I am pleased to note, though, that her recent aptitude test scores revealed a reading level on par with an average seventh grader.
She inherited that from me… naturally. ;)

“You probably never got in trouble for anything, did you?” It wasn’t really a question, because she assumed I would say:
“Of course not! I was a good kid.” (like my husband does) … and I almost did.

Except that I suddenly recalled that it wasn’t true. I did get into trouble occasionally for forgetting to finish my homework. I also received a couple disappointing grades on assignments that felt like a slap on my face… although admittedly, I was rushing to complete them at 1:30 in the morning… the same morning they were due. :P

Truth be told, I’ve suffered from procrastination my entire life. And my poor kids will probably never outgrow their ability to talk a deaf mule’s ears off.
The only thing one can do is harness it, somehow, and make it work for you.

Take my loathing to complete time-sensitive tasks for example… you can look at my situation two ways.
I’m either always late, or I’m incredibly early.

Last year, when my artist friends were rushing around being productive, preparing for “the season” with their calendars and Halloween-Turkey-Yuletide masterpieces…
I was painting holiday-free fare like Composer Cat (a commission, granted), Indian Sari Cat, and the veeeery summer invoking “Gazing Upon Pemberley”… the photomanipulation I decided to create in November.
Well, I did toss out “Trick Or Treat Kittens” at the eleventh hour, and sold it on eBay to a UCLA faculty member.
But two of my creepiest pieces weren’t created until December and January… long after the Halloween decorations were taken down or baked into pumpkin pies.

When the wrapping paper and ribbon goes on clearance, it’s my cue to get festive … nothing wrong with that, right? I now have four dark and scary pieces already in my Etsy shop, freshly re-photographed, and starring in Halloween treasuries.

Except that I still haven’t prepared anything for winter. I guess the dread of snowfall doesn’t inspire me.. and so I’ve been dreaming about spring flowers instead.

Pen and ink sketch drawing illustration of Regency Cat by TaraFly

Miss Jane Bennet gathering flowers in a gentle summer breeze.

This is the character profile I drew for Jane Bennet, dressed in light outerwear and shawl, carrying a picked bouquet in her basket.
She is more than a pen sketch now… I’m digitally painting a wooden texture for the picket fence behind her.
So far, I haven’t resorted to photographic textures, but I still might decide to use one for her dress.

Jane Bennet Regency Cat illustration by TaraFly

She, along with Mr. Bingley on horseback, will be appearing in my shop soon, and will patiently sit and wait for the frost to thaw and tulips to bloom.. and they will be right on time.

As often as I’ve talked about moving to Canada, I think we’d be better off heading south to Australia instead.
The flowers are blooming there now. :)

Colored Pencil Sketch, Mr. Bennet Cat from Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice

Colored Pencil Sketch of Mr. Bennet, modeled after Sammy.

When I began working on my digital painting of Mr. Bennet Cat, I made the decision to take screenshots and work-in-progress pics of the entire process. It had never occurred to me to document my projects in detail before, mainly because my personal techniques are neither unique nor remarkable. Hundreds of tutorials exist online, explaining how to draw, color, highlight, shadow, and manipulate Photoshop layers… showcasing far greater skill than my own.

In fact, if you want to see digital painting at its BEST, check out the Deviantart gallery of Tammara Markegard. Her work is so fantastic, it’s disgusting! LOL I wipe drool off my keyboard, after pouring too long over her intricate details.

Always living in the shadow of true mastery such as hers, and countless others, I fail to recognize my own accomplishments. Apparently, I’ve taken for granted that everyone understands how I create my digital art. That any explanation was unnecessary.
And apparently, I was mistaken. I’ve run across people who grossly over exaggerated my abilities, and also people who wrote off weeks’ worth of work as “She just drew a cat’s face over a photograph”.

So when I scanned in my initial sketch of Mr. Bennet, modeled after Lily’s cat Sammy, I vowed to keep an ongoing, accurate record of my work for anyone curious.

Sammy Whiskers Cat TwoStrayCats Lily Van Niekerk

Lily's Sam Man, half of TwoStrayCats

It all began with a photograph of Sammy, that Lily entered into my Pride and Prejudice Cat Contest. He was voted upon by my Facebook fans to be cast as Mr. Bennet, the patriarch of the Bennet household (Lizzy’s doting father, and proud Mr. Darcy’s future FIL).

I decided to draw him relaxing in his favorite wing back chair, reading a novel, as the character was always retreating to the sanctuary of his study to escape his obnoxious wife and silly daughters. After the sketch was made, and scanned into Photoshop, I drew over the basic lines with a small black brush.
Then I opened three new, blank layers: one for each element of the picture. The chair, the clothing, and the cat himself.

I did this because it allows me to focus on one area at a time; by clicking the eye icon, you can make the other layers invisible and temporarily inaccessible. Any mistakes or alterations made to one layer wouldn’t affect any other aspect of the image… NO “whooops-I-accidentally-erased-half-the-finished-chair-while-attempting-to-edit-his-fur” catastrophes. This decision was easily made as a result of prior trial and error… if something can go wrong, it will undoubtedly happen to me.

Digital painting Photoshop, Mr. Bennet Cat Jane Austen Pride and Prejudice

The basic colors roughed in, on three separate layers

With the line drawing serving as the Background (bottom) layer, I color each part of the image on their respective layers (which I’ve named, appropriately, “chair”, “clothes”, and “fur”). This serves as the color theme… I want a brown coat, yellow vest, blue chair, etc… and can be adjusted or changed completely if I have second thoughts.

There is no rhyme or reason with where to start, but I felt like playing with fur. So I began with his face. Having already colored the black and white areas, I choose a medium-sized brush (around 15 pixels) set to 40% strength, and begin pulling the fur using the Smudge tool. The lower strength creates soft, wide strokes of fur… and narrowing the brush to approx. 4-5 pixels and kicking the strength up to 70%, will allow me to add concentrated, fine hairs.
I tend to overdose on the Smudge tool, and my cats look like electrocuted fluffballs. :P Sammy is long-haired, though, so I can justify a bit of fluff.

Painting cat fur in Photoshop Cat wearing glasses

Joe said Sam looks like Harry Potter here...

For his eyes and ears, I take a few complimentary colors (ears: salmon, grey, brown) (eyes: green, grey, yellow, brown) and paint daubs of these with a brush onto a new layer. Then I use the Gaussian Blur filter to blend them together, and merge the new layer into the Fur layer.
With the eyes, it takes a bit of time to get it blurred just right. I’ll re-paint areas if the yellow/gold or green faded away too much.

Anytime I work with shadows, highlights, and reflections, such as on his eyes or spectacles, I open a new temporary layer. That way, I can play around with the strength of the highlight or shadow, add to it or subtract from it, and blur it just right… before merging it with the fur layer.
I choose a highlight a few shades lighter than the base color on the palette, and a few shades darker for shadows.

Photoshop 6 Screenshot Digital Painting Cat Wearing Glasses

Adding eye reflections and highlights to his spectacles

The idea for painting better whiskers came to me from reading this Deviantart tutorial on Hair.
In the sixth step, she discusses those little fly-away strands of hair that glisten in the light… drawing them with a fine brush, and then erasing parts of each strand, with an eraser tool of varying strengths, to create a 3-dimensional effect.
I started doing that with my cats’ whiskers, and I liked how they turned out. This time, I decided to blend the edges together, because the erased pieces looked a bit choppy.

Drawing Cat Whiskers in Photoshop

Drawing his whiskers, and erasing pieces of them

Once I finished with his face and paws, I move onto what I would consider the most tedious part… the clothing layer. I started defining folds and wrinkles in the fabric using a new shadow layer and blending. Then I chose a highlight color to accent where the light might strike his clothing, and applied that color with Gaussian Blur in a new layer as well.

Creating highlights in Photoshop using Gaussian Blur

Highlighting Mr. Bennet's jacket using Gaussian Blur

One of my favorite things to do with fabric, is kind-of a cheat, although it is still time consuming. Instead of painting fabric texture from scratch, I find a swatch of fabric (either scanned from personal clothing, or as licensed stock online) and create a texture to apply. This is where Photoshop manipulation really shines!
For his coat, I used a piece of tweed wool. I removed the original color, because when I select Multiply or Overlay, it then assumes the color underneath. The swatch gets resized down to scale, and must then be distorted using the Perspective command, so that the texture will follow the curves of the coat.
Each block of texture is placed, adjusted to the correct perspective, and merged onto my painted cloth using the Overlay and Opacity settings. The blocks get “stitched” together once they’ve all been arranged, so that hopefully nobody will see where the seams were.

Applying texture to painted fabric using Photoshop

Applying a tweed texture to his coat, using Distort and Overlay

One final tool in the clothing arsenal… the Liquify filter. It allows you to create ripples, and I like to use it on my texture layer, so that the pattern will bulge and bend in accordance with my previously painted fabric wrinkles.
His pants and vest receive textures as well.

Using the Liquify Tool in Photoshop for Fabric

Creating ripples in the tweed texture using Liquify

The book that he held was included in the clothing layer. I used a faux “dry” brush in a darker brown to add leathery texture to the book cover. Then I highlighted the book pages, and painted some shadows as well. The idea for the book’s spine came from my copy of Funk & Wagnall’s Dictionary.

I always have a dictionary close at hand, because my vocabulary is composed of many words I haven’t yet learned to spell correctly… and I absolutely HATE those auto Spell Check programs (and the Firefox browser).
If you notice any spelling errors in my posts, it is because I refuse to use Spell-Check on principle. >:P

Anyway, I drew the pattern from the dictionary, loosely, with a gold brush. Opened a new layer, and shaded with dark brown.

Digital Painting Book in Photoshop

Painting the book

So here is what Mr. Bennet looked like at this point… with his fur and clothing basically finished.

For his wing back chair, I dug through my stock photos for that garish bit of orange fabric that was used for Mrs. Bennet’s dress. I really liked the floral pattern of it, and once the color was removed (again!), it worked nicely as upholstery fabric.
As with the clothing, the piece had to be scaled down and its perspective altered to match the angle of the chair.

Applying fabric texture to chair upholstery using Photoshop

Adding the fabric texture to his chair

More piecing together, block at a time. Once the chair was completely covered, I realized the color wasn’t dark enough to match the intensity of Mr. Bennet’s shading. So I duplicated the chair layer, and selected Multiply, which darkened everything… a bit too much. Scale back to 54% opacity for a subtle shift in contrast.
Then I reworked my shadows again on a new layer, making them bolder.

Mr. Bennet Cat Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice digital painting in Photoshop

Almost finished... he's just lacking a background

So here we have Mr. Bennet in his reading chair… sans a background. I seriously considered doing a wood paneling behind him… but I was afraid it would be too distracting from the details in the foreground. So I opted for a plain color instead… rusty brown invoked a quiet library feeling to me.
I used the paint can filler tool to color the entire bottom layer (right over my sketch), and then added a new layer to paint the shadows behind him on the wall.

Mr. Bennet Cat Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice digital painting by TaraFly

Mr. Bennet Cat, a.k.a. Sammy, looking sophisticated :)

And viola! Mr. Bennet in the fur. This piece could probably have taken 4-5 days, perhaps three.. if I worked non-stop. And there are people who could complete this in a matter of hours… I bow to them. Unfortunately, it did NOT take a week… or two… or even three. It took almost two whole months. Why?
Well… LIFE, for one thing. It looks simple, but its time-consuming nonetheless, and time is worth it’s weight in DIAMONDS in this household.

I feel terrible for making promises to my fans, under the assumption that I could complete all these portraits in a matter of weeks. I wanted to launch the book by August, but September is just around the corner, and the book is not. It will come! But I’ve learned a valuable lesson over this summer about creating impossible deadlines for myself, given all the distractions and obligations that require my attention at home.

Plunging ahead anyway. Jane Bennet will be next, with Bingley quick on her heels as a hot-blooded lover should be. :)

“We are each of an unsocial, taciturn disposition, unwilling to speak, unless we expect to say something that will amaze the whole room,”
– Elizabeth Bennet, Pride and Prejudice, Chap. 18

Portrait of Mrs. Bennet from P&P as a Cat

Mrs. Bennet daydreams about Jane's marriage to Bingley.

Last week, I signed up for a Skype account in order to take advantage of the awesome FREE web consultation of Catherine Caine begin_of_the_skype_highlighting     end_of_the_skype_highlighting, from “Be Awesome Online”… how could I resist?
I’ve been working on my site for ages, but my To-Do list never ends, and I really needed a fresh perspective with experienced criticism and suggestions.

When I was setting up the session, which I figured would take place via IM or some private chatroom, I tripped over the sentence that mentioned “Skype to Skype” as the modus operandi. I actually had to Google “Skype” because I’m that far behind the curve. Apparently, it’s voice chatting over the internet.
Immediately I broke out into hives. (….just kidding, sorta)

I sweated this virtual phone call… Actually, 10 minutes before the call, I was taking Pepto-Bismol to settle my nervous stomach, because I suffer from “telephobia” or whatever it’s called… in addition to my fear of holidays. Yeah, I’m really screwed up.

Although I’ve worked in customer service for years, and phone service was a huge part of my job, it was rarely personal. The awkwardness comes into play when I’m forced to chat candidly about myself, my thoughts and feelings… I designed this blog, in part, to share those things comfortably.

Nobody is chaining your ankles to this blog post.

You aren’t obligated to read past this line.

Or this incomplete sentence.

Ironically, I experienced a series of “technical problems” – I couldn’t get any volume on the Skype chat, but the computer played iTunes music and YouTube videos with sound. Then Catherine offered to call me on a landline phone. We actually don’t have a landline; Joe purchased a crazy MagicJack that uses the internet … and it normally works (I received a call earlier today, and Mom regularly leaves 15 minute multi-message voice mails). But it wasn’t connecting us on Thursday. The phone rang, and I answered… to dreaded silence.

So, we wound up using the instant messaging system afterall. All that bile-swallowing and nausea for naught.

Was it worth the heart palpitations and abdominal cramps? Absolutely!

Within 5 seconds, she had zeroed in on my banner and tagline….
“TaraFlyArt – For Cats At Heart”.
I thought it was cute and clever.
And she agreed… it’s clever alright, but not clear enough for visitors to understand the point.

I needed the tagline to explain What I do, and Who I’m doing it for. It needed to mention “cat art” or “cat portraits”…

A furiously fast brainstorming session began, in which she threw out suggestions like:
“Quirky Regency Cat Portraits for Cats Who Read Austen”
… shortened to “Literary Portraits for Cats Who Read”

When she finally abbreviated it to: “Literate Portraits for Literate Cats” I laughed out loud! And typed, “LOL”…
It definitely smacked of T.S. Eliott’s “Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats” – with his famous “Jellicle Songs for Jellicle Cats”.

She admitted that it needed some work… so after a few more minutes of frantic typing and a couple additional pointers, I left the session, inspired, and grabbed a notebook;
A few of the potential taglines that tickled my whiskers…

TaraFlyArt – Portrait of A Well-Dressed Cat

Portraits for Well-Dressed Cats

Portraits for the Distinguished Cat

Proper Portraits for Well-Mannered Cats

Fine Art for Fancy Cats

Fine Portraits for Well-Bred Cats

Cat Art with Good Breeding

TaraFlyArt – The Regency Cat’s Companion

Handsome Portraits To Tempt Fastidious Cats

Portraits handsome enough to tempt ill-humored cats

Handsome Portraits of Humorous Cats

The list could go on indefinitely… it’s just a matter of choosing just ONE that will go the distance. I might put it to a Vote on Facebook. :)

By this time, I had picked up my copy of The Complete Novels, and flipped to the opening sequence of Pride and Prejudice for additional inspiration….
Instead, I found myself reading the dialogue between Mr. and Mrs. Bennet with a fresh eye. They were discussing the fortunes of Mr. Bingley, and how she hoped he would fall in love with one of their daughters, thus making the whole family richer by association.

With a mind still mulling over business slogans, and Catherine’s advice to focus on “My Right People” – the folks who “get” what I do, I couldn’t resist having some fun with the Bennet’s banter:

“Why, my dear Sir Dominic, you much know, Mrs. Longtail says that TaraFlyArt.com has been visited by a young man of large fortune from the north.
He visited on Monday via a Google link to see the site,
and was so much delighted with it that he agreed with Mr. Morris immediately;
he is to return before Christmas, and some of his relatives are to come by the end of next week.”

“What is his name?”

“Bingley.”

“Is he a cat-person or a dog-person?”

“Oh! A Cat person, my dear, to be sure!
A cat person of large fortune, four or five thousand a year.
What a fine thing for my art!”

“How so? How can it affect your art?”

“My dear Sir Dominic,” replied TaraFly, “how can you be so tiresome!
You must know that I am thinking of his buying one of them.”

“Is that his design in settling here?”

“Design! Nonsense, how can you talk so!
But it is very likely that he may fall in love with one of them,
and therefore you must contact him immediately.”

“I see no occasion for that. You and your art may go,
or you may send the pieces by themselves, which perhaps will be still better;
for, as you are as handsome as any of them,
Mr. Bingley might like you best of the collection.”

….

“Ah! You do not know what I suffer.”

“But I hope you will get over it, and live to see many young men of four thousand a year come to your website.”

“It will be no use to us if twenty such should come, since you will not call them.”

“Depend upon it, my dear, that when there are twenty, I will instant message them all.”

I drew my Cat Plant in honor of my mother… partly as a sarcastic joke, and partly to remind myself of how mysteriously our genetics work.
Everyone has limitless potential to grow into a unique character – there are oddballs in every family – and yet we are essentially connected.

Green Leaf Plant Growing from Cat

Colored Pencil drawing of a "Cat Plant" for my mother.

History repeats itself in many ways, even in our personal lives, where individual human nature causes us to seek out familiar situations and like-minded people.

As a child who was obsessed with cats, fancying myself as a human vessel for a cat spirit, it seemed only natural for me to detect the sub-human wavelength that signified another cat person was present. Ages ago, I was told that boys would find me more attractive if I stopped behaving like a cat, and yet boys who grew up with cat-obsessed mothers were drawn to me like …well, like cats to a bowl of cereal. LOL

Both my husband Joe and my ex-husband #1 (Lydia’s dad) were raised by “crazy cat ladies”… in households shared with fifteen cats at one time.

I didn’t realize Joe was a cat person when we started courting, but it became obvious when his cat eavesdropped on our phone calls… and purrred her approval into the receiver.

I’ve started wondering whether people have a genetic pre-disposition for cat-obsession… if it’s an addiction or disorder of some kind.

My oldest daughter likes cats, but isn’t obsessed with them by any means. She loves animals in general, has owned rabbits and fish, and has inquired many times whether she can adopt a puppy “when the cats die”. :P
Our 15-month-old son treats our animals like toys to chase and carry around. He thinks cats run on 4-AA Energizer batteries.

However,  2-year-old Mia didn’t fall far from her family tree… in fact, she fell with grace and landed on all four paws. She developed a full-blown cat obsession; she loves all-things-cat. She even pretends to be a cat just like her mother once did.

She walks like a cat, talks in “mrrrrws” and “purrrs”, she licks and scratches herself, and curls up in our laps. It has been adorable to watch, except that she occasionally takes it a bit too far. Joe has become annoyed with her less sanitary behaviour… the determination to eat her dinner from the floor, to “drink” from the cats’ water bowls, and even to bathe their fur…. yes, with her tongue.

Whenever we are forced to reprimand her, he growls,
“Mia, you are NOT a cat! Act like a human being.”
…and my residual childhood rebellion kicks in and replies,
“She can act like any animal she wants. There is nothing wrong with having a lively imagination.”

…except where germs and bacteria are concerned.

I always joke that she’s inherited it honestly…. but I do feel a slight apprehension for her, if it continues for too long.
She’ll wind up being teased and humiliated by her future classmates, and if she is anything like her stubborn mother, she won’t care a cat’s lick.
Although I’d love to see my kids grow up to be well-liked and sociable, I suppose that I’ll be in a good position to give advice and consolation to a young kindred spirit, who feels lost in this cold-hearted world of realism.

My own family valued creativity and imagination, and they never pressured me to change (although I’m sure they secretly hoped I’d outgrow the novelty of scratching and meowing)… but I always felt like an oddity, even at home. Like an exotic pet that amused them.

I’m not sure from whence my own behaviour originated, however, as none of my relatives hoarded animals or acted strangely. I grew up in the city suburbs, with a strict 2-pet maximum law (and they had to be restrained on leashes outdoors – even cats!)… but I doubt my grandparents would’ve owned 20 cats regardless.

Lady in the kitchen feeding fourteen 14 cats.

My late mother-in-law and her cats... circa 1980.

In fact, we moved to the countryside when I entered high school, and gained 5 acres of land. But no additional cats. Once the two family cats passed away, the house became vacant of furriness… as I had moved out, my grandfather’s health was failing, and Dad had remarried a lady with cat allergies.

My own mother was arguably the strangest person in my immediate family.
I recognize a few of her characteristics in myself, despite not having had much direct influence from her, after she relinquished custody of me at an early age.
However, she was never much of an animal person. Pets required too much maintainance. She didn’t want an animal that needed to be cleaned, walked, fed, or groomed. Nothing that shed hair on clothing and furniture, caused property damage with teeth and claws, or needed a scooper or litter.

She did own a hamster once …that survived for over 2 years somehow, trapped inside his poor little cage.

She likes cats in theory, but not in practice. She finds them attractive, provided they remain a decorative accessory. Something to brighten up a windowsill, that will sleep quietly all day and soak up sunlight, and require infrequent watering…

Orange cat with green plant leaves

…like a plant.

P.S. I’m sending this drawing to my mother, who won’t grasp its sarcasm. She doesn’t get online much or read my blog, so it’ll be our little secret joke… *wink*

Regency Cat Art in a Frame

"Gossip Gurrls" 8x10 framed print on display

I finished Kitty and Lydia’s portrait for The “Pride and Prejudice” cat adaptation, and was setting up my makeshift photo stage for the umpteenth time, when it dawned on me… I’ve never shared my shooting process with anyone.

Now granted, I don’t have those Wow-and-Dazzle skills that you’d find inside a glossy magazine… and there are some fabulous product photographers on Etsy as well. But since I took you on a virtual tour of my messy home, and I’ve given you a glimpse into my studio, I figured this part of the business might interest someone.

Props for my product photo shoot

Setting the stage for my artwork...

Because many of my pieces represent historical or literary characters in feline fersona, I want my listing images to reflect a cozy bookshelf or reading nook, so I use worn novels, curtain fabric, and greenery (real or artificial) in my staging.

Staging props for the photo shoot

Playing around with the props...

One day, I hope to rearrange the studio to utilize my only window more efficiently. I want a permanent photography corner that can be left in place, ready to shoot new products, which takes advantage of the natural lighting that is also shared by my drawing table.

Filing cabinet dressed as stage for photo shoot

My filing cabinet gets a make-over...

But right now, I’m using my filing cabinet as a stage. Once I clear off the office junk from its surface, a large cardboard box serves as the backdrop. I think it was actually the bottom of my unassembled art table’s packaging.

Cardboard box backdrop with curtains

Behind the scenes - cardboard and curtains

It gets draped with one or two of the many extra curtain panels we keep tucked in closets. (A couple of years ago, we lived in a corner-unit apartment with an overabundance of windows – I miss them! lol)

I don’t use a tripod for these shoots, because I enjoy the challenge of finding the best angle. I rearrange my props all the time, then crouch on the floor or hover over my prints, snapping as many pictures as I need (50+ is average).

TaraFly taking pictures of her artwork

This 20+ year old Nikon camera is just another prop now...

I often find myself perched under the art table to get an eye-level shot… which does allow me to brace my arm against the wall, hehe, but it’s one reason why I want to rearrange my space.

View more from this session on Flickr….

Photographing my prints and paintings for listings is a huge part of selling online. Because potential customers can’t actually see my work in person, the pictures are key to convincing someone to purchase my work.

5x7 archival print of regency cats gossiping

A 5x7 archival reproduction of "Gossip Gurrls"

I cringe when scrolling through some of my earliest attempts, where I just laid the piece on a throw blanket, or even worse – a clean, white trash bag (hey, at least it was clean!).

Either the sun was glaring across my glossy reproductions, or the shadows and flash lighting completely obliterated the colors. Sometimes, even Dominic wanted to get a piece of the action:

Yawning Cat sitting on chair with greeting card

How is THIS for a greeting card listing?? (one of my originals)

I do realize that my current photos are nowhere near the level of professionalism that they should be. I have a long road ahead, but fortunately, it’s always a fun experiment. :)

Romantic Mr. Darcy Cat portrait ©TaraFly

Dominic dressed as Mr. Darcy

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a regency cat artist obsessed with one of the world’s greatest works of literature, must make an adaptation starring cats!
The idea of penning a series of children’s books (tentatively geared towards 8-12 year olds), based upon Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, has been a goal of mine for quite some time… after beginning the Regency Cats series last summer, and seeing the warm reception of Mr. Darcy Cat, I’ve decided upon an entirely feline cast.
I had been putting off this project because of the huge number of characters required to be painted and brought to life, and the various two-legged limits upon my time. ;) Digital art, however, is something that can be tackled while juggling baths, brownies, and pre-nap breakdowns. It doesn’t require a table loaded with finger-tempting paint and fancy paper. It can be quickly saved, and easily salvaged if a stray hand smacks the keyboard… which they often do. hehe

Committing to this project, I’m going digital with the illustrations and I also intend to hire Darcy Dominic to play himself. I’m leaning towards my calico Lizzy, as well, although I’d like to study additional calicos and perhaps change her facial markings a bit.

I’ve broken the novel into eight sections, and will be writing a “mini-series” centered around key plot-points; for example, the opening introductions and the Meryton Ball – where Lizzy and Darcy first cross paths – will serve as “Book One”. Jane’s fateful trip to Netherfield, and Lizzy’s subsequent arrival to lend assistance, will be “Book Two”. Mr. Collins will star in “Book Three”… and so forth. My stories will feature dialogue adapted for a younger audience, and will balance the large chunks of conversation with more descriptive actions and settings.

Breaking down the lengthy story into a bite-sized series will make it kid-friendly, and also enable me to make each story available to my audience upon completion.
Also, it will allow me to delay the burden of designing so many characters at once, since a few are not introduced until later in the series (i.e. Lady Catherine and Georgiana).

Still, however, there are many key characters that need to be created at the beginning… and my mind is starting to whirl at the prospect of casting such a large number of cats. Therefore, I’ve decided to host the first of several contests on my facebook fanpage.

I’d like to invite everyone who is a fan, and anyone who would like to join, to share your favorite photos of your cat(s) on my fanpage… they can be cute, humorous, scary, angry… I want to see expressive cat faces! I will create a special folder for fans to upload their cat images, and you are invited to vote for your favorites by Clicking “Like” and commenting on which character you think they ought to portray.

Merlin the grey tabby cat

Merlin attempting his best love-sick expression


For example, if you liked this photograph, and you think he’d make an adorable Mr. Bingley… Click Like and Comment! :D

Those of you who aren’t familiar with the cast of P&P, that’s okay! You can still comment on your faves, and I will also provide a reference sheet outlining each character’s main profile which might help you.

The deadline for entering the first photo contest, and for voting, will be Saturday, May 15th (midnight, EST); the winners whose cats are chosen to appear in the series will each receive a free photo portrait of their cat in character, signed on the back by myself. They will also receive a mention in the book’s credits.

The first casting contest will focus on these principal characters from “Book One”: Mr. and Mrs. Bennet, Elizabeth’s four sisters – Jane, Lydia, Mary, and Kitty, Mr. Bingley, and Charlotte Lucas. (I’m hoping to downplay Bingley’s sisters at first, and introduce them officially in “Book Two”.. but we’ll see)

I plan to self-publish using Blurb.com, in softcovers and jacket hardcovers, until an interested publisher can be found. “Book One” is slated to be complete and available for purchase by August.

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