February 2011

Victorian Cat Portrait by TaraFly
While brainstorming ideas for a possible Easter portrait, I settled upon a new series of headshots, depicting cats in fancy Victorian hats.
Easter bonnets!

When I began painting my first cat of the series in acrylics, I went with a bright cheery palate of orange, pinks, and yellow.

I believe wholeheartedly in my decision to paint this beauty as a pale orange/yellow tabby with auburn hair… even though there seems to be a gross misconception that female cats cannot be orange tabbies.

It occurred to me that I might suffer some raised eyebrows, or even scathing comments… such as the remarks made concerning my digital painting of Kittney.
Well, obviously Kittney raised a few brows for other reasons, hehe… but I’m referring to the folks who questioned my sexual orientation and whether she was really a “He” dressed in drag.

I know personally that female orange cats aren’t an oddity, but I went off in search of scientific facts to prove it… spending an entire afternoon reading articles about genetics, and learning a great deal of fascinating info. 🙂

So here is the gist of what I’ve gathered about the role genes play in cat coloring….

Grey tabby mother cat and kittens including orange

Genes come in pairs of chromosomes (X-chromosomes and Y-chromosomes) … and the dominant or recessive nature of the gene is determined by variations of the alleles (which are shown using alphabetic characters: i.e. AA, Aa, and aa).

The dominant trait is represented by the capital letter, and dominant traits always manifest themselves, unless both alleles are recessive lower-case (aa) forms.

When it comes to cat coloring, the genes are found on the (X) chromosome, and are referred to as “sex based”… since females have two X’s and males only have one.

Females will have the standard AA, Aa, or aa pattern.
Males will have either A or a.

The black and brown colors are known as eumelanin pigments, and the orange color is a phaeomelanin pigment.

Sarah Jane gorgeous white long-hair cat Noelle Clearwater

The “white” color of a cat’s coat is actually a combination of genes that affect cats in a myriad of ways.

For example:
The upper and lower case C, representing the albino trait – a dominant C will result in normal cats, but having two recessive alleles (cc) will create an albino cat.

Dominic the Tuxedo Cat sticking out his tongue

The S gene determines the amount of white spotting a calico or tortoiseshell cat has, and also affects white paws, facial marks, bibs, and tummies.
My Dominic and Lily’s Sammy can thank the S gene for their handsome tuxedos. 🙂

And the W gene – called “White masking” – creates the pure white cats that we are familiar with.
The W gene actually inhibits any other coloring a cat may be predisposed to have.

A cat with recessive (ww) genes will exhibit normal colors (i.e. orange, black, brown…) but the dominant W allele will suppress any other color pigments from showing, creating a cat that is solid white.

It’s actually a nasty piece of genetic coding, which often causes deafness in white cats – due to degeneration of the inner ear.
It is also responsible for the loss of pigmentation in cats’ irises, resulting in blue eyes.
Cats with one blue eye and one green… like Noelle’s SarahJane who served as my model for Jane Bennet…may likely suffer from deafness in the ear corresponding to their blue eye.

Additionally white cats are sensitive to temperatures, and susceptible to sunburn and skin cancer.

Cream and white cat

The black gene B is pretty unique in the sense that it has two recessive mutations: bb will result in a chocolate-brown colored cat, but there is a recessive allele even MORE recessive than that… which creates a lighter cinnamon coat.

It’s labelled as blbl.

Some color variations are also determined by the color’s density gene, labelled D or dd.
The dominant D means a cat will have bold colors – i.e. black, orange, or brown.
A recessive set of alleles (dd) creates faded colors – i.e. lilac, blue/grey, cream, beige, and caramel.

Now, here’s the part regarding orange female cats…. 😉

The red phaeomelanin pigment is carried on the 0 gene. The dominant 0 gene actually suppresses any black or brown eumelanin pigments that may be present. But if the gene is recessive (oo), the cat will not be red… and any other colors will be free to express themselves.

A fluffy orange tabby cat sleeping

Since these colors are carried on the (X) chromosome, a male cat will be either 0 or o.
Red or non-red.

Aside from genetic defects, wherein a male cat might have an extra X-chromosome (XXY) and become a calico/tortie.
They are rare, occurring in roughly 1 out of 3,000 red toms.

Now female cats can have any of the follow genetic combinations: 00, 0o, or oo.
An 00 gene would result in a red tabby female. 0o would create a partially red calico or tortoiseshell.
And oo would be a non-red female.

Orange and grey tabby kittens

Apparently this is a 1:2:1 ratio… with calicos being twice as likely as red and non-red kittens.
If a red male (dominant 0) mated with a calico (0o)… the likelihood of getting a red tabby female would be 1:4 or 25%.

I wanted to find a table that listed every single genetic piece of code for our domestic house cat, but scientists haven’t completely finished identifying them all.
As of 2007, when this article was published, researchers at the University of Missouri had located over 20,000 individual cat genes… which they claim equals 95% of a cat’s entire genetic make-up.

Girl holding striped grey tabby cat

Humans are roughly the same – with approx. 20,500 genetic bits in all.

I did find this interesting table which breaks down the genetic code for common feline characteristics, including:
fur colors, patterns, fur length/texture, curled ears, bob tails, extra toes (polydactyl), and dwarfism.

Notice “patterns” refer to the tabby, swirl, and ticked markings on a cat’s coat… which are NOT to be confused with colors.
We generally think of tabbies as having “black” stripes or “brown” stripes… so I was really surprised to learn that colors and stripes were entirely separate things.

I hope this makes sense to everyone, and I did some justice to the various articles that I paraphrased. LOL

Most of all, I wanted this post to clear the air regarding female orange cats. They do in fact exist, and in greater numbers that some folks believe. *wink*

They aren’t rare by any means… rather, red females are a minority. Uncommon amongst the garden variety calicos and orange toms.

Which just makes them special. 🙂

Furry grey and cream kittens sleeping cuddling

Little girl in Radio Flyer wagon at the post office

Mia wants to visit the post office every day!

One of the nice things about living on the fringe of the Funkstown community is our convenient proximity to the local postal branch. The traffic is light and neighbors are friendly, in sharp contrast to our former residence on a busy route near the main post office building.

Trips to mail my artwork once involved stressful bumper-to-bumper congestion and driver road rage… other drivers’ rage, not mine.
You could park along the busy street, and risk getting mowed down by a harried motorist as you attempt to exit your vehicle… or else face a stand-off in the crowded parking lot, and watch your back in case somebody isn’t watching theirs, and slams you in reverse.

The lines of customers inside the building were often very long, unless you visited early in the morning. It wasn’t unusual for these trips to take almost an hour.
The building was less than 10 minutes away.

Little boy riding in red Radio Flyer wagon

Bumping up and down in our little red wagon

Last year, we crunched some numbers in our budget and decided to become a single-car family, with Joe using it primarily for commuting to work. We juggle all our personal appointments around his schedule, and I’ve started walking again.

My autumn walk in the rain, to mail my “Queen of Cats” painting to her new owner, was taken while he remained at home with our children.

I’ve never liked dragging my children on errand runs, and after two botched attempts to bring them along while conducting bank business, I realized it was easier to wait until Joe came home during his lunch break… so they could be left behind.

Taking the kids anywhere has always been a circus act, with the usual performers: leaking sippy cups, forgotten baby wipes, hats and shoes that get stripped off and lost, toddler mood swings, motion sickness, and the myriad of toys and games that insist on tagging along.

Little boy in sweater holding sippy cup.

Mia gets crabby after 10 minutes in a car seat, and Jacob loathes being strapped into a stroller…
They are both too impulsive to walk safely beside me on the sidewalk.

But I don’t like relying on Joe’s flaky work schedule… what if he gets detained in a meeting, or is required to attend a court hearing that lasts all afternoon?
It was important and necessary for me to reclaim my independent mobility. And my freedom came to me unexpectedly during an after-Christmas shopping trip to Toys-R-Us.

The answer to my prayers came in the form of a red Radio Flyer, with two fold-down seats, a storage trunk, cup holders, and a detachable canopy top.
Yes, this is my alternative to the mini-van. 😉

Little girl sitting in radio flyer red wagon.

Mia is all dressed and ready to go.

I purchased it on sale, brought it home, and let the kids grow accustomed to it by allowing them to pull each other around the living room. But they were looking forward to testing it on the open road.

The weather finally climbed into the 60’s (F) this week, and a recent customer’s art purchase required a trip to the post office. They were excited to ride down the sidewalk in their new Mommy-fueled convertible wagon!

Little girl and boy riding in red wagon

Of course the highlight to our afternoon outing involved the detour we took afterwards. We passed the Memorial Park on our way home, and I took a right hand turn, guiding the wagon towards the spiral slides and monkey bars.

Little girl sliding down spiral slide.

Mia showed me her skills climbing the curved ladders, and Jake discovered a deep mud puddle.

Boy covered in mud at playground

Mom, I've changed my mind about this mud stuff.

As an off-road vehicle, through melting snow and over rough terrain, the flyer’s rugged wheels navigated beautifully.

They may eventually grow weary of this novelty, but for now, we’re looking for more excuses to take walks into town.
And even without errands to run… who can resist a trip to the park for fun’s sake?

Children playground park jungle gym

School Girl Cat on Football Field 50 Yard Line by TaraFly

“I have not had the pleasure of understanding football.” – @writershouses

Writers’ Houses on Twitter echoed my feeling towards the panicked momentum leading up to Sunday’s Big Game.

Michelle Scott @mscottdjh followed up by tweeting:
“Incremental victories are coupled with exuberant celebration and punishing admonishment.”

“Is such an indiscriminate display of force by the stronger sex truly necessary? Indeed, it does them a disservice.”@rosannecash

And thus heralded the Sunday night Twitter phenomenon affectionately known as “Jane Austen at the Super Bowl”, a title coined by Rosanne Cash (singer/author, and yes, daughter of Johnny) to politely mock the brutish sport in a manner befitting our beloved 19th century gentlefolk.

Whenever football season rears its ugly head, Joe and I lock our doors, turn off all the lights, and hide in the hall closet… until the yellow and black banners slowly disappear like melting snow from windows and porches around our neighborhood.

“For what do we live, but to make sport for our neighbours, and laugh at them in our turn?”
@WesleyStace (John Wesley Harding)

Pittsburgh street celebrating Steelers

photo courtesy of Wikipedia

Maryland does have a football team of its own … wait, let me Google it… yes, the Baltimore Ravens.
And of course, the Washington (D.C.) Redskins, whose reputation is legendary even to those of us who aren’t following their career.
Are they winning again??

However, since Hagerstown sits on the Pennsylvania border, with its close proximity to Pittsburgh only a few hours drive, many of our neighbors feel excused to switch their allegiance in favor of the golden Steelers who have already won six Super Bowls and can “beat the crap out of everyone” (or so I’ve been proudly informed).

“One wonders whether the gentlemen’s actions will rival the braggadocio on display.”
@CrossHare (Hisao Yatsuhashi)

“Are they to be murdered on the field?! Such an ill-advised display of manhood is indeed alarming.” – @rosannecash

Terrible Towels Pittsburgh Steelers

What are these terrible towels all about? Photo: Wikipedia

“It is not everyone,” said Elinor, “who has your passion for terrible towels.”@asavwms (Asa Williams)

What the heck is a Super Bowl anyway?

I blogged about my retail in-experience with football madness two years ago, as a grocery manager forced to deal with Event Planning for the Big Game.
I joked that it was taken as seriously by food-connoisseurs as Thanksgiving and Christmas feasts… with elaborate spreads of “finger foods” and dips being prepared.

“You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love your Buffalo Chicken Pizza.”
@heymrmiked (Michael Dunn)

“No one knows how I suffer. Such flutterings of my heart and pains in my head. Perchance too many jalapenos.” – @anamcara1004 (Jen Nash Humphrey)

Apparently, America does indeed consider Super Bowl Weekend to be a national holiday, even if the government hasn’t officially declared it so. And Wiki claims it is the second-largest day for food consumption, after Turkey Day.
(No wonder I was feeling stressed, while Frito and Pepsi displays devoured every square inch of my salesfloor!)

“One half of the world cannot understand the pleasures of the other.”

“Super, you say? I have a far superior Bowl at Chawton – Jasperware decorated with the most delectable chinoiserie.”@WesleyStace (John Wesley Harding)

Last weekend, I couldn’t have honestly answered the question “Who do you think will win?” because I didn’t know which team was opposing the Steelers. It wasn’t obvious from my trips into town, where only yellow and black paraphernalia were on display and for sale in shop windows.

“The men, all so good for nothing, and hardly any women at all.”
@mfortuin11 (Matilda)

Finally on Saturday night, I overheard someone in the grocery store griping about the lack of local support for the Green Bay Packers.
The other team.

My only recollection of the Packers involved a high school friend (Bobby) who was craaazy about them, wore their green jerseys everywhere, and got teased by the other guys for it.
He also poked gentle fun at my mother, because as a Minnesota resident – she’s a Vikings fan by default (because my stepfather is).
I gather the Wisconsin Packers and the Minnesota Vikings don’t like each other… *shrugs at the understatement*

I was so tired of hearing about these blasted Steelers, that I hoped the Packers would win, just to shut everyone up!
And to brighten Bob’s day, of course… 🙂

“I’ll not leave this house until its been universally contradicted that you intend to paint yourself green, Miss.”
@BusterBNYC (Bill Buster)

Plastic cheese head hat Green Bay Packers Wisconsin

A cheese hat, photo courtesy of Wikipedia

One funny thing about the team from Wisconsin, a state infamous for its cheese production: all the die-hard fans wear cheese!

Yes, they really do.

Well, it’s plastic molded into cheese shapes…
but still…

“A cheese bonnet!” exclaimed Mrs Bennett unexpectedly. “I have always wanted a splendid cheese bonnet!”

“Some ladies are determined to sport bonnets made of cheese. I must take to my bed.”@rosannecash
“And other ladies have made corsets of cheese. Very shocking indeed!”

Continued Mrs Bennett unadvisedly. “There is nothing so merry as a ‘chapeau de ‘fromage'”@WesleyStace

The silly state of the Packers’ fans’ attire sent the entire network of Janeites twittering…

“The cheesehead wished to say something very sensible, but knew not how.”@abroshar (Abroshar)

“The season was full, the room crowded, and the two ladies squeezed in as well as they could in their cheeseheads.”@janinelaporte (Janine Laporte)

“All in all, an unusual display of circuses. Presumably bread was also available”@dan_ad_nauseam (Daniel Reitman)

Although Sunday night was as quiet and uneventful as nights could possibly be with 3 young children… and football was banned from Joe’s 42″ flat-screen pride and joy… the glimpses of Super Bowl fever that I caught on Twitter almost convinced me to sneak into the bedroom to catch the action…

Not the gaming action, mind you. The entertainment!

It began with pop-siren Christina Aguilera flubbing our national anthem in a moment of extreme emotion.

Kathryn Bass was concerned over the poor girl’s health:
“One wonders at the unexpected ululations of Miss C____ A____. Is she quite well?”

“I believe the misspeak by Ms Aguilera greatly vexed many. Perhaps the result of too many excessive diversions.”@anamcara1004

“You have delighted us long enough, Miss Aguilera.”

“Before she could reply to entreaties that she would sing again, she was eagerly succeeded by the other performers.”@Amyloo (Amy Bellinger)

The other hot topic of the evening centered around the half-time performances. Just like our favorite night at the theatre, football games have intermissions. During the break, attendees will be treated to a live show of musical guests.

In the earliest shows, the entertainers were typically college marching bands… but over time, the producers realized that big stars would gain better publicity.
Past celebrity performances included: Michael Jackson, Diana Ross, Queen Latifah, Aerosmith, Britney Spears, and Janet Jackson (who accidentally lost a bit of clothing during her number).

“One hopes the unfortunate incident involving the lady’s corset is not repeated on this occasion.”

For Sunday’s spectacle, fans were treated to a live show by a hip-hop group called The Black Eyed Peas. It was a futuristic montage of flashing lights, silver jumpsuits, glowing dancers, and well… you get the idea.

“Regarding the Legume Chorale, it grieves me to note that the spectacle exceeds the musicality.”

The poor Peas, now officially dubbed the Legume Chorale by Rosanne, received a public thrashing all around.

“Legume Chorale, you have delighted us long enough. Let the football teams have time to exhibit.”@janetrutter (Janet Rutter)

“Devil take those young dogs! How they are singing out! Stop your confounded pipe or I shall be after you.”
@itsthebunk (Liza Bernstein)

“They resumed with relief, and perhaps a mutual desire of never meeting the Black Eyed Peas again.”@abroshar

People watching at home are also entertained by the commercials played on TV during halftime. Apparently, the Super Bowl is one of the highest rated programs on television. According to Wikipedia, this year’s Super Bowl attracted 111 million viewers and has become the “most viewed television broadcast of any kind in U.S. history”.

So advertisers pay hefty sums of money (think $3 million) to have their commercials aired during the game, most notably at halftime.
These ads are usually major productions themselves, with people tuning in just to see the spots.

We didn’t. But Joe later admitted that he was tempted to check out the ads.

“The commercials are tolerable; but not handsome enough to tempt me.”
@dkrobledo (Danie Robledo)

“Though I find the sport itself coarse,” said Mrs Cawthon, “still I must admit to enjoying the advertisements.”@briantedjones (Brian Jones)

Brett Favre Green Bay Packers

Mr. Favre, Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.

Despite the humorous parodies being flung about, it was obvious to an observer that at least a few of these literati were actually watching the game. And knew what was going on, and who was involved with whom.

“I cannot think what is the matter with me!” said Mr Rodgers when his legs were removed from under his body.”@itsthebunk

“There will be several embarrassed gentlemen in white if the gentlemen in green are the victors.”@dan_ad_nauseam (Daniel Reitman)

“Mr. Favre was not a sensible man, and the deficiency of nature had been but little assisted by concussions.” – @dylanw (Dylan Wilbanks)

“I do not wish for opinions of men wearing stripes when the actions of a man w/a pigskin have spoken so plainly.”@avb (Ashley Van Buren)

“I may boast that no gentleman of my acquaintance would be in a position to be called for unnecessary roughness.”@pcarlson001 (Pam Carlson)

And as we’ve all heard by now, unless you’re still hiding in your hall closet…
The Cheeseheads from Wisconsin won the game.
My friend Bob was notedly ecstatic. It’s safe for us to emerge and wander the streets again.

“I will not say that your Steelers are dead, but I am afraid they are not alive.”
@janiceharayda (Janice Harayda)

“Lydia’s low spirits upon the regiment vacating Merton were revived upon sighting young swains in green and yellow.”@elizabethkarr (Elizabeth Karr)

I wanted to compile a list of all the witty and remarkable tweets from the #JaneAustenAtTheSuperBowl discourse, earlier in the week, but many honorable ladies of the Austen blogosphere were burning their midnight oil and beat me soundly to the finish line. 😉

Here are a some of my favorite random quips:

“I do not perceive the greatness in this ball, there being no dancing and the gentlemen acting too much with wine.”@EFAmericana (Andres Rojas)

“Such lust for possession of an inanimate object so entirely lacking in aesthetic merit does not bode well.”@HumidCity (Humid City)

“It is a truth universally acknowledged, a single man in possession of the pigskin must be in want of a touchdown.”

“It is your turn, Mr. Darcy. I talked about the shotgun formation & you ought to remark on the snap count.”@Ohiofoodlovers (JPoleon)

“What a commotion! There runs a man with a ball as if something were after him! He’s lost all sense of decorum!”@BusterBNYC (Bill Buster)

“A cheerleader, especially if she has the misfortune of knowing anything, should conceal it as well as she can.”@andevers (A.N. Devers)

Perhaps next year, I’ll invite you to take a turn with me around the sidelines, as I hear the sport can be quite refreshing!
The gentleman and brutes can admire us much better from their positions on the field.

Purchase, where might one procure a bonnet and corset made from cheese?

Jane Bennet Cat Pride and Prejudice cat adaptation by TaraFly

Through this Benadryl-induced mist clouding my allergy ridden brain, I vaguely recall that I promised everyone a “Behind the Scenes” post chronicling the making of “Jane Bennet”.
She is the latest in my Pride and Prejudice cat adaptation, a digitally painted portrait of the eldest Bennet sister.

Sarah Jane gorgeous white long-hair cat Noelle Clearwater

The model for Jane was Noelle Clearwater’s gorgeous silky furred SarahJane… who sadly crossed over the bridge last October, after 19 years on this earth. I began her painting in September, and sadly didn’t get it finished before she passed.

I toyed with a few different settings, including a melancholy winter scene with Jane mourning the absence of Bingley. Looking for just the right pose, I dug through my old Regency photo shoots, and came across this image.

TaraFly artist in regency dress

It reminded me of a particular scene from the 1995’s miniseries, where Jane and Lizzy have a tête-à-tête following the Meryton ball, while picking flowers on the grounds of Longebourne.

He is just what a young man ought to be. Sensible, good-humoured, lively; and I never saw such happy manners! — so much ease, with such perfect good breeding!

Pen sketch of Jane Bennet Cat by TaraFly

So I sketched the initial design for Jane, scanned it into Photoshop; then I drew the fence and shrubbery digitally with my stylus.

Next I began laying the color foundations, using a separate layer for each object in the picture, beginning with the bottom (or farthest from our view).

    PS Layers:

  1. pale yellow for the background
  2. leafy green bushes
  3. the brown fence
  4. Jane’s pale pink dress
  5. the brown grapevine basket
  6. her white fur (head, arms, and tail)
  7. her white hair and pink roses

Working with one layer at a time allows me to keep the rest of my painting unaffected, as I tend to work without any concrete plans, and change my mind frequently.
This portrait especially challenged my newly developing skills… as multiple times I stared at the screen, suffering from artist’s block, without any clue how to achieve the desired look.

This painting would sit for weeks in my Progress folder, while my subconscious sorted out the problem.

Digitally coloring a grapevine basket

I began with the simplest project in the piece… the grapevine basket. I’ve drawn and painted baskets before, and one of my first attempts at digital paintings involved a very similar basket design. Originally I smudged all the shadows and highlights by hand (i.e. with stylus/mouse), but with Gaussian Blur it becomes 10x easier.
No, make that 50x easier!

Simply draw your shadow lines and highlighted lines, and then blur the heck out of them (using Gaussian Blur). Sometimes it needs to be done a few times, or else set the layer to multiply, in order to make the shadows dark enough for your preference.

My first obstacle involved the wood grain texture of my fence. It would be simple to choose a photographic texture for the grain, and apply it with Burn or Overlay. However, I wanted to grow and improve as a digital painter, and was determined to paint the texture myself.

Jane Bennet Cat digital painting in progress TaraFly

This screenshot of the program shows where I’ve shaded the wooden posts and was beginning to add squiggly dark grain lines, which I’d later blend in with Smudge/Blur.

(You’ll notice I had the dress and background layers turned off… I’ll do that often to focus my concentration)

Digital painting Jane bennet dress by TaraFly

Next, I painted her dress. I have a love/hate relationship with fabric. I’m not always sure where the folds are, and how the colors shift; it’s difficult to tell from a photograph. So I usually just use my imagination and paint wrinkles and folds however I want, whether it’s technically accurate or not.

This is the one instance in the painting where I did use a fabric texture to create the little rosebuds. I had planned to paint the design by hand, but grew lazy…

This is the same technique I’ve used before, and explained in detail with Mr. Bennet’s portrait.

Adding texture to a shawl. digital painting by TaraFly.

I used my tweed fabric texture on her shawl. In this shot, you can see my cursor (in Eraser mode) trimming off the excess texture where it overlapped onto her dress.

Cat face digital painting by TaraFly

Moving on to the fur layer, I painted the shadows of her face in pale purple, and using the Smudge tool in a small brush size (with heavy pressure: 50-70%) pulled out large tufts and smaller strands of fur.
Her eyes were a blend of blues, purple (for shadow), green, and yellow… I placed dabs of each color and blended with the Blur tool. I manually blended a bit as well.

Jane Bennet Cat's fluffy white tail. Digital Painting by TaraFly.

Her tail was done the same way. I colored it completely white, and added lines of purple for shading, then Smudged all the chunks of fur in various directions, with a flowing manner.
Since Jane is a long-haired cat, the Smudge pressure needed to be heavy to produce the longest strands. A short, light pressure will break early and leave shorter tufts.

It was around this point that I uploaded my first set of photos to Flickr, and gave everyone a WIP update. Noelle was enthusiastic, but mentioned that Jane’s one eye should be green.

Not a serious problem with Photoshop however, thanks to the “color replacement tool” that allows you to substitute one color for another, leaving the shading values mostly intact. The tool tries to replicate all the shadows and highlights in the new color scheme, although sometimes it is a little “off” and you’ll lose details, so touch-ups will be necessary.

But it definitely helps to discover this tool before you re-color an entire area from scratch!
Like I wound up doing 3 years ago with a mermaid’s tail, at a customer’s request.

Digitally painting Jane Bennet Cat's hair ringlets. By TaraFly.

This image shows my beginning work on Jane’s hairstyle and ringlets. I drew this style from my imagination because I didn’t have any hair references that appealed to me. Again, the shadows are getting drawn in purple.

Using the Smudge tool in Photoshop to add hair.

I began smudging with a thick brush and light pressure, just to get the rough outline of hair growth… then I went back and pulled tiny strands of hair using a heavier pressure.

Here is what her hair looks like after drawing a gazillion strands, and adding some highlights…
pure white lines and some yellow sun-kissed spots.

Jane Bennet Cat's face portrait. Digital painting by TaraFly.

Drawing and smudging hair is very time-consuming, but it’s also semi-relaxing due to the repetitive, flowing movement. You can literally sit for hours and just draw lines of hair. 😛

Painting flowers, on the other hand, is not relaxing at all. Actually, this basket full of roses was a bit nerve-wracking… Flowers are incredibly detailed, but I tried to simplify it for myself by painting them in swirls and blobs.

Filling Jane's flower basket with roses.

Have you ever decorated a cake with piped roses?
You begin by piping a blob of icing onto a metal platform called a “flower nail”… and then make a swirl around the top, and add crescent-shaped petals around the swirled center.
I approached these flowers just like that. Swirls and blobs, swirls and blobs, with blurred highlights and shadows. LOL

And those green furry blobs?? I was trying to fill up the basket with “green stuff”, so I wouldn’t need as many flowers. 😛
I also added lots of white blobs (i.e. baby’s breath) for filler.

After looking at the entire portrait, I decided that her pale purple dress wasn’t the right color… so I chose a warmer pink to complement the roses. I also began to detest the ugly brown I’d used previously for her shawl, and opted instead for lavender. Yay for the color replacement tool!

Color replacement tool in Photoshop.
You can see how nicely the color transitions as I scroll my mouse over it, keeping the shadows intact.

So here stands rosy-cheeked Jane Bennet, amongst her flower garden… and something is missing.

Jane Bennet Cat work in progress digital painting by TaraFly.

I needed to finish the leafy bushes in the background, and God help me, I did not want to paint leaves.

I procrastinated for a long while, and finally searched Deviantart for suitable photographs that I could use as a backdrop. But nothing looked quite right.
What to do….

The answer was so obvious, I’m fortunate it wasn’t a blasted snake. This is Photoshop after all, and I use the cut and paste tool only a million times per day…

One morning after eating my brain food (a.k.a. oatmeal banana pancakes), I realized that I could paint a small patch of leaves onto a transparent layer, and copy them repeatedly all over the shrubbery.

painting leaves on a transparent layer in Photoshop.

“Lightbulb”, as Gru would say (from my kids’ new favorite movie).

Don’t tell me these look like poison ivy leaves.

I filled up the background with them, and also pasted some over the fence layer, giving the illusion that leaves were poking through the slats in the fence.

Digital painting of leaves and wooden fence.

Again, do NOT mention their resemblance to poison ivy.
I’m warning ya’. 😉

To give some depth to the shrubs, I added a couple additional layers and painted large blobs of green with a “wet watercolor” brush setting. The bottom layer was blurred and lightened.

Painting leaves and shrubbery in Photoshop.

I think the overall effect looks nice and leafy.

The finishing touch was to add grass. Just a wide strip of green across the bottom of the painting, which was smudged into long blades of grass (just like cat fur).

Adding grass digital painting in Photoshop.

But I’m not quite done yet, adding a couple of roses growing in the bush, lighter shades of grass, and a few more leaves.

It’s dangerously easy to overwork a painting, and hopefully I stopped myself just in time. I have a habit of trying to add too many details…

The finished Miss Bennet, just in time for an early spring!

Jane Bennet finished digital art print by TaraFly.