cat portrait

A few months ago, I decided to stop uploading duplicate blog content to this account (to appease the almighty Google gods). Although was my initial launching pad into blogging, I transferred my attention to 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 🙂

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. 😛

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….
Thank you for lending me your eyes! 😉


Regency Cat Bookmarks, original artwork by TaraFly

My Regency Cat portraits are now available as bookmarks, trimmed in ribbon and lace, for sale in both my Etsy shop and locally in Funkstown, Maryland ~ at The Guten Tag, a family owned gift-shop in Historic Town Center.

I mentioned The Guten Tag back in April, when I began selling my framed prints of Mr. Darcy Cat and Redcoat Soldier Cat there.

I’ve been thinking of ways to expand my selection of goods, and Michelle from TrueBookAddict on Blogspot suggested bookmarks as the purrfect compliment to cat characters inspired by classic novels! 😉

These are created with reproduction prints of my artwork – the same quality prints I sell in my shop, using K3 UltraChrome pigment ink and Ultra Premium Presentation paper.
I’ve taken decorative cardstock found in scrapbooking stores and adhered it to the backside of each art print, using Modge Podge decoupage glue.

I applied a couple thick coats of acrylic varnish, let it dry, and punched a hole in the top for threading a bit of lace or ribbon.

Creating bookmarks featuring my Regency Cat artwork, Mr Darcy Cat bookmark

When I stopped by The Guten Tag to visit Jessica Synder, the shoppe’s owner, to deliver my bookmarks and chat a bit… we discussed upcoming holiday merchandising ideas.
She loves to deck the store floor to ceiling with ornaments, so I’ve decided to begin a special portrait series based on Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker Ballet, which will be featured on Christmas ornaments! 😉

I thought it would be fitting for Clara Cat and the feline Nutcracker Prince to battle an evil Mouse King! Bwahaha

They will most likely begin as original paintings, which I’ll reproduce onto the ornaments, allowing people to collect the full set. They will be available during the holidays both in my Etsy shop and locally at The Guten Tag.

I brought my camera along during this visit, and Jess graciously allowed me to wander the shop and take photographs of all the treasures!

iron metal dressform with crochet snowflakes and tags

I drooled over the wire dressforms, stone urns, statuary, garden obelisks, and bird-cages. I also loved the creative ways in which she showcases her items, arranging random finds into beautiful and elegantly coordinated collections.

Golden goblet, obelisk, light, mirror reflection, photograph by TaraFly.

My Flickr slideshow of photographs will give you a taste of what you might find inside The Guten Tag gift-shoppe; it’s definitely worth checking out in person!

And of course, remember to ask “How much for that Darcy in the window?”…. 😉

acrylic painting on wood book shaped box by Tara Fly.

As you might have suspected from my recent posts, I’ve stepped momentarily away from “Pride and Prejudice” …

Many months of pouring over a book I’ve practically memorized, and obsessing over the feline portrayals of each major character, has left me with something almost kin to resentfulness of Darcy and Elizabeth.

I almost loathe them now…

I needed a break, if not from Austen herself, then certainly a respite from her immortal words: “In vain, I have struggled, it will not do…”

I spent one weekend flipping through “Sense and Sensibility” and “Emma” – hunting down humorous or heartwarming quotes for greeting cards… but finally found inspiration and solace in “Persuasion”.

Jane Austen's Persuasion, original acrylic painting by Tara Fly

I think what I love most about the characters, and their gradual romance, is how identifiable they are…
Anne and Frederick were young childhood sweethearts; however she decided to reject his proposal, and has spent the last eight years wondering whether she made the right decision.

When he returns to the neighborhood, she discovers he has grown into a successful, handsome man – most popular with the ladies. (LOL, good ol’ Austen… and her wealthy young men always in want of a wife…)

Ah, such a sweet revenge to warm the hearts of all jilted lovers out there….

Who among us hasn’t made the difficult decision to break off a relationship, and questioned our judgement later?
How many of us have accidentally bumped into an old flame and felt that twinge of regret?

Especially if they seem to have flourished in our absence, as if we somehow were holding back their potential.

Jane Austen's Persuasion, portrait of Anne Elliot Cat, art by Tara Fly.

Okay, I don’t usually pine over lost opportunities – it isn’t my philosophy – rather, my belief in destiny and romantic outlook on life tends to mirror Jane’s writings, inasmuch as everything ultimately works itself out for the best…

But there have been fleeting “what if” moments, and I can definitely relate to the self-doubting Anne experiences.

Desiring to paint something new and different – onto some thing new and different – a melancholy vision of Anne (at the Cobb Harbor), gazing out at the distant ships… picturing Captain Wentworth in his naval uniform aboard one of them, sprung to mind.

And I chose to paint her portrait in acrylics onto this wooden box designed to resemble a book…

wooden book shaped box painted in acrylics by TaraFly.

You can find these unfinished wood boxes at local craft stores, like Michael’s and A.C.Moore.
I picked up a couple of them to practice a couple of ideas, because I recognized how appropriately purrfect they were for showcasing my literary cat portraits.

I’ve already commissioned Joe to build similar book boxes, with a couple changes that I made to the design, and hopefully will have some fully handcrafted pieces to introduce as a featured line in my shop(s).

When Anne Eliot is finished, I’ll scan her into the computer for reproduction prints as well. 🙂

TaraFly's dressed stuffed animals

I’ve recently begun contemplating the idea of making videos to showcase my artwork, creative process, and give little glimpses into my studio and life…. simply because I find it fascinating to watch the videos highlighting other artists at work.

Of course, being the star of a video adds an additional pressure to entertain people along with getting work done. 😛

Once upon a time, YouTube would have been a fertile paradise for me to explore the world of amateur filmmaking.

I was eight years old when my father purchased a video camcorder for my birthday, because I was always begging him to let me use his expensive film equipment.
He had everything a young director could wish for…. fuzzy microphones on stands, a large stop-motion film camera, recording and sound editing machines…. *sigh*
But he pacified me with a hand-held, portable camcorder that shot in black-and-white and recorded onto inserted tapes.

TaraFly's childhood stuffed animals and toys

First Day of Rehearsals - Everyone bring your scripts?

When my friends and relatives visited, I would persuade them to dress up and act out my original scripts.

Lacking human actors, I would direct my stuffed animals in fully staged Broadway musicals…

I costumed them in dolls’ clothes, created sets from cardboard and furniture, played the cassette soundtrack, and did all the voice-overs myself.

These videos were embarrassingly cheesy, and fortunately they were recorded onto very old Beta tapes that no longer exist. *wink*

Just imagine… if YouTube existed in 1988… those horrid videos would be haunting me to this day.
Of course, I might have become a famous Hollywood director at thirteen.

Even as a teenager bitten by the acting bug, I was “impatient for display”, as Ms. Austen would observe.
Woe to anyone surfing YouTube, if I had only known, or they might have happened upon my melodramatic attempts at Wilde or Beckett.

But I didn’t have the forethought to post videos of myself all over the internet in the mid-’90s… or I might be starring in a daytime soap opera by now… or making oodles of money selling artwork, like Jasmine Becket-Griffith – who, at eighteen, was savvy enough to jump onto the eBay bandwagon before it left the station.

No, rather I began my web-adventures playing FurryMUCK (don’t ask) and developing a website devoted to haunted toilets.
And YouTube? What in the heck was that?

I vaguely recall my impression upon hearing the site mentioned for the first time:
It stuck me as a forbidden, voyeuristic place where people uploaded naughty things, hoping for their 5 minutes of fame before the moderators shut their videos down.

Even the name itself sounds… wrong… dirty somehow. 😉

Oddly, I no longer have the desire to stand in front of the camera for very long, much less record myself actually reciting anything… and who would listen, I dare ask?

Yet every morning, without fail, I am bombarded with marketing e-mails touting YouTube as the godsend for artists to expose their work to the masses…
And anyone stubbornly ignoring the potential impact videos have to reach wider audiences?
Well, they might as well shoot their careers straight through the heart and end their misery.

So Thursday night I stuck my toes in the water, and created a short video clip of my Regency cat portraits – using a free program called Windows Live Movie Maker, that I didn’t even realize we owned, until I needed to edit some video of the kids’ trip to the park.

We’ve also been the proud owners of a camcorder for over two years… and we have a webcam… *and* there’s a video camera installed on both our cellphones.
Do I have any legitimate excuse for not shooting more videos? Hmmmm?

Apparently I’m behind the curve… reacting to trends rather than forging new territory.
I always seem to embrace an idea 10 years after it becomes unpopular… like those Spandex leggings and oversized sweaters I wore throughout high-school, à la Flashdance.

Except I graduated in 1998, not 1988. 😉

Strangely though, I’m okay with that. I might not be business-smart and savvy, quick to spot an opportunity, and ready to throw myself into every spotlight.

I’ll embrace my shy, quirky adult nature.

And I’ll embrace that nineteen year old computer nerd who coded a website in tribute to “The Ghost of the Pot Roast”.

And I’ll embrace the fifteen year old girl who wore too much make-up, tried to cut her own hair, and moussed her chopped bangs until they stood straight up in spikes.

I’ll embrace that eight-year-old child who videotaped a stuffed cat singing “Surrey with the Fringe On Top” in Gordon McRae’s voice.

Because, honestly, if that isn’t entertainment… I don’t know what is. 😉

Victorian cat wearing floral easter bonnet hat. Artwork by TaraFly

Despite the pull of gravity, I managed to finish Victorian Cat.

Last week passed by in a Benadryl-induced blur of grogginess, thanks to the fine weather spawning a severe allergy… it was the first time I’ve ever experienced throat-swelling in addition to my red, itchy face and watery eyes.

Cat dander and dust, most likely, stirred up by the spring breezes blowing in the open windows throughout our house.
Merlin rubbing his furry face under my chin produced an itchy rash… and my family is howling with laughter at the irony of Mom being allergic… to CATS!

The horror!
It isn’t funny.

I was also dealing with a creative slump, which coupled with the medicine, left me couch-ridden… drowsily nursing a root-beer float and watching BBC television.

I’m tempted to blame the “Super Moon” for my lack of energy… you know, that hyped up phenomenon about Saturday’s moon being apocalyptic due to its close proximity to Earth.
Hehe, and I wonder if my ex-boyfriend is being adversely affected, since the 1997 Hale-Bopp comet’s interference with his brain supposedly caused him to break up with me… 😉

The full moon is notorious for the belief that it induces crazy behaviour in humans…
In fact, the word “lunacy” is derived from the Latin word for moon [luna];  people actually used the full moon as an excuse to commit crimes (i.e. the 19th century version of “pleading insanity”).

I rather tend to think it acts as a stimulant, not unlike a sip of Folger’s MasterBlend or a draft on a cigarette.

The interesting fact about stimulants, however, is that they produce the opposite effect in people prone to hyper-activity.
It’s true that caffeine can relax and even put folks to sleep… I can attest to it personally. LOL

I was a bit shocked to read online somewhere that parents were letting their toddlers drink coffee, and a few parents were recommending caffeine as an alternative to prescription drugs for calming ADHD children.

Drinking coffee was a “no-no” when I was growing up. In fact, one of my “rights of passage” involved being considered old enough to taste it.

I still get a twinge whenever I put a coffee jar into my shopping cart, or buy an extra-large cup from a convenience store…
it’s an – “I’m an adult, and I’m allowed to drink coffee!” feeling.

I would imagine it’s akin to making a liquor purchase, but I don’t have any experience with that.
Coffee and Pepsi taste far better than alcohol. 😉

Especially if you brew spices like cinnamon and nutmeg into the grounds, and then stir heavy whipping cream and some caramel syrup into it.
Mmmmm nom nom.
Okay… but getting back on topic…

If full moons have this reputation to drive people mad,
than what effect would they have on an already insane person?

My belief: full moons make crazy people SANE.
They make creative people un-creative, boring, and normal.

In my case, it dampens my ability to paint cats parading around as literary characters, dressed in silly costumes.
Because it takes a certain ounce of insanity to see the images that I see in my head every day.

I wasn’t feeling at all crazy last week, lying on the couch… tuning into Netflix to catch up on Mistresses – Season 1 in my pajamas, with loads of laundry waiting to be folded, and kids in need of a hot bath.

I felt decidedly typical… as if any moment, I might morph into the next door neighbor who hangs her clothes on the line, while chatting on her cordless phone (to another housewife, no doubt) about Jennifer Horton-Deveraux’s latest entanglement… both wearing their slippers and robes, and curlers in their hair.

Okay… so I made up the bit about the curlers.

I wasn’t in the mood to design new business cards, or upload my latest painting for sale, or write a blog post.

I wonder what other creative individuals do when faced with a slump like mine?
What do the folks at Disney do?
When those silly little creatures need to be digitally painted a thousand times over, regardless of how the animator feels…

autumn walk through downtown Funkstown. Guten Tag gift shop.

This shot of Guten Tag was taken during my autumn walk last year.

On Saturday morning, I took a walk into town to visit that locally owned gift shop that I’d been eyeing for several months.
Stepping inside, it reminded me of a potting shed… but in an earthy, inviting sense.

The owner of Guten Tag has focused her wares around the “home and garden” theme, and with the advent of Spring… her shop was full of potted plants, vintage gardening tools, lawn ornaments, and all sorts of home accessories in wrought-iron, stone, wood, and grapevine materials.

Promisingly, too, her shop was busy! I was hoping to catch her all to myself, to chat about the possibility of a consignment or wholesale arrangement… but I wound up standing in line behind a few other ladies, with a paper weight and picture frame in my hands.

I did get a chance to mention my artwork, give her Mr. Darcy’s portrait with my contact info… and she seemed genuinely pleased to make my acquaintance.
She said Mr. Darcy should do well, as apparently cats sell like hot cakes… strange to note that I saw very few cats represented in the selection of goods.

Another lady who showcases her work in the shop, creates apparel pins with kitty cats on them… and the owner suggested,
“Perhaps you could put Mr. Darcy on something like that?”

I’d hate to compete with another pin-selling cat artist. But her inventory got my brain plotting ways to utilize all the flower pots and vases I’ve been storing in my studio closet.

Unfortunately, when I arrived back home… after doing some research into 19th century porcelain vase designs, I couldn’t settle upon a design that I liked.
After decorating the blasted flower pots for nearly two hours, I changed my mind and trashed the whole thing… repainting over them all.

Painting a rural countryside scene on flower pots

Changed my mind from pink marble to 'rural English country'...

I’m still stuck in this rut… with a tentative appointment scheduled for tomorrow looming over my head, I’m worried that I won’t have a single thing to show her.
Worse still, I have half a dozen projects lying around and no guidance whatsoever. I keep adding to the growing list, and nothing is getting finished.

People often remark on the effectiveness of the calendar method, so I’ve decided (as of, 5 minutes ago) that this will be tomorrow’s FIRST project:

Create a calendar to keep track of every idea that floats into my brain. Assign a date to it, and if necessary, an approximate deadline.

Each day, I will have a visual reminder of which projects need to be completed first, i.e. the oldest pieces.
Hopefully checking something off the list will feel more satisfying than jumping sporadically into different projects, leaving a chaotic unfinished mess behind.

This also works well with blog post ideas, or so I’ve heard… it will be worth trying.


Of course, you know what else can be determined using the calendar method?

A: A full moon.

Perhaps it’d be wise to schedule those periods as “days of rest”… for couches, PJs, and good old Netflix.

When I’m called into account for my laziness, I’ll plead guilty to lunacy!
The full moon made me do it!

Do you think it will work?
And any thoughts on fighting creative burn out?

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

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.

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