Wooden book shaped box, painted by Tara Fly

“One does not love a place the less for having suffered in it, unless it has been all suffering, nothing but suffering.”
~ Jane Austen’s Persuasion

This sad, little portrait of Anne Elliot that I’ve been teasing you about is finished at last!

This is a sanded pine box, shaped to resemble a book, with a “spine” drawer which completely pulls out, and you can store all sorts of things inside: greeting cards, stationary, photographs, letters, crayons, pressed flowers, recipe cards, and so much more…

Jane Austen's Persuasion Anne Elliot Cat, Mr Darcy Cat cards

The book is 1.5″ deep, with the drawer being slightly over 1.25″ deep… plenty of room for markers, colored pencils, a small stack of notecards….

I painted the entire surface, inside and out… once I started, it became my obsession not to leave any unfinished pine wood exposed.

The “pages” have been given a faux treatment that fooled my husband! hehe
I had the box partially hidden within a stack of real books, and he didn’t recognize the imposter.

Wooden box painted as faux book, hiding on bookshelf

Where am I? Come and find me....

I decided to paint a scene from Cobb Harbor at Lyme Regis, one of the pivotal settings from Jane Austen’s Persuasion, on the book’s cover. In my feline portrait, Anne Elliot is still mourning the decision she made to break off her engagement to naval commander Captain Frederick Wentworth…. whom I imagine as a grey tabby.

I didn’t add Jane Austen’s name to the book, as none of her novels were published with her name on them. This was quite common for female writers in the 19th century, or in the cases of the Bronte sisters, who wrote under male pseudonyms.

I’ve had a marvelous time in the last couple of years, reacquainting myself with Miss Austen and her works… as I continue on this journey to portray her characters as cats. ๐Ÿ™‚

“Persuasion” and “Mansfield Park” are two of my favorites, and I encourage you to meet Miss Anne and Captain Wentworth for yourself.

reproduction print of Tara Fly's Anne Elliot Cat from Persuasion

Archival prints of Anne are also available...

If you prefer renting movies over books, I might suggest the 1995 BBC version with Amanda Root and Ciarรกn Hinds first. ๐Ÿ™‚

I found the characters more genuine in that adaptation, than those in the 2007 BBC film… who I think were cast mainly for their physical attractiveness.

Well, at least in the case of Rupert Penry-Jones, who in my humble opinion didn’t suit the character of a rugged naval captain at all… a little too “pretty-boy” for my tastes. Many other ladies would beg to differ with me, however, by claiming he was easier on the eyes than Hinds.
Eh… can’t please everybody. ๐Ÿ˜›

So just watch them both! And tell me what you think…

My hand painted Persausion box is available on Etsy, and I’ve made a few archival prints of Anne Elliot’s portrait as well.

If you really like her, tell your entire social network, so an awesome friend might buy her for you as a gift! ๐Ÿ˜‰

illustration drawing of Regency kitty cat sitting at window by TaraFly Art

At the Window - an original Regency cat drawing by TaraFly

Last year, I was kicking around an idea to create a calendar using black and white sketches… since a large, full-color, hanging wall calendar would be very expensive to produce on my printer… (which explains why most Etsy artists are creating small desktop calendars or having them mass-printed elsewhere).

I thought it would be a neat idea to present this calendar of sketches like a coloring book, with a new character to decorate each month.
I know my kids would look forward to scribbling all over Mom’s calendar, and afterwards each piece could be kept and framed as wall art. ๐Ÿ™‚

I know you’re thinking… “Sounds great! What happened?”

Although it didn’t come together as quickly as I’d planned, considering I had a dozen projects already in progress… I still intend to create the calendar for 2012, incorporating many of the drawings that I haven’t painted yet.
Some of them may never be completed otherwise. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Tonight I came across the blog of a children’s book author, Elizabeth Dulemba, who hosts “Coloring Book Tuesday” – making her own artwork downloadable for printing at home. Once her young readers finish coloring them, they may be scanned and e-mailed back to Jenn, who will display them on her blog.

I thought this was such a cool idea!! So I’ve decided to “borrow” it, hehe
I can’t promise a new drawing every week, but perhaps once or twice a month for starters. ๐Ÿ˜‰

“At The Window” is a digital drawing of a Regency kitty sitting at her window, with a book in her lap.ย  Perhaps she is waiting for a special visitor, or she’s watching the gentlemen hunting on the lawn.

She may be downloaded simply by clicking on the link above, or clickingย on either of these twoย images shown inย my post.

Click to Zoom and view the full-size file (which is 1600×2000, or 8″x10″ at 200ppi) … and then Right-click and save it to your computer.

Regency lady kitty cat sitting at window artwork by Tara Fly Art

An example of coloring At The Window.

She can be colored digitally, or printed out to decorate with crayons, markers, glitter, felt, fabric, and anything else you fancy!
I’d love to see what you do with her!

If you share your creation with me, I’ll post your artwork here on my blog and my Facebook fanpage.

Also, everyone who is featured will receive a $5.00 coupon for my Etsy shop (or my website, if you prefer)… ๐Ÿ™‚

You may scan and post “At The Window”:
to your Facebook wall and tag me… (gotta friend me first! *wink*)…
my Fanpage wall – if you’re a fan
upload it to Flickr or Photobucket…
or e-mail it to me directly.
(I’d be happy to help if you have trouble uploading it, just send me an e-mail).

If posting it anywhere online, please keep my name on it, so folks can search and find my other artwork easily. Thanks!

Enjoy this free coloring book drawing with “Many Thanks!” from me…
and please share this post with anyone you know who might like it, too!

I really appreciate everyone who supports my artwork, and makes this internet a fun, engaging place to be. ๐Ÿ™‚

An autumn field and sunset in the country

Rolling country fields at sunset... taken while living in PA.

I’m juggling a few balls in the air, so expect some goodies in the coming weeks…

First, the deadline for Etsy’s Space Craft contest, partnered with NASA – is literally days away, and I’ve got an awesome entry for it! Regardless of whether my piece earns a place, this portrait inspired by the intergalactic aspirations of our forefathers is rapidly becoming a favorite of mine.

Here’s a sneak peek… but you’ll have to wait until after this weekend to see the rest!

helioscope dated to 1880s and TaraFly's digital art telescope rendering

A helioscope dating back to the 1880's, and my digitally painted version

Jane Bennet’s portrait is also coming along and I will be unveiling her next week as well.

I’m happy to report that my first cat doll has received some rough toddler handling over the last few weeks, and has passed the durability test without flying fur… eh, stuffing. I may be looking into streamlining a line of dolls once I perfect the pattern. Okay, once I actually draw a pattern… ๐Ÿ˜‰

I have a new T-shirt design featuring Mr. Bennet, which I think is just adorable. He is already available in my Zazzle shop, but I would love to sell some of these shirts on my site and Etsy, although I can only produce them myself as iron-on transfers at the moment… screenprinting seems more popular, so I will check into whether my multi-colored designs can be affordably reproduced onto shirts.

My other transfers have held up really well, so far… and I’m very lazy when it comes to following laundering directions. I laugh maniacally at the symbols and throw everything together. Everything gets put into the dryer, whether it should be line-dried or not. Yeah, beat me with an environmentally friendly stick.

When I lived in the country, we had a clothesline which I attempted to use, but I never quite managed to get the hang of it. The clothes were either rigid or full
of spiders, but my ex-husband hated the electric dryer and cussed at me for using it.
(One wonders why he bothered leaving it hooked up…. was it the proverbial Tree of Knowledge?)

Nowadays, convenience and fluffy clothes win out… unless these ghastly electric bills climb any higher.

I noticed some faint crackling in the transfer after they escaped the heat, but it gives them a worn, lived-in character. The colors are still bright, and nothing is peeling.

TaraFly modeling her artwork Red Coat Soldier Cat on T-shirt

Here was the shirt I made with Red Coat Soldier Dommie.

My transfer directions also specify that shirts should be washed wrong-side-out. Hehe That never happens. I don’t separate colors and whites either… The majority of my wardrobe predates all three of my children, and none of the fabric bleeds or shrinks anymore. ๐Ÿ˜‰
I do wash everything in cold water, unless it’s extremely soiled, to save money.

Speaking of saving money…. ahem. Since the holidays are around the corner and people need gifts to buy, and I need money to buy gifts…
Beginning Monday, November 1st, I will be offering Free Shipping on orders over $25.00 in my Etsy shop This applies to both domestic and international customers; the shipping costs will be refunded through Paypal.
And orders over $50.00 will receive a 10% discount and free shipping, also via Paypal refund.
Because Etsy still hasn’t given me the one thing on my Christmas list: a coupon/discount system for customers. And I’ve been good this year… ๐Ÿ˜›

A similar offer will be available on my website: free shipping for orders over $25.00… however, every new or existing customer to my Art Shop (between Nov. 1st and Dec. 31st) will receive a 10% discount on any purchase, regardless of the total.
It would be awesome if I could bring some additional traffic to my website, since I sweated and slaved over it for months.

Which reminds me…. when you’re visiting my site in the coming months, you might notice some tinkering behind the scenes, as I experiment with different colors, graphics, and the site map. I’m looking for an alternative to my landing page, perhaps using site highlights (latest blog excerpts, sales info, etc).
The Neapolitan color theme is also wearing out its welcome – well, the strawberry pink color is anyway.

white tan brown color palette for website

my current and prospective color palettes

I’ve been toying with the idea to get rid of the sugary pink altogether, or at least eliminate it from my headers, and focus primarily on white… with accents of tan/sienna and chocolate brown/black. Think – calico cat! I want to invoke the feeling of calico fur, and also brown is a comforting, studious color that reminds me of archival parchments, cavernous libraries, and dusty books. ๐Ÿ™‚

You can imagine how this indecisiveness makes it difficult to market myself… alas, I’m still using business cards with fire-breathing Dominic on them! LOL It’s hard to believe that he was still the focal point of my website 10 months ago… it was so hard to say good-bye.
Perhaps I’ll design something for him especially for the holidays, as a tribute. The Christmas Cat who tends the fireplace, or the Thanksgiving guest who spit-roasts the turkey…

On the horizon… after Jane B and the Mystery Piece are finished, work on patient Mr. Bingley will begin in earnest. Joe and I also discussed adding more photomanipulations to my Regency series, in addition to “Gazing On Pemberley” and “The Letter”… as they are always well received. Perhaps something with an autumn or winter flavor. (I particularly like the potential of my opening image, the field).
And I’m also planning to create another Mr. Darcy Limited Edition print for the yuletide season, same number of prints: (50) 8×10 and (20) 11×14 sizes.

As with Halloween Darcy, they will only be on the market for a limited time during the holidays. If any prints remain afterwards, their listings will be taken down until the following October. So you’ll have to wait a whole year, and hope a few remain, unless you get one soon. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Phantom Masked Cat by TaraFly framed limited edition reproduction

Phantom Darcy Limited Edition (shown here framed)

Yes, I realize this post sounds terribly “spammy”… which is why I rarely write updates on my work and need lots of practice. But now that I’ve shared everything with you, and all these inspiring ideas and irritating To-Dos aren’t crashing around in my brain, I can regain focus and start checking things OFF the list.

Yeah, and don’t even get me started on the Holiday Boot Camp thing… editing my titles and tags (again!) and including metric dimensions in each shop listing.

Does anyone know where I can hire a rabid pack of zombie cheerleaders?
It is Halloween, after all… ๐Ÿ˜›

photo manipulated piece "Gazing upon Pemberley"

Gazing Upon Pemberley - prints available on Etsy.

I would love to think that someday my name will be synonymous with Regency Cats, as my heart truly lies with my anthropomorphic cat drawings. However, when studying the press and attention I’ve received in the last year (barring Regretsy of course), I have to concede that my most popular piece to date has been “Gazing On Pemberley”, a photomanipulation featuring myself.        

Austenites around the globe chuckle over “Mr. Darcy Cat”, but drool over “Pemberley”. She’s been featured in multiple blogs and Etsy treasuries recently, which is a great deal of exposure for me, and my relatively unknown body of work.
I find myself, time and time again, trying to describe what “photomanipulation” is… what differentiates this piece from an actual photograph. As obviously I wasn’t standing there, in that field, overlooking Pemberley. ๐Ÿ˜‰        

I decided the best way to explain how a photomanip is created, is by showing a few screenshots of a work-in-progress, to explain the process in steps as I did earlier with “Mr. Bennet Cat”.        

So for all you Pemberley fans, bear with me as I attempt to re-create “Gazing On Pemberley” from the beginning. ๐Ÿ™‚        

It starts with an idea, of course. I wanted to use one of my own stock photos from my Regency photo shoot, taken at the local City Park, in the summer of 2008.        

See, for a brief time before I devoted all my spare hours to painting and experimenting in Photoshop, I modeled as a hobby. It began in 2006, when a friend of mine suggested that I visit his Deviantart gallery… I had no clue what Deviantart was, or how photomanips were created, but I was instantly hooked.
Not believing I had any talent to manipulate photos myself (I hadn’t actually tried).. I decided to dig out my old theatre costumes, and scoured eBay to invest in some new pieces, to go traipsing about the countryside as a stock model with my boyfriend/husband in tow as my photographer.        

Stock photography can be used As Is, for reference, and for digital collage (a.k.a photomanipulation). I guess at that time in my life, I needed reassurance that I was desirable and attractive… and my weakening self-esteem (from the collapse of a bad marriage) needed a major vanity boost, which I received tenfold as artists across the world began using my likeness in their work.
(If you’re interested to learn more about my amateur modeling days, click here to see the gallery of artwork featuring me).        

I was inspired to create “Gazing on Pemberley” when I found this image among my photos. I think this was overlooked by others as potential material because of the harsh shadows.
We photomanipulators sometimes get lazy and want everything to be clear, in-focus, and evenly lit. ๐Ÿ˜‰    

Regency Jane Austen woman lake park

Portrait of TaraFly taken at the City Park, circa 2008

The key to a good photomanip is even lighting among the photos… getting the light source, the shadows, and the intensity to match. The individual images need to work together as a whole, and it’s always best if they are taken with the same camera, or during the similar hours of the day.
Warm afternoon sun, long shadows, etc…        

While browsing Deviantart for English countryside themes, I stumbled across VisualJenna-stock’s gallery… and this piece in particular.
The rolling hills, late afternoon sunlight, and summertime feeling were exactly what I had in mind for this piece.        

Rolling English countryside by VisualJenna-stock

Beautiful rolling hills by VisualJenna-Stock (click to view)

The only downside, albeit a minor one, was the nondescript sky. I was hoping to find a photo with a few fluffy clouds… but for a photo collage artist, a lack of interesting sky poses no problem! Simply grab another sky. ๐Ÿ˜‰        

When digging up stock photography for a new piece, I have a few Go-To artists: Night-Fate-Stock (a.k.a Julia Starr) is one of them. Her gallery stands alone as beautiful photography in its own right. Her photos rarely, if ever, need improvement. And she graciously shares a portion of her collection with us.
I keep coming back to her skies as they are the best I’ve ever seen… I used a sunset of hers in my Regency manipulation “The Letter”, and I chose this one for “Pemberley”.        

Field and cloudy sky by Night-Fate-stock on Deviantart.com

An awesome sky full of clouds (click to view larger)

Now, if you’ll notice… the foreground of Jenna’s stock is lit by the sun… and my model was standing in the shade. So I needed to find another photograph with a shady patch of grass in the foreground. I chose one of my own, from the same City Park shoot:        

Grassy hillside in summer at the park

A grassy hillside photo taken during the Regency shoot.

Lastly, but certainly not “leastly”, we need a grand estate to pose as Pemberley. I searched for English manors, and uncovered this gem by MacKenzie’sPride.
Notice the full sun is shining against the manor from the same direction as in Jenna’s hillside… that was serendipitous!        

My Pemberley a.k.a. Smithills Hall by MacKenziesPride on Deviantart

Smithills Hall by MacKenziesPride (click to view)

So, where do we begin?
I open a new file, with a basic white background, and roughly the width of my widest photo…
Starting from the horizon, I’ll work forward, so the sky gets placed first.
Cut-and-paste the sky onto the white background layer.        

Sky by Night-Fate-Stock on white background

Night-Fate-Stock's sky placed onto the bottom layer.

Then using the “Magic Extractor” tool, I remove the boring sky from VisualJenna’s hillside.
Squiggle the plus (+) brush onto the areas I’d like to keep, and the negative (-) brush onto the area I’d like erased.
This tool has its limitations, and some areas will need to be manually corrected before hitting “Okay”.    

Using Magic Extractor Tool in Photoshop

Using Magic Extractor to remove the sky from the field.

I’ll wind up with a Photoshop layer like this:    

Field from VisualJenna-Stock with sky removed

VisualJenna-Stock's field with the sky removed

Next, I paste the hillside layer over the sky and position it just so.
Later on, in the touch-up process, I will blur the harsh line between the trees and the horizon…
but don’t those two photographs already look made for each other?! ๐Ÿ˜€        

Night-Fate-Stock (sky) and VisualJenna-Stock (field)

Combining the field and sky images...

I used Magic Extractor again, to separate the hill in my park photo from the sky (and power lines).
I also had to rotate the image horizontally, so the shadows and light source would match Jenna’s hillside.
Cut-and-paste on top of her layer.        

Now this was an obvious example of the limitations of the Magic Extractor tool.
When images are clearly defined shapes, like houses and people, it does an excellent job removing them from a background… with only a few minor touch-ups with the eraser needed. (Unless the background is cluttered, of course, which will confuse the program).
But when we are dealing with grass, this tool stinks.
Grass, leaves, hair, lace… these complex images need to be painstakingly edited after the initial extraction. Zooming in reeeeally close, and using a tiny eraser to remove bits of the unwanted background.     

Splicing two photographs together in Photoshop

Adding another hill to the foreground...

So now you can see the seam between the photos, where part of the original sky is exposed.
I will need to work with my eraser tool to remove the sky, and then I’ll paint some grass blades and Smudge some grass as well (like we did with Mr. Bennet’s fur) to stitch these two photos together.        

Seam between two separate photographs

You can see the sky from my original photo, peeking out!

I use Magic Extractor once again, to eliminate the background from MacKenzie’s manor photograph, which just leaves us with the manor here.
I paste it into my work-in-progress, and must adjust the size, and also erase the portion that will be hidden behind the hillside.
To do that, I’ll temporarily reduce the Opacity of the manor’s layer to 50% or less, so that the curves of the hillside will show through, allowing me to trace along the edge of the hill with my eraser.        

Smithills Hall being used as Pemberley in TaraFly's artwork

Smithills Hall pasted into the scene... it needs to be resized.

Smithills Hall used for Jane Austen's Pemberley owned by Mr Darcy

The manor has been adjusted and tucked away behind a hill.

To add Elizabeth Bennet to the scene, I extract “myself” from the park background and paste the layer above the hill… erasing bits of my dress at the bottom to reveal the tall grass underneath.        

TaraFly in Regency dress models as Elizabeth Bennet

Including myself in this artwork; a close-up of my dress hem.

Now it has finally dawned on me that I needed a source for those shadows on my back…
so I look through my computer folder of saved stock files, and find another charming photograph by Night-Fate-Stock.        

Trees by Night-Fate-Stock on Deviantart.com

A grove of trees by Night-Fate-Stock

If you thought the Magic Extracting tool had difficulty with grass… it fails miserably with trees.
I almost hesitate to use trees in my work at all, because branches and leaves are very time-consuming to cut out. ๐Ÿ˜›
Here was the initial extraction:        

Pasting trees into a photomanipulation

Cutting and pasting the trees...

So now would be a good time to pop in your copy of A&E’s “Pride and Prejudice”, the 6-hour miniseries, and watch the entire thing.
Pop some corn, brew some tea, pick up your knitting project…
It’s over already? Rewind and watch it again….
I’ll still be here, zooming in 500%, erasing the pieces of bright blue sky from the branches of these blasted trees.        

But finally, when I’m done with them…
and I’ve gone back to blend, smudge, blur, and tweak the edges of each photo until my eyes are sore.
I will merge the many layers of this almost-finished piece into one layer and save it as a jpg file.        

Gazing on Pemberley by TaraFlyPhotos digital photomanipulation

Gazing on Pemberley is almost complete!

The only thing left to do is experiment with the color balance and filters to make the image warmer and more saturated.        

The finished art is ready to upload and share – “Gazing On Pemberley”, a Regency-inspired photomanipulation starring myself as Elizabeth Bennet. ๐Ÿ™‚        

Photomanipulation is a lot like sewing, I suppose, without getting your fingers stabbed and dripping blood everywhere.
The quality of the stock photography really makes the difference, and my job is to envision the finished quilt and stitch everything into place.
I owe the success of this piece to the wonderful stock artists out there in Deviantart-ville.    

Gazing on Pemberley Jane Austen Pride and Prejudice TaraFly Art

"Gazing On Pemberley" ... Behind the Scenes

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. ๐Ÿ˜› 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 ๐Ÿ™‚

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. ๐Ÿ™‚

Romantic Mr. Darcy Cat portrait ยฉTaraFly

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. ๐Ÿ˜‰ 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! ๐Ÿ˜€

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.