Art with Cattitude: The Creative Process

Like a lot of creative people, I often get asked how I come up with ideas. Well, in my case, sometimes it’s in the car. Sometimes in the shower. Sometimes when I am doing something else entirely. In my corporate career (http://designthatworks.com and http://www.designthatsgreen.com) my creativity is more “on demand” – that is, I usually have deadlines, we’ve been paid in advance, and there may already be a meeting on the calendar to present ideas and concepts we haven’t even thought of yet.

Art with Cattitude is different. It’s more spontaneous. Sometimes Theo does something and I say, “I have to write that down before I forget!” Sometimes a friend sends me a picture of their cat, or someone submits something to the Cattitude Art Contest. It might be something I saw online that sparks an idea. In any case, if I don’t grab something to write or draw with immediately I might forget entirely. (It’s not like this is the only thing I do with my time, unfortunately!)

So I thought some of you might be interested in seeing a bit of how the Art with Cattitude illustrations get done.

First I sketch the art out lightly in pencil. Sometimes I work directly with ink, but usually it’s light pencil. Occasionally the first sketch doesn’t work, so it’s start over again in pencil (or ink).  If I started with pencil, then I do the ink on top of that. Then erase the pencil. Then, using colored pencils (Prismacolor, one of my favorite media), I color the artwork. This takes a while, depending upon how complex the composition is.

I usually have the idea for the caption and the art almost simultaneously. But not always. Sometimes the caption I think of first doesn’t work and I have to re-write it (maybe even more than once). If that’s the case, then when I get to the scanning process, I have to replace the original caption with the new one and retouch it. Since I work on textured off-white paper and use a flatbed scanner, that can be a bit of a hassle. The backgrounds rarely match from one scan to the next, but after you’ve done a bunch of these you get the hang of it and can do it more quickly.

Cat saying, Come rub my belly, I promise I won't bite your hand...really!

For this illustration I started with a rough sketch of Theo in ink (left). He lies on the floor with his paws like this a lot, sometimes with one eye on me and the other closed. Then, I made a more finished version of the art (middle), and tried out two different captions: “Who you callin’ a slut?!” (at the top of the second illustration – we call this cat pose the Slut Pose); and ” Sure I know I’m cute. Can’t you see I’m workin’ it?” Neither of these seemed to work, so I thought of another one and just sketched it in roughly in ink with a very rough outline of the artwork for positioning (right). Then, I scanned in both the final caption and the final art and merged them in Photoshop.

The sketches here are from one of the very first pieces of Art with Cattitude I did. This devious guy is on note cards and on the labels for our note card boxes. He’s based on some sketches I did of Theo, but I changed his fur color and face (I can’t have ALL the Cattitude artwork looking like Theo – as much as he would like that!). If you notice, I actually tried two different captions before settling on the final one. That’s because, as any cat person knows, a cat will frequently lure you in with his adorable furry belly and then, once he’s finished with your affection, will grab your hand in his paws and bite the ##@**$$# out of it.Cat_rolled_over_begging_for_belly_rub

And here you see the final version. Piece of cake, right? Well, not always. But it’s never boring, because I love cats and drawing cats and channeling what our cats would say if they could speak our language!