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The Artist's Cat-prentice

by Andrilisa Read-Iglesias Lopes 9 months ago in art · updated 9 months ago
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A Story About Letting Others Into My Creative World, One Cat At A Time

Imo relaxing in 'Casa de Gold', house number two in the cat house village.

It was during the summer of 2018 that I realized my cat, Imo, was an artist like me.

I recall there was an artsy connection between us when I first saw his picture prior to adopting him- I was instantly drawn to his white fur, his blue eye, and his gold eye. He was a work of art: a khao manee exotic cat. Still, I was surprised when that June, as I began a large acrylic painting for my job, Imo showed up for every single paint shift.

In the beginning, I chalked it up to normal cat curiosity. Especially since my other cat, Suna, was there while I was prepping everything. But Imo was for the entire painting process. He sat right next to me, looking up from time to time.

At one point, while I had the canvas laying on the floor, he sprawled himself on the corner of it. I wasn’t sure what to make of the entire thing. My one thought was that he must like art just as much as I do.

The first painting Imo accompanied me for.

Later that fall, when I started working on another large painting, there was Imo once again. Like clockwork, once I’d get into my painting attire and set up my palette, Imo would walk over and as soon as I got started, he would find a comfortable position and stare. I’d look over at him and he’d look back with the most serene look on his face.

Could he feel the energy of the creative vortex I was in? Did it give him peace? Sometimes, he would sit with his back towards me, as if he was keeping a look out for distractions. It started to feel like we were a team, so I started to think of him as my apprentice, my cat-prentice.

Imo keeping guard against potential shenanigans.

Prior to this, I had never had anyone accompany me while I worked on art. I was always too afraid to let anyone watch me work, fearing an opinion might set me on a dark path of doubt. But it was comforting to look over at Imo and get a soft nod. I could almost feel him saying “you’re doing a good job, keep going."

It meant a lot to feel that support. It made me wonder how many times I had deprived myself of that support simply because I was anticipating a negative opinion. I began to open my mind to this idea of letting others in while being in the midst of the creative process.

As the months rolled by, Imo and I started to take on projects in other mediums. I wanted to do my own rendition of my favorite painting, Francisco Goya's “Saturn Devouring His Son”, using only clothing. I didn’t anticipate there would be any issues until Imo kept going to lay on top of the clothing!

He would move if I asked him to but not before moving the clothes too. Finally, I had to put his favorite blanket right next to where I was working so that he would stop laying on the garments and let me finish. This is one of those few occasions where sleeping on the job was allowed.

Imo in dreamland on his green blanket.

I started to have a really deep appreciation for my cat-prentice. It didn’t matter what time of the day I had to work, Imo was there. I didn’t have to create alone anymore thanks to him.

In our time working together, I discovered that Imo really liked boxes. I was also reconnecting with collage as a medium, so I decided to combine my passion with his and make him a village of cat houses out of cardboard. Imo could barely contain his excitement with this project! He kept getting inside the boxes as I was covering them in magazine clippings.

Imo testing the windows in 'Casa De Gold' to make sure he can climb out in case of an emergency.

It’s as if he knew these works of art were for him. He knew he was the client, so he was not sticking to his usual boundaries. I decided to let down some of my own boundaries.

For the first time, I asked my husband what he thought about the project. And as he answered, I felt the flood of comfort wash over me just like it did every time I looked into Imo’s eyes while I was painting.

I was no longer afraid of letting people in and it was all thanks to my cat-prentice.

Imo and the cat house village.

Doing the cat house village project really allowed me to connect with Imo on a more personal level. I felt inspired to revamp a wooden cat statue I had in honor of both my cats. Can you take a guess at who decided to volunteer as the model?

Once again, Imo was by my side. This time he was watching me like a hawk! I felt so much pressure to make sure the face shape at least looked like the same shape as my cats’. Imo didn’t mind at all that I was staring at him. This certainly was not the kind of project I could afford to mess up, as my reputation as a cat guardian and an artist were both on the line. I think both the cats were satisfied with the result seeing as how I didn’t get scratched up.

Imo making sure to keep still while I paint on the pink nose.

After this project, Suna started to come around a lot more while Imo and I were getting our art on. At first, she would just watch from a distance, but eventually she started to sit for hours just like Imo would. I couldn’t believe it! I had Suna for years prior to Imo and at most she would only sit for a few minutes at a time.

My husband too, was also becoming more involved. More and more we would sit and have discussions about the direction I was going in with a certain piece. He was sharing his thoughts and even providing suggestions. Finally, one day I asked him to color something in with me.

I never thought I’d see the day where I invited someone to share in the creation process with me. All I can think about is Imo and how he was the one who was able to open that door for me. It is because of him that I can enjoy nights like the one below. We now create art as a family thanks to my cat-prentice.

My husband Alejandro, Suna, Imo and I in the creative vortex together.


About the author

Andrilisa Read-Iglesias Lopes

Just an artist painting dreams with words...

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