The first day of spring seems the perfect occasion for me to jumpstart this blog back to activity. Almost a month since my last post, my goodness. Well I’m still alive, dear readers, and as a true believer in seasonal affective disorder the arrival of spring works magic on my mood. To bid farewell to the winter, I’m posting perhaps the finest printmaking I’ve ever posted on this blog. No, not Albrecht Durer or Rembrandt. It’s my sweet cat Jessie! In the last snowfall of the season, ย she left these beautiful paw prints outside my front door, and what an lovely work of art they are. Cats tread so lightly and elegantly. I think Jessie enjoyed the winter more than I did!

I suppose I should inform all of you that I’m in the beginning stages of planning for open heart surgery. It was inevitable given that I’ve had this aortic valve condition since birth. There’s much for me to prepare for and think about and it’s all weighing heavily on my mind: finances, recovery time and not being able to work, and the cosmetic issue of a heart surgery scar and it’s effect on my modeling confidence. But I’m in good hands with my doctors and am eternally grateful for the love and support of my friends.

I want very much to return this blog to its previous state of more frequent posting and more timely comment replies on my part. I apologize for allowing things to slack. Thanks to all of you who are still here!

Giving and Receiving

I’m not embarrassed to admit that I take better care of my cat Jessie than I do of myself. She eats better than I do, sleeps better than I do, looks better than I do, gets better medical care than I do, and has more leisure time than I do. Her life is one of unfettered individual liberty. She commits violent crimes by killing birds and mice and answers to no one, and can roam freely outdoors and trespass on my neighbors’ property with impunity. Why can’t I trespass on my neighbors’ property? ๐Ÿ˜† The other day I purchased for Jessie a brand new cat bed – soft, cushiony, and a bit more expensive than I can really afford on my shoestring budget. But like I said, she is the beneficiary of my limited largesse. And I’m not alone. In 2017, it was estimated that Americans spent almost $70 billion on their pets. Billion.ย 

So I presented the cat bed to Jessie, and for six whole days this is how she responded to it. “Eh? What is this thing? I’ll stick with the floor”. Dammit! The cat bed was a bust.

Yes, it’s funny. And at least Jessie blends in beautifully with the colors and pattern of my rug, doesn’t she? So then I was modeling for Kamilla Talbot‘s watercolor class and showed the picture to everyone. After a few laughs, one of the students suggested that, since cats are somewhat turned off by unfamiliar things, I should put an article of my clothing on the bed so she can smell me. Seemed worth a try. I placed my folded sweatpants on the cat bed and, lo and behold, here’s my sweet girl. Cat bed: Take Two. Mission accomplished! Never thought my purple sweatpants had such magical powers.

There is, of course, much more to give in this life than overpriced cat beds. Our time for one thing. So after tending to my pampered feline, I turned to my fellow humans and had the privilege of volunteering with my favorite local outreach organization, NYC Relief. Their primary service is the Relief Bus, a mobile soup kitchen that serves at various locations throughout the city. I blogged about it in 2017. On this day, I helped out at the Relief Co-op in lower Manhattan where we distributed clothing and other items to New Yorkers in need while they awaited Life Care consultations with staff members. Our clothing closet was fantastically well-stocked, and the volunteer team worked attentively as “personal shoppers” for each client. It was a great day.

For those of who you are on Instagram, I recommend following NYC Relief there. They post wonderful photographs and stories:ย @nyc_relief

Matthew 25:35-40

A Visit to the Vet in Four Acts

Jessie the cat would like to share this photo essay with you ๐Ÿ˜†

“I don’t need a check-up. I feel fine. And I hate this stupid carrier.”

“Ugh. One of those yappy dogs is in the waiting room. If he comes near me I’m prepared to smack his snout.”

“They’re gonna take my temperature. And look at my teeth. I don’t need this.”

“Mommy? Whatever I did, I’m sorry. Please stop bringing me here, ok?”

Jessie and the Moon

Ehhh . . . grrr . . . moods. Perturbation. Agitation. Disquietude. Anxiety. Unease. Confusion. Bewilderment. Angst. Yes, it’s been a bothersome 36 hours. Mind cluttered, thoughts preoccupied, a little tense, a little sad, worries that are both real and (possibly) imagined. In other words, I don’t know what the fuck is going on. That pretty much sums it up in a nutshell.

But we pass through these things. Always. It’s important to know that. And the passing process can be facilitated by some strategically made choices. In my case, those choices usually involve receding in some way. I am a Cancer, which means we are crabs who will retreat into our shells if circumstances require it. We hide, and we like it dammit!

So on Tuesday I had only a morning job at FIT and promptly left Manhattan right afterwards. No shopping, no lunch, no walking around, no museum visits. I just hightailed it back to Queens, fleeing the noise, the chaos, the throngs of people, and the infernal police/fire sirens of midtown. Sure I still moped when I got home but at least I was moping in peace, and in private.

In the early evening I stepped outside to get some air, looked up and noticed the moon – a white half pearl nestled in the blue sky, underlined with a wisp of clouds. Pretty! So I went back inside, got my camera and took a picture with my Canon Powershot:

A short while later I checked on the moon again as the night started to fall. This time I had my good camera. The serious camera. My big Nikon. As I stood on the steps outside my kitchen door and prepped my settings for the picture, I suddenly felt warm, affectionate rubbing on my legs. It was my girl, the goddess, Jessie the cat, trying to divert my attention. And it worked. I knelt down and snapped her picture:

Yes, I’m wearing grey sweatpants, the official uniform of a depressed, leave-me-alone mood. Not very attractive or stylish. But at least we have beautiful Jessie. Here she’s thinking, “Can we go inside? I’m hungry. Open the door.”:

So because I have a Dr. Dolittle complex I spoke to Jessie and told her, “Just a minute, baby. Let me photograph the moon then we’ll give you food.” The clouds had long drifted away, the blue had gotten deeper, the moon was a lonely dot:

Jessie wouldn’t leave me alone for a minute. She kept purring and pacing, slinking, and rubbing all over me. This picture, well, just had to be posted ๐Ÿ™‚

“Come on, man, I’m hungry! Where’s the food?”.

I’m sure many of you know what it’s like to deal with a hungry cat. They are tenacious. But I just needed one last shot of the moon. Why? I mentioned earlier about my zodiac sign of Cancer and how we are prone to moodiness. Well, most astrological signs have a planet as a ruling force. Cancers don’t. We are ruled by the moon. The moody moon. We are moonchildren. No wonder I was so drawn to it at that moment.

Art Modeling Cats

So I had a little modeling company the other night while posing for my friend Bruce in his studio – his adorable smoky grey cat Ika ๐Ÿ™‚ When Bruce has a model over, Ika (pronouned “EE-ka”) wanders into the studio seeking attention. She meows, jumps up, and investigates the naked person on the platform. It’s really funny. I even Tweeted about it. Cats are curious by nature, of course, and Ika wasn’t holding back on Thursday night. She treated me to some luxurious rubbing, nuzzling, and inquisitive staring. It was a very sweet display of affection and I enjoyed it even though I was trying to hold still for Bruce. I generally kept my composure, although a noticeable smile formed on my face as I felt the gentle nudges on my back, soft cat hair against my bare skin, and soothing purring vibrations. By the way, Ika and I are now having a torrid love affair ๐Ÿ˜†

Cats make wonderful art subjects mainly because they are fairly easy to draw due to their characteristic lines and shapes: small head, triangle ears, curvy spine, big eyes. Heck even a non-artist like me can capture the basic look of a cat. In terms of color, cats offer an amazing variety: red tabbies, calicos, touches of white, patches of black, light grey, charcoal grey, golds, browns, solids, stripes, you name it. Artists throughout history have depicted cats for their visual appeal and it’s easy to see why.

What I love most about cats is their charisma. Cats are seductive. They possess a kind of magnetism you don’t see in many other animals. They move elegantly, balance effortlessly, and have a palpable sense of self. They also have lightning-fast reflexes which are very impressive. Cats walk into a room like they own the place, assert their territory, and fully expect to be worshipped. At the same time, they expect boundaries to be respected. Have you ever had a cat engage with you for play and then you go too far? They give you a confrontational look like, “Whoa, whoa, easy there. Back off, buddy. Remember, I call the shots here!”. And they will saunter away once they’ve had enough of you. Just try to mess with a cat’s tail and you will be promptly admonished. But when a cat has its guard down, as Ika did the other night, they are warm, lovable, and responsive. Few things in life feel as nice as a cat affectionately nuzzling you.

In this painting The Bridge by Carl Larssonย he brings together elements of landscape, perspective, and a figure. And yet the black cat, looking back into the distance, seems to stand out as the star. Its presence almost upstages the woman in orange. A beautiful painting overall.

Renoir has never been one of my favorite painters, but he did a fine job in this portrait of Julie Manet with a cat. Julie Manet was the daughter of Berthe Morisot and Eugene Manet, brother of Edouard Manet. Renoir seems to have given more expression to the cat’s face than to Julie’s:

Another young girl with a cat, this one by Antoine Jean Bail. Good action and personality in this one, although the cat seems less than amused by the feather teasing. He looks pissed!

German Expressionist Franz Marc appreciated the artistic appeal of cats. He gave feline-like attributes to the figure here in Girl With a Cat II from 1912:

A large, roughneck cat grabs for the fish in The Cook and the Cat, by Theodule Augustine Ribot, 19th century French painter. That cat is clearly a ruffian and even the cook won’t mess with it:

Giovanni Boldini used watercolor for this loose, effective piece A Lady with a Cat. I like the strokes and the color scheme:

I’ve noticed that women are more often posed with cats than men. I wonder why? Maybe because cats prefer to sit on our laps ๐Ÿ˜‰ This black cat looks nice and cozy on this ballerina’s tutu. The painting, by Pierre Carrier-Belleuse, is appropriately titled Ballerina with a Black Cat:

There are few female painters of note from the 17th century Dutch period, unfortunately. Judith Leyster was one. In this painting by her, A Boy and a Girl with a Cat and Eel, the expression of the cat is pretty hilarious. It’s thinking, “What the hell am I doing here with these wackos?”.

For this post I used only works of cats with people, rather than cats alone. But cat imagery is abundant in the art world, and they can be found both as main subjects and supporting players. Bruce did not include Ika in his drawings the other night, as he is exclusively a figure man. But I didn’t mind one bit having her companionship on the modeling platform, whisker tickles and all ๐Ÿ™‚

Kate Update

Back in June I posted about my garden cat Kate, and since then a couple of people have inquired as to how she’s doing. I’m happy to report that she’s doing great! Like all cats, she sets the boundaries and makes the rules. They’re so different from dogs.

My original goal was to develop enough trust with Kate so that she’d eventually come live inside the house. But I’ve decided to abandon that idea, since she’s pretty content living outside like a feral creature. She hangs out with her cat friends – other ferals in the neighborhood – and she sleeps in and around the shrubbery, swipes playfully at bumblebees and crawling beetles, catches mice, and eats well. She’s living the good life. As a break from regular cat food, I treat her every once in a while to a can of tuna or sardines. When she sees me emerge with the can, she meows in eager anticipation. She’s so cute!

I tried to take pictures of her the other day but she was a difficult bitch about it. I guess she’s camera shy – the complete opposite of her caretaker! ๐Ÿ™‚ Here’s the best one I was able to manage:

And here is my solution to the salmonella tomato scare we had here in the U.S recently. (Or was it jalapeno peppers?). Actually, I grow tomatoes every summer. This year’s crop isn’t nearly as good as last year’s, not sure why. But this sucker, once it ripens, will be pretty tasty with some olive oil and basil. Bon appetit!