bztat

Jul 032018
 

Muskellunge Brewing Company Fish painting menuThe irony is not lost on me.

I am known most for my paintings of cats, so taking a turn and painting a series of fish paintings is a bit, well, ironic.

I suspect that my cats rather enjoy the paintings, however.

Why did I paint a series of fish paintings?

It all started a couple of years ago when my friend Frank asked me to design a logo for him for a brewery that he was, at that time, in the early stages of developing. I had made a drawing of his cat Musky, named after the Muskellunge fish, and he wanted the fish in that drawing to be part of the logo.

Cat drawing with Muskellunge Beer

Here is the logo:

Muskellunge Brewing company logo

After designing the logo, Frank asked me to create an art sign with the logo on it:

Frank is a scientific sort of guy. He came to brewing beer through the science of it. Working in the pharmaceutical industry for years, he developed a keen awareness of scientific methods and chemistry, and he began brewing beers in his basement. He decided to extend his basement hobby into a professional endeavor. Fascinated by various species of freshwater fish, he named each of his beers after a different fish.

In keeping with his fish theme, Frank commissioned me to paint a sign for each of his beers and the corresponding fish to serve as a menu board in the taproom of his brewery.

I enjoyed the creative challenge of painting actual species of fish in my semi-abstract contemporary folk art style. It was a challenge, simulating the textures and colors of fish using my bright colored palette, and also doing the lettering in my layered technique. (You can see the in process photos for each painting on my Instagram, Facebook and Twitter feeds.)

The brewery and artwork were recently featured in this article in the Akron Beacon Journal, where I talked about the creative process:

“I have a technique of laying the paint and that makes an interesting texture and that’s what these are,” BZTAT said. 

BZTAT is known for creating colorful pet portraits in pop art and contemporary folk styles. Freshwater fish presented a particular challenge. Freshwater fish aren’t exactly known for their bright colors, which the artists uses. Silver gray anyone?

BZTAT describes freshwater fish as “drab.”

“I am constantly challenging myself to make not just a portrait and not just a pretty picture for somebody but also something that could stand on its own as a valid artwork,” BZTAT said. “And the fish are kind of a new challenge for me which I’ve been enjoying. I’ve never really painted fish before.”

Not to say she and fish are strangers. She grew up in a household with fish tanks and exotic fish, and loved watching them.

“They are just interesting visually,” BZTAT said.

Muskellunge Brewing Company‘s taproom opened this past week to rave reviews (Follow Muskelluunge Brewing Company on Facebook and Instagram). The beer, and the fish painting/signs were a big hit! If you are in the Canton area, I hope you will stop in, sample some of the finest craft beer in Ohio, and see the artwork. The brewery is located at 425 5th St. NW Canton, OH 44702.

I would not recommend that you bring your cat, though…

Life is an Adventure!

BZTAT

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Random Conversations in a Chaotic World

 Paradoxes  Comments Off on Random Conversations in a Chaotic World
Mar 132018
 
Random Conversations - Digital Art by BZTAT

“Random Conversations” Digital Art by BZTAT

People are talking. A lot.

Wherever you go, there are random conversations going on about the state of the chaotic world in which we live.

You may want to pretend that these conversations are not happening. But you can’t. You just can’t.

Even if you try, you cannot avoid the reality that the earth’s axis has shifted metaphorically, and people are not going to be silent about it. 

People are talking. The question is, is anyone listening?

I noticed these two gentlemen who sat down across from me today at a local restaurant where I had camped out with my laptop to do some work. It is a common thing to see older men hanging out at local fast food joints, espousing their opinions on the state of things. Something about these two men intrigued me. I took their photo and played with it a bit with some digital filters, creating an artwork that captured a moment of conversation.

I pondered about the idea of the artist as participant observer as I considered them from a disengaged distance.

One man proudly wore a hat that let me know he had served in a war that ripped our country apart many years ago. “He has seen a lot,” I thought to myself. His posture and gaze away from his companion suggested a hesitance, while the other man was perched and engaged, seeking some kind of validation from his friend for his desire to pontificate.

His friend apparently failed in giving him that validation, as he soon sought it from me. I was no longer disengaged.

What started as a commentary about the ferocious snow shower outside quickly evolved into a discussion about global warming, armed teachers in schools, gun violence in general, young people and technology, etc.

I shared my thoughts. He shared his. I listened. He listened. We were not that far apart in our general thoughts about things. He thought arming teachers was the stupidist thing he had ever heard. He didn’t “believe in global warming”, but he did think that our polluting the environment was connected to “this crazy weather”. He agreed that we needed to look at creating jobs for the future instead of trying to bring back jobs that are now obsolete.

He seemed to believe that young people and their focus on technology, however, were responsible for all things evil in the world. He shared a belief that all young people were on drugs and that they were destroying the world with technology. 

He listened when I shared a different view, and despite some obvious biases, I think his perspective was broadened a bit. Even so, his brusque comments led to a young African American couple who were sitting nearby to abruptly move to a table out of earshot from us.

That saddened me.

The conversation ended as randomly as it started. I had to take a call from my mechanic, and the men left while I was on the phone. I likely won’t see them again. Still yet, the conversation stays with me.

Where do these conversations go? Do they solve anything? Am I different for it? Is he?

Did I miss an opportunity to connect with the couple who apparently felt pushed away? 

What does his friend think? He did not shared his thoughts with me.

What is the role of the artist in chaotic times like these? Observer? Participant? Documenter? Pontificator? Where does the artist begin to express her thoughts, her aesthetic, her passions, her fears when everything she knows is upended?

Hmmm.

Just hmmm.

I guess I will start with random conversations. You?

Prints of the image above are available. Contact BZTAT for information.

Life is an Adventure!

BZTAT

 

 

HAPPY NEW YEAR! I have a new cat!

 Paradoxes, purposes and ponderances  Comments Off on HAPPY NEW YEAR! I have a new cat!
Dec 312017
 
CALICO CAT kitten digital pet portrait by Artist BZTAT

Digital pet portrait of Ellie by Artist BZTAT

If you follow me on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter, you no doubt have noticed that I recently rescued a small kitten. I have posted several photos and videos of her, so it would be hard not to notice.

The kitten entered my life on Small Business Saturday (11/25/17), which turned into a complicated mess of a day for me. I awakened that day to the realization that I had forgotten to lock my back door before bed, and the wind had blown it open. When I did a cat check, all in my furry brood were still inside – except for Who (yes, my cat’s name is Who). The great outdoors had beckoned, and my incorrigible Maine Coon had answered the call.

Who’s disappearance completely disrupted my plan of spending the biggest shopping day of the year for small businesses at my studio in the Canton Arts District. I had planned to meet customers and do painting demos. Instead, I spent the day looking for Who under bushes, in crawl spaces, in the field across the way, etc. I even cased out a large groundhog hole, thinking he may have crawled in there. It was all for naught. There was no Who in sight.

As evening approached and a cold chill came on, I began to feel desperate. I knew Who could not survive on the city streets in the cold. I called a friend who had live traps and decided to try to entice him in.

Soon after I set the first trap, it snapped. I threw a covering over the trap to calm the beast inside. When I pulled back the covering, though, it was not Who inside. A small calico kitten, instead, was thrashing about inside the trap. 

She looked to be about 3-4 months old – too young to release back to the streets on her own, really, but possibly over the age for successful socialization with humans. What was I to do with her?

CALICO CAT kitten

Ellie Cat

As I contemplated what to do, my neighbor knocked on my window and pointed at my door. When I opened the door, Who casually sauntered in as if nothing had happened. Upon reflection, it was almost like he had known this kitten needed help and had staged the rescue himself.

A friend agreed to let the kitten stay in her garage, and later, her enclosed porch, while we decided what to do with her. We put her in a large dog crate so that we could assess her socialization potential. First impressions were rough. She snarled and hissed and smacked at us viciously through the crate. We feared that she may have passed the age where she would be accepting of human contact.

I have been here before, though, with cats. Mia Meow, too, had been resistant to humans at first.  

I remembered a quote from one of my most favorite movies of all time – Contact. In the movie, a father had given his precocious daughter a ham radio, and he had encouraged her to take small steps towards achieving her goal of reaching people around the world. “Small moves, Ellie. Small moves.” he said. As she grew older, the words “Small moves, Ellie. Small moves,” became a prophetic refrain as she struggled to let things evolve in her life instead of forcing them to be.

Taking small moves with a cat, such as letting her sniff your hand and explore your scent; slow blinking to reduce her sense of threat; and putting food in your hand for her to overcome barriers; helps her to realize humans are OK. Eventually, the kitten started rubbing her cheeks on my hand and she allowed me to pet her. Then she agreed to sit in my lap and kneaded her paws as if making biscuits. It took time, and many small moves. But the kitten is now quite comfortable with me and my friend, and she seems to enjoy human “contact”.

As friends have followed her progress on social media, the big question everyone seems to want an answer for is, “Are you going to keep her?”

CALICO CAT kitten

Ellie with Dr. Amanda

I have held off answering that question for a number of reasons. First of all, as a self employed artist, finances are not predictable, and I wasn’t sure that I could afford taking on a new cat. There are lots of expenses to taking on a new pet, and I was still paying off bills from Brewskie’s care from his final days. Second, I wasn’t sure my heart was ready for a new cat after losing Brew.

Friends helped me cover her veterinary expenses, though, for which I am eternally grateful. And after putting so much effort into socializing her, the kitten found a spot for herself in my still aching heart.

So yes. I AM KEEPING HER. 

CALICO CAT kitten

Ellie on my lap as I write this post.

I have named the kitten Ellie after the character in the film Contact, Eleanor Arroway. I am grateful to have her here to remind me that I need to take small steps and let things evolve in my own life.

She is now living in my home, although she is still being kept separate from the other cats. The process of introduction will be a series of small moves as well, as she acclimates to being a part of a family of fabulous felines. Stay tuned to see how the story evolves.

Life is an Adventure!

BZTAT