Category: Paradoxes

“Night Fishing with a Cat Named Antibes” – A Narrative Cat Portrait of Sorts

Painting by artist BZTAT in tribute to Picasso's painting "Night Fishing in Antibes"

One could argue that all art is serendipitous in some way. No matter how well planned out an artwork might be, there is always an element of chance that brings about a surprising outcome. Some artworks are more serendipitous than others, though.

Such is the case with my recent painting, “Night Fishing with a Cat Named Antibes”.

I created the piece for a show that I curated at the Massillon Museum in Massillon, OH. For my parting act of a two and a half year stint working at the Just Imagine Gift Gallery in Canton, OH, I coordinated the “Artist to Artist” project that resulted in a fascinating display of artwork from various artists in the community.

The “Artist to Artist” exhibit paired noted professional artists in the local community with nontraditional artists from the Just Imagine Gift Gallery in a unique collaborative arts experience. The Just Imagine Gift Gallery is an arts program offered by Twi that empowers adult artists with developmental disabilities to explore their artistic talents. Although they are not as well known as their counterparts in the exhibit, these creative individuals are true artists with amazing talents. 

I have long thought that the artwork from the Just Imagine artists could hang next to that of any other artist in town and hold its own. This show proved it.  

Over a span of a few months, professional artists met with JI artists, and they studied each other’s works, learning about each other’s techniques, styles, subject matter, and purposes. They shared ideas and inspiration. Then they returned to their separate studios and created new artworks, each inspired by their encounter with the other.

I was one of the professional artists as well as the curator for the project. “Night Fishing with a Cat Named Antibes” was my piece created out of the experience.

My paired artist, Scott, creates colorful paintings full of whimsy and narrative storytelling. He also draws heavily upon references to Picasso in his works, and he often has leaves playfully placed throughout his landscaped compositions. I wanted to incorporate all of those influences into my artwork. It was a challenge. My works tend to be snapshots in time with simple shapes and composition. Adding narrative, references to Picasso and a more complicated composition pushed me to a different level.  

I channeled Scott’s fascination for Picasso by studying two of the master’s artworks. First I looked at a painting Picasso had painted of a cat, (of course I HAD to paint a cat!), and then I looked at one of my favorite artworks by the artist, “Night Fishing at Antibes”. I looked at many of Scott’s paintings, as well. I created a fantasy-like landscape, as he often does, and I added many leaves, fluttering about in the painting, in the same way that Scott often paints in his paintings. 

The cat is a bit different than my usual fare, as I added the Picasso-esque style. I made the cat with tortoiseshell markings, because torties have natural Picasso-esque faces. I also added textural elements to make the piece come alive. The title is a play on words with Picasso’s painting title.

Now for the serendipitous part. On the day before my last day working at Just Imagine, a strange sequence of events occurred that, completely by chance, brought the painting around full circle.

Early in the day, I had stepped outside to greet a coworker who had stopped to pick up my mail. As we talked at the curb, a man came from across the street and said, “Excuse me, but a cat just crawled up inside your van’s engine block.” We went to the van and opened up the hood, and I crawled underneath to see if I could see a cat. I could not. As we walked back to the building, however, a woman on the sidewalk said, “That cat just ran inside.” I had left the door open, and apparently the cat saw an opportunity.

My coworker and I went inside, and we looked and looked, but we could not find a cat. I began to believe that this whole cat tale was a myth.  But when I came in to open up the next morning, which was my last day there, I heard, “Mew! Mew! Mew!”

A cat named Antibes
Antibes in the Just Imagine back room

All day, we heard the mewing, but we couldn’t see the cat. Finally, I moved some things around in the area where the mewing was coming from, and a brownish ball of fur shot out like a rocket! The cat scrambled around the studio floor, and it found its way to the back room. I got a look at it, and SHE was a beautiful little tortie girl that LOOKED EXACTLY LIKE THE CAT I HAD PAINTED THE PREVIOUS WEEK for the “Artist to Artist” exhibit!

Ending my work at Just Imagine was very hard for me. Working with that amazing group of artists was one of the most fulfilling experiences of my life. The last thing I thought I would be doing on my last day there was chasing a cat around the studio. But serendipity happens when you least expect it.

I have many wonderful memories from working at Just Imagine. And now, purely by chance, I also have a Cat Named Antibes, whose portrait I painted before I even met her. It certainly was a surprising outcome that has taken me on a whole new adventure.

A Cat Named Antibes - BZTAT
A Cat Named Antibes

Life is an Adventure!




Homage to Brewskie Butt – “So Many Stories to Tell” Art Challenge

Drawing of Ginger cat Brewskie Butt by Artist BZTAT

This auction is now closed.

“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside of you.” – Maya Angelou

A storyteller must tell her stories. Keeping them inside not only wears on your psyche, it also keeps them from enlightening others who might enjoy them.

But telling them can be hard, sometimes, and the process of sharing stories can be interrupted by life events.

I have often told my story as an animal loving artist through the eyes of my cats. Brewskie Butt was my greatest storyteller. An affable character with a humorous personality, he gallantly cruised across the interwebs in the early days of social media, making friends around the world, and sharing his enthusiasm about my artwork. He shared his adventures stirring up trouble with my other cats, and he told the story of the emerging Canton Arts District from his window perch above my art studio.

The Brew left for the Rainbow Bridge in 2017, and I was heartbroken. The storytelling from his perspective stopped, because…well, it just hurt too much.

Over the past few months, 3 of his feline comrades (Noah, Okey and Who) have also joined Brewskie at the Rainbow Bridge, and the pain of loss has become unbearable for me. All of their stories coming to a close around the same time has left me emotionally raw. I miss each and everyone of them, and my heart aches with knowing that we won’t be making any new stories together.

But, there are still stories to tell, and as Maya Angelou said, they have to be told.

I know a lot of writers who have elevated their pets’ personas in social media, and they too have struggled with how to move forward when those pets have passed on. I also have known of artists who have continued the legacy of their pets through iconic imagery. (George Rodrique’s Blue Dog, James Dean’s “Pete the Cat”). Others have moved into other realms of story telling beyond the stories related to their pets.

As I struggle through the real life grief process for my most recent losses, I am challenging myself to re-energize my story telling through my art and my words. I honestly don’t know how this will go, and it may fall flat, but I have to try. The stories may relate to current or past pets, and they may go into other directions. I am just going to play it by ear.

I am not one for wearing my heart on my sleeve, and I am not really comfortable with sharing my pain openly. But story telling through images – that is something I can do. And I need to get to a place where I can do that again. So here goes.

For an artistic challenge, I am making a series of drawings throughout the month of January, each telling a story, or capturing a moment that has been part of my story. Some of the stories may be actual stories from the past that I am reflecting back upon. Some may be current tales, seen either through the eyes of my current feline family or through my own perspective. And some may be fanciful and imagined stories of grand adventures.

I am calling this my “So Many Stories to Tell” Art Challenge.

Each drawing will be placed for auction on here on my blog.  You can follow each day’s drawing by by subscribing to my my blog or by following my posts on FacebookInstagram and Twitter. Minimum bids will be low – you just might get a great artwork for a bargain!

Thanks for following along all month and for bidding on the drawings!

By the way, let me know what you would like to see me draw the rest of the month in the comments below. I am open to suggestions!

Today’s story is a simple drawing of the irrepressible Brewskie Butt. You may have followed him down many silly adventures on Twitter and on his blog in his glory days. At one time, he went on an international tour and cavorted with kangaroos, toucans and panda bears. What you probably saw less of was the sweet, loving character who kept me company for many years as I developed my career as an artist. So today, I wanted to share that story, which has not fully been told. 

Here’s the info about the drawing if you’d like to make a bid:

5″ x 7″ Prismacolor Pencil Drawing by artist BZTAT 

Comes with a matt ready for a 8X10″ frame.

Leave bids in increments of $5 below in the comments section.

Minimum Bid $20 USD

Shipping: $5 USA $15 International

BUY NOW OPTION: You can buy this piece now for $35 as long as no bids have been made in the comments below. Simply write BUY NOW in the comments and I will send you an invoice via Paypal which can be paid with a credit card or with PayPal.

Highest bid at 10:00 pm EST on Wednesday, 1/8/2020 wins the piece.

Winning bidder: I will send an invoice via Paypal to the winning bidder which can be paid with a credit card or with PayPal.

Please allow 2-3 weeks for USA shipping.

Life is an Adventure!


Urban Wildlife Painting Exhibit now on display at Malone University

Urban Wildlife painting exhibit at Malone University by artist BZTAT

For several months now, I have been working on a series of paintings for an exhibit at Malone University in Canton, OH. The paintings are of animals who share the Canton, OH community with an urban and suburban population of human beings. I call the series “Urban Wildlife”, as their habitat has increasingly become a concrete jungle of urban sprawl.

I wrote about three of these paintings and the animals that inspired them in previous posts (deer, skunk, goose). I will likely write about more of the animals, in fact, I am hoping to make a book about the paintings with reflections on their inspirations. All in due time.

For now, though, I thought I would share the Artist Statement that accompanies the Malone Exhibit here. It is below. The exhibit will be in the Fountain Gallery until December 7, 2019 in the Johnson Center at 2600 Cleveland Ave NW. I hope you get a chance to see it!

Urban Wildlife of Stark County
Painting Series by Artist BZTAT

There is something beautiful about driving around late at night when there is no one else awake but the night creatures that inhabit the city. The approach of my car startles them. They take notice of me, and they ponder whether they should flee or stand their ground. They regard me as my headlights capture their visage. I regard them too, with a mix of fascination and wonder. It is just them and me, and I see them – really SEE them – words fail to describe the encounter.

For about a year and half, this was my nightly adventure. To earn extra money to supplement my art business, I took on a paper route for a time that required that I make my deliveries in the early morning hours. Every night, I crept around three local neighborhoods, delivering the Canton Respository to subscribers, and observing the nightly goings on of the urban wildlife that make Canton, OH and Stark County their home.

Ordinary creatures, perhaps. These are not exotic creatures from Africa or the outback. All too often they are what we call “road kill” as we pass their lifeless carcasses on the highway. We share our community with them, and yet, we often dismiss them as pests or annoyances. The sad irony is that we have encroached on their habitat. It is they who have suffered the consequences of our urban sprawl.

Great beauty can be found in the ordinary, and great beauty can be found in the brief interaction between woman and beast. Since words fail to describe that beauty, I have endeavored to recreate my urban wildlife encounters with images. In each painting in this series of 12 acrylic paintings on wood, I have tried to share a moment of regard between myself and a wild animal in my community.

Not all of the creatures rendered in this series are night dwellers. As I immersed myself in this painting project, I decided to paint animals that I have encountered during the daylight hours as well. Although the initial inspiration came from my nightly travels, I extended my creative exploration to day creatures, too. All of the animals rendered are native to Stark County, OH. They are named as “Night Stalkers” and “Day Stalkers” and numbered according to the order in which I painted them.

Each painting represents an encounter, a moment of regard, or an observation of an extraordinarily ordinary creature that shares a habitat with me.

Life is an Adventure!