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?


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?”


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.



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!


Shaking it off like a stunned squirrel.

 Paradoxes, purposes and ponderances  Comments Off on Shaking it off like a stunned squirrel.
Jul 302017
Whimsical Squirrel wildlife contemporary painting by BZTAT

“Squirrel” Painting by BZTAT

Around my home, there are a number of trees that are a playground for a family of squirrels. These squirrels are amazingly busy little acrobats, scampering up and down the trees and jumping from limb to limb all day long. 

One day, as I was coming out my back door, one of the smaller squirrels fell from a high branch right in front of me. The poor thing lay motionless in the dirt, blinking but not moving. I gasped, frightened that it would not get back up. Selfishly, I thought, “I don’t want to watch it die.” It felt wrong to leave it there all alone, though.

So I stood still and I watched it for a moment.

Slowly, the squirrel started to move its head. Its belly heaved with heavy breathing. Then the legs moved a little, and the creature lifted itself up. It walked slowly over to the trunk of the tree it had fallen from. It jumped onto the trunk. Then it hopped up to a branch.

On the branch, the squirrel “shook it off”, checking itself to make sure its body was still working. Then, the squirrel scampered back up to the higher branches, chasing after another furry acrobat.

Squirrels work and play without a net below to catch them when they fall. When they fall and get the stuffings knocked out of them, it is not certain that they will recover. Thank God this one did. When squirrels get back up, the reality of knowing that they could fall again doesn’t seem to stop them. They go right back to doing what they were doing before they fell.

I feel a bit like that squirrel right now. I feel a bit stunned, and I feel like I have had the stuffings knocked out of me. I am on the branch trying to “shake it off”, and I am checking to see if I am in working order.

Once I get my bearings, will I go back to doing what I was doing before the fall? That’s what squirrels do, but is it what people do?  Hmm.

Losing my furry pal Brewskie Butt has really knocked the stuffings out of me. I lost a companion, and a muse. It was a relationship that was unique, and I can’t replicate it with my other cats, even though I love them very much. There was just something special between Brew and me.

Maybe its because I shared the uniqueness of that relationship with people around the world in the early days of social media. Maybe its because the creativity that he inspired in me took me to places I never though were possible. Maybe its because he awakened an entrepreneurial spirit in me, and together, we went on an amazing creative journey that defined me as an artist.

Or maybe its just that I miss his silly self and his furry body next to me.

It occurs to me that the span of Brewskie’s life covered the time frame that launched my career as an professional artist. He came to me towards the end of my career as a mental health counselor, and he has been with me the whole time that I have explored my creativity in a professional realm. He was with me when it was all fresh and new and adventurous, and his character gave me great material for exploring the creative realms of social media. He made marketing my business fun, because it was all about telling our story.

Now I am left with this creative enterprise that he helped me build, and I confess, I am not exactly sure where to take it from here. Unlike the squirrel, it is not so clear a path to find the higher branches of my tree to go back to doing what I was doing before the fall. How do I do this without my Brew?

Social media is not so much the frontier that it once was when it was all new and Brewskie was delighting people throughout cyberspace with his silly antics. I have established myself as an artist, so forging that path has become a bit routine as well. The business side of entrepreneurship is a struggle for me. I still love painting as a professional artist, and I still enjoy connecting with people through social media. I do miss exploring new frontiers, though. 

Brewskie and I scampered about the interwebs like my squirrels scamper about through the trees around my home. The internet was our playground. We did it without a care in the world, and without a net, until it just wasn’t the same tree anymore. 

Now he’s gone, and I am stunned, and I am trying to “shake it off”.

We follow patterns in life. My pattern is to pick myself up after setbacks, and ultimately find new adventures to explore. Sometimes I retrace old steps, and sometimes I embark on new travels. I am sure that my pattern will re-emerge once I shake this off. A new adventure will come my way, and my artistic enterprise will find new heights.

For now, though, I think I will just sit on this branch for awhile and reflect on the last one.

What a grand adventure we had together, Brewskie and me.

Life is an Adventure!


The painting above is for sale – learn more here.


Jul 272017

Brewskie Butt Custom Cat Portrait Painting by Artist BZTAT

In December of 2008, a cat started tweeting on Twitter. He tweeted about many things, but his favorite thing to do was tell stories about his human companion, who was an artist. He became the spokescat for his artist companion’s burgeoning arts business, and he also became a worldwide advocate for the Canton Arts District. He tweeted about his everyday cat adventures, and he tweeted about some, well, shall we say, extraordinary misadventures.

Brewskie Butt First Tweet

@BrewskieButt’s First Tweet

That cat’s stories on Twitter became so beloved, his birthday was celebrated on Twitter in the first official 24 hour #PawPawty. He made many friends around the world in subsequent #PawPawties and other cyber adventures, and he became quite the internet sensation. He launched his human’s art business, and he brought many pet portrait commissions her way.

That cat was Brewskie Butt and his human companion was me. Although his stories in cyberspace were quite fanciful, I assure you, Brewskie Butt the cat was every bit the character that the stories revealed.

Brewskie Butt (AKA The Brew) was a real cat who came to my home in 2004. A friend at work brought him to me after he had been rescued on the side of the road by a school teacher friend of hers. The first night I had him, he stuck his nose into my freshly poured beer and he started drinking, earning his name by rights in an instant.

Brewskie was ornery, obnoxious, pugnacious, nosey and annoying at times. He was also loving, curious, humorous and the biggest presence in the room no matter who was in the room with him. Although he was a huge presence, he also had a way of sharing that presence, making everyone around him feel welcome. 

I am sad to say that Brewskie is not in the room anymore.

Brewskie went to the storied Rainbow Bridge yesterday. He had been suffering from pancreatitis since January of this year, and he declined rapidly over the past week. I cannot tell you how much his presence is missed here in my home.

I really miss that ornery, obnoxious, pugnacious, nosey, annoying, loving, curious, humorous cat who was the biggest presence in the room no matter who was in the room with him.

Brewskie Butt GraveThe Rainbow Bridge for me is in Dellroy, OH. I used to live in a cabin there years ago, and my friend who owns the property allows me to continue burying my pets there. Brew’s body, and spirit, rests next to that of his former nemesis Slick, and those of Bub and the original Beezie.

I am not sure how to move forward without my buddy Brew. He has been such a big part of my life for 13 years. I owe him a lot, because, without his presence, I don’t know if I would have explored the creative depths that I did with him by my side. I know I will come back around, but, for now, I feel pretty lost without him.

I have painted, drawn and digitally mastered many artworks of Brew through the years. I even created a picture book and a coloring book with an artistic character based on him. But I never created a serious portrait of him. I have painted serious portraits of many of his cyber friends, but I have not seriously depicted the huge impact that he has had on my life in an artwork.

So a few days ago, when I realized that the end of our wonderful time together was near, I started painting a Premiere Portrait of Brew. I began painting it at home, with him sitting next to me, then I finished it in my studio today after he was gone. It was both the hardest, and the easiest, painting I have ever painted.

I often paint portraits of pets for people who are going through the experience of losing a pet. I want them to know that, when I paint their pet’s portrait, I feel with them, and I try to translate that love that they feel into the portrait. I have to be authentic with that experience. I know their pain, because I am living it too. It is the sweetest pain, because it is the sweetest love – that human animal bond. 

Anyway, this one is for you Brew. I have loved you with every ounce of my being, even when you were annoying the crap out of me. I miss you dude. Life will never be the same. 

But life is so much grander because of your having been here.

Life is an Adventure!


Many times Brewskie shared this song and video on Twitter with friends to comfort their loss of a beloved pet. I know he has many friends, and I wanted to share this with you to comfort your loss as I deal with my own private sadness.

“Someday we’ll find it, the Rainbow Connection, the lovers, the dreamers and me.”