Sylvester

Caterpillar Time

Pipevine Swallowtail caterpillar

My orange spiked beauties are munching their way through the pipevine which carpets the upper studio garden. Their exponential growth is a sobering reminder that my own remaining time here is rapidly dwindling. They are already making their way down the path to their hidden places where they will transform into their paper-like cocoons to sleep until next season.  Meanwhile I am supposed to be packing for my own transition to a new (cocoon)home. 

But there are so many other things to do first! Travel arrangements, insurance, health care, moving boxes and schedules, consultations with owners and buyers and decisions about what furniture to bring/not bring/leave, and more. And then there’s the precious time to sit with friends who I won’t see for a while. 

Sylvester

And time to spend with Sylvester, who seems to know something’s going on, and plops down in my path throughout the day, purring and baring his irresistible tummy, while never allowing me to touch it! This takes time . . . to slow down and talk sweetly to him and not startle him away in my impatience to “get things done”!

Caterpillars, human friends and Sylvester. . .These feel like stolen moments, and maybe that’s the appeal. Like cutting extra thin slivers off the chocolate cake when you’ve already had “enough”.  And then there’s the stolen minutes after dinner, painting portraits.

White pencil and white gouache on black toned paper
White gouache and a touch of watercolor on black toned paper

The more playful I get with gouache, the more I like it! Like what happens with the dry brush in the hair. I’m learning to not smooth everything down.

gouache on beige toned paper

This woman is one of the indigenous Clan Mothers of the Bears Ears southwestern lands that are being threatened by fossil fuel development. You can read about them here. Their voices are powerfully moving. . .

When the land calls — you answer.

When your mother calls — you answer.

I’ll be doing some more portraits of these matriarchs who can inspire us all! 

And now, back to the packing (which I haven’t really started yet!)

The Sweetest Cat no longer in this world

We’ve known for the past month that our beloved Phil, the sweetest cat in the world, was preparing for his final passage. It almost seemed he was waiting to spend his last days with the boys who grew up with him. Who can know such things? They lavished him with attention in the two weeks they were here for the holidays and he responded with steady purrs and the kitty conversation Phil was known for. He passed away on the evening the full moon rose.

philcollage

All my students and many folks who came to open studios over the years will remember Phil, because he was the official greeter, happy to receive a neck or belly scratch from all visitors.

I’ve gone back in history to find sketches and paintings of Phil I have posted here on the blog. The above collage is his “official” portrait, hanging in our home along with other beloved pets.

philhelps

I was never able to sketch or garden in our yard without the company of Phil. He would nudge me to let me know I must give him attention before I could get on with my business.

phil

When I was trimming plants in the garden I would have to take special care not to snip his whiskers or tail, because he couldn’t seem to get close enough and was always talking.

phil

Phil would eventually find a spot on the bench to nap after a long spell of purring.

phil

Phil was a teenager when he adopted us about 17 years ago, just showing up and insisting in no uncertain terms that we belonged to him!

sunrisePhil

He acquired the habit of throwing himself down suddenly in front of people on our walkway, exposing his belly, with a clear message that he was to receive love before one could proceed.

sylvester

And then Sylvester showed up, and his devotion to Phil was so complete that even though Phil gave him the message, in no uncertain terms, that this property was  his territory, Sylvester persisted. . .and eventually they came to terms with the arrangement and became Phil and Syl, eating, sleeping, and lounging together. When I finally got around to doing Sylvester’s portrait, I knew it would be incomplete without his best friend.

Recently on the cold winter nights when Phil was so weak, Sylvester warmed him with his body and checked on him throughout the day.

This may not be the end of my portrait-making of Phil, though it is the end of Phil, the sweetest cat in the world, who we will never forget! The boys want to plant a tree in the yard for him above where he is buried.

We would love to hear any of your memories of this lovable feline family member!

Sylvester

This is a story of cat love. Our country abode has attracted many cats, birds, and rodents and more over the years. The water fountain and bird bath are a favorite neighborhood stop. Our beloved cat of 15 years, named Phil by my boys when they were little, showed up as a hungry abandoned teenager and hung around crying all day until we embraced him as ours. Many years later we noticed this gorgeous black angora cat following Phil around all day, and we realized he was here to stay. Sylvester is his name for obvious reasons (white bib and markings). And now years later Phil and Syl have become an old gay couple with side by side food bowls outside under the sycamore tree.

sylvesteracrylic and fabric collage on w/c paper, 10 X 11″

Since we have paintings of all our pets over the years, going back even to the gecko drawings that Ben did when he was in preschool, the bunny, and definitely Phil; I decided it was time to include Sylvester in the pantheon. I did it in the style similar to the portrait I’d done of Phil a few years ago – fabric collage and acrylic paint with a helping of whimsy. It was clear that a portrait of Sylvester must include his beloved Phil.

philcollagePortrait of Phil

Today Phil is standing by in the drizzle of rain watching as Andrew, my son who is still visiting, is using all his wiles to try to capture our latest uninvited guest – a handsome and surprisingly smart and elusive young rooster, who is tearing up our garden and loudly proclaiming his virility with day-long cock-a-doodle-dooing and leaving his poo patties on the walkway. So far the errant rooster has won and I’m readying my sketchbook to at least derive some artistic satisfaction from this epic battle of the wits.