Toilet Cat & Friends

I miss a lot of things when my roommate’s away: the smells of her amazing cooking,someone to ask me about my day,and the feeling of certainty that if someone broke into the house, she would murder them before they got to me. But when the cat’s away, the mice (Emma the human and Florence the actual cat) will play. What this means for me is taking over the entire living room to paint. I take over the whole rug and I block the TV. I sing along to that new Sylvan Esso song. I ask Florence what she thinks of a dab of gold on the canvas.

I started painting in earnest in 2011, first to make my friends and family laugh, then to help pay my rent. I’d love to say that painting had some really glamorous self-care function for me: that it acted as a dramatic form of self-expression or that it was a form of meditation. But like with all my self-care activities, painting is a little goofy.

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1. I get to make people smile

My second best-seller of all time is Toilet Cat. Toilet Cat came about when a former roommate of mine became obsessed by the idea of teaching Florence to use the toilet. I found the idea repugnant because I imagined having to use the ladies room, only to find my cat taking her sweet time on the throne. This idea spawned Toilet Cat-a cat enjoying a good read atop the toilet. I love to make people laugh, to give them something to smile about when they enter their bathroom. The same goes for my painting of Oprah – on sale now! There’s something wonderful about the Queen of Daytime peering down at you while you relieve yourself.

2. I get to surprise myself

I rarely know what I’m doing, in life and in painting. I ask for guidance from my patrons – color schemes, personalities, accessories – but usually I am left to my own devices. This opens up something inside of me. After years of doing this, I have found that bright colors excite me, but I’m always surprised by where I decide to put them or combine them (for better or for worse). I’m always surprised by what I do in my spare painting time: googly eyes, metallics, peaches, and emojis come to mind. I love me, I’d do anything for me.

3. I get a feeling of supreme satisfaction

Some of my favorite paintings are those that not only surprise me, but surprise you. When you hang a painting in a place of honor, I get a jolt of self-confidence that doesn’t always exist in the archives world or in my daily life.

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Below, you’ll find the development of a recent painting, from start to finish. It’s been my replacement roommate for a little bit, and while it doesn’t cook or clean or tell jokes, having a little daily task has made a world of difference to my brainwaves. Some days I filled in the bones of these fine cats, other days I only dabbed on a bit of shocking blue. Progress is progress.

Painting not only provides great self-care; it also has posed a huge self-care obstacle. Isn’t that fun? Because the subjects of my painting, my cartoony folk art style, and my sometimes self-deprecating attitude about being a self-taught painter, I often encounter folks that like to make little jokes and little digs about what I do. They always make me feel rotten. After a lot of reflection about why this is, I realized that I open the door to piss poor attitudes because I sometimes have one myself. Painting has taught me to speak nicely of myself, to be bold, and to be proudly passionate of painting big shiny eyes and brightly colored tails.

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