THE BACKGROUND STORY TO CUSTOM CATS BY ROLFE MOONEY
There is so much I love about cats – their movement, their affection, their softness, they don’t bark at you. Cats have always been part of my life, as a child I used to greet every moggy I met. I had my first cat at 3 years old. I was the quiet middle one of 3 boys, the cat was my best friend.
I have found great joy and comfort through painting and sculpture. I’ve struggled with anxiety and bouts of depression all my life due to severe dyslexia, which wasn’t diagnosed until I took an Art Foundation Course at the age of thirty. (Words and letters move around on the page making reading and writing very problematic and until recently I’ve spent most of my life trying to hide the fact that I can’t read and write). While on the foundation course I discovered that I had a gift for ceramic sculpture and I went on to do a Figurative Art course at Stafford.
One of my many interests in art is simplifying things down to their bare essentials while still maintaining the same amount of information. A bit like a poet is able to take a paragraph and reduce it into a sentence that still retains the original meaning.
My journey with art and cats began when I was assisting at a nursery school encouraging three and four year olds, to create pictures of animals. While the dogs all looked entirely different and were not always recognizable as dogs, the cats were all unmistakably cats and had the same characteristics. It inspired me to try to capture the “ESSENCE OF CAT” in a simplified form.
My first subject was Ricky my landlady’s cat. He was a huge black and white grumpy lovable character, who used to drape himself over my legs while I attempted to draw in the armchair. He is the cat on my Logo and is the inspiration for all the black and white cat reliefs I have produced to promote Custom Cats. When Ricky died, as part of my grieving process I did a painting of him, featured in the garden where he lived. Years later at the passing of my own “Fat Cat”, a beautiful gentle ginger and white Tom, I started on “The Big Blue Cat Painting” which is over 6’x4’ and difficult to transport, so I’ve had prints made into greetings cards. But it was only when I sculpted “Fat Cat” in a 3D relief that I found the stylized childlike form made me smile and sadness turned to joy when I looked at it.
So in the hope that others will enjoy my reliefs enough to buy them, ‘Custom Cats’ has been birthed, with the help of two of my literate friends. Reliefs of penguins and fish are also available on my website, but it’s creating customized cats for people, that brings me most pleasure.
I am not trying to create cat portraits because I cannot know the cat as well as the owner and feel I could not do it justice. I paint the cat’s markings from photographs the customer sends me onto the generic ‘essence of cat’ shaped clay tile which I have designed and hand made, each painted relief takes many hours to produce. My hope is that whether I create a stylized representation of a living cat, or a memorial to a deceased companion, it will generate a smile and a happy feeling in the owner that maybe a photograph alone will not.