Thursday, June 30, 2011

Artist Inspired by Cat Muses

Lucy (left) and Skootch pose for the artist Ann Boyajian.
Two hard working cats, Skootch and Lucy, serve as artist models and muses for their owner, the talented illustrator, Ann Boyajian.

Ann is the illustrator for my book, Careers for Your Cat--a guide that will help your freeloading feline make the transition from the couch to the working world.

Ann totally understands the importance of cats having careers and realizing their full potential. Her delightful and humorous illustrations of cats at work give the book soul. I feel fortunate that Ann illustrated my book and that we got to collaborate. She lives with her kitty professionals and husband in Massachusetts.

I’m happy to chat with Ann today.

Hi Ann, I miss working with you on the book. It was so much fun!
I really miss working on the book, too. It was a dream assignment for me! I love cats.

Tell us a little about yourself. Were you interested in drawing when you were a child?
Yes. I come from a family of artists. My father was a photographer, illustrator and graphic designer, my mother was a painter, and my two sisters are painters. When we were young and restless, my mother would put stacks of drawing pads and pencils in front of us and tell us to draw something!

Skootch in his favorite box.
Did you have cats or other pets? 
We had a dog and a cat when I was a child. I got MY first cat when I was in college--my roommate's cat had kittens, and I took one--a tuxedo I named Butch. I now have two cats, Skootch and Lucy. They are my muses.

You were a former rock musician? Do tell! 
Yes, I was in a number of bands for a time. I played keyboards (mostly synthesizers, some other keyboards). I was sleep deprived most of the time (had to have a "day job" to pay the rent!), but I loved it.

Lucy in her favorite box.
And, now you’re a church choir director?
Yes, who knew?!! It's a lot of work and a lot of fun and I have a great group of singers. They helped serve as inspiration for the "choir director" illustration.

In creating the illustrations for Careers for Your Cat, did you look at your cats’ behavior for inspiration?
Of course. they are always doing something (or not). They are both prize "mattress testers" and "solar technicians."

What are some of the illustrations they served as models?
Lucy was the baker in the background for the "pastry chef." This is very appropriate, since Lucy is rather food-obsessed.


Skootch was the choir director, and also appeared as the cat sticking pins in the butterflies for the "lepidopterist." Actually, I used Skootch a lot--he was also the magician sawing the dog in half!



How did Skootch and Lucy come into your life?
Soon after I met my future husband, my wonderful cat Gadoo (that's "cat" in Armenian!) passed away. I was very sad, but my husband had a cat, Lucy. I thought Lucy would be enough, but it turned out that she was a "one man cat", and she tended to ignore me. I realized needed my OWN cat, so I went shopping for a shelter cat. I wasn't going to get a kitten, but Skootch was a very cute tuxedo kitten, and we bonded immediately. I've always had tuxedo cats, so Skootch came home with me. Lucy made it clear that she was top cat, which was fine with Skootch, who is a fraidy cat. Since we have all lived together for a while, Lucy has decided that she loves me almost as much as her Dad. She is very smart and we think she understands English. Even when I spell out T-R-E-A-T-S, she knows what I mean!

How did you pick their names?
Lucy's full name is actually Lucifee, named after the big fat cat in Walt Disney's Cinderella. The cat in the movie was named Lucifer, but the little mice called him Lucifee. Lucifee's name got shortened to Lucy (it was easier to say and more in keeping with her personality). Skootch went through a bunch of names. I realized he couldn't talk or meow (all he can do is make a raspy whisper sound or squeak when he gets really excited), and I started whispering at him and calling him Skootch - and he started squeaking back at me when I said "Skootch," so it stuck.

 Skootch as model for lepidopterist.
What are some of Skootch and Lucy’s hobbies?
Skootch is a very talented bug catcher and mouser (so his appearance as a lepidopterist is apt. Lucy is a foodie and also an escape artist (she loves to get outside, which is forbidden). Both cats enjoy escaping into the basement (also forbidden) and getting covered with cobwebs. Lucy is a music lover. She likes to sit on the piano bench while I'm practicing.

I saw an interview where you were asked, “who is your favorite cartoon character,” you answered, “my cat, Skootch.”
Yes, well, he's a character.


He has a crooked mustache and this raspy whisper and he's such a scaredy cat--when the doorbell rings he does that windmill thing with his legs--he can't run up the stairs [to hide under the bed] fast enough!

What are about some of the other projects you’ve worked on? You’ve also created cat and dog illustrations for teNeues a publishing company.
Yes, that grew out of a series of cat and dog drawings that I did for a personal project--I really love drawing animals, especially when I can inject a bit of humor. My first book was Hello, Shoes!, a picture book. 

It had a very simple, sweet story line, and I decided it needed to have a cat in there. So I created a tiger cat character who appears in just about every scene. There's no mention of a cat in the text, but I got one in there! In fact, whenever I have a project (especially when I have a book project), I try to get a cat in there somewhere.

Have Skootch and Lucy done any other modeling? Are they okay with nudity?
Skootch and Lucy have signed an exclusive contract with me, so they haven't modeled for anyone else. They don't do nudity (they don't have to, since they are always wearing perfect outfits).

There is the occasional indiscreet pose (like, say, when they do the cello)...

In creating the illustrations for the book, what medium did you use?
Soft graphite pencil #5, on matte mylar.

I remember you said you had to do some research for some of the illustrations. There are some fine details illustrated in the book. What was involved?
I had a lot of fun doing research--I looked up everything from The Birth Of Venus by Botticelli to the way perfumers test/smell perfume to early Egyptian cat art to video camera operators to Mount Rushmore.

Illustration by Ann Boyajian for Careers for Your Cat.
I would say just about every illustration involved some sort of research--you don't want to fake a cat shaking a martini!

You’re represented by the Lilla Rogers agency.
Yes. I've been with Lilla Rogers a long time. (See Ann Boyajian's portfolio.)

Is there any thing I haven’t asked that you want to mention?
Probably. Oh, I must give a shout-out to my favorite blogs/web sites: Freekibble and The Animal Rescue site. Both donate free food to shelter animals with the click of a mouse, and theittybittykittycommittee is an absolutely charming blog about a woman who fosters kittens and gives them wonderful names. I haven't told Skootch and Lucy how much I enjoy this blog because I think they would get jealous. I have a real fondness for shelter cats. There are so many good cats out there who need homes!

Do you think success has changed Skootch and Lucy? Have they demanded raises?
Success hasn't changed them--they were already legends in their own minds. They have always been demanding and spoiled. My husband John calls them "luxury cats." They get lots of adulation and treats. I love them unconditionally.


Credits: Photos and illustrations are the property of Ann Boyajian and are not to be used without permission.
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15 comments:

  1. What a fun interview! I love that Ann's cats are her muses. :)

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  2. I really enjoyed the interview! Skootch and Lucy sound like lots of fun!

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  3. lol at "do the cello". Of course tuxies are the best at a-musing! Great interview .. oh and I love the book :) x

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  4. Can I tell you how MUCH I enjoyed this? So often the illustrators of books get little to no credit. I LOVED THIS! Ann's illustrations were hilarious in your book and the detail was amazing. It was so interesting to learn about all of the famous artists she studied to complete some of those illustrations.
    I also loved meeting HER cats!! The models behind some of the most fabulous illustrations ever!
    Thanks so much for this great interview!

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  5. Well, this was real interesting and all, but now my Human is looking at me and saying, "You know, Spitty, you should get a JOB!"

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  6. Great interview! She's quite an interesting character, and I enjoyed learning about her. I don't know if I ever told you this...but we reviewed your wonderful book last year on our blog. This was before I started following your blog.

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  7. What a wonderful interview!!!!
    Skootch and Lucy are both so cute ;)
    They are worthy of being muses too !! heehee
    Purrs Tillie & Georgia
    PeeEss: As your Grandfather was from Nova Scotia, then you are Nova Scotian ;) Celebrate away!!!!
    Then have a happy 4th of July!!!

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  8. Dearest Ann...those ceramic urchin bowls are so wonderful in person...I have one. They are mad by the artist who has that Etsy store. She is a friend of ML's and makes the most wonderful creations...she made a custom Miss Peach figurine for us that captures her so purrrrfectly....
    Your art is amazing and makes me smile!
    Blessings Karla

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  9. I enjoyed reading the interview!! Lucy and Skootch are so adorable. I would love to have Lucy sitting on a piano bench when I practice piano (if I have a piano.) I love love love the illustration. Kitties look so adorable and funny!

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  10. Ann is very talented indeed! We think her muses are adorable too!

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  11. Aww, I love the illustrations in your book, Ann! It's great to learn more about Ann and her real-life kitty inspirations! :)

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  12. You're right, the illustrations are fantastic. You're very fortunate to work with her. Happy 4th of July!
    ~Avalon

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  13. Very fun post! Kitties truly are very inspirational aren't they! :)

    Hope you had a terrific weekend and wishes to you for a happy week!
    xo Catherine

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  14. Susan Richards HallsteinJuly 7, 2011 at 8:22 AM

    I have been fortunate to have known and teased the one and only Butch the cat.. Ann's first..congratulations on a totally charming book!

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  15. Hey--can Me and Skootch hang out? I LOVE his white feeties--just like MINE!!

    Noir

    PS. Thanks for comin' round my blog!

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