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AfriCat and an Art Auction for Charity

AfriCat acrylic cat portrait by Tara Fly

This is my latest cat portrait – titled “AfriCat” – painted onto a Winder & Newton canvas panel with acrylics and coated with satin varnish.

She was inspired by National Geographic photographs of native African women, wearing hundreds of layered necklaces in bright tribal colors. The strength of these women is unquestionable, the hardships of their daily lives – unimaginable.

Yet they adorn themselves in bold and exuberant strands of beads that seem to defy the hopelessness of their circumstances.

I guess it struck me so deeply because I don’t wear jewelry.

Actually, I reserve jewelry for those non-existent rare special occasions when I can justify getting “dressed up”… as The Daily Act of picking out a pair of earrings and/or necklace to suit my outfit strikes me as being high-maintenance.

I’m basically a get-washed-dressed-brush-teeth-apply-deodorant-and-I’m-done sort of girl.

I have one pair of sneakers. A drawer full of white socks. And long hair that can be kept in a braid for days. See how simple my routine is?

I’ve been forced to re-open my pierced ear holes countless times after they’ve healed shut… because I only wear earrings once a year. Maybe less often.

African native women, on the other hand, struggle with heavier burdens and sacrifices than I could ever fully understand…. I’ve never lost a child to AIDS, or helplessly watched my family suffer from drinking polluted water.
I’ve never slept on straw pallets, in a hut with a dirt floor. I don’t have to wash my laundry in a muddy river, alongside bathing (and pooping) animals.

These people have never experienced the luxuries of Western culture… my morning routine would most certainly be considered “high maintenance” to someone lacking fresh water, food, and clothing.

Yet they wear jewelry. Bright beads of every color, thousands upon thousands of beads, as if to symbolize their daily vow to rebel against death and disease,
“Here I am, still living. Still breathing. Still singing.”

I painted AfriCat as a personal reminder to view my fortunate life through the eyes of the 3rd world natives…
to count my blessings, which are as numerous as those colorful beads…
and to greet each new day with a smile, determined to overcome every insignificant problem I face.

Black Cat in African tribal dress by Tara Fly

I have made 5″x7″ greeting cards and prints of AfriCat, available now in my Etsy shop.

The original painting isn’t available to purchase directly from me ~ as I have donated it to a local fundraiser auction, “Art for the Animals”, hosted by Howard’s Art and Frames in Hagerstown, MD.
This year, they will be raising money for Guiding Eyes for the Blind.

It’s a silent auction, continuously running until October 26th – when the highest bidders on each painting will win a framed original 5″x7″ work of art, with all proceeds being given to Guiding Eyes.

AfriCat cat painting, at Howards Art and Frames in Hagerstown

People can walk-in any time during business hours and place a bid on their favorite painting(s); I believe phone-in bids are also accepted.  (AfriCat is #161)

“Art for the Animals” is in its 6th year. I first discovered the event last year, when they partnered with the Washington County Humane Society.
Unfortunately I was too late to submit any artwork of my own, as the deadline had passed and bidding had already begun.

This year I vowed to enter… but I actually missed the original Saturday (Oct. 1st) deadline – AGAIN – due to my inexcusable horrific timing. The very nice employees, however, assured me that late enteries were being accepted through Monday the 3rd.

I spent my entire Sunday afternoon and evening working on AfriCat, finishing her up around 2:00AM, and giving her a quick coat of varnish around lunchtime on Monday before dropping her off at Howard’s.

Tara Fly with her cat portrait at charity auction

Photo of me taken by fellow artist, Beth Beckner-Mills, using my phone

There were various categories for artists: Professional, Amateur (adult), and Student…
I chose the Amateur category.

“Why?”

I wasn’t certain what “professional artist” really meant, and hesitated to call myself something that I wasn’t 100% certain about.

Am I selling my art? Yes.
Am I making a living selling my art? Not yet.
Am I professionally trained as an artist? Nope!
Have I been featured in galleries or trade magazines? No.
Have bloggers written about me? Yes.
Can you find my art on retail shelves in the US and Canada? Yep.

Perhaps next year, after studying my peers a bit more thoroughly, I will enter as a Professional.

This year, as a newbie without connections to the local art scene, I didn’t want to strut into the party and begin putting on airs.

AfriCat cat portrait painting by Tara Fly

I am happy to see my work receiving attention and early bids. Even though 100% of the money is being donated, the active bidding on my painting implies that it does indeed hold value. :)

One professional artist I’m watching closely is Kent Roberts, whose portrait of a greyhound dressed in a sailor costume already has MY bid on it. …Twice!

A Salty Dog... greyhound portrait by Kent Roberts

Very few of the local artists are familiar to me, except a couple of abstract painters whose works I saw hanging in the Washington County Art Gallery earlier this year.

Kent’s late father, Clyde Roberts – according to a knowledgable Howard’s employee – was a very well-known local painter and art supervisor for the Washington County Public School system. “He taught most of Washington County how to paint…”

Well… almost everyone.

I’ve only lived in Washington County since 2007, and until 2 years ago, I wasn’t actively painting or pursuing art as a career.

Looking back on where I’ve been, and considering where I’m heading, I realize that there are no dead-ends. Sometimes we get off track, lose our way, and wind up somewhere else… feeling trapped.

But there are always exit paths.

The road continues, even if it means ignoring the “No Trespassing” sign, and taking a shortcut through the overgrown woods crawling with vampires and werewolves. *wink*

If you wake up each morning determined to make each day count – looking for ways to express yourself and display your talents to the universe – you will eventually find a new direction.

In honor of my own journey, I might just dig out some colorful piece of jewelry to wear.
And I invite you to do the same! :)

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