I have been cat-obsessed for as long as I can remember. My mother told me that our family cat used to climb into my crib, so maybe I was blessed by the Cat Fairy or something. ;)
I was a creative child, and cats were my muses. For awhile, I believed that I was a cat, and acted accordingly… to the chagrin of my parents and teachers, who begged me to stop hissing and meowing at people. :P
I also wrote stories and poems about cats, drew pictures of them, and I photographed my ever-patient calico kitty, Flicker Swift, dressed up in doll’s clothes. She was a beautiful model!
In middle-school, I adapted several of my favorite movies to star my stuffed cats dressed in costumes, which I recorded onto Beta videotapes using a handheld camcorder. These were full-scale musicals with soundtracks ~ “My Fair Lady” and “Oklahoma”, and action films, like “Back to the Future”. I believe the DeLorean was a laundry basket.
By the time I reached high-school, however, my focus shifted to performing on-stage. I took *one* art class, and gave all my paintings away to friends. I had no special interest in “becoming an artist” or building a portfolio of my artwork. My evenings and weekends were spent learning pages of dialogue and starring in school and community productions.
After graduation, my plan was to attend a performing arts college, and move to a bigger city.
But plans change… I got married, had a baby, and I found myself working in retail management, where I discovered that I really enjoyed learning the ins-and-outs of running a shop.
I envisioned opening my own fancy bookstore/cafe/bakery featuring open-mic musicians, poetry readings, and an art gallery. I spent hundreds of hours in the library, researching how to start a small retail business.
A few more years passed, and with them came a new marriage, two additional children, and a change in outlook. I quit performing in community theatre, as the rehearsals 4-5 nights per week left me exhausted and feeling like a stranger to my family. I downshifted to part-time work, so that I could keep my kids at home with me. I searched for a new creative outlet, and rediscovered my childhood love for art.
It began with little experiments in Photoshop. I learned how to manipulate images, and played with photographs of my two kitties ~ transforming them into mer-cats, unicorn cats, and dragon cats.
In 2009, I decided to set-up TaraFlyPhotos.com, a website for my altered photography, and a couple of months later, I stumbled upon Etsy ~ the marketplace for artists and crafters.
In April, I opened my Etsy shop, where I sold my Photoshopped cat photos, and also offered custom photo-manipulated portraits of people and their pets.
I still felt something was lacking, however.
Participating on Etsy gave me the desire to create art with my hands, not a computer mouse.
The summer of 2009, I picked up a paintbrush for the first time in years, and painted “Redcoat Cat” and “Mr. Darcy Cat”, both modeled after my tuxedo kitty, Dominic, and inspired by one of my favorite novels, “Pride and Prejudice”.
I listed them both in my Etsy store, and sold them to customers who encouraged me to continue painting cats dressed in Regency and period clothing.
Wisely, I took their advice and shifted from Photoshop to acrylic paint & canvas, and have been working steadily ever since on the Regency Cats, Tudor Cats, Wizard of Oz Cats, Gone With the Wind Cats, and the list goes on…
I also accept a limited number of commissioned cat portraits each year.
Since 2012, I have been exhibiting my artwork at festivals and shows, allowing me to meet a brand new audience of very loyal fans. With their support, I was able to quit my day job in 2013, and now I sell my artwork full-time, both online and offline, to people all over the world.
I consider myself to be very fortunate to be able to make a living selling cat portraits. As silly as it sounds, it feels like this is what I was born to do.
Who knows? Perhaps I was kissed by the cat fairy who visited me in my crib. ;)