So, what changes an image from simply random marks on a surface to a painting, considered a creative work, a work of “art”? Is it the work itself, or does the image need a creator? Most people agree there should be some intention involved in a work, even if it’s only framing off a portion of paint you spattered on the floor as you worked on something else, for instance. The spatters weren’t intentional, but choosing a portion of it to display involves intention.
Does the creator need to be recognized as an artist? Sometimes that helps. Does the creator need to be human? Typically we think so because as humans we understand inspiration, intention, and realization as part of how we create. In fact, creative thought and intent is one of the features we feel distinguishes us from other animals. We don’t typically associate creative thought and intent with animals. But a 2006 study chose to look at the question from the animals’ points of view, with interesting answers.
If I saw the painting above not knowing its source, I’d say, yes, that’s a painting, that is art. Finding the inspiration was a spring garden, I’d be fully convinced the artist was inspired by and interpreted what he saw. Even the composition itself, the shape the content creates against the background as it describes rounded rhododendrons and azaleas complete with leaves along with other spring blooming flowers, even mixing some colors, I’d say this painting was a success.
The artist in question is a cat, Quint Cole, who’s been painting since he was a kitten, though his first medium wasn’t exactly paint. To really reinforce for me, at least, that there is some real creative intent and learned skill involved in what he does, this is not his only painting. He has quite the portfolio. Which means that this behavior isn’t accidental. He regularly produces paintings in a series that carry similar elements of composition and style.
I’m calling it art. And I’m so pleased to own several of Quint’s paintings. The other two are below with a portion of an article I wrote about Quint in January 2015 when he helped us raise funds for one of our rescues who needed treatment for a cardiac condition. This painting was a gift from a reader, and I couldn’t be happier she chose to support such a unique artist in choosing a gift for me.
Quint’s art always benefits cats. He is part of a large family of felines, all rescued or adopted from local shelters. Even with all those resident kitties Quint’s family frequently fosters for their shelter, the West Columbia Gorge Humane Society (WCGHS) in Washougal, Washington. Often they foster kittens, but this year they fostered an older kitty who wasn’t doing well in the shelter, and it turned out she had a serious dental issue along with other conditions and needed lots of medical care to return her to health. At one point, Sunny also turned from foster to family member, and will remain a part of Quint’s family.
Quint’s family also cares for cats living outdoors with shelters and feeding stations. This year the shelters were upgraded and were just filled with fresh bales of straw, new food bowls (the ant-mote kind), and warming mats.
Everything Quint sells between now and January goes toward Sunny’s vet bill for her recent dental and back cyst. But after Sunny’s bill is paid Quint’s family will return to helping their vet with the vet’s emergency fund for people who can’t afford medical care for their kitties.
Quint’s human Carole said she wished they could find forever homes for everything he currently has up for sale at his shop, so consider a unique piece of artwork for yourself or a cat lover on your list, and help cats with your purchase. Visit Quint’s shop at http://www.colehauscats.bigcartel.com.
And thank you, Viola, for your attention to detail in preparing my print!
Lots of cats “accidentally” add pawprint patterns to their household décor and even interact with their human’s creative toys, and even after the publishing decades ago of the fun and exciting book Why Cats Paint very few cats do, actually, use paint as a medium and use it to make intentional marks on a surface.
Quint Cole really paints. He began of his own initiative smearing substances around on surfaces and padding patterns with his paw so that his humans actually gave him paint. He dips a paw, he makes marks on canvas and paper, he stops when he’s done. He makes another, similarly themed. It looks quite intentional to me. And they are nice little paintings.
Quint is a young cat, born in 2012, and began his habit of painting before he was a year old. In a happy household circumstance his humans found that he was attracted to, of all things, toothpaste specks on the bathroom mirror. He didn’t swat at them and try to catch them as if they were prey, but instead gently pushed them around. His humans had to clean off his canvas each day in order to see themselves, but he returned to his work.
Moving on to another household circumstance about a month later—damp cat litter. “Damp cat litter on the Colehaus Cat Den closet doors,” said Carole, his human caretaker. “More spreading action and as an added touch, gentle paw print dabs placed here and there. Not that we didn’t appreciate his work but…there’s that ‘Ewwwww!’ factor every morning .”
They moved the litterbox, but Quint continued the actions he’d used to apply his medium to the closet doors. That was when his humans decided to experiment and see if he was indeed intentionally applying a medium to a surface. They found a non-toxic, child and pet-friendly water-based paint and got Quint all set up.
“Quint’s first studio was a huge tall-sided cardboard box with 8×10 inch sheets of art paper taped to the insides,” Carole described. “He loved the box right away and with a little coaxing, started pawing at the paper like he did on the bathroom mirrors. Once he got that motion down, we introduced pet and child-friendly paint.”
They bought some little canvases and painted them in soft colors and let them dry completely. Then they watered down some paint, put the canvases and the paint palette in the big box and with a bowl of warm water and a fluffy dry towel handy, and introduced Quint to the spread.
“This is where the little man tilted his head and put his paw on Mom’s arm as if to say, ‘Let me take it from here,’ ” said Carole.
Quint had never seemed to mind wet feet and had no problem with them dipping his paw in the shallow bowl of watered down paint. He took over from there, pawing and dabbing paint on the paper.
Today he paints on a flat countertop covered with cardboard from that same big box as pictured here.
Quint doesn’t paint every day, but he lets his humans know when he’s ready to paint again, about every six to eight weeks, by pawing the mirror in the bathroom, which is his studio now.
“We think he’s influenced by seasonal weather changes which might help explain his timeline,” Carole remarks. “He loves looking out windows, not just at birds and squirrels, but also at clouds, rain, wind, and of course, sunshine.” Quint creates new art four or five times a year, one for each season plus an extra fun painting, sometimes for the holidays, but usually in late spring.
“Quint’s very comfortable creating half a dozen 8×10 inch art paper and three or four 4×4 inch canvases in one afternoon. Each one is a multi-step process so the colors don’t muddy together.,” Carole explains. “We used to let him go off, creating a dozen or more 8×10 inch art paper paintings and half a dozen or more 4×4 and 6×6 inch canvases over several days. But after three days, he gets bored with the colors and tired from the intensity he seems to pour into his work so we’ve cut back on the amount of work and he seems much happier now when he paints.”
Quint’s paintings are posted for sale when they are ready, and are also donated to benefit animals.
Living in southwest Washington state, Quint does seem to take inspiration from gazing out the windows and enjoys weekly walks in the garden during the warmer months of the year. “We’re very fortunate to have lots of flowering shrubs in our backyard, for both spring and summer color, and with him walking in his kiwi-green harness, he has to stop and sniff every one. His favorites are the pink and red rhododendrons in spring and the daylilies and petunias in summer,” Carole says.
Considering color and cats, its presumed that cats can’t see much color at all in part because of the structure of their eye in comparison to a human eye, and because, biologically, being able to see color was never historically an advantage to a cat, hunting mostly at night, and prey that was generally colored for camouflage against its background. But that doesn’t mean no color at all is detected, and distinguishing shape and contrast is important, so a cat’s walk in the garden attracted to flowers probably has as much to do with position and shape, and the possibility of buzzing bees and fluttering butterflies, as it does with color; for more about how cats perceive color visit here. But when Quint paints he clearly has a preference for colors whether he sees them as shades of gray or sees actual color.
To prepare for a painting session for Quint Carole sets up a seasonal palette for him to work from. “We used to let him choose his colors but he went through a ‘Yellow is the Greatest Color Ever’ phase in which he completely snubbed all other colors and everything looked like a blooming dandelion. For weeks and weeks,” she said.
“After the soft pastel flowers of spring, I’m ready for bold pops of color,” Carole says.
“He gravitates toward our orange and yellow daylilies in the garden and the bright red Crocosmia flower with its long, strappy green leaves. He’s always ready to paint after his garden walk to sniff those,” Carole says.
I purchased two works from Quint a couple of years ago. One, a “Festive Summer 2013 Series” painting, I found too pretty to pass up, and I wanted to study Quint’s technique. And then Quint painted a series of Starry Night-inspired canvases and I had to have one.
“The Starry Night-inspired piece was a fluke of sorts,” Carole explains. “We discovered Quint pushing aside the blinds at night to watch the starry skies of summer, when our area of the United States is least apt to have cloudy weather. Every time we heard him squeezing behind the blinds, it became a ‘Quint and his Starry Night’ joke which gave birth to the idea. We pulled out our big art book (because everyone has one, right?), looked up Vincent van Gogh and Starry Night, and an idea was born.
“Our craft store had the black canvases and the tiny, cute easels, we printed out a small photo of ‘Starry Night’ for him to look at for inspiration, we mixed up the colors, and let him paint. We helped him get the yellow moon in the upper corner just right,” Carole said. “Or maybe it’s supposed to be a blooming dandelion?”
Carole chose a pet and child-friendly, water-based acrylic paint that is readily available at most craft stores. “We did write to the company, Pro Art, to ask about pigment intensity and health risk and are satisfied with their helpful response,” she said.
“That said, we absolutely will not let Quint sniff or taste the paint, nor let him lick his paws clean. Because he doesn’t mind wet feet, his paws get a thorough soap and warm water wash after painting.” Looking at those big white paws and knowing that even friendly pigments can stain, Carole said, “And we’re thankful he doesn’t have a love of red or black paint because those seem to be of the strongest pigments.”
Does he still go after the toothpaste? I asked. Quint says with a slow, sly wink, “What do you think?”
About Quint and his feline family
Quint lives in a family of nine rescued and shelter-adopted felines. “We’ve been told to say we have two, as in too cats too many! The truth is we have currently have nine. And we’ll point out that eight is our usual limit but did you see Viola as a kitten? She captured our heart, as did her mama, Zuzu. Convince us you wouldn’t have adopted them both in a heartbeat,” Carole says of the mama cat and kittens she fostered in 2014.
The family has taken in and socialized feral kittens, accepted a lost kitten from the neighborhood, and adopted from their local shelter, the West Columbia Gorge Humane Society, which they also support and occasionally foster for. So where did this remarkable cat come from?
“Ah, a favorite Colehaus Cats gotcha story,” Carole says. They needed litter but couldn’t get to the pet store until late in the afternoon when an adoption event had just wrapped up and the kittens who hadn’t been adopted were playing together in a large cage in the locked adoption center room. “We took one long look at the lanky orange and white boy and knew we needed to learn all we could about him,” she said. When they asked to see him, the store manager said the adoption coordinator would be back after dinner, in about an hour, to pick up the kittens to take back to the shelter.
“Two hours later, we were still waiting. We can say with all confidence, we know where every item in that store is located. And the prices for half of those,” Carole said. Finally, the adoption coordinator returned along with a couple of foster moms, all expecting to take kittens home or back to the shelter and found two very eager cat parents waiting. “Quint was both playful and a gentleman at his young age, sharing his toys and handing out kisses in the adoption center room. All of Quint’s brothers had been adopted that afternoon and for some reason, no one paid Quint much attention. It was as if fate had brought us together,” Carole said.
Carole adds, “Bonus Info: Olivia was also one of the other leftover kittens and we adopted her on the spot alongside Quint.” Olivia is a sleek house panther, and as we know black cats are often left behind.
Reading their blog, Colehaus Cats, I also knew they had experienced a number of losses in the year just prior to Quint and Olivia’s adoption, so the addition of a few kittens likely also energized the household.
The Coles have volunteered for the West Columbia Gorge Humane Society (WCGHS) in Washougal, Washington for two and a half years and have fostered since December 2013 with both adults and kittens, and they donate to their vet’s emergency fund for those unable to pay for veterinary care and services.
“Twenty years ago, we fostered what we thought would be our last bottle babies for a season, having learned from several bottle baby litters a few years before that,” Carole said. “We’re lucky our last litter came with a great mama cat!” They’ve fostered six cats for WCGHS and by best estimate, two dozen or more over the past twenty-five years. “We’re very proud to say we’ve only had three foster fails (or foster fortunates, as we like to call them) in all that time.”
About the humans
Carole is a short story fiction writer (published in science fiction and fantasy genre), and “Colehaus Task Master and Household Manager, Defender of the Colehaus Universe, Master Gardener, aspiring photographer, Cat Wrangler, and indeed, mere servant to All Things Feline 365/24/7.” Her husband Mr. Colehaus is a “bug-hating software engineer, Champion Toy Dangler, and Mastermind behind the Nightly Brushies Routine.”
“Cats have always seemed to gravitate toward us wherever we’ve lived. But… so have raccoons and opossums, for that matter. But you can’t really have those as pets. At least, it’s not encouraged.
“We’ve both always felt a connection with most animals since childhood. My father used to show and breed Persians. I never thought of them as show cats but as pets. Pets with lots of floofy fur. Mr. Colehaus (Carole’s husband) will say he didn’t pay THAT much attention to the family dogs and cats when he was growing up but then again, this is a man who singlehandedly raised a baby duck though successful adulthood!”
Visit Quint’s Art Shop to see his current paintings for sale and read below for a special offer to help a kitty in need.
Quint donates a painting or two every year to causes he truly feels passion for. It’s hard not to want to donate to every cause with the hope his paintings might help; there are so many charities and so many sick, injured, and homeless kitties out there who need help. Half of the proceeds of everything he sells is donated. This year, he is helping the emergency expense fund of the local vet to help those who cannot afford vet care or services. So many sad stories there. The other half stays in-house for painting supplies, general items – bedding, carriers, food, litter, and of course, toys, and he has a little saved for a rainy day.
Read about other artists who Create With Cats.
All images and text used on this site are copyrighted to Bernadette E. Kazmarski unless otherwise noted and may not be used without my written permission, although links to your site are more than welcome and are shared. Please ask if you are interested in using and image or story in a print or internet publication. If you are interested in purchasing a print of an image or a product including it, check my animal and nature website Portraits of Animals to see if I have it available already. If you don’t find it there, visit Ordering Custom Artwork for more information on a custom greeting card, print or other item.
© 2016 | www.TheCreativeCat.net | Published by Bernadette E. Kazmarski
Weekly schedule of features:
Sunday: Essays, Pet Loss, Poetry, The Artist’s Life
Monday: Adoptable Cats, TNR & Shelters
Tuesday: Rescue Stories
Wednesday: Commissioned Portrait or Featured Artwork
Thursday: New Merchandise
Friday: Book Review, Health and Welfare, Advocacy
Saturday: Your Backyard Wildlife Habitat, Living Green With Pets, Creating With Cats
And sometimes, I just throw my hands in the air and have fun!