Thursday, February 22, 2024
animal welfarecat artworkfeline artworklinoleum block printnatural disasters

Tortie Cats to Help Our Friends in Japan

Painting by Kuniyoshi Utagawa

The Japanese people are legendarily fond of cats, have been through history. In every stage of art in their culture you’ll find felines of all stripes and spots and solids depicted in paintings happily ensconced in homes, walking about the estate, in sculptures curled in sleep and famously with one paw lifted welcoming you to the garden. More than a few of these kitties are calico or tortoiseshell as “red” is a favorite and highly symbolic color.

And, often, in the background of the painting you’ll see the ocean, as it is in the background of their lives every day. Obviously, being a chain of islands, the ocean, what it gives and what it takes, is a constant presence in the lives of the Japanese, and with it the cultural knowledge of the ocean’s destructive power. (See a little more art like that at left here).

We witnessed that power on March 11 as an earthquake shook the land at Sendai, creating a tsunami that slammed into the eastern coastline. Remembering from the 2004 tsunami and the Haiti and Chile earthquakes as well as other natural disasters, we won’t know the full toll for days or weeks.

In Japan, wherever there are people, there are cats, beloved pets, and where pets are not allowed there are Cat Cafes where cats live to be visited by customers who drink tea and pet kitties. And tragically the earthquake’s epicenter was about 60 miles from Cat Island, a haven for the elderly and for many stray cats who are fed and cherished by all residents. To date we’ve heard that Cat Island had a good bit of damage and supplies are needed, but the island also has a good bit of high ground so hopefully people and cats could escape the tsunami.

My Tortie Girls Go to Japan

detail of "the goddess" face
Detail of "The Goddess"
detail of the roundest eyes block print
Detail of "The Roundest Eyes"

Through one of my wholesale customers, many of my Tortie Cats t-shirts have shipped off to customers in Japan. Considering their love of cats, this is not surprising.

Also considering the tradition of block printing, or relief printing with wood, in Japan, especially hand-colored prints, this seems like a natural combination. After all, where do you think I first saw this technique, and years later decided to render my girls’ portraits in this medium?

Donate to Animal Refuge Kansai for the Animals of Japan

I will donate half of the selling price to Animal Refuge Kansai from sales of my t-shirts and framed block prints sold in a set or individually. I have limited stock, in part because I always wait for warmer weather to print these shirts and prints:

Read below more about block printing and about these prints, and visit my Etsy shop to purchase. Also visit The Conscious Cat to find other opportunities to donate and help all animals in Japan after this devastating disaster.

Inspired by my felines

I am unendingly inspired by my houseful of felines, especially those two tortoiseshell calicos. I print these by hand from a hand-cut linoleum block, then each individually is hand-painted in watercolor.

“The Goddess”
Well, everyone knows a fat cat who knows she’s beautiful, and Cookie would tell you that a woman with a round shape was once most desirable and an object of worship. That’s why I call her “The Goddess”.

“The Roundest Eyes”
Sometimes when I look at Kelly the only feature I can distinguish in all those tortie markings is her extremely round eyes.

framed block print of tortoiseshell cat
The Goddess
framed block print of tortoiseshell cat
The Roundest Eyes

Each image is 8″ x 12″, with mat and frame outside dimensions 14″ x 18″, horizontal or vertical as shown in the photo.

Find the girls in my Etsy shop under “Prints”.

I have also printed the girls on white t-shirts. You can also find these in my Etsy shop under T-shirts or in the Marketplace on my website under Apparel>Block Printed Tees.

About Block Printing

I really enjoy working in this medium and I can free myself from the traditional media and a greater realism in rendering. Linoleum block printing is a technique wherein the artist carves the surface of a piece of artist’s linoleum, leaving raised areas which will become the image. Ink is rolled onto these raised areas, then a piece of paper is pressed against the block and when it’s lifted away the ink remains, leaving the image on the paper.

The resulting work isn’t a one-time thing, but meant to be printed multiple times–and I do, on just about anything I can think of. They all start out on paper, but they’ve been printed on t-shirts and dresses and aprons and curtains, to name a few things. I will sometimes add color to them with watercolor or dyes to give them extra interest. The resulting work, even though they are all printed from the same block, is a unique print, still handmade by the artist.

Because of the nature of the medium, each print is unique and ink coverage is not always perfect. Most artists consider this random activity to be part of the process of creating an individualized print, and along with the hand-painting makes a unique work of art.


From health and welfare to rescue and adoption stories, advocacy and art, factual articles and fictional stories, "The Creative Cat" offers both visual and verbal education and entertainment about cats for people who love cats, pets and animals of all species.

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