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We Talk Pop-Culture Kitty Art With Tanya Zhuravleva

The Moscow artist turns cat photos into characters such as James Bond, Ron Weasley, and Katniss from "The Hunger Games."

Phillip Mlynar  |  Dec 17th 2015


Tanya Zhuravleva is an artist living in Moscow with a couple of rescue cats she scooped up from the city streets. She’s proud to tag herself a “crazy cat lady,” and her artwork is suitably feline-centric: She specializes in taking pictures of cats and turning them into likenesses of pop-culture icons like James Bond, Ron Weasley, and Katniss from The Hunger Games.

Here’s what you need to know about Tanya’s kitty portraits.

Catster: Can you remember the first time you tried to draw a cat?

Tanya Zhuravleva: I have been obsessed with drawing as long as I can remember, so I can’t actually recall drawing my first cat, just like people generally don’t remember their first steps or words. But I do remember trying to sketch the cats in my life, and that was a disaster! They moved so fast and changed positions in a blink of an eye. In fact, the only condition I can still tolerably draw cats [is when they are] sleeping.

So if you come across a picture of a cat, what sort of things do you consider when working out which character to illustrate it as?

First up, it always helps to know as much as possible about the cat’s personality. Any information can be a boost for inspiration, especially curious and fun details, like when I see some interesting pics on a customer’s Instagram account, or find out a kitty’s name has a cool story behind it. Usually, the better I know my “meowdel” the more interesting the illustration is going to be. It works best for me when I go through all the information I have and then give the ideas some time to ripen; after some time they tend to just appear in your head out of the blue.

Also, quite often my customers choose a character for their pet’s portrait themselves. It’s a great option, too, because people know their pets best and come up with some truly amazing ideas. I’m always happy trying to make their vision true — it’s very rewarding.

A lot of people seem like the way you drew Gary the Bearded Cat as James Bond. If you had to do another portrait of him, which character would you make him?

I’m in awe with Gary’s coolness and always associate him with powerful confident characters. I actually have another drawing of Gary inspired by a famous Che Guevara portrait photo. It’s gonna be used in the CATlendar 2016, which will be distributed by a new cat rescue project called Social Catwork.

If I had to choose a character for Gary’s portrait again, I would look into equally cool options like the Godfather, Obi-Wan Kenobi, or maybe Indiana Jones. Of course, Gary’s best alter ego of all time had actually been discovered before I even started to look into the field — it’s Walter White aka Heisenberg from Breaking Bad. Gary’s even often called Heisenpurrg by his mom and his friends.

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Katniss via Tanya Zhuravleva.

You also drew Katniss the cat as Katniss from the Hunger Games. How do you think she’d fare in the actual Hunger Games?

If we’re talking about our kitty Katniss here, half of her adversaries in the Hunger Games would die of cuteness overload. And I would bet anything that sponsors would fight each other over a chance to send her shrimps, caviar, and other survival essentials.

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Sakura via Tanya Zhuravleva.

You often post on your Instagram that you’re “proud to be a crazy cat lady.” What does that involve?

I have two cats at home, an Instagram account to follow cats exclusively, socks with cats, coffee mugs with cats, I choose my clothes so that cat hair will be inconspicuous on it, and I draw cats every day. Calling myself a crazy cat lady isn’t a confession — it’s stating the obvious! I fully embrace and enjoy my cat obsession, so why not say so?

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Tea Party via Tanya Zhuravleva.

Can you tell us about your own cats?

Mac is a perfect gentleman with loads of dignity and poise. He has his favorite routines, like any proper gentlemen should. Admittedly those are less like five o’clock tea and more like meticulously covering his food with invisible earth at three in the morning, but still!

Then there’s Asya, who’s deaf. She’s a sparklingly joyful creature. She’s very loving, very communicative, and very curious. Nothing interesting happens in our house without her being either a cause or a direct participant of it. She has an adorable personality and gets along easily with everyone. Well, that’s if you’re not a vet; otherwise you’re gonna meet her Hulk version and, trust me, you’re not gonna like it.

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Image via Instagram.

How does Asya being deaf affect her on a day-to-day basis?

Most of the time I forget that she’s deaf. I have a habit of talking to her just like I do to Mac. The only difference it makes is that she doesn’t usually meet you at the door when you come back home and is never afraid of any loud noises. She’s always so genuinely surprised at me showing up right after she’s dropped or broken something with a huge din. It must look like some kind of super power to her, I guess.

Head over to Tanya’s Instagram page to check out more of her art and her cats. You can also order personalized portraits via her Etsy store.

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About the author: Phillip Mlynar writes about cats, music, food, and sometimes a mix of all three. He considers himself the world’s foremost expert on rappers’ cats.