Today I’m interviewing Susan Faye (left), a self-avowed Crazy Cat Lady artist who creates brilliant watercolor portraits of cats and the people who love them.
Susan calls the Pacific Northwest her home, and her love of animals and nature is reflected in her gorgeous watercolors. Her popular blog, 365 Cat Ladies, showcases a new Cat Lady painting (and the occasional cat guy) and story every day.
If you’re a Laurel Burch fan (and what crazy cat lady isn’t?), you’ll love Susan’s brilliant washes of saturated color and whimsical designs. Even if you can’t afford a custom painting, you can indulge in one of her ACEOs (an artist trading card the size of a baseball card), magnets, or other merchandise. Just strolling through her Etsy shop or 365 Cat Ladies blog makes me happy! It’s guaranteed to lift your spirits as well.
Karen: Before we start, Susan, tell me about your cats!
Susan: I’m afraid that my status as a Crazy Cat Lady may be in serious jeopardy as I currently have only one indoor cat, Buttonwillow (photo at right).
In my defense, I lost two beloved cats last year and am still too heartbroken to replace them, quickly passing boxes of “Free Kittens” with averted eyes. I also feed two outdoor “strays” that live in my back yard, Smokey Joe and Sweet Pea–and as we all know, the Cat Lady Rule of Thumb is “if you name ’em, they’re yours”.
Karen: Boy, do I know that rule by heart. Have you always been a Cat Lady?
Susan: Cats have been a part of my life since I was about 6, when our family adopted “Patches”, a skittish calico cat that our veterinarian neighbor gave to us. In hindsight, I realize she must have been feral, as she lived out most of her life behind a couch on the screen porch or in the rafters of the garage–at the time I just thought she was shy like me. Since then, a long and illustrious list of fantastic felines have shared their lives with me.
Karen: Did you always want to be an artist?
Susan: “Have crayons, will doodle” pretty much sums up my childhood. Creativity through the arts was a great way for a very quiet and painfully shy girl to express herself, and thanks to great parents, art supplies were always at hand.
I dabbled my way through my teenage years exploring drawing, painting, embroidery, sewing, knitting, crochet, ceramics, macrame, and yes, even decoupage (you youngsters might have to Google that one). You name it, I dabbled.
Karen: Have you always painted cats?
Susan: Cats have been a continuous thread through my creations over the years which have included greeting cards, a line of silk-screened giftware, ceramic sculpture, porcelain jewelry, and most recently–watercolor painting. The other themes that I like to use are nature, wildlife, the desert, and gardens.
Karen: Your style is very distinctive. Has it evolved significantly over the years, or have you always favored those luscious brilliant colors and flat geometry?
Susan: As a confirmed dabbler, I’d have to say that my styles are always changing and slowly morphing because I like to try lots of different things. I’m currently torn between the graphic-art, illustrative “Cat Ladies” style and the more representational, detailed style of my traditional watercolor paintings (which can be seen at my other blog www.susanfaye.blogspot.com) . I love luminescent, glowing, transparent jewel-like colors. They make my heart sing, and I hope they have the same effect on others.
Karen: It certainly has that effect on me! Tell me a little about your 365 Cat Ladies project and blog.
Susan: I began painting Cat Ladies from my imagination a little over a year ago when I discovered the Wonderful World of ACEOs–little art cards that are the size of baseball cards. After successfully selling them on Ebay for most of the year, I decided to give Etsy a try.
Sometime in September a wonderful husband of a Cat Lady sent me a query, wondering if I might do a custom painting of his wife, who had just lost the cat-love-of-her-life. Having just lost the cat-love-of-my-life and still in deep mourning, I decided to give it a try, although I didn’t have high hopes of success. He gave it to her as a surprise gift and it made her weep, which of course made me weep. The rest is history, as they say, and I began offering Custom portraits on Etsy.
Inspired by several different groups of Daily Painters, I decided to start my 365 Cat Ladies blog on January 1st of this year. I thought it would be a fun challenge, but knew full well that as a flaky-artist-type I couldn’t be relied upon to actually paint one each day (that would require rigid discipline, and we all know how artists feel about rigid discipline!). So I gave myself permission to supplement my daily blog with many of the images I had in reserve from over the past year. So far, so good, but the reserves are running out. Yikes, I’d better get back to work!
Karen: Will you continue the 365 Cat Ladies project after 2009 ends?
Susan: If I make it to the finish line, I will dance a little jig on New Year’s Day, and then probably maintain the blog with just ONE Cat Lady per week. I’m not crazy you know..
Karen: Where do the Cat Lady stories for the 365 Cat Ladies blog come from?
Susan: Some Cat Ladies are real, and some are imagined… Whenever I do a commission, I ask permission to use the portrait on the blog, and ask for any stories or interesting tidbits they would like to share. You can’t believe the wonderful Cat Ladies I’ve had the pleasure of “meeting” from every corner of the USA and also from points beyond such as Great Britain, Canada, and Australia! They’ve included astronomers, authors, librarians, web designers, vet technicians, pet sitters, teachers, fellow artists, and even a dog lover or two. Each one has a heartwarming story to tell.
The imagined stories are little writing exercises for me–I try to find a little prompt, such as something interesting I have discovered on the web, then see if I can create characters and a little story around it. I enjoy writing almost as much as creating artwork!
Karen: How long does it take for you to create a custom cat lady painting?
Susan: The time varies based on the number of people and pets, and the size of the piece. The final painting itself may take anywhere from one to four hours to complete, but there are many exchanges of e-mails and photos and I usually do a thumbnail sketch first– so depending on my schedule, the whole process can take anywhere from one to four weeks for the client to receive the finished product.
Karen: Who commissions your custom cat lady paintings? Are they mostly purchased as gifts?
Susan: They are almost always gifts–for sisters, husbands, wives, daughters, and neighbors as holiday, birthday, or anniversary gifts. The most touching commissions are those given in memory of recently departed cat-loves.
Karen: In addition to selling your work online (Etsy, CafePress), do you also sell through galleries or art fairs?
Susan: As a veteran of almost 20 years of craft fairs and art festivals, I have retired the canopy and gypsy caravan in favor of the newfangled internet, proving that you CAN teach an old dog (or cat!) new tricks. I am currently selling my Cat Ladies online through Etsy and Cafepress only; plus my traditional watercolor paintings are currently represented by Lawrence Gallery here in the Great Pacific Northwest.
Find Susan’s Work Online: