The artwork of French painter Raphaël Vavasseur reminds me of covers from the Choose Your Own Adventure story books of the 1980s. There’s an evocative mix of otherworldly fantasy styles meshing with a tangible comic book influence: A white cat seemingly made up of wisps of clouds snoozes to the sounds of a concert pianist mouse. Black cats gaze off into a sky studded with brilliant stars. A mischievous kitten hangs from a svelte moon. The images whisk you away to another realm where celestial shades dominate, where twilight becomes a magical playground, and the feline form is queen.
Suitably impressed with his work, I spoke to Raphaël about the origins of his cat-themed paintings, his favorite breeds to illustrate, and his own trio of feline muses.
When did you start creating cat-themed artwork?
When I was 20 years old, I remember that I painted a black cat, which seemed very pleasing to the people around me. I’m 41 years old now, so it means that it’s been 21 years that I’ve been painting cats.
How would you describe your painting style?
My artwork is a mix between comic style and classical painting. I think I’m also very close to the pop art movement. I’m a big fan of French comics, so my masters are Moebius and Enki Bilal.
Having painted cats for more than 20 years, how have your style and approach changed?
I find I like to explore the new graphic styles. Oftentimes, a subject of the painting also inspires me to try a new graphic style or a certain colored atmosphere.
What tools and techniques do you use?
At this moment, my creations are handmade — I use acrylic paint and brushes on canvas.
Have you been drawn to painting certain breeds of cat more than others?
My favorite is a ginger cat; the orange and white cat is a beautiful mix of colors. I also like a lot of black cats — they go well with the more mystic atmosphere in some of my paintings.
Speaking of the mystical atmosphere, what inspires your use of fantasy backgrounds and elements in your work?
For me the cat is a magic creature, so fantasy backgrounds are simply the best framework for the cat subject.
You often sell your paintings on eBay. Are you ever surprised at the price they sell for?
Yes, it’s a real adventure. I want my art to be for everybody, not just a selective thing. On eBay I introduce only original, handmade paintings, and I feel that this is a very good offer for the people. Then on my Etsy store, I sell original paintings and fine art prints.
Do you have any cats? If so, what are their personalities like?
Yes! I have three cats. First there’s Doodoo, who is a ginger cat. He is a big lover, he likes people very much, and he’s always asking to be petted by everyone. Then there’s Kitsha, who is Doodoo’s mother, and she’s very clever. I’d say she is the chief of all cats in the house. Finally, Cocotte is the youngest cat. She was born in the countryside and she is still a bit wild and shy.