When I discovered Colin Egan’s artwork, I was drawn in by the way his style seems to blend bold and vivid street art and toy-art influences with a classic cat cartoon sensibility. Also, how could you not laugh at a feline depicted as a hot dog or dinosaur?
Having become suitably smitten with his work, I spoke to Colin (who dubs himself The Catoonist) about the origins of his style, incorporating Lil BUB into his art, and the mechanics of placing cat cut-outs in public places.
How would you describe the style of your art?
I like to describe my style by the cartoons I grew up with. Winnie the Pooh and Calvin and Hobbes were very influential to me — I would honestly stare at the pictures and study how they were drawn. I love to keep things simple and only focus on the subject, which is why I typically don’t color the background or even have it at all.
When did you focus on drawing cats?
My whole life I’ve drawn cartoon characters, but the cats didn’t start until high school. During that time I would draw these very abstract patterns that would eventually fill an entire page; the very first one I drew had a cartoon cat in it, and when it was completed people seemed to love the cat. So the next few I did, I’d slowly hide the cat until people were getting excited to see it. Eventually I was known as the guy who drew cats — and that was when I started translating that into my cartoon drawings, which until then were only doodles for me.
I never expected to do anything with these cartoons, but I did it as a hobby. I would draw a wide range of characters but still everyone seemed to love my cat, which is when I started to focus on just drawing a cat. So on Jan. 16 of this year I created The Catoonist, and to me it blew up faster than I had imagined.
The Blue Cat character appears in a lot of your art. What’s his personality like?
I’m not really sure if I have a specific personality for Blue Cat. Blue has always been my favorite color and I commonly use blue to represent myself in my art. So Blue Cat’s personality in many ways is supposed to represent mine, being super literal, giving a big smile with a thumbs up, and sometimes getting grumpy about specific things. I definitely try to show that in my drawings on top of maintaining typical cat qualities.
From looking at your Instagram account, you often place cut-outs in public. Where’s been the strangest or funniest place you’ve left one?
My dad wanted to know what Free Art Friday Atlanta was all about so I made a cut-out and had it ready to show him. We went to a pizza place called Felini’s, and I strategically placed it where we could watch it as we ate. The whole time we were eating, we had one eye on where I placed it so we could watch someone pick it up. After about 20 minutes we both took our eye off of it for just a second and when we looked back it was gone. We didn’t even see the person or reaction. We both just thought the whole situation was hilarious.
How do people usually react when they see a cat cut-out?
Like the situation at Felini’s, many of the Free Art Friday artists like to drop their cut-outs whenever they go to an event or go out to eat. It’s such a thrill to see a random person, sometimes sprinting, grab your cut-out and freak out like they had just found money on the ground.
What’s the story behind the Lil BUB photo?
As many people will agree, Lil BUB is a magical cat. I have always wanted to draw Lil BUB for my Catoon Caturday, where every Saturday I take a cat on Instagram and incorporate him or her into a catoon. I haven’t drawn BUB because my goal is to get Lil BUB to see it and love it so much that she wants to repost it or something. So instead I thought I’d use Photoshop to just paste on my cat. Lil BUB actually liked it and commented on the picture, which I got thrilled about.
Which of your cat cartoons seem to be the most popular?
The cartoons that always have a great response are the ones where I try to tie in very common cat traits to the comic. Like recently I drew one about about a cat laying on a man in his bed and all he has to say is that he won’t be able to get up for the day. It’s so true — I know when a cat lays on me I feel stuck because I don’t want to wake the cat up from its nap.
So who’s the greatest cartoon cat of all time?
I’d love to say Hobbes, but being more focused on your typical house cat I think Simon’s Cat nails it. I remember when those videos first came out I would die laughing — he is definitely a man who studies his cat and other cats well. His animated shorts just take those specific cat traits that are odd and exaggerate them in a nice way.
Follow The Catoonist’s Instagram account to check out more of his fantastic cat art.
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.