Artist Vicki Boatright, known as “BZTAT” (pronounced bee-zee-tat), is an accomplished artist with several public art projects to her credit. An avid pet lover and business partner to her cat Brewskie Butt, Vicki specializes in whimsical drawings, paintings and prints of cats, dogs and other companion animals. She creates colorful customized pet portraits, which are unique in their original contemporary style. Vicki also creates murals and other artworks that address a variety of themes.
I’m delighted to welcome Vicki to The Conscious Cat today.
When did you first realize that you were an artist?
I cannot remember a time in my life where I was not creating. Being an artist is something I am, not something I do. I remember drawing and doodling and coloring, etc. when I was very small, and I never stopped!
Your unique style is instantly recognizable. How did you develop this style?
It developed over time. In college, my painting professor really emphasized color and that resonated with my sensibilities. My arts education was more conceptual than technical. I never learned the typical painting techniques that most painters use, so I developed my own. I started my process of layering multiple layers of color after seeing the works of artists like Hans Hoffman and Mark Rothko.
Although cats have always been a big part of my life and an inspiration for my art, I began painting them in earnest in my last year of graduate school (1985). Beezie, a small black and white tuxedo cat showed up on my front porch one day, and my first thought was, “I have to paint her!” I did paint her more times than I can count, and she is still a favorite image to use in my work. I called her Beezie-tat in Tweetie Bird fashion, “I tawt I taw a Beezitat. I deed, I deed, I DEED tee a Beezite-tat!” Eventually I took her name to sign my work.
What is the creative process like for you?
It varies from day to day. Sometimes the idea and image that I want just flows; sometimes I have to work and rework areas. I typically start with an idea of what I want, but I also let the artwork evolve. I respond to what I see developing and sort of “interact” with the painting.
I am usually working on several works at the same time. I often will work on one piece and set it aside for a while to study my next move. Working on another piece can give me some distance from the first one, so that I can go back at it with fresh eyes at another time.
You also paint custom pet portraits. How does that process work?
I am often asked to paint portraits of specific beloved pets. If they live near me, I will go meet the animal(s) and take a bunch of photos. I can also work from photos that people send me. Many of the people who commission portraits find me on the internet and live far away, so meeting the animal is not an option.
Even if I do not have the opportunity to meet the animal, I try to learn as much as I can about its character and its relationship with its human. A portrait is not just a likeness, it is a personal expression of the connection between living beings. I feel as though I am petting the animal with each brushstroke.
Where does your inspiration come from?
I gain inspiration from many things. Although my work is primarily pet themed, I do other kinds of artwork, and I find that all kinds of daily experience inspire me. My relationship with my own pets and the connection that I have with other pet lovers provides me with a wealth of inspiration. I spent 20 years as a counselor, and I am very intrigued by human behavior.
Tell us about your own cats.
I have 5 cats: Slick, Noah, Who, Brewskie (shown below with BZTAT) and Okey. Slick is the oldest, a female tortoiseshell who is 17. Noah and Who (8 years) are brothers and are large gray Maine Coons. Brewskie (8 years) is a white and ginger male tabby, and Okey is is a white and gray female. Okey (2 years) is the youngest, rescued from the parking lot of my building. Each one has his or her own character, and they are always providing me with constant love and merriment! All were rescues.
You are the founder of Okey’s Promise, Art for a Cause. Can you tell us a little bit about that?
After I rescued Okey from the parking lot of my building, I began to suspect that she had been abused. She craved attention, but was fearful of it at the same time. She showed other behavioral signs of being mistreated. I was glad that she was now safe, but it broke my heart to think of someone hurting her.
In addition to being an artist, I spent 20 years as a counselor for children affected by trauma and other emotional pain. I was aware that there was a deep connection between animal abuse, child abuse and domestic violence. I was haunted by the thought that, while Okey was now safe, there may have been others with her in the past who were not so lucky.
I began the Okey’s Promise: Art for a Cause project to raise awareness to the combined issues of animal abuse, child abuse and domestic violence. My hope is that, using artwork to inspire and motivate, communities will become more aware and work together to make women, children and animals safer.
My goal is to create 6 public artworks in 6 different cities. The first project was a mural placed on a building in my hometown of Canton, OH. All of the projects have been funded through donations and grants. Donations can be made at: http://http://www.gofundme.com/OkeysPromise.
What does a purrfect day look like for you?
A purrfect day for me would be to be at BlogPaws with all my pals that I have met through the internet! I have so much fun meeting up with everyone and enjoying our shared interests at BlogPaws each year. The only exception to the real deal would be to have my cats there, too.
You can find more information about BZTAT and her art on her website.