On March 17, which is the Feast of St. Gertrude of Nivelles, the patron saint of cats, I came across this beautiful painting on Facebook. The painting had gone viral, and I wanted to learn more about the artist, Carolee Clark. I’m delighted that she agreed to answer a few questions and share some of her beautiful cat paintings with us.
Carolee Clark is a full time artist with a home studio in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, which she shares with her cats and sometimes models, Merlin and Guinevere, and their Australian Shepherd brother, Cosmo. Carolee’s work can be found online, and at the annual Bewitching Peddlers of Halloween show in Marshall, Michigan.
How did you get into painting cats?
I paint what I love, and I absolutely adore cats, so have been painting them for as long as I can remember. They’re one of my favorite subjects, and a never-ending source of beauty and inspiration.
How did you develop your style of painting?
Like most artists, I think my style has evolved over time. With a background in both drawing and decorative painting, and a love for bright, vibrant colors, and folk art, it all just seems to come together. I also tend to obsess over detail, which means most of my work takes much longer than originally planned, but with lots of interesting little details, or at least I hope so.
What is the creative process like for you?
It’s like oxygen. I could no more not create than I could not breathe. It’s a part of everything I do, and a constant throughout every day. I keep notebooks everywhere – the house, my purse, the car, so when an idea strikes, I can make a note of it, or do a quick sketch. Art is my happiness, my refuge, and my hope for the future. It makes me smile every day, and when everything comes together perfectly, and I’m excited about a work in progress, it’s the closest thing to sacred I’ve ever felt.
Where does your inspiration come from?
An easier question would be where doesn’t it come from? It comes from everywhere…folk and fairy tales, childhood memories, the natural world and beautiful creatures all around us. Sometimes it’s something as simple as a combination of colors that strikes me as beautiful, or the limbs and branches of a particular tree, or the way the clouds float by at a given moment. Inspiration is just about paying attention.
Tell us about your cats.
Ah, the two remaining Camelot Cats. I have a black Cat named Merlin, who is an absolute sweetheart, but completely refuses to grace guests with his presence. If he hears a strange voice in the house, he hides under the bedcovers (which he always manages to do without making so much as a wrinkle). His sister Guinevere is a long haired tortoiseshell, and like many torties, she’s just a little bit of a kitty, maybe 6 or 7 pounds at most. But what she lacks in size, she makes up for in attitude, chasing Merlin when she’s in a mood, and being very vocal if I’m so much as five minutes late with her supper.
There was a third Camelot kitty too, Arthur, who crossed over the bridge a couple of years ago. He was a very large (almost 20 lbs) orange tabby, who is now immortalized as the Emperor card in The Mystical Cats Tarot deck by Lunaea Weatherstone and Mickie Mueller (another cat artist whose work I love).
Your Facebook page is titled King of Mice Studios. How did that name come about?
It was my late husband’s idea. The King of Mice was a character in John Irving’s novel The Hotel New Hampshire, who declared “Life is serious, art is fun”, so it’s a combination of that, and my daughter Courtney’s childhood love for The Nutcracker ballet, and in particular the character of the Mouse King.
What does a purrfect day look like for you?
Oh gosh, probably waking without an alarm, having tea and breakfast with the furkids, then either settling in at the studio table with some great music on, or taking a day trip somewhere with my sketchbook. Later on, dinner with friends, and a bit of knitting to finish the evening. Not what most people would consider the most exciting day, but if it includes my animal companions, my art and my friends, I’d call it pretty much purrfect.
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