Friday, May 11, 2012


I live in Cattyland. It's as sweet as Candyland but smells a lot worse. When I decided to get back into art I found that living with foster kittens and cats made things fairly impossible. I knew my life had changed the first time I tried to knit my son a scarf and I had 12 kittens in the house. I doubt I need to explain that scenario much further. I'd been messing around in Photoshop on my computer for years and pretty much got my artistic jollies that way; but a friend of mine had an idea that he wanted me to illustrate in watercolor. It had been years since I'd painted and it would seem the cats wanted to keep things that way. I had moved and no longer had an office where I could shut them out. Painting was impossible and dangerously messy. Many pigments are poisonous. Another friend had the answer; "Get a Wacom Tablet." he said. I followed his advice and am experiencing the enjoyment of painting that I haven't had in about 20 years. It's a digital, simulated experience but I still like it. Maybe one day I will have a studio where I can get back to painting the old fashioned way but will I ever want to?  For now I really like the fact that I'm not making the enormous messes I used to make. And of course the best part of painting digitally is that I can ERASE!!! I'm not terribly savvy with the tools of photoshop (I don't even use Photoshop, just Elements). So digital painting is pretty straightforward, Wacom tablet "pen"set to round brush covers 90% of what I do.

The tablet made all the difference. I was doing collages before but couldn't call them paintings. I use the Intuos 4 and so far have not explored the many options that it offers. Still, the desire to have the tactile physicality of a brush will always be there. I use it just for painting and not for drawing. So far, for me, there is no digital substitute for pencil and paper and I see no need for one. True, the cats will carry a pencil away in their mouths but there's little harm that can be done to them or the work. (It always baffles me, do my cats live such boring lives that EVERYTHING I do is that fascinating for them?) I make a sketch on paper and scan it into the computer.
I thought I would share what went into this latest piece:

The inspiration for Cattyland is the board game, Candyland. Being food obsessed, it was my favorite game as a child. Over the years I have seen incarnations of the board illustrated in  a way that I find so inferior to the original. I am old school when it comes to cute. I just don't understand what passes for cute these days. I didn't even when I was a kid. I always loved Hugh Harmon and Rudolph Ising cartoons, and found the Muppets gross. (I know - sacrilege!) I like the way our readers were illustrated in the 1950s and I certainly prefer the version of Candyland that I played with as a child. In looking for the different boards I found this fabulous history, complete with slide show. There has been a different board each decade. Check it out:

This is the board I grew up with, so it is my favorite.

I wanted to make it for cats so each area was re-created with a cat theme. The peppermint stick forest replaced by "Catnip Fields" etc. All "lands" were done as separate illustrations. I start with a sketch and scan it into the computer. 
color gets added in layers

Then I start painting over it using a Wacom tablet and Photoshop elements. No waiting for paint to dry, just start a new layer!

When each piece was done, it got set into the larger  layout which contained the trail.

The most important stop for feline players

In total, there were ten illustrations combined. Although each one was flattened, it ate up lots of memory. My computer coughed and wheezed through this and in the end, the final piece was nearly 700 MB. I got to the point where I just had to stop because my computer was crying.

And all combined, it looks like this:
This and others are available as part of a line I am offering for purchase to help raise funds and awareness for animal rescue. For more info click here


Maria Therese said...


Glad you're getting back into your art - you are very talented! I too, enjoyed playing "Candy Land" as a child. Love your "Catty Land" - very cute and very creative! Looking forward to hearing more from you soon!

PS. I have a cat. She is ginger colored with stripes. She is not very friendly though and bites sometimes. I have frequent asthma attacks and was told to get rid of the cat. I feel so bad. I love the cat! :(

Maria In Mass :)

Susan said...

Thank you, Maria. You are very kind. There is more on my web site. Animal art and Fluffart too. :-D

Nytok (Alan Ivie) said...

Makes me want a catland board game for my Grandson. (actually me too ). Good marketing idea if you think about it. Us cat lovers eat it up biggie time. So why not take it to the next level.

deeppurple said...

Great job Susan! And so cute! But I also love the original Candyland board. Even put it on my Pinterest. lol!