About the Art: "Here Kitty"

Mountain lions are the last large predator that's commonly found in the Western United States. There are frequent sightings where I live in the Santa Cruz Mountains, even in my neighborhood.

“Here, Kitty” low bas relief fine art piece. Original and prints available.

My studio is a dozen or so yards from my front door. Walking across the yard at night can make me a little jittery sometimes, imagining cat eyes watching me. Lately, my 12-year-old son has taken to whittling fallen redwood branches into “spears.” I’ve been known to pick up one of his abandoned projects and carry it with me to the studio. It probably wouldn’t do me any good, but it makes my active imagination feel better.

Original, Anasazi petroglyph from the
Petrified Forest National Park, AZ.

Given the lions are fairly common Petroglyph images, apparently I am not alone in this feeling!

When I saw the Anasazi mountain lion petroglyph, it appealed to me as an inspiration for one of my pieces. I like the idea of creating an image of a classic Western animal, but also one that could still be found where I live. And then there’s the fact that I live with cat people.

The mountain lion petroglyph is from the Petrified Forest National Park, AZ. Some petroglyphs have a known, specific meaning, some tell stories, while others depict every-day life. The mountain lion might simply be a mountain lion.

The “ball of yarn” image is actually a shield from at Newspaper Rock, UT.

As with most of my petroglyph pieces, I start by trowelling on a layer of diatomaceous earth plaster on the canvas, and then I color it with powder pigments. This is the layer you would “see down to” if it were a carved rock face. The dirt and rocks in areas where petroglyphs were traditionally carved is high in iron, giving it a red, rusty look.

I then cut out hand-made forms and lay them on top of the colored plaster. I trowel on a 2nd layer of plaster, covering the forms. When I pop the forms out, they leave behind a negative impression of the image.

2nd layer of plaster applied to the canvas, with the images
in the plaster, but before it’s colored with powder pigment.

After the 2nd layer dries, I color that with powder pigment as well. Many desert rocks develop a dark film called “desert varnish.” I’ve read different theories about what exactly this is, from further oxidizing of the iron due to weathering to microbial activity, or a combination of both. The contrast between the desert varnish layer and the bright iron layer is what gives a Western US petroglyph it’s visual “pop.”

While most of the 1st layer of plaster gets covered up, I feel it’s important to color the entire surface. I’m never 100% sure where the images will end up, so if the entire surface is colored, I don’t have to worry about that problem. It also gives continuity to all of the exposed layers. When you look down to the 1st layer, all of the layers and striations you see are all going the same direction and make sense in relation to each other.

How about you? Do you ever feel feline eyes watching you in the dark, even if it is just your cat pretending to stalk you?