Red Cats

A short series of illustrations on wood

With this series I was experimenting with using plywood as a base for illustrations that mixed hand-made and machine-made elements. Some of the documentation was on the playfull side.

The Forest

The forest is the first piece in this series. I was considering calling it the “pull string cat”. The idea is to place this same character in different contexts and every time another character pulls a string on the cat he or she responds accordingly. The idea came from reading this Zen master story:

There was a person coming to a new village, relocating, and he was wondering if he would like it there, so he went to the zen master and asked: do you think I will like it in this village? Are the people nice?
The master asked back: How were the people on the town where you come from? “They were nasty and greedy, they were angry and lived for cheating and stealing,” said the newcomer.
Those are exactly the type of people we have in this village, said the master.
Another newcomer to the village visited the master and asked the same question, to which the master asked: How were the people in the town where you come from? “They were sweet and lived in harmony, they cared for one another and for the land, they respected each other and they were seekers of spirit,” he replied.
Those are exactly the type of people we have in this village, said the master.

-as told by Claudia Altucher

My process for this kind of piece starts with a hand-drawn sketch that I scan and trace using a vector drawing software like Illustrator or Inkscape. I often leave the vectors unedited because I want that hand-drawn feeling. Then I use a desktop CNC to carve out the pockets and outlines. I do find it funny that I want the hand-drawn feeling and yet I use a machine to do the carving.

In this case the CNC lifted some of the veneer leaving those darker streaks but I thought it was a happy accident. I roughly sketched the trees and started drawing them with a quill pen and acrylic ink. The quill works surprisingly well on wood. I mixed white ink and black ink as i went along to create the receding effect.

The pockets for the side panels were filled with white gesso. I was going to paint the frame entirely black as I’ve done with other similar pieces but this time I wanted the wood grain to be more visible to I stained it with black gesso diluted with water. The outline was colored with pencils. Using a 1/8″ bit on the CNC creates a rather neat groove for that.

The little side pictures are inspired both by comic books -where the panels tell part of the story- and the paintings of Hundertwasser. He often used black frames and added little details to his paintings that make your gaze go around the image.

This piece is 7″x7″ and it was painted on 3/4″ birch plywood. Mix media (acrylic inks, gesso and colored pencils).

Into Space

Into space is the second piece on the red cat series. The basic idea was inspired by a previous drawing. I wanted to draw a scene where the cat is jumping into a cosmic adventure. I also started this one with a sketch on tracing paper that became the template for the CNC cutting.

For the circles on I used a combination of watercolors and diluted acrylic inks. These bleed a little bit on wood but I think that added to the piece. I enjoy the look of the wood grain.

In this case I painted the frame with black gesso (instead of just staining it as with the previous one). I painted the double edge with colored pencils and the waves with red acrylic ink.

the back with notes on all the pigments used:

This piece is 7″x10″ and it was painted on 3/4″ birch plywood using mix media (acrylic inks, gesso and colored pencils).

The Rain

For this one I posted a series of playful videos on my instagram account documenting its creation. I compiled them in this short 1 minute video: