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Imaginary tabletop with real cat

Usually my pictures have one dominant image that informs them, coming out of a moment when a flash build goes off in my head and I realise that there is a picture that demands to be made. If it had been up to Alfie, who features in the lower half of the picture, that would have been just right. But in this case there were two ideas and I contrived a way to bring them together by creating a location.

A few weeks back somebody gave us some cyclamen and I was overwhelmed by their colour but not prepared to paint a flower piece and then there was Alfie, our brown Burmese cat, who is forever in the studio, rolling to demonstrate affection. I brought them together on an imaginary tabletop, conveniently based on our dining table which often features heaps of things not associated with eating.

There was also the personal challenge: I have never painted flowers, so I wanted to see if I could. I made a little A5 drawing of the flowers and then draped Alfie around the base of the sketch. It looked good to go.

So I included other bits of household stuff that might have been found on this table: a woven raffia place mat and a blue table cloth pulled back and folded on its way to a drawer. I was haunted by the conventions of still life and so threw in three pieces of fruit for good measure as they seemed to be expected. The raffia would have an interesting pattern as would the grain of the wood and the blue tablecloth would zing against the pink flowers. I was worried that the wood grain would remind me too much of Braque and so I needed the cat to change the story. Was this a cosy domestic interior or was this one of those fluffy pet portraits that seem to crown out artists' group sites on Facebook?

Alfie would offset the still life elements: he is always around when I am painting, sometimes tattooing my legs and forcing me to stop and pay attention to him. When I was thinking about the cyclamen he turned up at my feet and rolled as if to say "Hey, what about me? I could be on that table top too because I can't bear not to be the centre of attention." So by way of a bribe to allow my legs to heal, here we have a cat with indoor winter flowers.

So this could be seen as a portrait of a cat with flowers but they were never together like this. It was a matter of combining them - no the cat did not sit on the mat - eventually stacking the three elements vertically within the pictorial space and restricting the colours to make some internal colour rhymes.

When I looked at this again I realised that it was not the departure for me that I had thought it was. A few years ago I painted a fox that had come into the garden in search of a quiet spot for a rest. It is called "Charlie in the garden", Charlie being a term for a fox. The difference to me is in these up, Charlie is more or less a conventional eye level view whereas the Tabletop is a deliberate distortion of space.

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