I love cat art, pictures and illustrations of all kinds. So that’s how I found myself walking through the San Diego Cat Show in January. I had a small list of cat illustrators that I wanted to meet and ask for interviews and a stomach doing backflips. I don’t find it at all easy to meet new people. Let alone ask strangers for favors.
Laura Berry’s Funny Cat Art
Laura Berry of BigCatDesigns.com was not on my list. But how could the CatzStuff.com editor ignore a booth that said, “…Cause You Need More Cat Stuff?” I’m glad I didn’t. My jitters were soon replaced by a big grin. Laura’s funny cat colored pencil drawings have that effect on people.
Once I got talking with Laura I found that the effect works both ways. Interacting with people can be difficult for her too. But cats (and humor) are a common language. She says that, “most cat owners are very happy to show you a picture of their fur babies and tell you their story. I’m not shy with people if we have cats in common.”
One of her favorite sayings is, “All the best people love cats.” And how can you stay nervous when you know that you’re surrounded by wonderful people?
Laura’s cat art is like a good friend who’s as crazy about felines as you are. She sees her role as an artist as being someone who, “brings some happiness and laughter to people who see my cat art.” And like good friends, her illustrations are a balance of sweet and sarcastic.
One of her great joys is, “when someone at a show gets a giggle out of one of my pieces and pulls a friend over to see it too. I love when kids read the captions and laugh.” And its a real pleasure when they take one home as an ideal cat lover gift for a friend.
Sharing Art is Sharing Happiness
Laura has a full time job. So what drives her to spend even more time working at art and cat shows?
Maybe she has too many drawings? She says, “I can’t help myself. If I am ever sitting still, there is a pencil in my hand and I am sketching something, usually a cat. By the end of a meeting you can be sure that the addenda will be covered in new characters.”
That urge to share the fun of art goes back to her childhood. Laura’s a self-taught artist from a fun, artistic family. She says that most members of her family had creative outlets. They painted, made ceramics, stitched needlepoint and took photos.
Her parents and grandparents encouraged Laura’s artistic talents. They always made sure that there was something to draw on, even if it was the backs of junk mail or paper bags. And then there were family reunions and drawing competitions with her uncles. One of them turned out to be a concept artist working for Disney.
She has some formal training She studied with southern California artist and teacher Ernest Guerrero in high school. He was the person that led her to working with colored pencil. She says that striving to emulate his skill in the medium was a major motivation for her.
Ernest was a multi-faceted mentor who didn’t confine his lessons to art techniques. Laura recalls that, “Along with teaching, he was a working artist out in the real world. He sold his art to magazines and created art for clients. And shared the successes and frustrations making a living with his art.”
Inspiration From Galleries and Ephemera
But vintage artwork and ephemera made for commercial use holds a fascination for her as well. Laura observes that, “Art that’s made to draw you in and sell a product shouldn’t be dismissed. Master artists created cigar boxes and coffee tins using the most difficult techniques.”
Why Feline Art?
Laura has the talent and the training to work on serious topics more accepted by the art world. But she prefers kitten and cat illustrations. Why?
Laura says that she loves all animals and often draws different types. But her main love is cats. She says, “Cats are universal. When you draw a dog, people want their specific breed, with that little white spot on its nose. ”
“Cat people are drawn to the personality of the cat. They may look at the drawing of a black cat and say my tabby cat does that all the time. Cat people love all types of cats.”
Speaking of cats to love, Laura has two. Gibbs is the orange tabby on the right and Jax is the Siamese. Her felines have big plans. They’re going to corner the market on Fancy Feast Florentine and Da-Bird Mouse toys.