“It’s black in a way,” says a former colleague, who also does not want to be named for fear of retribution. As the author of a widely-read book of cat drawings. As an avowed non-cat person. Why? “All cats have black fur. If there’s anything funny to see and draw, it’s to make people go back and get a picture. And make them go back to the books.”
In the mid-2000s a colleague started working with the cat to create images of the fable in which a cat named Snugglebug travels to Mars and comes back from the Red Planet in the form of a black cat. Snugglebug is a fictional character. There is no black cat in the book; the author’s drawings, which look more like those by John Updike than the book’s actual cat, are of the cartoonish black cat Snugglebug.
A cartoonist and artist from New Jersey, who has worked in publishing for more than 40 years, now draws about 400 cat drawings a year and has published three books of original cat artwork – The Cat Art of Bill Schutte. Another artist has created a cat poster – with cat designs for people to draw themselves – which was published by a company in London. There’s also an online exhibition, called Belly of the Beast, on the website of the Australian Art Library. It’s not surprising that people are drawn to the story of Snugglebug. “It’s in this area of Australian fiction where it really resonates,” says the artist.
“It’s all about the environment, and a kind of natural environment where cats may seem to have gone extinct. In this story, it seems to be a kind of animal that has managed to survive because it has evolved.”
Facebook Twitter Pinterest ‘You find out where the black cat goes and how cats have managed and continue to exist. It’s a good story and you can really relate.’ Photograph: Alamy
The artist is the only Australian who teaches at an elite art university, in Auckland. The University of Auckland is renowned as one of the best university art departments in the world. Art is one of the core subjects taught in these courses, alongside history, philosophy, politics and anthropology. To draw a black cat with a short white tail probably seems odd, but the Australian artist says “the idea of the cat being black and the little thing on top of what we have in the picture, the tail, is very interesting”.
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