Bringing a pet into your home really means adopting a new family member, including taking on tasks from buying food, a plush bed to toys and making space for your new furbaby in your everyday schedule. Once your pet becomes part of your life, however, they make your home a place of endless love, cuddles, and entertainment. Artists have the added benefit of feeling inspired by their pets in a whole new dimension: incorporating their pets into their artistic processes. Whether incorporating cat hair into the materials used in a mixed media collage or including your lovely fur babies in painted portraits or household scenes, artists can find fresh methods and materials once their pets enter the studio.
Through conversations with artists around their relationship with their pets, we learn whether- and how- artists experience the creative benefits of having a pet.
“Pet” (Art) Projects
Artist and Art Educator Adam Zucker and his Creative Writing/Horticulturist wife Esther know a thing or two about having a pet that inspires your studio practice. He reflects on the benefits of having two felines around their respective studio spaces. “Nomi and Ziggy (our cats) provide inspiration for the subject of some (of my paintings… (and) they make me realize the importance of maintaining a semi-organized studio – if I don’t they topple things over!” Artists and partners Geraldo Mercado and Polina Riabova also draw considerable inspiration from their own studio mates, feline duo Hal and Señorita, in their disparate artistic practices. “Whether I’m working with materials or writing the score for a performance, our cats sit in the studio and watch patiently. It’s nice having them present….they add so much joy and levity to the process that wasn’t there before (we) had them.”
From helping to “organize” artists’ studios to finding a perch and allowing a wonderful moment of cuddles in between brush strokes, furry companions bring joy and clarity into studio spaces for the artists who care for them.
Creative Benefits and Emotional Benefits
Artists with fur babies don’t really have the option of excluding pets from every aspect of their artistic process – just ask artists Alison Kuo and Williamson Brasfield, whose household includes five cats plus a visiting cat, raccoons and wild birds who are all fed by the duo. Instead of seeing them as distractions, Kuo sees their extended pet household as providing tons of inspiration and motivation for their artwork. “Our cats keep us on our toes – they are always trying to get involved in the studio, which can help motivate us in order to keep our materials organized and properly stored.” Kuo notes of their feline companions that they take an acute interest in seeing artworks through to their eventual conclusion. “They are a great stress relief when you are working on a tough deadline. One of the cats always knows when I’m working with the door closed and asks to be let in so he can nap in the room.” Kuo also reflects on the intersection of being an artist and a pet parent, with the potential option to engage in projects surrounding their pets. “Williamson takes a lot of amazing photos of the cats, which should probably become a book someday.”
For photographers, having pets can be a constant inspiration as both source material and a quick break from the pressures of a demanding studio practice. Artist Natali Bravo-Barbee notes of having a consistent pet presence that there are the added benefits of knowing that you’ve got companions rooting for you every step of the way! “If I am stressed, my cat will sit on my lap, purr and cuddle, it is quite therapeutic and relieves my anxiety. This allows me to get back in the studio and make art.” Bravo-Barbee has also gained constant inspiration from her furry companions, as she notes that the two constants in her life have always been art and animals. “As a photographer, my cats are always inspiring me to capture their personalities in photographs. I even have this Instagram page just for them!”
Artists can draw inspiration from any number of influences, but for many artists, the call to feel inspired is as close to home as can be: from the pet family that shares their space, both studio and otherwise!
Feel inspired by your own pet companions? Share how your pets inspire you in the comments below – and don’t forget to apply for our Cause for Paws open call where you can submit a design that can help support pets looking for their own forever homes!