I began unintentionally collecting these stories at the very beginning of my career as an animal portrait artist, simply because the pets people chose to commission me for a portrait were often the ones with the most dramatic stories who they had worked so hard to catch and rehabilitate, creating a close bond. Through the years when I’ve shown my portraits or people have browsed through my portfolio, I’ve repeated these stories over and over and wanted some way to more broadly share the stories with others who would be just as moved as me.
When I considered a calendar, a useful item where viewers could enjoy one portrait each month, it didn’t seem enough until I realized the stories were missing. I designed this entire idea around providing the art and the story together, equally important on one page.
I chose the selection of portraits and designed each page to stand out individually as you look through the calendar. In addition, each of the stories tells of cats from shelters and cats abandoned and saved, cats found inside car engines and cats reluctantly surrendered by people who could no longer care for them, but each one has a happy ending as a cherished companion in a loving home.
I’ve been a graphic designer for nearly 30 years and relished the idea of working on a project “for myself”. I had carried this idea for over ten years and the design was strong in my mind, the stories practically wrote themselves with each new commission, and I have photographed every piece of artwork I’ve done when I completed it, so I thought I had everything in hand. I pulled out old paperwork and looked up people I hadn’t spoken to in a decade or more, each one of whom unhesitatingly said “yes” when I called to ask if I could include their portrait in this idea and quickly gave me their rescue stories.
When I looked at my first proofs, however, I was disappointed to see that some of my older photos just weren’t up to printing standards so I called back about half of the rescue families to ask if I could visit them to rephotograph their portrait. Each of them happily made time in their schedules and we had wonderful reunions reminiscing about the creation of their portrait, the cats they and I had lived with when we worked together, and I was overjoyed to meet their new feline, and sometimes canine, families because most of them are still actively rescuing.