Finicky artists

Charlie, who is partially blind, was the featured artist at Saturday’s first Sundance Ranch cat art auction. His painting titled “Friends” sold for $180. CNJ staff photos: Tony Bullocks

By Marlena Hartz: CNJ staff writer

The artist rejects his canvas, slinking into a corner, his right paw covered in neon orange paint.

Charlie, whose black-and-white fur forms a thick halo around his body, is a cat who paints. But not today — the sun is shining.

Cats prefer to paint on days accompanied by harsher elements such as rain, thunder and wind, according to Doug Johnson, executive director of the Sundance Ranch Feline Sanctuary in Clovis.

Johnson sponsored the first Sundance cat art auction Saturday at the Clovis Civic Center. Charlie, a partially blind, furry cat whose preferred palette is neon pinks, greens and blues, was the featured artist.

His abstract painting of pink and purple splotches, titled “Friends,” sold for $180, making it the highest selling piece at the auction.

Of five cats featured at the auction, only Charlie remains unadopted at the feline sanctuary.

Johnson constructed the sanctuary as a haven for abused, neglected and abandoned cats. Currently, he houses and feeds 25 cats through his nonprofit organization. The felines are free to roam in a house of their own on a rural road. Some lounge on window sills and shelves or sunbathe outside in the screened back yard.

But not all cats are artists.

“Only 1 or 2 percent of cats actually paint,” Johnson said. “You have to go through quite a process before you find one that thinks it’s fun.”

All Sundance cats paint with some assistance, Johnson said.

To encourage Charlie to paint, Johnson pours paint in small tin cups and brings the cup to Charlie’s nose so the cat can inhale the scent. Johnson dips his paw in the paint and guides it to the canvas. When Charlie is in the mood, he creates patterns on the canvas, and even chooses colors to paint, Johnson said.

“They (cats) paint when they want to paint. And the process is different for different cats,” Johnson said.

Johnson said some cats paint with their entire bodies: noses, tails, claws. Others use just a single paw or toys.

For instance, Dribbles dips and flicks paint onto canvas using her claws, and Cheyenne uses toys, Johnson said.

“Cheyenne refuses to use her paws. She’s very dainty,” Johnson said during Saturday’s auction.

Even a dog lover can be won over by the art of cats.

Clovis resident Sandra Cole — who owns a basset hound named Bootsy — purchased cat art at the auction.

Of the melancholy piece she chose, she said, “It’s beautiful.”
“The vivid color, just the spirit of it,” she said.

Johnson raised $4,282 at the auction. He said the money will be used to spay and neuter cats in Curry and Roosevelt County at a reduced cost.