Cat sits sprawled

“Cat sits sprawled” is the second piece in my cat series. Like the first piece, the cat is in a typical feline position. This one is most often seen when the weather is hot and the cat is sitting on the cool floor. It spreads the body mass to allow the loss of more heat, The pose that allow maximum heat loss involves the cat laying flat against the floor. The sprawled pose also is an indicator of a degree of relaxation.

I didn’t do a mock up of this in my sketchbook first. This maybe why the head and ears are so close to the edge of the canvas. The paper is a decorative paper but not of Japanese origin. The black provides some differentiation for limited parts of the cat.

Greeting cards, travel mugs and prints of “Cat sits sprawled”

Why I create art about mental illness and abuse

I hate Mothers Day. It’s based on this flowery mirage of perfection that doesn’t exist. Even if it did a mother who does everything for her children rather than teaching them to do it for themselves creates unhealthy adults.

2005 was the year my world went mad. I started dating my now partner in January, had a fall and glandular fever (mono) from March, started dating my ex-gf in May, moved out of home in June and finally got proper treatment for the fall in November. Also in March my parents locked me in the house because mum didn’t want me leaving the house with my now partner (an older man, shock, horror) when we had had a fight beforehand.  I only wanted to get away from the fight. In the end she let me ring him provided I didn’t ask to leave. He heard my tone of voice and offered to pick me up instead. I kept fighting with mum through the glandular fever until I moved out.

I have conceptualised this as the confrontation between Alice and the Queen of hearts in my sketchbook. Mum has her own mental illnesses but hasn’t had treatment for a long time which makes her the Queen of Hearts. Dad’s likes to express his love by following her lead so mum is very much in charge. That makes him the King of Hearts. My now partner is the white rabbit because the white rabbit is a psycho-pomp character and he helped me understand there were ways to live beyond the narrow confines of mum’s arbitrary rules. I’m Alice because we all like to think we’re the protagonist in our own story and because mum tried to keep me child like.

Trapped (c) Anita Morris 2013 $300

Trapped (c) Anita Morris 2013 $300

Trapped is about how mum’s controlling behaviour and abuse made me feel particularly after March 2005. Although I was 12 when I first realised there was something wrong with the family.

I was 15 when I started suffering depression. At least that’s when I’m first sure of it because that was when I started feeling suicidal. I didn’t get help until I was 19 and the confrontation with mum happened. I didn’t even think to ask for help between 15 – 19.  I’ve probably had anxiety my whole life.

There are some with mental illness who know it and refuse to get help. There also abused spouses who refuse to leave. Abused children will generally leave home eventually. I hope my artwork touches those may not have realised something was wrong but when they do they want to get help or get out.

How I prep my canvases

Rectangles in the shape of a city. Some have been painted after the LGBT flag.

Society has always been influenced by Queers (c) Anita Morris 2014 $500

Every artist who uses canvas uses it differently which means different preparation. One of the more obscure uses is to mount textiles on it. However I am going to talk about how I prep canvas for paint or mixed media.

I buy cheap canvas. My last 30 x 40 cm canvas cost me $AUD5.50, my last 20 x 25 cm cost me $AUD3.50. I start by using gesso (acrylic primer) applied with a roller so it is smooth. The notable exception being Anxiety where I used a palette knife to create a textured background which unfortunately doesn’t show up well in photos.

A brief digression that probably belonged with last week’s post on pigments. Modern paint can be described with one or more Color Index Number.

I then apply antique white (PW6, PY42) with the roller.  The picture at the top of the page is called “Society has always been influenced by Queers”. It was painted on the initial layer of antique white. Other times I paint another background over the top of the antique white such as “Aset: Goddess of Sovereignty“.

A little history about pigment, paint and dye

Pigments used in paint and pigments used in dyes have overlapped at various times in history.

The Forbes pigment collection  at the Fogg Art Museum at Harvard University has over 2,500 specimens. It’s mostly used for scientific analysis for verifying paintings and checking authenticity.


The oldest forms of paint were pure pigment. Ochre was used from cave paintings to Ancient Greece. Black is straightforward to produce in the form of charcoal from the fire.

Different forms of paint are made with different types of binders. Egg tempera is made with pigment, egg, and clear alcohol. It dates to the Middle Ages and was used to illuminate manuscripts. These days it’s most commonly used to make Greek Orthdox icons. The one time I had the chance to try the technique, I had codeine in my system and I got tipsy off the vodka fumes. Whoops!

Oil paint became popular in Europe in the 15th century. It had been used in India and China much earlier. While various oils have been used over the years, I understand that most modern oils are based on linseed oil.

The specific pigment plus the specific binder will affect the chemical composition. Some have very specific timelines. In 1826 synthetic ultramarine was discovered as the result of a competition. Natural ultramarine was rare and therefore expensive.


Madder was used as both a dye and a paint pigment. It’s a plant based red which needs a mordent to set it to cloth. Lots of onion skins can produce a pale brown through the same dye process.

Modern dyeing processes can be toxic and dangerous.  A some Australian textile artists specialise in Natural dyeing including Belinda Evans, Myf Walker, Belinda Sheekly and many others. Most of these artists are interested in the ecologically friendly but usually mordent still has to be used. Mordents include alum, iron, copper and tannin, and all except for tannin need to be disposed off carefully.

Why I started the cat series


This is this week’s completed artwork. It’s called “Cat curled up but awake”, it’s 20 x 25 cm. It’s mixed media featuring collage, a painted background and pen and ink details. I’m still not sure about the best way to do the face. It’s the first piece of my cat series.

I have chosen to start the cat series because:

  1. I’m a cat person. I genuinely love cats, love and take care of my cat Queenie. She sometimes complains otherwise but what do you expect from a cat.
  2. The collage elements make for a quick finish.
  3. Cats are hugely popular. Think about how many cats appear upon the internet. What is popular will sell and I want to have a solo exhibition when I have a sufficient body of work.

If we compare this to the mock up from last week.

Black paper cat with white and silver details

I don’t feel the head and tail are as well defined compared to the mock up. The added paws add to the confusion. I think I need to create my cats from two different papers.


Stickers, cards, travel mugs and prints of “Cat curled up but awake”