During my journey through college art, I would get professors who liked to mix things up. During my final winter term at Central Missouri State College, Warrensburg, Missouri, I took one of my last studio art classes, Advanced Drawing. Off hand, I bet it was Dr. Ed Ellis, art department chair, who was the instructor, since he was always wanting his students to stretch their talents. The project was to take a known painting by another artist and make it into your own interpretation. I chose Picasso’s ‘Girl Before a Mirror.’ You can check this MoMA link for the explanation of Picasso’s painting, then come back to me.
Taking the mirror image to a different level, my premise was that a woman was in reality a beautiful cat concealing her claws and hidden cruelty. She sees in her direct reflection that she was a kind person by holding hands with her true self, the cat. The cat reflection as part of the woman’s face is a reflection that all other people see, including her claws. In the original drawing, I came very close to the final piece. The drawing was on a smooth surface of illustration board, 30″ x 40″. I used watercolor and India ink. The painting remained in my portfolio for years, untouched. I was unhappy with the college handling. I decided to give it another try, by painting around the areas with an acrylic ground then applied a light watercolor wash over everything. I am keen on line work, and added pen and ink hatch and crosshatch to the figures in the mirror for texture and interest. The cat was a big problem for me. I had been given some gold gilding powder for frames from a going-out-of-business framer. The stuff was difficult to work with until I mixed it with gum arabic. Applying the gilding with watercolor and opaque white, I achieved the soft effect of fur. I cut off the area behind the mirror and glued on a new piece that had vertical banding. After all the work, I was pleased with the finished piece.
‘Cat Woman’ or ‘Lady in The Mirror’ was never exhibited or shown. I own the painting and it still gets questions today.