Creating Artworks of CatsJul 24, 2023
Drawing a cat is one of the first animals I do with kids. We start our drawing journey with circles and lines. These become faces of family. Then we move on to animals they know like cats, dogs and perhaps rabbits.
Many households have a pet cat. They are an animal that can live inside, sit on our laps and give us pleasure as we stroke their soft fur. As they pur, our happy hormones are soothing away stresses and anxiety.
Having pets comes with responsibilities. Caring for them is obvious but it also involves ensuring they do not impinge on our neighbours or have a detrimental effect on the local environment and wildlife. In Australia, by law cats are to be registered and microchipped. If they are not being kept for breeding purposes then they should also be desexed. Many local councils expect owners to keep their cats on their own property with some areas setting a curfew stipulating that cats must not roam freely after dark.
Understanding the difference between rules, regulations and laws is studied in Civics and Citizenship within the Australian Curriculum: Humanities and Social Sciences. In Year 4, students engage in exploring the purpose of laws and recognising that laws apply to everyone in society.
Cats are not native to Australia but an introduced species. They have been responsible in many cases for the dramatic decline in the numbers of our native birds. Over time, some species of ground-dwelling birds, as well as small mammals, have become extinct falling prey to wild, feral cats. Probably brought as pets, by early European settlers, cats were also seen to be useful in dealing with rats and mice. Even today, many farmers use cats to keep down the number of rodents on their property.
Developing our scientific knowledge to better understand the impact of our actions on the environment is a key element of Science as a Human Endeavour in the Australian Curriculum. In Year 4, one elaboration of a content descriptor suggests exploring how science has contributed to a discussion about an issue such as loss of habitat for living things or how human activity has changed the local environment.
This focus could also encompass the effect humans have had on the populations of big cats. All cats are related, some more closely than others, some very distantly. Big cats include the cheetah and cougar; lions, tigers, jaguars and leopards. Interestingly, the snow leopard is actually more closely related to the tiger than to other leopards. There are many small wild cats such as varieties of lynx, the bobcat and the caracal, the ocelot and serval. The Scottish Wildcat is critically endangered - this one looks just like the tabby cats I’ve owned! Each species is classified as a level of vulnerable or endangered, or may now be extinct.
Wildlife parks and areas of conservation have been set up all round the world to try to reduce the threat to these animals. One such place is Harnas Guest Farm and Wildlife Sanctuary in Namibia, Africa. Trying to learn more, my daughter Holly (Kirsty’s sister) volunteered here working with many animals being rehabilitated, with the hopes of returning them to a semi ‘wild’ existence.
I’d like to share with you a video she managed to take of one such cheetah, ‘Pride’, that she knew had been released. She was observing how Pride was coping, having been moved to a free-range area where she was expected to hunt and feed herself. After coming to reconnect with Holly, she wandered off and, not long after, did chase and kill a small antelope. An amazing and rare experience - one of many Holly had while she was in Africa. She became a ranger in a wildlife park there, watching out for many animals like the big cats. Here it is: Cheetah Licks.
Our zoos, once used to show off captured animals, are now used to help ensure the preservation of endangered species with specialised breeding programs. In the wild, the African lion and cheetah are endangered due to habitat loss, hunting and poaching. Monarto Zoo near Adelaide has produced litters of lion and cheetah cubs which help to ensure the conservation of these magnificent creatures. At Adelaide Zoo, there has been successful breeding of the endangered Sumatran Tiger of which there are only about 400 in the wilds of Indonesia.
Whether pet or wild, cats come in all sorts of sizes and colours. In the wild, their markings or lack of, help them blend in with their environment. Students can be encouraged to consider how this camouflage works for each type of cat. In Year 5, Biological Sciences focuses on adaptations that help the survival of living things. Relate this to cats and their behaviours.
Making Art the lesson focus
In the Visual Arts curriculum, students are encouraged to consider why and how certain visual conventions have been used when creating artworks, to represent viewpoints. Try using Artventure lessons on cats but perhaps personalise them to show they are your family pets. Or use the lessons just as a starting point to show how wild cats adapt to their environment to better ensure their survival.
Here are some possibilities.
Art lesson ideas in the Artventure library:
- Cat (Level 1)
- Pet Cat (3)
- Kitten (2)
- Kitten and Wool (5)
- Geometric Paint Cat (4)
- Fluro Cat Portrait (2)
- Halloween Witch Cat (3)
- Fluro Lion (2)
- Happy Lion (2)
- African Lion (3)
- African Lion Landscape (4)
- Tiger (5)
- Cheetah (4)
- Leopard (4)
- Sabertooth (5)
How can we show what we’ve learnt?
It might be:
- new drawing techniques,
- a greater understanding of colours and contrasts and how to use them for a purpose,
- a keener awareness of the responsibilities of owning a cat,
- or, increased knowledge of the impact humans are having on wild cat populations.
Using art as a medium for sharing our learnings offers opportunities for visual representations that can often tell the viewer even more than just the written or spoken word.
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Art for fun
On the other hand, art for its own pleasure and relaxation can be therapeutic - like stroking the fur of our pet cat.
Let your imagination go with some of these lessons in the Art Eye Deer library (for more experienced artists):
- Mouse in the House Black and White (Level 5)
- Mouse in the House All Kinds of Colours (4)
- FeLine (3)
- Cool Kat (3)
- Contour Cats - Two Peas in a Pod (5)
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Whether domesticated or wild, cats make a purrr-fect focus for study and artworks!
Teacher and Artventure Blogger