Saturday 6 April 2013

A Cougar's Tale

I recently completed a new piece of art - a coloured pencil drawing that's just a little bit of a departure for me. While cats have always been part of my repertoire, this kind of cat has not! Here's just a piece of it:

You'll have to keep reading to see the whole drawing, but I urge you not to rush straight to the end because there's an interesting story behind this piece of art that I think is worth telling. The tale of this drawing is actually the culmination of three separate stories  woven together.

Story #1: A few years ago it came to my attention via a local newspaper article that a pair of cougars were living in and/or around one of my favourite haunts - a park just a few miles from home where I like to take long, rambling walks in the forest. I was enthralled by the idea! It's not the kind wilderness area where I would have expected to find these large wild cats but it's a 1,300+ acre, mainly undeveloped park, there's a lot of bush, and the park is surrounded by farms and green belts that would provide a buffer zone of relatively low human population density. There are also lots of deer, rabbits and other wild prey which would give the cougars an ample food supply. For several years now I have lived with the faint hope - more of a dream - that one day during my park ramblings I might glimpse one of these elusive felines. So far that has not happened.

Story #2: Speaking of park ramblings, there's a certain area in that favourite park of mine that's just a little bit magical. You could say that about several parts of this park if you're a nature lover like me, but one area takes on a particular kind of magic in late spring/early summer. It's a place where the tiger lilies bloom and the forest is dotted with their bright yellow-orange blossoms. They rise above the ferns, salal, and other vegetation to put on an exquisite display. My collection of reference photos includes numerous shots I've taken of these glorious-but-delicate flowers. I file the photos away, adding a few more each year, figuring one day I'd find a way to use them.

Story #3: Five thousand miles away in a small Caribbean country lives a Canadian cougar. I happened to make his acquaintance during my recent winter sojourn there. I'm told he was brought into the country as an illegal pet, confiscated from a suburban home by the authorities, and he ended up in the local zoo. While zoos are not ideal places for wild animals, I understand this big fellow was born and raised in captivity, and when I saw him he looked pretty comfortable in his spacious, leafy enclosure. He was certainly active the day I was there and I was able to spend a long time observing him, taking some great photos as he moved about, lapped water from his pond, or simply lounged in the shade. I stopped photographing when he was fed an entire horse leg for lunch. That was just a little bit too graphic for me.

After my day at the zoo and the unexpected bonus of seeing this lively cougar, the pieces started to fit together. I realized that I had all the reference material I needed to bring to life my personal vision of the cougars who live in my favourite park. I could see them in my mind's eye, pacing silently through the forest. And what better setting for a big cat than among tiger lilies! It was an "ah-ha!" moment and this was the result:

So it came about that a dream, a little magic, and a chance encounter in a far-off land culminated serendipitously in a piece of art featuring a majestic feline among glorious wildflowers in a place I love. It captures the contrast between power and delicacy, intensity and serenity, and the diverse harmony of nature. I call it "Forest Wildcats". 

I would never have imagined that a Canadian cougar living out his days on a tropical island would be the catalyst (pun intended) for this piece of art. Such is the random way in which things work out some times.

This drawing will be on display as part of an exhibition of work by the Fraser Valley Chapter of the Federation of Canadian artists at the Semiahmoo Arts Centre, White Rock, BC, May 3-31, 2013.


  1. Cats and wildflowers - a beautiful work of art, Deb.

    Unlike you, I hope to NOT see the cats where we walk!


  2. all I can say is "magnificent"..."breath-taking"

  3. As usual, your work is amazing. See you at Filberg this year?