I vaguely remember reading "The Rats in the Walls" but I never forgot Lovecraft's casual reference to the black cat as "Nigger-man". It was the kind of anachronistic and bigoted language that I could easily file away but it was enough to reveal some discomfiting bits about the author supremacist beliefs. Surprisingly, the cat's name triggered in me a sort of empathy for the animal. While it was subordinate to humans by nature or the circumstances of domestication it was oddly empowered by its ability to hear the dangerous, wicked things from beyond. This inspired me to re-imagine it as something with a voice and a higher level of sentience.
The other night, I carried the calico we call "Centurion" to the back yard before leaving to work in a cafe in Downtown Berkeley. I had put food out for her and wasn't sure if she had eaten. Her routine is to greet me when I return home after hours, follow me inside to the kitchen, and then out back to be fed. I had alread put food out for, so I decided to take her to the back of the house myself. As I carried her to the back she began to growl at something in the dark that I could neither see, smell or hear. Visits from neighborhood cats and families of raccoons after dark are common throughout the year, but they usually run away when I am near. Whatever was in the dark, it stayed away as she nervously picked at dry food in the bowl next to the sliding glass back door.
One morning, over 20 years ago, when Mr. Domino (deceased) was a kitten, he spied two boys watching me leave the house for school. They were across the street carrying a large white plastic bucket and quickly turned away when they saw me notice them. I left on my usual route but decided to double back. I found them around the corner huddled over something. One of them was cutting a plastic 2-liter bottle with a kitchen knife. It was only a few days after the Oklahoma City bombing of April 19, 1995 and the boys were probably on spring break and inspired by he event to build a pipe bomb. One of the boys was from a nearby house where the father abused their many cats. Their cats often came to our house to be fed and nurtured. Mr. Domino was friendly a tuxedo cat who may have saved my parents' home from being bombed.
The pupils were next darkened along with some of the shadow areas. Next, I applied the first heavy glazes of ultramarine blue mixed with various reds and titanium white. Using washes for the background and medium-boosted glazes on the creature let me work with one range of hues throughout the piece.