I don’t get down to Tunica, MS that often. I went to check out he casinos when they first opened, have been to a few concerts down there, and even painted some murals at the Fitzgerald’s (Fitz) Casino several years ago. Recently I went back down- not to gamble or see a show, but to paint a kitty mural for the Tunica Humane Society.
The director of this no-kill animal shelter had posted on Facebook that they were looking for any artists interested in helping paint any murals in their recently expanded cat room. My sister-in-lay Teresa tagged me in a reply. I responded, and made arrangements to make the trek down to Tunica. Thanks to the casinos being down there, the roads are much better these days and the trip doesn’t really seem any longer than my normal trip to work each day- actually there was a lot less traffic.
Sandy, the director said she didn’t have any specific things she wanted, but said she liked butterflies and grass. I showed her some cartoon sketches I did of my cats and asked if we could do something like that, and maybe a phrase under it. She was good with that and we picked out the spot on the wall for it.
I had put my art bag down on the overstuffed chair they had along the opposite wall. The next thing I knew kitties were all over it sniffing and inspecting, and my roll of paper towels were on the floor being a new scratching toy for some. I moved it all to the top of an empty cat kennel cage along with my other painting supplies. A few seconds later two kitties were on top of the 4ft tall cage and meowing at me. These two (a girl and a boy) would be a couple that really wanted my attention while I was there.
The two partners in climb took turns using me as a human cat tree as I began to sketch the cat heads out on the wall. They really liked just hanging out on my shoulders…
…or on top of my head. Glad I wear a cap! Them scaling up my legs made me wish I had worn jeans instead of shorts..! Them kitty claws are sharp.
I used a regular yellow #2 pencil to sketch out the design, and just freehanded it from my sketch. I didn’t worry about too many details- would add those in as I painted. Just needed to do sort of a “paint by numbers” or “coloring book” lines so I would know where to fill in color.
Since the kitties have the run of the room and it’s not very wide, it would have been a pain to set up my projector- and honestly quicker to just draw it. The wall had a bumpy texture to it, and was a bit glossy. It made it tricky to sketch on and later do sharp outlines in paint. It took a couple coats of each color to cover, and I had to be careful of runs.
Like I said, the kitties have the run of the room- that’s Happy with me above. There are only a few of cages to keep the cats separated if they are ill and semi-quarantined or are unsocial with the other cats. There were two little tuxedo kitties (Archie and Manning) in the bottom one, and an older cat (Ethel) in the top one. The other cage where my supplies were was empty the Sunday I was there, but the next Saturday it had a new cat named Patches (a pretty female tortoise shell kitty) in it. Patches’ owner had just passed away and this senior cat wasn’t used to being around other cats. Unfortunately I’ve heard about that sort of situation happening. I’m glad Patches was brought here.
There was a photographer there in the morning to take pics of the cats so their profiles could be loaded up to PetFinder to help find them homes. As I worked the kitties continued to come and inspect my work, and snuggle. A couple loved nuzzling in my beard- much like my boy kitty Lex has did when I first met him. He hasn’t gotten too big to want to nuzzle, but he seems to have outgrown wanting to be held most days- he’s more of a head-butt kinda guy now. It was nice to have interaction with tiny kittens again. (That’s Sneezy on my shoulder.)
The one that stole my heart was a little one eyed grey Dilute Calico mix kitty named “Poppy“- AKA, “Popeye“. She is soooooo sweet and loved any and all attention I would give her. As they say- a very gentle soul.
From time to time a different kitty would rub against my legs for some head rubbing as I worked, and then go play with its roommates. After they had been fed and had played a good bit, many crashed for nap-time. I looked down around lunchtime and saw these snoozing by my feet. Bluez- the grey one on the left looks so much like my Lex and our late kitty Zayne.
There was a great window seat up high that many of the cats liked to sleep in, or watch the dogs play just outside it in the side yard (that’s Doc and Beans above).
There were a few cat trees they could climb or sleep on as well. That’s Dopey chilling in the cat tree. He was not feeling great Sunday, but was very playful and lovey the next time I saw him. Another sweetie.
And everyone seemed to love pining on the big comfy chair. I think every rescue should have one!
I was really shocked to see them sleeping in cat beds. I don’t remember the last time ours did in theirs. Sneezy really seemed to like his.
I used water-based Behr enamels for the colors, and Krylon acrylic latex for the black and white. I had to have the hardware store mix a red, yellow, blue, and brown for me in pints. Apparently Home Depot and Lowe’s don’t sell premixed pints like they used to- just the black and white. Kind of a pain in the butt. I bought a new drop cloth, but since the floor is concrete I didn’t use it and just wiped up any drops that fell. I could have used my airbrush and gotten done faster than hand painting the art, but the sound of the compressor kicking on/off and the hissing of airbrush would have really freaked out all the animals there.
I am glad that none of the kitties are an art critic..!
I wasn’t able to finish up on that Sunday, so I packed up, made plans to come back the following Saturday, and then said goodbye to all the kitties. That was so hard to do, but I knew I’d be back. Still had a couple tears form as I got in my car.
That following Saturday my wife Nicki decided to travel down with me the next trip. We got there just as the kitties had been fed breakfast, and as soon as Nicki sat her camera bag down on the comfy chair it was covered in cats just like my bag had been.
After she moved her bag and sat down it wasn’t long before she was covered in kitties (that’s Happy with the half mustache, and Beans on the chair arm in the left pic- think the other tuxedo is Dopey).
A couple really took a shine to her- Bluez, the little Lex-look-alike and a sweet little tortoise shell one (Luna). They both took long naps on her, and would make someone great lap kitties.
My little pal Poppy was happy to see me, and I was super happy to see her again. She came to the shelter with an infected eye that had to be removed. She has obviously gone through a lot in her short time on this planet, but you’d never know by her personality.
Part of me had hoped I wouldn’t see her there, because that would mean she found her a ‘fur-ever” home. Still, part of me was happy she was there so we could snuggle again.
Poppy would come sit with me again while I worked, and was supervising me as I finished up. She really is a great kitty.
And here we are with the finished mural (I think that’s Sneezy, one of the tuxedo kitties on the left).
The texture on the wall actually gave it a “tooth” and helped make the cartoon cats look more fluffy when I did the shading and highlights.
This is looking at the wall from the entrance side of the room. You can see the cat trees and window seat in the pic, plus some of their toys and scratching posts I had to move while painting.
This is looking at the painting from the window end of the room.
All of our cats have been from rescues- Jarael (and our late kitty Zayne) came from the DeSoto Animal Shelter in Nesbit, MS near us…
…and Harley Quinn came from their mobile unit during the A-Fair festival here in Hernando. Hard to believe she was ever that tiny! She’s definitely a daddy’s girl, but loves spending time with Nicki, too.
Lex was abandoned with 2 siblings in Metropolis, IL. My friends who co-chair the Superman Celebration there introduced me to him, and he ended up coming home with me.
They’ve all grown into gorgeous cats and are our furry kids. Like many siblings, the don’t always get along and sort of tolerate each other. They all love spending time outside when the weather permits, and piling on our bed at night when it gets cold at night. They each have such different personalities, and I love ’em all.
I was so surprised at how well these all got along, especially since they are from different litters. Raggedy Andy (right) is a great adoptive daddy who mothers and watches over all the kitties. He lost a tail after it got infected after being attacked in the woods. Once he is fully healed up he’s going to be a gorgeous kitty again. Look at those eyes- such a sweetie.
He would keep watch from his bed while the kitties played in the morning, and they while they napped he’d get up, eat, walk around, and come say hi to me. He would snuggle with the kitties, too. I really loved watching all these cats interact with each other. Some were very outgoing, some mischievous, some lovey, some a bit shy, some only now this place as home, and some are still scared of their new surroundings. I truly hope they all can find loving families to take them home.
I would love to do some art for the new Hernando Animal Shelter that will be built near my neighborhood, and will be singing up to be a volunteer. I plan on going back to Tunica soon and doing a bit more painting for them here and there in the cat room. Look forward to seeing my furry friends again- especially Poppy…I miss her. 🙁
For information on adopting or fostering, call 662-363-1625 or 662-519-1700 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
For other information, email email@example.com.
Monetary donations can be sent to:
Tunica Humane Society
P.O. Box 236
Tunica, Ms 38676
Tunica Humane Society
4500 Fox Island Rd
Tunica, MS 38676
Sidewalk Angels Foundation (sponsor)
The Tunica Humane Society is registered as a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. Contributions to The Tunica Humane Society are tax-deductible to the extent permitted by law.