Peter Tillman's Reviews > Why Paint Cats: The Ethics of Feline Aesthetics

Why Paint Cats by Burton Silver
Rate this book
Clear rating

by
8101737
's review

it was amazing
bookshelves: art, favorites, humor, own-copy, reread-list, fantasy, cats
Read 4 times. Last read 2017.

Let's start with the cover [click on image to enlarge] :
"The Unimaginable Florescence of Feline Fluttering," 2002. Vegetable dye on Aristotle, Persian. Artist: Flavia Venezia, New York

"...An earlier work, "Tortellini per sempre," 2000, which featured an intricate web of delicate pasta patterns on a Cream Tonkinese... was awarded the H.B. Saeed Mohammed Al Paganbani Prize for Decorated Food, in the mistaken belief that Italians eat cats."

Next, let's have a look at an illustration purporting to represent painted cats on postage stamps from the "independent African territory of Ayuba" . A quick Google check confirms that there is no such place (Ayuba is a common family name in Nigeria), and that Things are Not What They Seem.

No matter, as Heather Busch's manipulated photographs are luscious, funny, and really, truly Amazing. Astounding. Fantastic! I can just about guarantee laugh-out-loud moments in the Painted Cat gallery (which is beautifully reproduced). The text is absolutely deadpan, and really, you want to believe in these cats! The book has a sort of hallucinatory shimmer -- you won't know, and likely will never know, whether cats can really be painted...

But perhaps we can judge from the readers comment page [no longer online, alas], which has such plaints as this, from an aspiring cat-painter:

"Unfortunately, trying to carefully control and paint two very willful and in the end very angry cats was an experience akin to swimming freestyle through a very large and thick tangle of blackberry while having buckets of dye thrown at you..."

-- amongst the emails from cat-lovers aghast at the very idea of painting a puss. But we must remember whose page this is, lest we go adrift again betwixt fantasy and reality...

So, folks, don't try to paint your cats at home -- leave it to the professionals! Professional Photoshop artists, that is, or so is my reluctant belief.

Let's hope Burton Silver and Heather Busch put together a traveling exhibit of their wonderful photos. In the meanwhile, we shall have to make do with their remarkably entertaining books, which include Why Cats Paint (1994, still my favorite) and Dancing With Cats (1999, astonishingly silly). Do check them out, for even more cat laughs and inspired tomfoolery. Not to be missed.

Review first published at SF Site in 2003. Lightly edited, 2018.
19 likes · flag

Sign into Goodreads to see if any of your friends have read Why Paint Cats.
Sign In »

Reading Progress

Started Reading
January 1, 2003 – Finished Reading
Started Reading
2006 – Finished Reading
Started Reading
2010 – Finished Reading
January 1, 2016 – Shelved
Started Reading
2017 – Finished Reading
August 19, 2017 – Shelved as: art
August 19, 2017 – Shelved as: favorites
December 10, 2018 – Shelved as: humor
December 10, 2018 – Shelved as: own-copy
December 10, 2018 – Shelved as: reread-list
May 12, 2020 – Shelved as: fantasy
May 12, 2020 – Shelved as: cats

Comments Showing 1-10 of 10 (10 new)

dateDown arrow    newest »

message 1: by Alina (new)

Alina Was frowning when I read the title "who tries to paint a cat?!". Then I read your review :)) I also think it's just Photoshop, but nice idea


message 2: by Cecily (new)

Cecily If I were to have a pet, I'd have a cat, and not attempt to apply paint ,but if you Google
painted poodle
or similar... Ugh!


message 3: by Peter (last edited Jan 21, 2021 01:09PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Peter Tillman Definitely a put-on, start to finish. No cats were ever really painted! But very slyly & cleverly done. 🙀


message 4: by Cecily (last edited Jan 21, 2021 01:19PM) (new)

Cecily Yes, you made that clear in the review (though I didn't in my comment). My point was that people do it for real on poodles. 😥


Peter Tillman Cecily wrote: "Yes, you made that clear in the review (though I didn't in my comment). My point was that people do it for real on poodles. 😥"

Really! Like the pink ones you see now & then? Except in patterns? [shudders]

It was amusing, when the cat book was new, how many people DID take it seriously, and tried to paint their own cats!
And if you haven't seen the one about cats-as-painters ... Well, you should. Total hoot! When I lived in Arizona, there was an elephant in the PHX zoo who painted. And the zoo sold the paintings for $$$! I hope the elephant got his/her share. In treats if nothing else...


message 6: by Cecily (new)

Cecily With the poodles, they do topiary, as well as colour! For example:


Pony-painting parties are also a bit of a thing, apparently:
https://www.theguardian.com/world/sho...


Peter Tillman Cecily wrote: "With the poodles, they do topiary, as well as colour! For example:

OMG!!

Pony-painting parties are also a bit of a thing, apparently:
https://www.theguardian.com/world/sho......"


Huh. Well, if they use non-toxic water-colors -- what's the harm? Except possibly to the painted ponies self-esteem? 🎠


message 8: by Jess (new) - added it

Jess Peter, thank you! I have the delightfully farcical Why Cats Paint but did not know that two(!) others existed.


Peter Tillman Jess wrote: "Peter, thank you! I have the delightfully farcical Why Cats Paint but did not know that two(!) others existed."

You're welcome. Unique works, and I'm very sorry that the authors have fallen silent. You have 2 more great Silver/Busch creations to savor and enjoy! There's nothing else like them.


message 10: by Cecily (new)

Cecily Peter wrote: "Well, if they use non-toxic water-colors -- what's the harm? Except possibly to the painted ponies self-esteem? 🎠."

I know nothing about equine psychology, but could it even enhance their self-esteem?

(Being boringly serious, I don't think it's cruel, but it doesn't feel like a like a good thing to do, and might encourage the children to think of animals more as objects than beings?)


back to top