The Cat Librarian

The Cat Librarian

In my current illustration class, we had another assignment involving an animal, so I had another great excuse to draw more cats. The prompt was to put an animal into a situation that normally only humans would do. Of course I also love books, so I first thought of a cat reading or being in a library or bookstore. 

We had to start with thumbnails for this, as usual, so here were some of my ideas:

A cat in a library thumbnails
A cat in a library thumbnails
A cat in a library thumbnails

My favorite were the ones with the cat as a librarian rather than just reading. And I liked the idea of a poor librarian trying to work while other cats wreak havoc. So my favorite was #8 because I loved the cart, especially with a cat sleeping on it. I also liked the one of the librarian sleeping on the job, because no way could a cat work an 8-hour shift without a nap. The next step was to do some roughs, and we were supposed to do three of the thumbnails (or new), so I did #8, a variation of #1, and #11:

A cat librarian pushing a cart in pencil - rough
A cat librarian shushing talking patrons - rough
A cat librarian sleeping on the job - rough

In the second one, the librarian is totally out of proportion and I have no idea how I didn’t notice this earlier. But I still liked the librarian pushing the cart, and did a few value studies for that one. I had trouble with this because I was obviously imagining a library environment which would have lots of overhead lighting, so there wouldn’t be a lot of shadows. My instructor gave me some advice, which was basically to make the shelves and books the darkest part, with the cats on the shelves lighter to stand out. She also recommended I not draw every single book independently, but just give an overall impression, which was a good idea, I thought. 

At this point, I also realized the perspective is totally messed up. So I had to work on that. I was mixing 1-point (the shelves and table) and 2-point (the librarian and cart) perspective, and I realized that the first step with that is to use the same horizon line, which I had not done. Otherwise they are basically independent systems that just need to be internally consistent. 

So I reworked the drawing in pencil: 

Pencil line drawing of cat librarian pushing a cart

Then I began inking it. It of course took a lot of time, but I actually like how it turned out, even though I definitely pushed the lightest values too close to the middle. (This is something I have struggled with in the pas when working with ink.) I also should have found a may to have more darks. I think what I drew in terms of darks is probably realistic, but I could have pushed away from realism a bit for better effect. Here is the final version:

A cat librarian pushing a cart in ink

This was a lot of fun, and I might redo it at some point, because I actually really like the composition. I’m considering using this character in a picture book, if I can come up with a story for her. 

Update Apr 24, 2022:

I did end up reworking it and manipulating it in Photoshop. I think it’s an improvement:

I do feel like unless I can lighten some of what’s in the foreground, I can’t fully fix it.