Birth of the “Kool-Kat Kollection”

It was the month of December in 1999, and I was happily employed as a Senior Industrial Designer for the Interiors Department of the McDonnell Douglas Commercial Aircraft Company, in Long Beach, California. My job was to create hand painted, airbrushed renderings of new interior design proposals for all of the company’s new airline customers. These renderings were hyper realistic paintings, created with “Gouache” paint (opaque water-color) that required over 300 hours to complete. As an artist, having a “secure” job with a comfortable salary to actually get paid to sit and paint all day, I was in “hog heaven!”

I was fortunate enough to have this job for 15 years, planning on an eventual comfortable retirement, when I would gradually merge into the area of fine art: painting what I wanted, when I wanted, and live “happily ever after.” Well, I should have known it was all too good to be true when, due to the recent merger with the Boeing Company the week before Christmas, I was given my layoff notice. My job had become a redundant position. I was told that I could re-locate to Seattle and keep my job, or accept the lay off. So, I took the lay off! In January of the New Millennium, with art portfolio in hand, I struck out to find a new job as an artist! Much to my dismay, I soon found that what few “art jobs” there were, had suddenly become “computer jobs!” No one hired anyone to “paint” pictures any more – over night, thanks to the computer, I had become a “dinosaur!”

Ultimately, I wandered into the local art gallery on the coast highway and was told that if I wanted to make a living selling paintings, I should create images for the tourists who would always buy beach-themed art, with surfing and woody images. Looking around the gallery, it was obvious; there must have been 20 artists represented, all with identical surfing images!

Well, honestly I’ve never been on a board in my life, so I was more than a bit discouraged when I asked my dear wife Kathy for her ideas. Without any hesitation, she suggested that I take a more “whimsical” approach and create something a bit different. For example, she proposed that I do a painting of our dear Tabby cat “driving” a Woody along the Coast Highway! After my initial reaction of hysteria and total skepticism, I ultimately agreed to give her unusual suggestion a try.

I did a small sketch and soon agreed that her idea had some merit after all (why are wife’s always right?)! Ultimately, I did complete the painting titled “Kahuna-Kat” and anxiously delivered it to the gallery. Well, the owner of the gallery was not easily impressed and shared my own initial skepticism, but eventually agreed to hang the painting in the front window of the gallery for two weeks as a test to see the public’s reaction to this unusual creation. Three days later, I received a phone call from the gallery owner stating that “by request of the police department, the painting promptly be removed from the gallery window!” I was immediately shocked and a bit embarrassed – was it that bad??? He then went on to explain that the painting was such a sensation, that the people driving by the gallery were stopping traffic on the coast highway as they stared in amazement at the painting in the window!

Well, the rest, as they say, is history – at the suggestion of the gallery owner, I created the second painting in the series, “Kool-Kat Surf Report,” and we began selling limited edition prints and ultimately, the “Kool-Kat Kollection” was born. It has now grown to over 45 images and will continue to grow as long as I can hold a paint brush.