by Inigo del Castillo in New Art on Tuesday 18 February 2014

Cats in classical oil paintings? How the internet didn’t completely breakdown when these came out is a complete mystery. But for those amazed and enamored by this cute and artsy-fartsy series, guess what, we interviewed the guy who did it. Read on to find out the bigger story of the artist, Eldar Zakirov and the cats immortalized on canvas. [read our original post about these royal cat paintings here]

We all know the internet is crazy for cats. How was the reception to your series of cats in classical oil paintings? Any funny reactions from fans?
Yeah! As I posted these portraits on the web, the public response was extremely positive and lively. Sometimes my friends send me links to online articles about my cats and the first time I was so surprised. One of the most interesting tales, associated with these portraits, was the report about how these portraits were created which made by one of the largest Russian TV channels.

It was filmed in the basements of the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, where there isn’t free access and where those cats live. Do you know that there is the “Gently, cats” warning road sign near the Museum, because Hermitage cats go out and cross the road?

And now I still receive e-mails from cat lovers: some of them just say about their love of cats, and one explained his visions about future portraits.

How do you go about choosing a cat and which wardrobe to wear? Do you reference any classic paintings?
During work on my series of royal cat portraits, I looked at rather many classic oil portraits by painters of 18–19th century. For example, famous Russian court portraits by Levicky, Rokotov, and Borovikovsky. One of my favorites is the portrait of Mariya Lopukhina by Borovikovsky.

I was also inspired by the creativity of A. W. Bouguereau and Rembrandt.

Well, regarding the costumes, these are real historical suits from storerooms of the Hermitage Museum. They were found by its curator and art-director of the Hermitage Magazine, then took photos for me and then I got down to the work. By Andrey Shelyutto’s idea, every cat has its own name and court post, and every costume is selected strictly according to these positions.

From my side I made up my mind to paint each portrait a little bit different, imitating this or that master’s brush and adding my exclusive strokes as well.

How long does it take you to paint a piece?
Before everything else, I usually create a sketch, one or more for every task. When the sketches were finished, it was time to start working on a big canvas. I tried to examine the manner and technique of old masters of that time. If you look at my Royal cats, you can note that every painting has its own chiaroscuro. T

his is no accident: more contrast and sharp lighting is peculiar to one age, but soft and diffuse light and shade tell us about the other one.

Also, a smooth scumbling painting which gently showed his figures has a completely different character than the other cat’s portrait, painted with energetic expressive brush blows. That’s why each painting took different times to create. By saying this I mean it was from a week till three weeks or even a little bit more.

The series was commissioned by a magazine, but has anyone offered to buy the artworks?
Some days ago I received a letter from a popular magazine’s image editor. They would like to use the cat portraits series as illustrations for one of article about cats. But as I’ve made them especially for the Hermitage Mag, I couldn’t provide these works to another publisher.

There were some similar situations before. But everybody who would like to have a print of any of this series can offer it on the sites like FineArtAmerica.com by searching my name. The great thing about it is that this resource can print on various bases form paper till canvas and send prints worldwide.

Any chance painting other animals in classical wardrobe as well?
With pleasure. I just chose new heroes for paintings, and now I have an interesting idea. I’m just going to lift the veil of secrecy a little bit: this will be a gift to all lovers of cats, but not only.