Cats and books. To steal a lyric from The Sound of Music, “These are a few of my favorite things.” So when I began the design concept for Club Cat, I knew that I wanted cats and books incorporated into an overall cat-punned literature theme. My longtime friend and Club Cat designer, Monica, helped me envision a modern trompe l’oeil and whimsical cat portraiture décor. What I needed was the right artist who could take this vision and put it into action.
Fortunately, I knew just the artist: Robin Cohen.
I’d met Robin over twenty years ago when our parents fell in love. (My dad is 84 and her mom is 90 and they’re still in love!) And although Robin and I aren’t related by blood, I consider her family. Which means I knew that if she agreed, my cats and books artwork would be in very talented, trustworthy hands.
I’d planted a seed early on in Club Cat’s evolution, shortly after I’d conceived of the concept. Robin is one of those renaissance artists whose scope of talent is endless. And like me, she seems undaunted and even inspired by a good challenge. So I suspected (and hoped) she would say yes.
Robin lives and works in Los Angeles, which presented a bit of a logistical challenge. Fortunately, Robin’s employer, Trader Joe’s, is flexible with their team members and she was able to spend a few days at at time on Club Cat’s cats and books artwork.
What I love the most is that each of the kitty cats that Robin painted was inspired by a real cat. For instance, Robin memorialized all of my own cats from childhood to adulthood on some of our suite walls. She also painted beloved cats of family and friends on other suite walls – each cat posing uniquely with their own “cat-punned” classic book spine.
In this interview, Robin discusses her love of art, range of skill, and what it was like to paint cats and books on Club Cat’s walls.
CC: How long have you been painting?
RC: I’ve been painting a little over 30 years. I’d been drawing since childhood and loved drawing animals, especially horses
and drew them obsessively. I wanted to be an artist all my life but went in a different direction and danced professionally for a while before having my first child. My need to creatively express myself led me back to fine art when I took some classes at community college and began to pursue painting, as well as other media.
CC: What do you love most about painting?
RC: I love the challenge to put life into it. Sometimes the tiniest detail can derail the image from feeling like the subject and I struggle to get it right so that the essence of the being is captured. When I get it just so, it’s a huge feeling of accomplishment.
CC: What was the most memorable animal you’ve painted?
RC: I was commissioned to paint a dog portrait by a friend of the owner, who was devastated by her dog’s loss. He died quite an early and unexpected death and her friend wanted to give her something special to remember him by. She so loved that portrait, she carried it around with her. I’m still deeply moved that I could give her some solace in her grief.
CC: Can you tell us what it was like to paint Club Cat’s suites?
RC: From the get go, I appreciated that Shana had a clear vision of what she wanted combined with her letting me run with my take on that vision. I actually sketched and painted the suites free hand which gave me the ability to capture the feeling of the cats without stressing over whether every detail was exact to the reference photos. Setting up and going through 20 different suites was more time consuming than doing one or two larger murals but was really satisfying as they shaped up. I still get a kick out of the titles of the “books” and am proud of the variety of cats I painted.
CC: What other types of art do you do?
RC: Until March of this year, I was quite busy face painting, at both private and public events, such as all three of the pillar event, the Bug Fair, Urban Nature Fest and Dino Fest, at the Los Angeles Natural History Museum. Since then, I’ve been
fortunate to continue my work as a sculptor, carving both stone and wood. Carving is actually my greatest passion, but working in any and all available media is fulfilling. Lately, I’ve begun to combine sculpting and painting by creating mixed media works. It’s my plan to continue in that vein to produce work that’s accessible to both lovers of painting and sculpture.