or, The Natural Black Cat
Over the years we’ve had fourteen domestic felines; five of those have been black cats. They’re glorious, purrsome, and chirpsome; they make me call out “Hey, sweetness”! They’re major snugglers, and adept communicators; I’ve had deep rapport with black kitties. My imagination always sings when I see a black furry creature lounging in the house, busy making sheen from sunlight. Often reported to be some of the most affectionate cats, they walk up with eyes bright and loving, do head-bumps, and always work a takeover of human hearts. My own ‘house panthers’ have been thoughtful muses, taking up lap vantage points at the drawing table and the computer. I adore black cats! I’m tellin’ black cat stories here because this fur color so often gets a bum rap; the black kitties are lovely cats like any other, and make wonderful companions. My Cat Book will hopefully be completed soon, dancing with cats of all hues. http://catwoodsporchparty.wordpress.com/2012/10/17/announcing-my-cat-book-meowyall-a-feline-centric-memoir/ Meanwhile, I’m tapping out a beat in words, holding a soiree in honor of the cats who are often named “Midnight” or “Eclipse” or “Shadow”; cats who are always dressed for an evening of music. They are ready, instantly elegant, and waiting, while I reach for my ‘little black dress’.
Above you see my late Mom’s “beautiful black fox-faced cat”, as she described him. She’d also say, “He’s a honey.” She “officially” named him “Good Old Boy”, against my advice, LOL. But he is his own cat, and never networks. Adventurous cat rascal that he is, on occasion I’ve called him “Stinkpot”, and now, in my house, he mostly goes by “Little Buddy”. You also see him in my Gravatar and on my “About” page above. He was a found kitten, a rescue, and his front legs have an unusual formation, but that’s another story for later. Even nearing eighteen years old he’s still one of the most arboreal little cat guys I’ve ever known. He always climbed anything in the room he could get his paws on, and was lifted down carefully several times a day. He sleeps a bit more now.
In awe of achromatic kitty beauty and the ways it fascinates, we sought out our first black feline; the rest walked into our life from the street or the roadside. Black cats placed up for adoption aren’t adopted at the same rate as felines of other colors, according to many reports from shelters. Persistent myths about luck plague them; I’ve seen that myself while standing in the adoption room at a local pet store; “I’m not having a black cat,” I heard someone say. Superstitions about luck and fate aren’t relevant to animals so I’m not even going to talk about them here. There is nothing the least bit scary about black cats, any other cats, or black animals. Another reason cited often is that in shelters, their faces are harder to see, their personalities obscured in dark features. They’re harder to photograph for ‘available pet’ networking; a prospective adopter might anticipate difficulty taking home pictures of them.
As a painter I study light, dark, and color and the way they all fit together in nature. The color of animals is a visual phenomenon, so it is through color theory facts that I advocate a sensible approach towards understanding the bounty of visual effects we enjoy on this earth.
Black cats are natural creatures, with natural world coloration. Black fur is completely wholesome, and may even afford cats who are living outdoors, some camouflage in the partial or low lighting of dawn, dusk, and night. The part of electromagnetic radiation from the sun that humans can see is composed of all colors. Painters take the blacks and the darker hues, the whites and the brighter hues, the ranges of gray between shadow and light, and fuse them with the visible spectrum. Dark hues intensify the colors around them just by being there. Black cats really do go with everything, as advocates list among the many reasons to adopt them! Painters work that rainbow and all its degrees. We play up and down the gray scale and sound a flourish at either end! All permutations are counterpoint to each other, weaving contrasts together. This isn’t just the painter’s eye view, this isn’t just true of the world of visual art, it’s true of the way humans see brightness, shadows, hues, and forms out there in the physical world. Sunlight just behaves that way. Color in nature is compound and our vision and perception are both attuned to respond to its intricacies. All shades, tints, and colors are needed in living and painting. All colors work together to make daily experience; combinations of dark, light, and color reveal the landscape out there in full. If we humans were to startle every time murky color or shadow crosses into our view, we’d be one jumpy bunch of folks! We’d be like long-tailed cats in rooms full of rockers.
Animals of all colors stroll through this landscape of contrasts, living, moving accents who rouse and delight our attention and senses.
When something is visually black, that means, roughly speaking, it has absorbed all the rays of light without reflecting any. However, in nature, there is usually no absolute white or black or even completely solid hues. Reflected wavelengths are mixed with spectral adjacents. On a black kitty, we may see silvery highlights playing on their fur; we may see bluish effects. Shadows are often recognized by painters as having color. Natural dark has its own shades and intensities and when painting towards a natural effect, an artist may mix colors into black paint that is straight out of the tube, or build dark areas with glazes. When using black ink in drawings, I used to layer over it with pencil marks of both neutral and bright color.
When light encounters any object, all photons are transferred to other energies; objects of each color emit new photons of that same color’s wavelength in the original light. If white is seen, all colors of visible light have been converted to new photons, same frequencies. A black kitty’s coat has absorbed most of the visual rainbow, converting it to heat and leaving black as the hue we see. Kitty blinks at you and purrs. Pet and scritch your black, fuzzy feline, feel the vibrant warmth; in strong sun, you’ll see light glittering on the lush fur surface. Dusky black kitties are not only snugglebugs, they’re an intrinsic fact of nature like nightfall and daybreak. More expanded explanations will be coming in my book.
Update, April 21, 2014: To illustrate this concept (somewhat), here is the recent composite image made from a composite of two photos, one of Little Buddy and one of refracted sunlight. For more explanation , see here: http://catwoodsporchparty.wordpress.com/2014/04/21/brightening-cat-photos-with-added-color/
In my region during summer, daytime dark resides in tree trunks, shaded leafy alcoves and creek depths, and on iridescent blackbirds gathering on fields. Nighttime dark carries fragrance, katydid clacking, frog chirps, whip-poor-will calls. The black cats, along with all the cats, are usually seen reclining in the house’s sunny spots year-round, but now and then seek partial shade. In other regions and seasons, dark also has its own splendors, there for anyone to find who looks. Nearing the earth’s poles, dark enhances the auroras.
I’m unable to paint now, so I take pictures. I’m no photographer, far from it. However, even using non-professional, highly amateur photo techniques, anyone can take striking pictures of black kitties with the digital cameras of today. Black cat pictures remind me of old film noir with its strong contrasts of light and dark. I’m calling this photographic record of my Little Buddy, Black Cat Noir. Imagine a few sax riffs, here.
If you have access to the equipment of professional photographers, you can really go full throttle, setting up lights and taking exceptional pictures of your black cat(s). Many Internet sources describe these processes and how to take great pictures of dark cats, as well as cats of all colors. These experts are adept at getting enough illumination on the faces of cats , and other animals, of darker colors. Meanwhile, here are some of my more amateur pictures. Hey, I like any picture that has one or more of my cats in it!
I no longer use flash.
1. You can make the beautiful cat eyes the focus of the picture. Even with little or no definition of facial features, such photos are usually stunning. Black cats most often have gold eyes, as Little Buddy does. Some have deep emerald green eyes, and a very few have blue eyes. On the left, he’s radiant in sunlight plus the ambient artificial light. There’s a little too much light on him in this picture on the right, washing out his glossy black. Although these pictures show the face fairly well, pictures that show off the eyes of black cats are really effective when you see just hints of the feline faces surrounding the glow of the eyes.
2. You can use silhouette, employing the sinuous shape of cats, without ideal lighting. Here’s two silhouette pictures: a frizzy-edged picture from summer, like my Gravatar photos, and one from a winter evening.
3. Strong sun plus ambient room light makes silvery highlights on fur. Sunlight roars at this latitude. We’re pretty close to the sun in the southeastern US. I have good illumination for photos, even indoors. Notice bluish effects. Those black cats named “Shadow” combine many degrees of shadow.
4. Setting off other colors…Little Buddy electrifies the surrounding colors as they in turn enhance him. He rocks the spectrum!
5. In this old photo taken back when I did use flash, he’s pert and slinky.
That ferocious sun begins to set; cicadas begin to scree. The grayed scenery of evening fades into the deep, convoluted black-greens of night. Eventually we hear the last fiddle vibrate down; the music quiets. We continue talking awhile, watching fireflies light; and then the guests go home. Inside, the cats stir from sleep: black, tabby, and brown tuxie; present in spirit, another tabby of Mom’s we have been looking for since the tornado of 4.27.11. http://catwoodsporchparty.wordpress.com/2012/04/14/tornado-on-the-ground-tuscaloosa-april-27-2011-3/ It’s time for stories, reflection, purring, and snuggling. If you have loved and been loved by a black cat, now is a good time to tell it – to friends, to people on the Internet! Help build a new and positive black feline mystique to override the myths that are old and harmful! I hadn’t planned on writing about this online before my book is published, but I came to feel this information is needed now. Cat lovers who are ready to adopt again, consider adopting a black one. You’ll get lots of kitty love, the fun of taking inventive photos, and you’ll see natural vistas in your own home that no photograph or painting can ever truly capture: the astonishing glory of black cats sitting in sunshine, or the soft depths seen when furry black cats stretch out in shade.
Acknowledgments: The author thanks Dr. Photon for reading this article and advising in ways that helped to keep the physics real! Any science errors are my own.
Note: Sorry I cannot seem to fix the incorrect alignment of text with the photos in the first two rows.
August 17th is Black Cat Appreciation Day. This holiday to celebrate black cats was created by Wayne Morris.