Latest Project: Cats of New York

Added on by Nathan Hoang.

Back in March 2018, a couple months into a new phase of my life, one without Ego and seeing the Pulaski Bridge cats on my morning commute, but instead with Pinot and seeing Brooklyn Library cats on my evening commute, something struck me to draw a bunch of cats of New York.

This diary entry is going to take you on an odyssey, so please grab a snack and buckle up.

I started at Grey in 2014 and one of my favorite things about the office was the wallpaper in the meeting rooms. Sure ad agencies are quirky, but this wallpaper was cool because it’s a modern take on toile du jouy featuring something I’d heard about just months before. Since then, I always wanted to try my hand at a toile pattern, especially after the Museum of Art and Design had a 3D version of one.

  Chinatown Toile  by  Dan Funderburgh  Seen at Grey New York

Chinatown Toile by Dan Funderburgh
Seen at Grey New York

Fast forward back to March 2018, I came home from my walk home and started thinking what felines are present in New York City. Bodega cats, of course, they’re the best. The New York Public Library lions. I really racked my brain on this one. Maneki-neko? Yeah, definitely.

Anyway, I started drawing them out in Procreate.

Cats of New York (Process)

Every now and then I’d open up the file and try to noodle around and figure out how I’d fit these cats together in a toile de jouy style and it was just really difficult in the Procreate app because I was mentally shackled to how Photoshop works. In June, during my seven-hour flight to Amsterdam, however, I was determined to figure it all out. Except I started missing Pinot, my roommate/best friend/business parter/Albuquerque native/cat lover’s cat. It’s a weird feeling of infidelity knowing that you’re flying across an ocean to see a dog you missed so much while also missing a cat back home a lot.

JJ, one of my best friends in elementary school, grew up with both a cat and a dog and that blew my mind. I read Garfield with my brother as a kid and it was always truth that dogs and cats cannot cohabitate. I’d always wanted a dog growing up and the only cat experience I had was a neighbor’s cat who’d hang out on our driveway. But Pinot was exactly the animal I needed as a transition with Ego living on a different continent.

So as someone who is constantly crippled by multiple forms of guilt, I drew out Pinot in most of the nicknames Casey and I’d given him.

 Not pictured but should’ve been: Peanie Baby™

Not pictured but should’ve been: Peanie Baby™

And before I knew it, it was time to put our seat back and folding trays in their full, upright position. I was nowhere near finishing the Cats of New York pattern, but Cat of Putnam Avenue was in pretty good shape.

No fear, I still had a seven-hour return trip back home. And it’s not like there were more nicknames I could’ve put in Pinot’s piece. So I opened up the Procreate app and…instead began doodling Ego living her new Dutch life. I mean, it’s only fair. I had to get it all down while it was fresh in my mind. And then, of course, per FAA regulations, I had to put my iPad away cause I was back in New York.

This was all part of the plan, though, you see. In May 2018, I backed the Luna Display, by the people behind Astropad (an app that turned the iPad into a Cintiq), on Kickstarter. So I waited for my Luna to come in. And then it did. And then I just waited. And waited and waited.

I had another flight in September, this time back home to Houston, so I used that time to finally, finally work on the Cats of New York pattern. Except I also had the Coen brothers’ A Serious Man on, and I ended up watching that instead.

No fear, however, because there’d still be the four-hour return trip home. Except again…instead…I drew my friends’ pets who passed away.

The key to solve stress-induced procrastination, it turned out, was to put yourself in a situation where whatever you had to finish was much less stressful than whatever was happening around you. For instance, writing an article a day before deadline is stressful, yet somehow the apartment always seems so much messier at the same exact time. However, if you absolutely had to clean your apartment in an hour, there’s always an extra minute to fire off a really good tweet about your Lyft driver the other day.

The thing I had to finish (Cats of New York) was stressful because the end of the year was close and I still didn’t do my annual summer pattern. And the only thing more stressful than that and able to distract me back onto my work is the 2018 Midterm Election Night.

So with the returns up on the screen, I distracted myself with tracing the cats I drew on Procreate, in Photoshop via Astropad Studio.

 My dinner on Election Night was a four-piece at Popeye’s. I ran out of Whataburger Spicy Ketchup back home so I had to stop by the bodega and pick up regular ketchup. Their credit card minimum was $5 so I bought ketchup, ice cream, some M&Ms, and these Arizona fruit snacks which were kinda gross, except their credit card machine wasn’t working so in a move that I’d never once experience in my entire time in New York, the bodega guy said, “Oh it’s fine, just pay me back tomorrow on your way to work.” An Election Day miracle.

My dinner on Election Night was a four-piece at Popeye’s. I ran out of Whataburger Spicy Ketchup back home so I had to stop by the bodega and pick up regular ketchup. Their credit card minimum was $5 so I bought ketchup, ice cream, some M&Ms, and these Arizona fruit snacks which were kinda gross, except their credit card machine wasn’t working so in a move that I’d never once experience in my entire time in New York, the bodega guy said, “Oh it’s fine, just pay me back tomorrow on your way to work.” An Election Day miracle.

First I had to test which brush was best for the desired effect, so I drew the library lion a few times and landed on Kyle’s Ballpoint Pen Brush.

For the next six hours, as the polls closed and races were called, I kept outlining, crosshatching, and occasionally looking up to see what the count was.

And just as the Pod Save America bros were wrapping it up, I finally put my pencil down. I finished the Cats of New York. It wasn’t exactly in the spirit or design of a traditional toile de jouy pattern I initially sought after, but gosh darn if I wasn’t proud of it.

Screen Shot 2018-11-18 at 12.00.25 AM.jpg

The next challenge was to make it into a seamless and tileable. In the pattern above, you can see the Cats on Broadway are aligned horizontally, but staggered vertically. Though the desired end result is visual randomness without seeing a clear seam of where things are repeated, it still has to function as a tile, if it were to be produced into wallpaper.

So as I had initially assumed on that first time I gave up, moving things around as a group was much easier in Photoshop. And that’s how I ended up with the 2018 pattern, Cats of New York.

Mission Accomplished.

Except then I realized I totally forgot about one more cat of New York that I never wrote down and so in a panic, a couple days later, I went through the whole process again: Draw the lion in Procreate, import to Photoshop, open up Astropad Studio, trace and crosshatch on Photoshop, and rearrange everything AGAIN, except this time with Escape from New York on instead of the ABC News.

And now, at last, my 2018 pattern: Cats of New York.

  Featuring:  NYPL Lion; Pinot as a Bodega Cat; Maneki-neko at a Chinese restaurant;  Cats  on Broadway; Bryant Park’s Le Carrousel cat; Lunar New Year Parade’s Lion Dance; off-brand Garfield Thanksgiving’s Day Parade balloon; Katz’s Delicatessen

Featuring: NYPL Lion; Pinot as a Bodega Cat; Maneki-neko at a Chinese restaurant; Cats on Broadway; Bryant Park’s Le Carrousel cat; Lunar New Year Parade’s Lion Dance; off-brand Garfield Thanksgiving’s Day Parade balloon; Katz’s Delicatessen

The end.