It is with a great deal of sadness that I write my post today. Yesterday morning, I was notified by The Wildcat Sanctuary that their beautiful tigress Layla had passed away. This hit close to my heart, as over the past few months I had come to 'know' Layla through the Sanctuary, as she was the subject of my tigress painting pattern that I recently created for the August issue of Painting Ezine online magazine. For those of you who don't know the story, I will tell it here . . .
This past spring, I was invited by Susan from Painting Ezine to contribute a painting pattern for their August issue. The theme for the month was "Summer Safari" and they had seen that I liked painting 'big cats'. (You can see my other big cat and wildlife paintings on my Gallery page of my site.) I was thrilled at the opportunity, but I admit that I was a bit intimidated. Any artist can tell you that there is a world of difference creating an original painting and 'teaching' one. But I was up for the challenge and I thought it would make me stretch my wings a bit as a designer.
I knew that the subject for my painting had to be something that would not only be beautiful, but I would need a clear photo as well as permission to use it for my reference. I am a firm believer in respecting the copyrights of photographers.
One day, as I was browsing through Facebook, I came across this beautiful photo of Layla the tigress:
From the moment I saw it, it captured my heart. I immediately appreciated her regal beauty and thought it would be a wonderful picture to create my pattern from. I contacted the Sanctuary and requested permission to use the photo. I explained just what I was going to do with it and how I would use it and I also offered to send them a portion of whatever revenue was generated by the derivative work. I explained that I was a small time artist, but I would give what I could and try to help raise awareness for their cause. They graciously agreed and I was sent a higher resolution photo to work with. In the end, my rendition of Layla came out very nice. I think it is one of my better paintings to date:
My relationship with Layla and the Sanctuary didn't end there. It just began.
As I read more about them and their residents, I saw what wonderful work they were doing and I tried to think of ways that I could help their cause the most. Those of you who know me know of my love of animals and I love cats in particular – big and small. When reading the stories of the horrors that many of these animals (including Layla) had endured prior to their rescue from the Sanctuary, I knew that this was something that I would be trying to help for the long term. This would definitely not be my last work with them.
Layla was already 20 years old when she was rescued. You can read more about her story and her rescue HERE and see a memorial video of her HERE.
After years of neglect and abuse, it seemed that Layla would finally find peace through the Sanctuary, as have so many other beautiful animals.
In these past several months, I feel that I have come to know many of the animals at the Sanctuary. I have read their stories and I keep up with their daily lives on the Wildcat Sanctuary Facebook page. It is through these portals that we can see the good that the Sanctuary is doing – not only for its residents, but in trying to educate the public about things like petting zoos, that may seem harmless, but doom the 'cute cubs' to lives of horror and abuse as adults. It is something that frankly I never thought of previously, but after learning about it, I will never visit one of these facilities again.
Just this past weekend I ordered the photo reprints of my Layla painting in order to sell both the prints as well as note cards. I want to continue to support the Sanctuary in any way I can, and I am sending a portion of the income from these items to them. As I was going through my photos and working things out and ordering the supplies, I was thinking how glad I was to be able to do something to support a cause so important to me. Last week the Sanctuary brought in four new residents, and it felt good to think that I would be able to not only send a donation, but also raise awareness through my artwork.
Hearing of Layla's passing hit me hard. I felt as if I lost one of my own pets, as the relationship that I developed with her while painting her portrait was strong. With each brush stroke of paint, I was in awe of her majestic beauty – from her beautiful eyes all the way down to her tattered left ear. I looked at that as a badge of the war she had fought most of her life. I admired her.
I hope you take the time to visit some of the links above and read about the Sanctuary and its work. I also hope you would consider supporting them and their cause. If not by donating, then perhaps by joining their Facebook page and sharing their stories and promoting awareness so that others understand what these animals endure. Little by little, we can make a difference.
I am still awaiting arrival of my prints from New York. When I have them ready, I will post them on the site. I am posting the painting pattern on my site later today and I will give a portion of all sales in her memory to the Sanctuary. I will also look for other ways to help the Sanctuary and the animals there with future projects. I think that Layla would have liked that.
Even though I am heartbroken about Layla’s passing, I am grateful for having known her. She helped open my eyes to many things. She helped me grow as an artist, and even after she is gone, she will be helping her fellow residents at the Wildcat Sanctuary have better lives. I think she would have liked that.
She will forever reign as queen in her new kingdom on the other side of the rainbow bridge. She will always do so in my heart.
Have a good Friday.
-- Designer/Artist/Teacher. Owner of Sheila Landry Designs (http://www.sheilalandrydesigns.com) Scroll saw, wood working and painting patterns and surfaces. "Knowledge is Power"