Friday, August 30, 2013


Some years ago in mid October, we traveled to Columbus, Ohio USA .
Leaves blowing, grey frigid winds, snugly coats, hats and gloves on, we went on a pilgrimage to view a real live Cheetah at the Zoo. 

On the way to the Cheetah field, we passed a Cougar!  He was snuggled into his distant rocky den.  We saw his tail tip covering his face.  I love how wild animals protect themselves, sleeping yet alert.  The animal enclosures at the Columbus Zoo were spacious and open, seeded with native plants, boulders and trees.

Next we trekked past a Wolf Pair trotting on their prairie path.  The grey wolves floated passed, expressing their effortless wolf trot typical of some domestic dogs including Collies and German Shepherds.  They flashed their Wolf/Collie smile.  I smiled back!

Now we came at last to the Cheetahs.  I breathed faster in anticipation!  We climbed the wooden deck overlook.  Just then the sun broke unexpectedly through the grey clouds exploding with sunny brilliance. The golden light ignited the back lit leaves and inflamed the birches into a wash of golden coins and birch twig collages.  I squinted in the brightness, searching for Cheetahs.  I quickly scanned the large enclosure and then the Cheetah warming houses.  No Cheetahs in View?  

My heart sank.  There were some Cheetahs snoozing with their backs to us inside their warming houses.  It was too cold for a long exposure for such a thin animal without extra warmth.  We watched, we waited, dejectedly we turned to leave.  As I pivoted, I spotted a WHITE TAIL TIP.

I pointed!  I exclaimed, "There's gotta be a Cheetah attached to the other end of that tail!"

He heard me and turned his head, and the glory of the magnificent live Cheetah came into full view!   I saw his head from the front with the trademark Cheetah "tear drop" stripe from each eye corner and encircling the muzzle. Since Cheetahs are day hunters, some say this marking helps the Cheetah hunter reduce glare in the searing African heat and sun.  

I was breathless with wonder as I absorbed the Cheetah into my mind-camera for a future painting.  The kaleidoscope Cheetah emerged from a backdrop of small golden sunlit leaves and a sprinkling of dark twigs.

Seconds ago, he was invisible!  His spotted coat provided perfect chameleon camouflage effect against the crazy quilt background of shimmering gold and bits of black.

We stopped stock still and stared.  We stared longer.  He stared back.  The cat stare of wild and domestic feline combined as one.  We thought of our small cats at home.

We couldn't believe the Cheetah was so invisible?  How could we have missed him until now?  And to think we almost turned to leave.  

Nature In Action!

Real Life
Bringing the Cheetah to life on canvas took much thought. I chose a very large canvas for the project. What next?  I'll paint some thin wash of paint first over the entire canvas.  "Under painting" will pick up the golds, ochres, whites, yellows, and blacks to be painted over later.  Some of the original under layer of paint is still visible at your top right as you view the painting.  

Now for the Cheetah.  I blocked her in ("she" was the energy I felt).  I used my trusty liner brush with ochre wash.  She smiled!  She almost looked like a cartoon!  Let it flow!  Gradually she emerged a fully formed Cheetah!  And now for the shimmering leaves and twigs?  I brushed with gentleness and ferocity letting the Claude Monet Impressionist brush strokes come into being.

Finishing:  I added spots on our Cheetah friend and accented the smile.  I put a bit of shadow behind her to make her 3-D stand out from her leafy background.  I left the curtain of light on the right "as is" instead of over painting the entire work with leaves.  I made sure her tail stood out loud and clear, the beacon pointing to the Cheetah Within.

"Let It Be!"   QUIT!  I LIKE!

Tai Cheetah
One day in Tai Chi class, I took the large painting into the group.  Students brought art work for display or read poems they created as part of the class.  We absorbed energy from the paintings, drawings, and collages while we practiced and learned about Tai Chi and Life.

Some student friends saw cubs surrounding the Momcat.  I had always thought of my students as Cheetah cubs, and I was the Mom, teaching them how to hunt (practice Tai Chi on their own). 

After class, one student lingered.  She pointed to the painting and told me,
"Why, you're the Tai Cheetah!"

The nickname stuck. 

"I'm a Happy Cat" 

Related Posts:
Key Words:  Cheetah, Wolf, Cat, Dog, Tai Chi

What Kind of Animal Are You? (Jan 2011),  Escape Artists (Feb 2011), See Spots Run ( Mar 2011), The Edge of Time (Aug 2012), Mrs. Harris is a Sand Cat and Fully Present (May 2012), and Tiger Tales, Mar 2013), "The Cat is Fully Present At All Times."

Ohio USA Zoos:
Columbus large enclosures, natural settings
Cincinnati Fatures Small Cat Exhibits including Sandcats.

Big Cat Diary, produced by the BBC, follow Cheetah, Leopard, and Lion families.  You tube selections include Mom Cheetah chasing away an adult male Lion.   ADD/ADHD  Help for adults, humor, videos, research, medical experts   Tai Chi for Health, Paul Lam, M.D.  Improve Your Life and Outlook with Tai Chi exercise.  Articles, Research, Music, Practice and more   Deepak Chopra, M.D., Meditation helps with calm, creativity, and focus.

Dahlis Roy:  Visionary Artist, Author, and Tai Chi Instructor

Painting by Dahlis:
Invisible Cheetah and detailed view