National Cat Day: St. Petersburg artist Danial Ryan on his surreal feline art

Published October 29 2018
Updated October 29 2018
Danial Ryan can’t stop painting cats.
Felines appear in most of the paintings and drawings by the St. Petersburg-based artist who also incorporates pop culture — Batman has crept in lately — iconic snack foods, and the grim reaper into his work that frequently juxtaposes fun and leisure with reminders of human mortality.
But mostly it’s a lot of cats.
For National Cat Day, we got in touch with Ryan to ask him, why?
If I was going to describe what you do in a basic way, I’d say you make art about cats and the ever-present reminder of human mortality. Is that accurate to say?
"That’s a really good description. I believe that cats are the closest animal in terms of personality to human beings. They can be affectionate warm and gentle but are most often lazy, selfish and aggressive, but that’s what we like about them I guess.
"Using cats as a proxy for humans lets me take the edge off topics I’d like to explore, or may be afraid to think about: existence, suicide, hopelessness, anxiety, the absurdity of life."


Are you a cat owner, and are the cats in your paintings based on real life cats?
I am a cat owner. Usually my paintings are not based on any real cats. Sometimes someone’s cat I have painted before sneaks back in, or there are just certain breeds and coloring’s that I tend to paint over and over again.


How many cats do you have and what are their names?
"Is it okay if I don’t get into that? ... We take care of all the strays that hang out on our street. I’m afraid to name them."


How and why did cats first come into your work?
"When I first started painting I did a ton of pet commissions and I found for whatever reason, that painting cats was therapeutic. I couldn’t stop doing it."


And you still can’t?
"I try to stop but it doesn’t go away it’s very natural and easy. I’ll begin a piece with no intentions and a fat worm-cat thing will just end up in it."


Did I see that some of your designs have been used in other cities? Like your version of “The Great Wave off Kanagawa” but with cats is now a mural in Los Angeles?
Oh yeah! I make designs for this skateboard clothing company called Ripndip. And their stuff is everywhere so my work ends up in some really cool places sometimes. I get a kick out of it.


I feel like I have to ask you this, based off of your work: Are you okay?
I think I’m okay, haha. I guess each day is different.


Any shows or anything coming up?
No, nothing too crazy. I am offering 50 percent off until Christmas in my Etsy store, because I don’t have time for commissions this year.


Ryan is a regular at the Tampa Indie Flea and sells his artwork via his Etsy store.


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