In preparation for next week’s BlogPaws 2010 West, we’ve been introducing you to a few of the panelists who will be at the conference. So far we’ve learned about a charity worker, a pet photographer, a blogging vet and a dog travel expert. Today we’re focusing on Vicki Boatright, an accomplished artist and the blogger behind Just Meowin’.
Boatright is known for her pet portraits and public art, and she will be putting her skills to good use at the upcoming conference. Throughout the weekend she’ll be working on a “Dialogues Mural” that will be inspired by the drawings and suggestions of BlogPaws attendees. If you’ll be there, you can watch as the collage takes shape and even pitch in with your own ideas. This collaborative effort sounds like a great way to capture the themes and spirit of the event – can’t wait to see how it develops!
Thanks for answering a few questions with us, Vicki. See you at BlogPaws!
What inspires you to create art, and have your artistic endeavors always been pet-oriented?
Many different things inspire me. I am inspired by various influences in my life, and whatever is influencing me at any given time somehow gets translated into the artwork. The driving inspiration in all my work, however, is a fascination with color, light, texture and other elements of creation. I have worked with children as a therapist for many years, and I have always admired how kids just seem to create for the pure joy of creating. I try to do the same.
I often say, “I paint cats because that is what I wake up staring at in the morning.” I have always had pets in my life, and they are one of the greatest influences to making me the person that I am today. So, yes, animals have been a persistent theme throughout my life as an artist. That said, there are also other themes in my artwork that are not as well known. I have a whole body of work that I call my “Ripping Out the Seams” series, which are very self expressive collages that run the gamut in subject matter. These works tend to be more introspective with a somewhat self-assertiveness tone.
When and why did you decide to become involved in the pet blogging community?
When I first started dabbling in Twitter, I was drawn to the amazing online community of people who rallied around pet interests. I met several great pet bloggers, including Caroline Golon (cofounder of BlogPaws) online. Caroline commissioned a portrait from me as a gift for a friend and we became great friends. We met in real life when she came to visit family in Columbus, OH, and she told me how she and a couple of other pet bloggers were tossing around the idea of BlogPaws. I helped out on the advisory committee for the first BlogPaws conference and became involved with many more bloggers through that connection.
What made you decide to blog from the point of view of your cat?
My cat (@BrewskieButt) will tell you very pointedly that he does his own blogging, thank you! He got onto Twitter and Facebook behind my back when I was at work sometime in December 2008 or January 2009. When I realized what he was doing, I let him continue, as he was doing a pretty good job of drumming up business for my fledgling artist studio. I did help him start his Just Meowin' blog earlier this year.
When did you realize social media would become so important to the pet community, and how have you learned to use the tools we now have?
I think I realized that something big was happening in the pet community as I made connections and developed online relationships through social media. As an artist and a therapist who has worked with non-profits my entire career, I have attempted to connect with people in other online communities, as well. None seem to have the passion and cohesion that the pet community has, however. I think that the way that pet charities, pet industries and everyday pet lovers have bonded online is perhaps one of the greatest marketing stories of all time, and it is relatively unknown to the world in other circles. It all comes together with a common interest - a love for animals - and a willingness to be creative and innovative.
I learned the tools by just jumping in there and doing it. Everything that I have learned about computers and online engagement I learned on my own. I researched things, I asked questions and I struggled through things until I figured it out. Social media is a very “Pay it Forward” kind of community, so I had a lot of people give me tips and suggestions along the way.
Where does the name BZTAT come from?
I once had a cat named Beezie who was the greatest companion ever. In Tweety Bird style, I used to say to her, “I tawt I taw a Beezie-tat! I deed, I deed, I DEED tee a Beezie-tat!” Somewhere along the line I started signing my paintings “BZTAT” and the name stuck.
What are you most looking forward to at BlogPaws 2010 West?
Other than meeting up with good friends, I am also very excited about creating a “Dialogues Mural” entitled, “Hand to Hand - Paw to Paw: Celebrating the Worldwide Community of Pet Lovers!” Conference participants will be invited to scribe (on paper) their thoughts, ideas, reflections, drawings, etc. about their experiences at BlogPaws, which I will then incorporate them into the mural using collage techniques. I am looking forward to a great creative dialog with the many people and pets that attend BlogPaws.
What advice do you have for BlogPaws conference attendees?
People who come to BlogPaws are some of the greatest folks EVER. We all connect through our love of pets, and that is the most ice-breaking of connections there is. I encourage people to be unafraid and enjoy the adventure of connecting with new people from all over. Reach out to people from various connections and develop ongoing relationships. Be real and authentic. And have fun!