Laura Stuart has a soft spot in her heart for what she calls, “rescue animals who get a bad rap.”
It is a topic that she knows well—after all, the local artist has been owner to both a pit bull and now three black cat rescues. Knowing that she couldn’t adopt every animal out there, Stuart turned her artistic skills toward assisting rescue efforts by creating two adult coloring books; one featuring cats and the other, pit bulls.
“I wanted to create a positive visual narrative for animals that often get a bad rap. And I wanted to do something to not only raise awareness, but create a way to raise funds,” she said.
In 2001, Stuart adopted Clohé, a nearly all-white pit bull with two different colored eyes. “When you picked her up, her tail would go around and around. We called her the dog with the helicopter tail and would joke that we should write a children’s book about a dog that travels far and near,” Stuart said.
Clohé passed away in 2016, and in 2018, Stuart paid a visit to Humane Animal Rescue of Pittsburgh with thoughts of adopting a cat.
“As I was looking, this black cat caught my eye; she looked sweet and timid,” Stuart said. “I was encouraged to adopt her because I was told that she had been returned from a pet store.” Stuart learned from shelter staff that black cats are often passed by due to superstitions and other negative beliefs.
Naming her new cat Kahlo, Stuart later adopted two other black cats, Dahlia in 2019, and Persephone in 2021. The artist found new inspiration from her pets.
“The adoption of the cats inspired me to create black cat art and took me in a whole new direction artistically,” said Stuart. “It became central to my artwork because I wanted to find a way to educate people about these cats that face additional challenges through no fault of their own.”
No stranger to various mediums, the artists made jewelry and paintings, often using her three pets as the subjects. Her artwork also reinvigorated the idea of a book—this one an adult coloring book featuring what else, but cats.
Stuart’s coloring book, Cat Touch This, was published in late 2021 and highlights her hand-drawn, whimsical cat drawings. Those who know Stuart’s three pets will recognize familiar faces on the 40-plus pages. “The drawings are based on my own cats. Like the picture of the cat in my drawer, that’s a page from my home life,” she said.
Once Stuart learned the process of producing a coloring book, she quickly created the second, Pitty Party! WAGS – We Are Gentle Souls in honor of Clohé. Her second book was published in February.
In addition of increasing awareness about rescue animals, Stuart is donating a portion of the sales to support various animal welfare organizations. She recently hosted a craft evening where the proceeds went to Pet Search, the local rescue organization where she found Persephone.
With two coloring books now under her belt, Stuart is pondering her next project. As the creative service director of Not Forgotten Home & Services, a nonprofit that serves intellectually disabled adults, Stuart’s next book may feature the art of the individuals with whom she works.
“Art can give individuals that are sometimes voiceless another vehicle to express themselves,” Stuart said.
Cat Touch This and Pitty Party! WAGS – We Are Gentle Souls are available on Amazon, at Forget Me Not retail shop in Carnegie, and at www.cattouchthispress.com.