Many of artist's watercolors on display at Penn Hills Library feature feline friend

Sign up for one of our email newsletters. Margaret Gavaler's 4-year-old cat, Maggie, is her muse. The artist has captured Maggie in watercolor paintings of her swimming, climbing trees, spending time at water's edge and more in her new exhibit, “The...

Many of artist's watercolors on display at Penn Hills Library feature feline friend

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Margaret Gavaler's 4-year-old cat, Maggie, is her muse.

The artist has captured Maggie in watercolor paintings of her swimming, climbing trees, spending time at water's edge and more in her new exhibit, “The Adventures of Maggie DeKatt.”

“I've never had a theme like this, so this is just really exciting for me,” Gavaler said. “It is very kid-oriented with a lot of whimsy pieces. I always think it's nice to try and lure children into the library.”

The show at the Penn Hills Library is a collection of colorful backgrounds with her black-and-white furry friend consuming the foreground. The paintings — part of a monthly gallery presented by the Penn Art Association — will fill the library gallery hallway until the end of March.

The collection began as part of an experiment for Gavaler when she bought a synthetic watercolor paper with a plastic-like surface to use as her medium. Working at home, she painted the background, let it dry, and then allowed the colors to tell her where to go from there.

“I would leave the paint until the next day and see what it tells me,” Gavaler said. “And then I started to think, well, what do these backgrounds look like? And from there, I said it looked like a storm, a cave or water's edge. Eventually, I started putting my cat into them.”

Gavaler's love for watercolor began 18 years ago when tendinitis restricted her from playing and teaching the guitar. So, she put down the instrument and picked up a paintbrush.

“I always admired my aunt's watercolor paintings, so I decided that I was going to give it a try and I haven't stopped since,” she said.

Janice Pfeifer, who considers herself an “acrylic girl,” runs the gallery for the Penn Art Association and has known Gavaler for more than 20 years.

“She is a meticulous, creative watercolor artist,” Pfeifer said. “I love them all, and actually bought one for myself the other day. Anyone who is a cat owner needs to see these.”

Pfeifer said the gallery exhibit changes every two months, with each show featuring a different artist from the association.

“The work and the quality is here,” Pfeifer said. “There are so many Penn Hills artists that no one knows about.”

Each one of Gavaler's paintings is on sale for $75.

“I don't paint them to sell, but if people like them enough to buy them, well, then that's lovely, too,” she said.

Christine Manganas is a freelance writer.

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