For most people, drunkenly stumbling into a bodega at 2 a.m. for a hot sandwich is mostly, if not entirely, about acquiring and eating said sandwich. But for artists like Lia Ryerson, that act can quickly evolve into an art project. In this case, a series of sketches based on the “Bodega Cats of Bushwick.”
Ryerson is a 23-year-old creative writing MFA student at the New School. She has been a resident of Bushwick for four (nonconsecutive) years, and spends most of her time focused on the written word. But sometimes she needs a break from writing. “Clumsy scribbles and doodles for my friends are a great distraction and a way to make sure that I’m still producing something,” she told us. A few weeks ago, she started a series of sketches based on bodega cats around Bushwick for her friends as “a fun, pet project,” no pun intended.
It all started at the aptly named Quick Draw Deli & Grocery at 223 Montrose Avenue, when Ryerson and her boyfriend ran into Abdul. “We went to the corner bodega so [my boyfriend] could get his 2 a.m. hot sandwich that we get whenever we’ve been drinking,” she says. “I remember going up and petting the cat there and saying, ‘Oh my gosh he’s so friendly!’ and four of the regulars in the bodega all turned around and they were like ‘Oh Abdul? We know he’s friendly’.”
The other cats in the series are less literal than her abstraction of Abdul, “by and large conceived of as imaginary prototypes.” Like this “hyperbolical representation” of the found-the-‘nip cat, a “consistently affectionate/frolicsome orange feline at Great Land Deli.”
“Bodegas are pretty ubiquitous for having little cat denizens, and for better or for worse my friends and I frequent a lot of different Bushwick bodegas,” says Ryerson. “Different cats have always been fun conversational fodder, because every cat is kind of distinct. Or maybe we’re just drunk. I don’t know.”
She uses a slim sharpie and lined Moleskine to do the drawings, photographs them with her iPhone, uploads them to Pixlr and erases the lines outside of the cats, leaving some of the interior lines showing for an “amateurish/raw vibe”.
And while she says she plans to continue with the project, she would also be happy to pass it along to a professional visual artist. “One of my friends is a formally trained graphic designer and she graduated from Pratt,” she says. “I would be happy to hand it off to her and let her run wild with it.”