Artist known for whimsical cats produces new Art on the Square poster

News-DemocratApril 25, 2014 

— Art on the Square organizersunveiled this year's official art show poster Friday night that recognizes the city's roots and created by an artist known for watercolors of whimsical cats.

Don Nedobeck, a Florida-based artist who is a regular Art on the Square participant, created this year's poster with Belleville's bicentennial in mind.

The poster was shown during a party at the Regions Bank in Belleville.

The event poster is available for $10 during this year's Art on the Square, from May 16 to 18 in downtown Belleville.

The poster recognizes the city's landmarks, industrial impact and German heritage, with nods to the Veterans Memorial Fountain and Belleville Shoe Co.

In 2008, Nedobeck made a poster of three cats playing jazz for the city's annual Wine, Dine and Jazz Festival in Belleville.

In an interview, Nedobeck talked about this year's poster and his other works:

How did you come up with the concept for the poster?

"I've been doing the (Art on the Square) show as a participant for quite a while. I'm known for painting cats. When (Art on the Square Executive Director) Patty Gregory honored me with this, I asked her, 'Is it all right, if that is what I'm known for, to use my cats?' Patty provided me a lot of historical information: Belleville is French for "beautiful city," George Blair and the city's library. How am I going to incorporate that Belleville means "beautiful city?" I started with having these cats sitting on a park bench under a library sign."

Can you describe your poster?

"It's a watercolor with pen and ink. There are a dozen cats. Two cats are sitting next to the Belleville Fountain, reading a book, "Belleville the Beautiful City" by Mr. Blair. A barmaid is holding a cup of Stag beer. One cat is in lederhosen. Another is an accordion player wearing a fur hat. The city's also known for having one of the first philharmonics, so there are cats playing instruments.

There's a farm cat couple -- one cat is holding a pitchfork and wearing bib overalls. I remember in the second World War, the Germans used the phrase, "Deutschland uber alles." That means "Germany above all." So the bib has "Belleville uber alles."

Are the cats in the picture related to other cats you've drawn?

"Oh, they're all related. Cats are cats are cats."

Do you own cats?

"Nobody in the whole world owns cats. They let us live with them. You can own a dog but you can't own a cat. Cats can be so independent you don't really own them. They're just in your house."

How long did it take you to create this poster?

"It took a lifetime honing my skills to be able to do this in a week or so."

Do you jot down ideas in words or pictures?

"Very seldom in words. Most of my paintings happens like I'm an author. After I get started, a character starts talking to me and almost dictating what comes next. I have no picture in my mind. I draw something and it appears and I have no idea this would go there. That's how things evolve even if they look like they're well planned."

Do you work on your art while on the road?

"Some of the best things I've done have been in motel rooms. I paint at home. Whenever I have an idea. So no, I don't consider myself to be a temperamental artist. ... I like to meditate. Some people call it daydreaming. It's one of the few things I can say I'm an expert in."

What do you look forward to at art shows?

"I like to meet with people who own my work so we can have spontaneous conversations about the cats in a piece they bought. I tell people they can call. Nobody calls anymore.

"These students call with questions written out beforehand and I know because they ask me the same questions, probably for class. The best way is to be not too prepared because otherwise nothing spontaneous happens and it eliminates any sort of surprise in your questions."

Contact reporter Jacqueline Lee at jlee@bnd.com or 618-239-2655. Follow her on Twitter at https://twitter.com/BNDJLee.

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