In my ongoing study of 1950s era design….I’ve fallen in love with what was a ubiquitous image: an “atomic cat”! Generally they’re black – but the shapes and drawing style is just simple. But I decided to use the shape and add Christmas colors, bow ties, a sweater…..and then made a bunch of my former kitties into atomic ones in a painting for my bedroom!

Tutorial: Draw a retro (Christmas) cat

A stylized illustration like this is very easy to customize. The cat need not be recognizable as your specific cat…just include a feature or two that YOU love about your feline friend. Your cousin won’t necessarily know that’s your cat on their card, but that’s alright. They’ll just be delighted to get a card with an original drawing on it!

Watch the video below and scroll to the end to leave comments or questions — or click HERE to watch it on YouTube and leave comments over there. I read both dutifully!

The sketch

Here’s how simple the sketch is…a saucer shaped head, some eyes and ears, a long body and tail. Boom!

The key is to keep the painting loose; just shapes. If there’s a wonky edge or if color bleeds, you can draw over it, but when adding the lines, make them enough of a NON traced, NON perfect outline that it’s clear you meant to. (If you only do it in one spot, it’ll look like you just made a mistake.) This is an illustrative style, and I’m here for it! 🙂

I did the same thing large – an 11″ x 15″ painting of three of the cats I’ve had over the years! Oliver, the tall grey boy, was always quite dapper….a respectable boy who acted quite dignified. If he ever oopsed and fell off a chair or something he’d recover with a prance to tell you that you didn’t see what you just saw. LOL

Punchinello passed last fall, and he was my snuggly boy. And if you’ve had cats you know that’s not always common! But that was his game, finding me sitting down and getting between me and a book, a drawing, or my phone – for a petting session. (Until he was done, then he would vehemently let me know it’s over. ha!)

Tsuki is the one who passed just recently….my chubby girl who lived to an extremely old age. She’s seen a lot around here, she was good friends with my last golden retriever Ciara, so I hope Ciara greeted her over at that rainbow bridge.

Clean and Simple Trees class

If this cat looks doable to you, then the Clean and Simple Trees class is entirely doable! (and if not, the trees might show you the cat’s not hard once you get the hang of it!)

Class is underway already but you can join in anytime – learn to make trees in a variety of styles, then see if you can adapt a simple cat like this one to the same styles taught in class! Head over to the Artventure community (free to join) and tap on COURSES in the menu. The trees class is only $7.99, and lots of folks are already enjoying it – and getting their Christmas cards done!

Try a retro cat in any medium!

Use the sketch to create a cat in whatever medium you like. Coloring shapes is simple to do, then add pen. Just make sure if you use colored pencil that the pen can draw atop any waxy buildup that you might get if you use heavy coverage. Otherwise with most mediums you can use any pen at all!


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  1. Linda S.

    I really appreciate how inspiring your posts are and the breadth of your artistic interests.Thank you.

  2. Jeanne R

    I can’t find the sketch. Sandy, your handwriting is gorgeous!

    • Sandy Allnock

      It’s the first photo after the video…

  3. Teddy

    Okay, Sandy! I am inspired. Always wanted to watercolor holiday cards and I think the kitty will be it for my Hanukkah greetings this year. Thank you for all the great projects through the years. Seems like only yesterday you painted for Puerto Rico and I still enjoy the painting I bought to help your efforts. I lost my beloved red cat Firefly this year, so will dedicate my scribbles to his memory.


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