Paw Painting... behind the scenes

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This morning I went out and bought a set of children's non-toxic washable paints and a roll of butcher paper. I collected more supplies from around the house, then set up the kitchen as an art studio for creative rats.

I started out by papering the kitchen floor with newspaper, just in case one of the enthusiastic artists decided to make an unexpected excursion across the tiles. Then I newspapered the aquarium, in case somone leaned a casual painted paw against the glass. I cut a rectangular sheet of butcher paper to fit on the bottom of the aquarium floor to be the canvas.

Cricket was the first to try his paw at painting. I placed a small dollop of blue paint in the middle of the butcher paper with a plastic spoon, then I gently pressed each of his feet into the paint left on the spoon. I then placed him on the canvas and let him paint! He walked about on the paper, leaving a very tasteful trail of blue footprints behind him. Every now and then he stood up on his hind legs. His work showed a fine range of blue shading, from the faintest blue claw mark to the fully saturated palm press. He occasionally got distracted from his work and tried to wash his paws, but I discouraged this by giving him a little push forwards. The paint is safe, but I still didn't want him to eat much of it. After about two minutes, he had created a delightful paw print painting in delicate blue!

I picked him up -- he had paint mostly on his paws, a little on his belly and tail, and a bit on his muzzle and whiskers where he had touched his face with his paws. I whisked him to the bathroom sink, where I ran a small stream of tepid water and gently washed every speck of paint off his feet and fur with my fingers. The paint came off easily. Cricket was a gentleman about the whole thing and sat quietly, with great dignity, while I gently cleaned his toes. The bath took about one minute. Then he went back into his cage (where he proceeded to give himself a real bath).

Snip's turn was next. He chose three colors -- red, blue and yellow. I dabbed a bit of each color onto his canvas, then pressed both hind feet in the red spoon, one front paw in blue and the other in yellow. He made tri-color footprints all around the canvas. He also added a little scent marking of his own.The overall effect is a joyous riot of primary colors, delicately spread and blended to create just a hint of green, purple and orange.

When he was done, after a couple of minutes, he too got a quick foot bath to remove all his paint. Snip was a bit less stoic about his bath than his brother Cricket, and squeaked in protest, but it was over in just a minute and then he got to go back in the cage for a snack after all his effort.

Widget's turn was last. He chose a third set of colors -- the more subtle secondaries: green, purple and orange. Widget was the only artist who was interested in experiencing the paint in the sensuous realm of taste. He took a lick or two of green before I picked him up and put him down a few inches away, then tried one bite of purple before being interrupted once more. Then he got down to the real business of painting. He created a fine trail of pawprints, with bouyant flourishes of claw sweeps and toe prints. His blends gave a suspicion of earthiness of character, with slight hints of differing shades of brown -- from the dark purplish browns of deep night shadows, the time of the rat, to the warm earth tones of late afternoon, when the world seems on fire with the warm, oblique glow of the sun.

Widget "da Vinci" after his serious creative effort at the easel.

Master Widget protested strongly at the indignity of a bath, so I drew a half an inch of water in the sink and let him dab his feet and belly fur in that, with some attentive help from me, to get all his paint off.

Everyone got a yoghurt drop for their first efforts at fine art. Here's Widget enjoying his!



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