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Pete the Cat

Updated on July 6, 2017
James Dean in his home with his current cat Yoko.
James Dean in his home with his current cat Yoko. | Source

Chat Blue, by James Dean

This is a photograph of the other Pete the cat print I own, which hangs in my hearth room.
This is a photograph of the other Pete the cat print I own, which hangs in my hearth room. | Source

The Illustrator and Painter James Dean

James Dean was born to be a creative inspiration, much like that of his father. He picked up his first paint brush when he was a small child, and would often practice painting pictures of his favorite cartoon characters. It was his grandmother who holds the honor of framing James' first painted 'masterpiece'. A picture he painted for her of Yogi the Bear, when he was still in elementary school.

After watching his father struggle to makes ends meet being a painter himself, James chose to take an academic approach to become successful. After graduating from the University of Auburn in Alabama with an Electrical Engineering degree, James worked a "normal" job for quite sometime, before giving in to the calling to draw, which was always aching inside him. He even took a drawing class in college, where his professor tried to encourage him to keep painting. Eventually James would take his instructor's advice, and retired from Georgia Power and Light in Athens, Georgia. He gave himself about a year to become successful at his craft, painting mostly landscape renderings, around his hometown.

His success did not blossom until he went to a local animal shelter, where he discovered a wide eyed, black, kitten he adopted and named Pete. After spending time with Pete, his little kitten became like a child to him and his personal muse. James often painted Pete doing ordinary cat things such as; looking down a toilet to watch it flush, laying on top of a door, staring outside at the birds, pawing vases, snuggling, and sleeping.

(More of how Pete inspired James to paint, can be read on James Dean's amazing website,

Luna, by James Dean

Luna is a print I purchased in September 2013. This is a photograph of the one hanging in my kitchen.
Luna is a print I purchased in September 2013. This is a photograph of the one hanging in my kitchen. | Source

Facts About Pete the Cat

  • Pete the Cat came from an animal shelter.
  • James started painting Pete doing things after he noticed his kitten liked to put his paw inside Dean's coffee mug.
  • Over thirteen years ago, Pete the cat ran off somewheres and was never seen again. However, out of this tragic event, James Dean started imagining Pete visiting far off places, and was the inspiration for some of his paintings and stories of Pete traveling.
  • James' father was a painter, and made a small living painting copies of famous paintings by artist such as Van Gogh, Da Vinci, and Picasso. Much like his father, James has a knack for mimicking famous painting. People can buy prints of Pete and the Mona Lisa together, Pete in The Kiss painting, Pete in The Scream painting, Pete playing with Van Gogh's Flowers painting, and Pete even curled up on Van Gogh's bed in a print mimicking Van Gogh's famous bedroom.

A Snapshot of the Real Pete the Cat

Pete | Source

How I Discovered Pete

At the end of summer in 2013, my husband Michael and I took a trip to Eureka Springs, Arkansas. On our first big excursion day we drove down into the trendy downtown district. Eureka Springs' downtown area is a mecca for self made artists, and home to some really amazing antique stores, old historical society buildings, and different kinds of art galleries. It is even home to an Andrew Carnegie funded library.

As we were walking down one of the main streets, looking for a place to eat, I spotted a plush blue cat toy in a window display. Of course being a cat lover, I was naturally drawn to the blue cat toy, and immediate thought of one of my step granddaughters and Christmas. Not realizing how popular Pete the Cat had become, I stepped inside an art gallery located in one of the oldest, continuously operating, hotels in America, and I immediately fell in love with Pete.

He was everywhere inside this art gallery. The art dealer had an outstanding collection of Pete the Cat items, original paintings, and quite of few smaller hand-signed prints. She had a very large human size Pete the Cat stuffed doll, and a ton of smaller plush Pete the Cat dolls. At first I was a little overwhelmed by everything I was seeing, because all I kept thinking of was how was I gonna to be able to chose something. I wanted it all. I am a huge fan of Chat Noir poster art and paintings, and James Dean's Pete the Cat is America's, Théophile Alexandre Steinlen's "Chat Noir".

Pete the Cat and His Magic Sunglasses

Bestselling Children's Books

This Christmas when my step grandchildren came over to open their presents, my second to the youngest Faith Ann got really excited when she saw my new Pete paintings. She was screaming and jumping up and down, "Oh my God, its Pete the Cat on Grandma Julie's wall!"

I had no idea that James Dean was also co-creating children's books. But it all finally made sense as to why the art dealer had Pete the Cat stuffed dolls in her showroom. Of course, James' silly cat would make fantastic subject matter for children's books. Pete and His Magical Sunglasses, the most current the collaboration between Eric Litwin and James Dean's latest book, made the New York Times' bestseller list, when it was released in October, 2013. There are quite of few Pete the Cat books, which are authored by Eric Litwin and illustrations painted by James Dean. They have fun titles such as: Pete the Cat and I Love My White Shoes, Pete the Cat Rocking in My School Shoes , Pete the Cat and His Four Groovy Buttons, Pete the Cat Saves Christmas, and there are numerous more.

From my experiences with Pete the Cat children's books, the artwork is just as wonderfully done as the writing. These two men obviously work great together, and their creations will stand the test of time. The books are clever. They are extremely witty, fun, and easy to read. The stories all make logical sense, and they actually host meaning. The adventures of Pete make children smile and laugh.

Dancing Pete the Cat Doll (Rated G)

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Submit a Comment
  • FlourishAnyway profile image


    5 years ago from USA

    I love this! Cats are such an inspiration. Pete was obviously a gifted muse who found the right purrson. I'm glad the painter found dared to love again after Pete's disappearance. Yoko looks very special as well.

  • Nell Rose profile image

    Nell Rose 

    5 years ago from England

    Fascinating read about Pete the Cat, isn't it strange how something small can end up being so big? Just because of a cat, James painted, made the cat toys etc, amazing guy! what a shame he lost the cat, how sad, great hub! voted up and shared, nell


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