So, it was in the early morning of 1992, and I had been at the Chilliwack Mall doing an early morning shop. I’d left the mall, and was heading for my car in the parking lot. Looking forward, I stopped dead in my tracks, when in front of me, sitting in the open back of what used to be called a station wagon, was a huge spotted cat! I was shocked, a little intimidated and just a little hesitant to continue any closer.

The fellow that was with the cat saw the hesitation, and motioned me to come over. Still a bit leery, I slowly approached. The fellow introduced himself and his feline companion. It was Dr. Al Oeming, and with him was Tawana, his pet cheetah.

Dr. Oeming was from the Alberta Game Farm, and was touring around with ‘Tawana’, to raise money to purchase another cheetah for the game farm.

After he had convinced me that Tawana was perfectly tame, I dared to pet her. She instantly reacted with a deep purr. I was now totally smitten with her. I would have to share this experience with my kids.

So later that day, we went back to the mall as a family, and enjoyed some time with this amazing creature. I think the kids were as delighted with her as I was.

In memory of the beautiful Tawana, I did a colored pencil sketch and later, an oil painting from the pictures taken on that special day.

This was another of the many pictures taken that day of Tawana at the Chilliwack Mall. This profile became the one I chose for my colored pencil sketch.

The finished product, a 14″ x 11″ image of Tawana done with Prisma colored pencils. I decided to present her in a surrounding more natural than in a mall setting.

This picture was taken during one of Tawana’s “rest” periods (giving her a break from the numerous amount of people hoping to pose with her). This profile became the basis of the oil painting I did of her.

Before starting this project, I did a lot of research to best present Tawana in her native surroundings. And also to have the profile look natural. This was the start…

Some projects are simple, some more complex, but after many hours on this one, it will be a memory I will never lose.

The completed 18″ x 24″ oil painting is below.


Just an aside, cheetahs are an endangered species, and Dr. Oeming was well ahead of his time in promoting and practicing conservation methods. With his passing in 2014, conservationism lost a true pioneer. If you are curious, this Biography of his passing, details his most interesting life, or you can do a search of your own. I only wish I had contacted him to let him know how that chance encounter influenced me, not that he needed another pat on the back.