For the next week, the Siskiyou Arts Council Gallery and Cultural Center in Mount Shasta will be filled with the vibrant colors of Etna artist Catherine McElroy’s work.

For the next week, the Siskiyou Arts Council Gallery and Cultural Center in Mount Shasta will be filled with the vibrant colors of Etna artist Catherine McElroy’s work.

Described by McElroy herself as “whimsical realism,” the majority of her watercolors depict animals in comedic situations.

“Some of them are very realistic,” McElroy said, pointing to her paintings of a monarch butterfly and a bunch of peach-colored chrysanthemums.

“Others have a sense of realism... realism tweaked.”

McElroy’s sense of humor comes out in other paintings, including “Should Have Listened,” which shows three brightly colored snails gathered around a spilled salt shaker and the empty shell of a fallen comrade. Or “Eek!” which shows two praying mantises reacting with fright to a large spider suspended between them on a silken string.

“I want [my paintings] to say something... sometimes you have to see the title to understand,” she laughed.

During Friday’s show opening, McElroy’s painting of a non traditional rooster, “Cock-a-Doodle #3” was chosen best of show, and as guests meandered through the gallery, plenty of chuckles could be heard.

Other favorites included a trio of paintings telling the story of a black cat trying to lure in various animals using conversation hearts, and the trio “The Wild Ride,” which follows the adventure of a couple of frogs riding on a fish and narrowly escaping the jaws of a bear.

More recent paintings include a series inspired by the upcoming McCloud Mushroom Faire, which McElroy will be attending.

“Magic Mushrooms,” “Mythical” and “Gnomes Nomed in Nome” were all inspired by the Faire, McElroy explained.

“I used to assume everyone thought this way,” she said with a smile. “It took me a long time to realize everyone doesn’t think this way.”

Every morning, Catherine drinks a cup of coffee and decides what she’ll be painting for the day. After a couple of hours drawing, she’ll begin to paint. She tries to finish each piece by the end of the day, she said.

“I often do a series of three and then frame them in triple,” she said. “While I’m working on one, I’m generating ideas for the next.”

Originally a silversmith, McElroy took a painting class in 1998.

“I just thought, ‘I can do this,’” she said. “I?dinked around with it for a few years, and in 2002, I started painting seriously.”

If you can call her paintings “serious.” Most observers of her work can hardly help but giggle, and many commented on the vivid colors she chooses for her animal subjects.

“Life is full of color, I might as well represent it,” she shrugged, pointing to one of her snail pictures. “I mean, why not colorful snails?”

Until this Saturday, April 30, visitors at the SAC Gallery can browse McElroy’s playful paintings and choose one to bring home, either in original form, in a less expensive print or affordable card.

On May 3, the Gallery’s “Circles” show will begin, followed on June 28 by a show for local artist Kim Solga.

The SAC Gallery is located at 418 North Mt. Shasta Blvd in downtown Mount Shasta. They’re open Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturdays 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Call 938-1294 for more information or visit their website, www.siskiyouartscouncil.org