SUWANEE - Instead of champagne, Randalyn "Randy" Bieniek brought cat food to celebrate.
The Duluth artist won a contest to have her artwork displayed in traffic throughout Georgia, so she brought a treat for her subject, Hope the cat.
Bieniek's painting of Hope, a cat available for adoption at the Georgia Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in Suwanee, won an online contest for a cat design on spay and neuter license plates, which previously only featured a dog option.
"Instead of flowers, I thought I'd bring a bag of food," Bieniek said as she visited Hope on Friday, the day the winner was announced. "She's our little star."
Hope was rescued from the Douglas County animal shelter. She had been slated to be euthanized before Georgia SPCA stepped in.
"She was a real cat with a real story. ... She had an emotional impact," Bieniek said of Hope, whose yellow eyes also won her some votes.
Natalie Guthrie, public relations director for the pet adoption center, said she has a black and white tuxedo cat just like Hope, so her entire family plans to get a tag. Guthrie said the tuxedo cat is common in Georgia, so it's likely to become a popular license plate.
Bieniek, who has created pastels of children for years, began making acrylics of animals about three months ago. She took photos of four cats - Hannah, a gray and white long-haired, Sherry, a calico who was recently adopted, and Mary, a black long-haired cat, in addition to Hope.
"I knew immediately I should paint that one," she said of Hope. "She was very friendly, so she kept coming up to me."
Bieniek said she just couldn't bring home her new star subject - she has a dog, two rescue cats, a bird, a son in college and 8-year-old triplets at home.
"My heart wasn't, but my home was full," she said.
Hope is still up for adoption. About a dozen people have filled out applications and the shelter will decide Monday who can bring her home.
Guthrie said she hopes the contest will give some publicity to the Georgia SPCA, which is open seven days a week and encourages people to visit Hope this weekend. The shelter has plenty of cats available for adoption, she said.
"It's a win-win situation," Bieniek said of the competition - the first art contest she has won since she tied with her twin sister in third grade. "Good for me as an artist and for the SPCA and for the kitties."
Agriculture Commissioner Tommy Irvin, who announced the contest winner, said he was pleased with the 200 entries (Bieniek's painting of Sherry also made the top 20).
"We received such a diverse array of high-quality art that it was difficult to choose just six finalists," Irvin said. "I was very pleased with the overwhelming response to the request for submissions and in the number of people who voted on the final design. This contest has helped increase the awareness of cat and dog overpopulation and the need to spay or neuter, and this new license plate will carry that message to the streets and highways of Georgia and the country."