Simply Mimi

black cat on bed

Simply Mimi

Mimi naps on the bedspread in the afternoon, sunlight reflecting from the white fabric onto her face, gently defining her delicate details.

This is one of the photos I took Saturday with the new little point and shoot camera I decided to purchase. I took photos of all the cats and of flowers and lots of other things, and out of it all I had intended to create a slideshow. But I’m tearing my studio apart, cleaning, painting and moving in new storage furniture so that I can actually work in there; the slideshow will have to wait. Still, Mimi stole the day and this is only one lovely photo of her.

I can’t carry the “big one”, the DSLR, around the house all the time, it’s just too physically and sometimes mechanically cumbersome, and it’s too big an investment to drag it everywhere. I go through these little point and shoots in about 18 months because I do carry them everywhere, in my pocket, around my neck, around my wrist, they take a beating and they take thousands of photos. I purchased one last spring that was disappointingly slow in focusing and shooting though it took decent videos, but the battery door was already beginning to wear out and I was constantly disappointed with its ability to just take the picture—now!

I wanted a fast shutter, of course, but I also wanted one that could handle the type of photos I take—action without blur, brilliant color that doesn’t oversaturate, contrast because I love light and shadow, and one with a good sense of black for, of course, trying to focus on several black cats in one photo. Without studio lights, this can be a real problem. I also wanted one that could take video saved in a some common file format so I can play around with it.

This is truly not possible in a point and shoot that doesn’t have more manual controls than they usually offer, but learning any camera’s limitations is just as important as knowing its assets and in time anyone can take clear and beautiful photos by knowing what the camera can do.

I was considering one of the cameras intended to take a beating—waterproof, shockproof, coldproof and so on, and while reviews showed they performed admirably for these qualities, they lacked in color quality, speed, even fast shots and marginal light, opting to increase the ISO instead of truly metering for the light and possible blur, which creates a photo with a lot of “noise”, or graininess, in the dark areas or even all through the photo.

I also wanted one that could take regular old batteries I could buy off the shelf in a pinch, like if I was at an event and my battery died, but most cameras have proprietary batteries now. That’s because we demand this kind of speed and clarity, and regular batteries can deliver that but at the cost of battery life. Manufacturers design batteries best suited to the camera’s needs. I don’t like it, but everything is a compromise.

So if you’re curious, I got a Panasonic Lumix DMC-FH27, moving away from my loyalty to Pentax because I’m not happy with their point and shoots, though I love my DSLR. The shutter is satisfyingly fast so I’m getting the shots I’m planning, though the recovery time is a little long, and for the most part there is little blur and fast action and low light are handled with agile blur correction and very little film grain.

And it’s good with color. Looking at the photo of Mimi, though the sun is shining the room is dark because I had the blind pulled down. There is no camera shake evident, and this camera even managed to capture the delicate tones of brown in both Mimi and the mahogany headboard. I had to open the shadows a little in Photoshop because they were a little bit saturated, and the brightest areas have lost their detail. But this camera handled this shot better than most of the previous point and shoots, even handling the focal length without distortion. For a shot like this, instead of getting up close to my subject, I back up a little a zoom in so that she isn’t foreshortened.

Slideshow to come some time this week, but at least here’s one report. Now back to the second coat of paint on my studio walls.

Photographs and Memories

cat sprawled on bed

Sophie having a good nap

I’ve been working on a design project using my artwork, so I’m digging back through recent digital photos and farther back into the years of film prior to that to find my shots of the artwork as I work on my layout.

Digging through photos is not unusual as I use my own photos for my design assignments all the time. But this is different—these are commissioned portraits of cats through the years and the memories the portraits bring back, mingled with the memories of all the cats I’ve known through the years, is like a review of my cats, of my art, of my past 20 years and where it’s all led me.

And as I look through them an old song simply begins to play in my memory as well.

Photographs and memories…

photo of cat on desk

Peaches is ready to eat.

Just last year, there is Peaches, and though I knew she was ill and our time was limited, we still had wonderful days, she a part of each moment I was home. Her petite frame, her creamy white fur with the big peach and gray patches, her quiet self-centeredness and her devoted expressions greet me from photos of her from nearly every day until October when she passed.

three cats

One of these things is not like the other.

And there with her is Dickie, that big silly tabby cat I fostered for a year who managed to fit right in with everyone in the household, trying to look like one of the girls on the cabinet in the kitchen so he could get some of their food, sleeping in one of his truly bizarre positions, bathing Kelly in the library.

Cookie and Namir and Me

The year before that I find Namir and Cookie and I out in the yard for that last splendid June mingled with photos of the flowers as they bloomed, the two of them trailing me around as if I needed supervision, the yard lush and green.

mimi nursing kittens

Mimi's first night here.

Then I find the year of Mimi and the Big Four as they grew from black fluffballs to rangy juveniles, back when they were hardly more than just another momcat and litter of kittens who needed homes, before they all stole my heart.

All that I have are these
To remember you…

black cat on table


Before them I find Lucy, their half-sister who I lost so young, lithe and active, a part of every scene, already a subject.

two calico cats

Peaches and Cream first day.

Back to the time when Peaches and Cream were strangers who had just arrived, and when Peaches officially joined the household.

two cats on bricks

Stanley and Moses

There is Moses, quiet and gray, reclining in the sun on the bricks just outside the basement door, Stanley accompanying me in my garden, all the greenery noticeably smaller than a few years later in Namir and Cookie’s photos.

photo of a cat at a window with lace curtain

Sophie Keeps an Eye on Thingsn photo © B.E. Kazmarski

Sophie peeks at me through the lace curtains, blue forget-me-nots filling the windowbox just outside the window; I am so glad I turned around to see her and quickly snapped that shot as I was leaving the house one evening.

calico cat on couch

Where is Nikka?

I wonder why I photographed my Recamier, a piece of furniture I no longer have in my house, and there I see Nikka, the dilute tortie, nearly lost in the floral pattern.

white cat in garden

Sally of the Garden

I am again filled with wonder at the beauty of Sally’s glowing, silky white fur as she simply sits in the sun, and laugh when I see her sleeping in the shade under the Brussels sprout plants.

Memories that come at night
Take me to another time
Back to a happier day…

orange cat in sunshine


Then, as I move farther and farther back through the boxes of prints sorted into envelopes I watch my household grow younger, I see them walking on different floors and draped on different furniture, cats who’ve been gone five, ten, fifteen years reappear. Allegro sits on the windowsill soaking in the winter sun.

two cats

Kublai with Fawn

cat in sink

Cookie in the Sink

Kublai frolics in the deep snow the winter it was two feet deep from nearly November to April.  There is Fawn comforting Kublai in the last year of his life as a puzzling, undiagnosed illness caused him to waste away to nothing. Cookie amply fills up a pedestal sink in the bathroom I removed years ago.

two kittens

Smudge and Timmy

gray and white cat nursing two gray kittens outdoors

A Stray Cat with Her Kittens

There are the leagues of foster cats, individuals, momcats and litters of kittens, who I scooped up from a back road, trapped in a barn or accepted from someone who simply didn’t want to or couldn’t keep anymore who lived with me for days to weeks to months, but who went on to other loving homes, their “portrait shots” showing them from all angles and closeups of their faces intended for a dozen or so reprints to hand out to friends to help find them homes in the old-fashioned way before electronic communications made it so easy.

But we sure had a good time
When we started way back when…

two cats

Namir and Kelly beginnings.

And through this I am reminded of the first meetings with each of the cats who came to spend their lives with me, however brief or long that life was.

At one time each of them was a refugee and stranger, and that it was only by the chance of not being adopted that they came to stay with me.

How was I fortunate enough that these cats who I grew to love so desperately came to stay with me?

cat under bed

The photo

cat peeking out from under bed

Waiting for Mom, pastel © B.E. Kazmarski

Because among all these photos is me with my dreams, behind the scenes, behind the camera, learning to see, to plan, to think in different media, following their lead as they showed me their inner beauty, taught me about sunlight on their fur, looked intently at me to be sure I’d learned the lesson.

I didn’t know where I’d end up, but I knew that in these photographs of the lessons they gave me were what would lead me to…today.

black and white cats

The photo

image of block print

Awakening, block print

I see the photos that became paintings, sketches, block prints—Fawn peeking out from under the bed, Stanley on the table, Moses on the pink sweater, Kublai and Sally curled together like yin and yang, each of the works a combination of studying their movements and their personalities, and finding that one special moment that I found exceptional with each of them, instilling my love for them as I worked.

Through their patient, constant guidance I was directed from simply seeing, to visualizing, to realizing not only what I saw but what I felt, I photographed, remembered the moment within and without me, and put that on paper as best I could.

cat on table

The photo

pastel painting of a cat sleeping on a table

After Dinner Nap, my Stanley, pastel painting © B.E. Kazmarski

Others saw my paintings of my cats, saw perhaps my talent and skill but also how I felt about each of them, and asked if I could celebrate their beloved animal companions in the same way. I had thought that no one could love their cats as much as I loved mine, but in discussing their portrait with each of the people who commissioned me I learned that each of us loves our animal companions just as deeply, and that having people not only give me photos but also stories of love and devotion are essential to a good portrait.

pastel painting of black cat

Are You Looking at Me?

Sharing all of this led a richness to my life I would never have known in any other chosen profession, and even my decision to work at home as a commercial artist was influenced by the desire to create more time and space  for this artwork.

Photographs and memories
All the love you gave to me
Somehow it just can’t be true
That’s all I’ve left of you.

But we sure had a good time
When we started way back when…

photo of white cat sitting in sun

Speckle Sally Sitting, my Sally, photo © B.E. Kazmarski

I look around my home and there they are, in the flesh, on the walls, in boxes of photos and books of sketches, every moment of life with them an inspiration to do more, to try a new style or medium, to simply awaken my senses to shape and color and the essence of an image. If I ever leave a legacy it will be because of them. I thank them every day for giving me this life.

Thanks to Jim Croce for such a sweet song: “Photographs and Memories” © 1973 EMI Records

Arrangement of Two Black Cats

two black cats

Arrangement of Two Black Cats

It is what it says.

I watch them all the time, of course, and sometimes, by their own random movements, they form the most wonderful compositions. A turn of the head, two shapes in the same space that complement each other, how their shapes catch the light, the glint of their eyes in inky fur, it’s part inspiration by feline, part abstract arrangement.

Mewsette and Mr. Sunshine are not looking at each other or touching each other, yet they are interacting and the space between them becomes as important as themselves. I watched the two move about on their own and shot several photos until this one had that positive-negative balance I was looking for.

That’s one of the reasons why I desaturated this one to appear black and white, and I also increased the contrast so the dense black shapes are the boldest elements in this image.

And aside from their wonderful personalities, that’s the wonderful thing about having all these black cats around the house, their shapes become patterns and elements in addition to being living beings. I am constantly visualizing feline-patterned things and soon enough I’m going to have to do something about all those ideas.

Must Clean Toes

cat washing paw

Must Clean Toes

Kelly carefully washes between each toe on one paw, then methodically continues with the rest, her tail happily curled in a semi-circle as she enjoys the spring sunshine.

I’m glad I don’t have to lick my toes clean. Even though I’ve watched my cats for years, I still can’t figure out how they keep themselves so clean by licking themselves. Kelly is a constant bather, and knowing her fastidious personality I’ve always thought she was trying to organize all her tortoiseshell speckles into some sort of order.


black cat at top of stairs

Mewsette is ready for me.

Hi! I’m here! I raced you up the stairs and I beat you to the top! I ran around and I’ve been waiting for you! What are we going to do? This is so exciting! Are we going to make the bed? And you’ll pet me and kiss me on the forehead? Or are we going in the bathroom where I can play in the tub? Is Cookie coming too? Then what do we do? I can’t wait! I’m so excited!

Mewsette really does race me up the stairs, and she’s so happy she does a wheelie at the top—stands up on her hind legs then does a little hop and runs in a little circle. Then she turns around and rubs her whole self against the edge of the wall, and as if she’s not big enough already, she arches her back and stands on her hind toes, and arches her tail. Mousse has a whispery purr and a soft and gentle “rouw?” of a meow and she puts forth all her ample happiness as a greeting to me, offering me her plush forehead to be kissed.

How wonderful to be so happy for simple things. My cats always remind me of the importance of simple things. Perhaps it’s their greatest gift to themselves and to me.

Let Us At Him

four black cats at window

Let Us At Him

I’m sure the squirrel is glad for the screen.

Then again, this particular squirrel likes to sit outside the window and make faces at the kids.

Still, I’m sure he’s glad for the screen.

Memorial Day Cat Adoption Special at WPHS

adult cats in cages

The adult cats at adoption event.

$0 Adoption on all cats over the age of 6 months…that’s right, adopt an adult cat for free!

“We are absolutely overflowing …” says Gretchen Feiser, Director of PR and Business Relationships at the Western Pennsylvania Humane Society. “I have over 200 cats ready for adoption and many more that need a foster home … The Western PA Humane Society’s North Shore and Fallen Timber Shelters are BOTH FULL of felines!”

A few days ago, she noted that the WPHS was taking in 50 to 60 cats PER DAY. Obviously, the situation is desperate, and cats must be adopted or fostered.

Normal adoption rules apply.

  • complete a cat adopter survey
  • adopting a cat (6 months or older)
  • lease must clearly state cats are permitted (pet deposit paid if applicable)
  • limit to two adoptions per household
  • must have photo id with proof of residence

Fee waived adoptions limited to shelter locations only.

Can’t adopt? How about fostering?

kittens back

Four kittens from the back of the cage.

Fostering cats saves more lives than you might imagine. Nursing mothers with kittens can relax in a quieter atmosphere than a shelter, and kittens grow up much more acclimated to a home and so risk fewer behavior issues. You can nurse a sick animal back to health in less time than it would take in a shelter. And there are always the neonatal kittens and puppies who need to be literally nursed by a human because they’ve lost their mom.

And last but not least, when cage space is at a premium animals are welcome to go home with a loving family for a two week cage break to enjoy themselves with a family, leaving space for other homeless pets.

All fostering is done with the assistance of the clinic at WPHS, which provides any veterinary care or medications the animals would need, and the animals return to the shelter to be adopted. Young animals and mom cats return to the shelter when the time is right for spay and neuter, ill animals only when they are well, and adults who need a cage break remain on the adoption list even while they are in a foster home.

Here is the link to information on fostering for the WPHS:

No room in your inn, but still want to help?

I can understand that one—at the moment, I have no extra space to foster and I feel really bad about that! But you can still help by encouraging others to adopt or foster, or donating money or food so WPHS can carry the overflow of animals and cover the cost of care and meals.

Here is the link to make a donation:, but to donate food or goods please contact the shelter to see what they need: 412-321-4625.

NOTE: the cats pictured in this post are not currently adoptable cats at WPHS but are my own file photos from offsite adoption events and at the shelter.

How Do You Like Them Apples?

tortie cat with apples

How do you like them apples?

Not sure if Cookie is espousing the apple-a-day ideal, but she sure seems to be enjoying sitting in the sun.

Or perhaps she’s worried about the apples. Cookie does things like that, sits near things that need to be fixed or moved or where something is somehow amiss. A few weeks ago, the sun didn’t come in the window at this angle, so the apples were safely out of the sun—and kitties weren’t necessarily inspired to sit there in the shade. Now that the sun has moved so have the kitties, but I’ll have to move the apples myself. Kitties don’t do that kind of work.

One More Easy Sunday Photo…

three cats sleeping on the bed

One More From Sunday

Perhaps I’m just wishing yesterday had lasted one more day, but I remembered this photo  as well as the one I posted. I actually went upstairs periodically through the afternoon and photographed them as they displayed all possible attitudes of relaxation on the bed in my shady bedroom.

Mimi usually sleeps in a ball but here relaxes, stretching her legs to touch Mr. Sunshine who is curled, head upside down, ready for a belly rub in his fuzzy belly if any human might consider it, and Cookie is fast asleep as only 19-year-old cats can be. They radiated peace and harmony.

Allie Really Needs a Home!

Shelters are full of moms and kittens and FosterCat wants to help as many as possible. Allie is ready to go home and that will free up space in her foster home to help save more cats and kittens. She needs to be the only cat—do you know anyone who might be able to adopt her?

Hi. My name is Allie. I am about two-and-one-half years old, so I am still just a baby myself.

I was found in a park in McKeesport in May 2009 with my five babies. A lady took us home until she could get us into Fostercats. We went to live with another lady, who still has me. My babies have found great homes, but I am still looking for that perfect person.

I am not shy, so I am great with people, even kids who will play with me, and even a dog might be okay. I love to play with flippy toys or just run around the house like a crazy cat. When I am ready to settle down, I like to do some snuggling. I will accept little kisses on the head as only a queen can. If you have a couple of sunny windows I can perch in to watch nature, I would love that.

I am frisky, a little feisty, and have some attitude, but I also have lots of love to give—just not to other cats, and that’s been the problem with people who’d like to adopt me because they already have other cats. It’s also the problem with being in a foster home, because there are other cats here too.

I would prefer to be an only pet, as I need to be the queen of my castle. Do you think I would be the perfect fit for you?

FosterCat would love to find Allie a fur-ever home before she reaches her second year anniversary in a foster home in May 2011. Allie’s birthdate is around September 1, 2008. She is spayed, tested for feline leukemia and negative, has all her shots and everything else a kitty could need to come home with you. If you’re interested in Allie, you’ll also find her on the Adopt Me! page on the FosterCat website and scroll down to find Allie’s photo.

fostercat logo

FosterCat Inc.

Foster Cat, Inc. is all about saving lives. It’s as simple as that. We are an all-volunteer non-profit organization dedicated to the proposition that all cats and kittens deserve safe, loving, permanent homes.

Our foster parents provide temporary care for cats and kittens in their homes until they can be placed for adoption. Their compassion provides the second chance that so many stray, abandoned or homeless kitties need, and the satisfaction of knowing that they have helped save the lives of these helpless animals.

FosterCat provides training and support, medications, food and litter as needed, and absorbs all veterinary expenses associated with the care of our kitties. If you love kitties and would like to be a part of our lifesaving team, consider opening your heart and home to cats or kittens in need. We promise you won’t regret it! If you can’t foster, you can still help save lives as a volunteer or supporting member.