A Gift for all Moms and Dads

pastel portrait of long-haired black cat

A Mother’s Day gift: Hobbes, pastel, 12″ x 15″, 2004 © B.E. Kazmarski

Did your parents pass on to you a love of animals? Did they decide one day you needed an animal companion of your own, starting you on a lifelong path of sharing your days with cats and dogs and birds and bunnies and ferrets and any other animal that came along?

watercolor of tulips

Veronica’s Tulips, watercolor, 16″ x 23″, 2008 © B.E. Kazmarski

Thank those people who gave you this gift—and I’m loosely defining mother and father because sometimes the person who shared their love of animals with you was an aunt or uncle or grandparent, or even a neighbor who rescued cats or dogs. In everyone’s life is at least one special person who shared a love of animals, and in that person’s life there is often an animal companion who is or was very special to them. Read about Shadow, Casey and Ralph and a special Mother’s Day gift from 2006.

And thinking a little less conventionally, consider a piece of custom art that also includes an animal. For “Veronica’s Tulips”, right, this pet mom got the painting for herself, and wanted both flowers and, after a lifetime of rescued Schnauzers also wanted a Schnauzer in her painting, though not to represent any individual she had lived with. This was the very natural solution.

I’m offering 10% off the purchase of a portrait certificate or a commissioned portrait that is booked between now and Mother’s Day—and Father’s Day as well. Portraits take up to four weeks, especially with framing and then shipping, but we can work things out with certificates and portraits that are done some time in the next two months.

About Commissioned Portrait Gift Certificates

sample portrait certificate

Sample Commissioned Portrait Certificate

The certificate itself is 8.5″ x 11″ and features a collage of portrait images with the recipient’s and giver’s names, printed on parchment cover stock. The whole thing is packaged in a pocket folder and includes a brochure, a letter from me to the recipient and several business cards.The certificate package can be easily mailed or wrapped as a gift and shipped directly to your recipient.

I can also make it downloadable if you’re in a hurry.

Portrait certificates are a minimum of $125.00 because that is the minimum cost of a portrait.

Certificates are good for up to one year after issue.

Mother’s Day Discounts in my Etsy Shop

Use MOTHERSPORTRAIT10 to receive 10% off the purchase of a portrait certificate or of the cost of a commissioned portrait (we will discuss the portrait and I will give you an estimate).

Use MOTHERSDAY10 to receive 10% off the purchase of Mother’s Day gifts, which may include a portrait certificate or of the cost of a commissioned portrait.

sketch of man holding black and white cat

Fred and Simba © B.E. Kazmarski

Father’s Day Discounts in my Etsy Shop

Think guys aren’t cat daddies? I’ll be telling more about Fred and Simba, at left, in a few weeks, but trust me they aren’t the only cat and guy combinations around.

Use FATHERSPORTRAIT10 to receive 10% off the purchase of a portrait certificate or of the cost of a commissioned portrait (we will discuss the portrait and I will give you an estimate).

Use FATHERSDAY10 to receive 10% off the purchase of Mother’s Day gifts, which may include a portrait certificate or of the cost of a commissioned portrait.

Take a look at other portraits and read other stories

Read articles here on The Creative Cat featuring current and past commissioned portraits.

Read about how I create commissioned portraits.

Purchase a gift certificate for a commissioned portrait.

Visit my website to see portraits of my cats, commissioned cats, commissioned dogs, people and a demonstration of how I put a portrait together from photos.

Commissioned Cat Portraitsportrait of black cat in wicker chair Commissioned Dog Portraitspastel portrait of dogs

All images used on this site are copyrighted to Bernadette E. Kazmarski unless otherwise noted and may not be used without my written permission. Please ask if you are interested in purchasing one as a print, or to use in a print or internet publication.


A Very Special Mother’s Day in 2006

watercolor portrait of dog and two cats

Shadow, Casey and Ralph, watercolor, 12" x 16", 2006 © B.E. Kazmarski

Several years ago, a couple who had each had me paint portraits of their cats Dusty and DeVille as gifts for each other decided they wanted to give her mother a portrait of her mother’s dog and two cats as a Mother’s Day gift. They all shared the same love for their animal companions, and Shadow, the dog, was growing older. All the animals were rescues, adopted from shelters.

detail of portrait

Shadow's face; Shadow was black with a lot of mahogany in his fur.

The two went about sneaking photographs from her mother and mailing them to me. The very first portrait I had done for them was a watercolor of his cat Dusty and the second a pastel of her cat DeVille, but for this portrait they chose watercolor.

detail of orange cat's face

Casey's face, clear stripes and yellow eyes.

Most of my portraits are pastel but I enjoy the break when I the commission is a different medium. I looked forward to it, studying the photos and visualizing the colors and the brushes I’d use for fur and stripes and animal eyes and noses, seeing the brush strokes on the watercolor paper.

detail of portrait

Ralph, deep orange and white, and a little timid.

They gave her the portrait in my studio

When portraits are gifts, I am rarely present for the giving but in this case they decided to present it here because they wanted her mother to meet me. She actually had no idea why she was coming to this stranger’s house, just appreciating the day out with her daughter and son-in-law.

I had the framed portrait on my easel in the corner covered with a silk scarf I keep for the occasion. This was several years ago and I now work upstairs, but I have always kept an easel in the corner of my “office” downstairs, the room intended to be a living room into which you enter, for presentation and display of current work. At the right time of day you can see right into the room so I’ve always been careful when people were coming to visit their portraits that they couldn’t see them before they even came into my house.

pastel portrait of tabby and white cat

DeVille, pastel, 10" x 12", 2005 © B.E. Kazmarski

They introduced me and my household of cats, and we talked about our pets while we had snacks and iced tea. Then I slipped into the kitchen and they took over, leading their mother to the easel and letting her know the purpose of the visit, pulling the scarf off the portrait so she could see Shadow, Casey and Ralph. I re-entered the room; it was a wonderful moment to share with the three of them.

They were sure her mother would love a portrait of her companions, and I knew if her mother was anything like the couple I had gotten to know there was no better Mother’s Day gift—not only recognizing and sharing her mother’s love for her pets, but also the gift the daughter had obviously inherited from her mother, a loving and generous heart and compassion for people and animals.

detail of portrait

Detail of DeVille.

A Mother’s Day Special, and Father’s Day too

Did your parents pass on to you a love of animals? Did they decide one day you needed an animal companion of your own, starting you on a lifelong path of sharing your days with cats and dogs and birds and bunnies and ferrets and any other animal that came along?

Thank those people who gave you this gift—and I’m loosely defining mother and father because sometimes the person who shared their love of animals with you was an aunt or uncle or grandparent, or even a neighbor who rescued cats or dogs. In everyone’s life is at least one special person who shared a love of animals, and in that person’s life there is often an animal companion who is or was very special to them.

I’m offering 10% off the purchase of a portrait certificate or a commissioned portrait that is booked between now and Mother’s Day—and Father’s Day as well. Portraits take up to four weeks, especially with framing and then shipping, but we can work things out with certificates and portraits that are done some time in the next two months.

About Commissioned Portrait Gift Certificates

sample portrait certificate

Sample Commissioned Portrait Certificate

The certificate itself is 8.5″ x 11″ and features a collage of portrait images with the recipient’s and giver’s names, printed on parchment cover stock. The whole thing is packaged in a pocket folder and includes a brochure, a letter from me to the recipient and several business cards.The certificate package can be easily mailed or wrapped as a gift and shipped directly to your recipient.

I can also make it downloadable if you’re in a hurry.

Portrait certificates are a minimum of $125.00 because that is the minimum cost of a portrait.

Certificates are good for up to one year after issue.

Mother’s Day Discounts in my Etsy Shop

Use MOTHERSPORTRAIT10 to receive 10% off the purchase of a portrait certificate or of the cost of a commissioned portrait (we will discuss the portrait and I will give you an estimate).

Use MOTHERSDAY10 to receive 10% off the purchase of Mother’s Day gifts, which may include a portrait certificate or of the cost of a commissioned portrait.

Father’s Day Discounts in my Etsy Shop

Use FATHERSPORTRAIT10 to receive 10% off the purchase of a portrait certificate or of the cost of a commissioned portrait (we will discuss the portrait and I will give you an estimate).

Use FATHERSDAY10 to receive 10% off the purchase of Mother’s Day gifts, which may include a portrait certificate or of the cost of a commissioned portrait.

Take a look at other portraits and read other stories

Read articles here on The Creative Cat featuring current and past commissioned portraits.

Read about how I create commissioned portraits.

Purchase a gift certificate for a commissioned portrait.

Visit my website to see portraits of my cats, commissioned cats, commissioned dogs, people and a demonstration of how I put a portrait together from photos.

Commissioned Cat Portraitsportrait of black cat in wicker chair Commissioned Dog Portraitspastel portrait of dogs

All images used on this site are copyrighted to Bernadette E. Kazmarski unless otherwise noted and may not be used without my written permission. Please ask if you are interested in purchasing one as a print, or to use in a print or internet publication.


Did I Hear There Was Milk? 2011

tortoiseshell cat curved in bath

Graceful Kelly

Funny, when I looked at this photo the first thing I thought was, “If I saw Kelly like this today, this would be a daily sketch.” Aha, I see a little farther into this that I was getting the daily sketch urge this far back in 2011, yet it took me until December to actually get around to it. Glad I did. As usual, I have a cat to thank for one of my creative efforts.

Kelly shapes herself into a graceful curve in mid-bath as I open the refrigerator door.

I don’t give my cats milk very often, but Kelly gets on these kicks where she demands it whenever I open the refrigerator door. I don’t usually give it to her, but I guess it doesn’t hurt to ask because every now and then, on my silly whim, out comes the little milk dish and Kelly gets a treat.

But Kelly is just so pretty here bathing gracefully in front of the plants. In fact, Kelly is graceful no matter what she does.

And I think it may be time for me to grab that sketchbook as often as the camera since I’ve been visualizing sketches and paintings in greater detail every day. I used to sketch something each day, often it was my cats though it might be an interior scene or something in my yard, usually in pencil, but sometimes in other media, just to keep my fingers in the mix. So much has happened in the last few months it’s been difficult to focus on quick sketches, which demand more attention than larger works, though for shorter periods of time.

So I decided to use a little help from PhotoShop to see what Kelly would look like in a rough, impressionistic sketch. I used the same photo as above, applied the “dry brush” filter and made the brush strokes fairly large. But the filters in PhotoShop don’t produce a realistic effect. If I was teaching I would grade the products of PS filters around the mid-range, but then it’s a computer making the decisions, and creative effort is one area of human endeavor where a computer will never produce work as individual and insightful as a human being.

For instance, I work in pastel, but I’ve never seen anyone produce a pastel sketch or painting anything like what PS produces with its “rough pastels” filter, but the “dry brush” filter is somewhat like what I’d visualize in pastel. But it looked a little dull so I also had to fool around with the contrast and brightness, and I also added a 35% deep yellow “photo filter” to warm it up a bit.

Still, I want highlights and deep rich areas, and I want to see orange in Kelly and green in the plants and it just wasn’t happening, even when I went back and adjusted the original photo. I think I’d also take the red from the medallion at the top and from the bricks and add it elsewhere in the painting so everything wasn’t in basic earth tones. Those are the artistic judgments I’d make before I even started, and it never ceases to amaze me how far I wander from my reference images while painting, and yet the finished painting is perfectly acceptable. Guess I’d better get out the pastels. In the time I’d spent on this I could have had a passable sketch done! But still, this gets the little painterly cells firing in my brain. And right now Kelly is over there meowing for her dinner, so I’d better get to it.

Yes, I’d better get to it!

photoshop effect on photo

A painterly version of the same scene.

________________________________

Unless I have linked the photo to something else, which is rare with daily photos, you can click the photo to see a larger version. I save them at 1000 pixels maximum dimension, and at that size the photos are nearly twice the dimension and you can see more detail in many of the photos I post. Please remember if you download or share, my name and the link back to the original photo should always appear with it.

To see more daily photos go to “Daily Images” in the menu and choose “All Photos” or any other category.

All images used on this site are copyrighted to Bernadette E. Kazmarski unless otherwise noted and may not be used without my written permission. Please ask if you are interested in purchasing one as a print, or to use in a print or internet publication.


Kitties and Curtains and Watercolors

painting of two cats on windowsill with sheer curtain

Buster and Kitty, watercolor, 4" x 5", 1995 © B.E. Kazmarski

Back when I was just beginning in animal portraiture a friend and fellow cat rescuer showed me photos of her cats, Buster and Kitty, and offered me prints in case I’d ever like to create paintings from any of them. Though I have difficulty just keeping up with my own household I won’t turn down photos of any cats, especially those in her lovely Victorian-themed apartment.

“Cats looking out windows” has always been a favorite theme of mine. Add the delicacy of sheer ruffled curtains and I’m totally hooked. It’s the whole scene I love, the moment, even the silly one of just seeing butts and tails on the windowsill and shadowed silhouettes through the curtain. Those memories are special, and even if we’re looking at others’ cats they still call to mind our own cats at the same moments.

I knew her cats and her apartment as she knew my cats and my home. We worked together and were also cat sitters for each other, and while my visit to her house was fairly simple with her two and then three cats, I had nine cats for her to feed and pet and entertain in my house.

She and her husband purchased a home and as I pondered what would be an appropriate housewarming gift for a friend I remembered the photos, especially those two of the kitties on the windowsills. I’d do a portrait! I remembered how she had loved the traditional features of that apartment, the oak parquet floors, big rooms and high ceilings, that wide traditional molding on the windows darkened with age. And of course she loved her cats, so the combination of the two was sure to be a winner.

But which photo? The photo with both cats didn’t show their faces, and while I do like unconventional poses and scenes for portraits I didn’t feel that was enough. The other was a typical posture for Buster with his legs stretched out and “looking at his toes”, and while I pondered how to fit Kitty in there from other photos I decided I’d rather not.

I’d do them both. Just two little paintings. That solved it.

painting of black and white cat on windowsill

Buster Lookin' at His Toes, watercolor, 4" x 5", 1995 © B.E. Kazmarski

I loved the sheer curtain and the traditional wooden windowsill, but rather than my usual pastel, I had been visualizing them in watercolor all along. I was pretty new to watercolor then, just about two years into it and not too many paintings yet, but I’d been studying quite a bit of other artists’ work. I could picture how I’d render the harder shadows and highlights on the wood, and knew it would carry the gauzy shadows on the curtain. The soft shadows on the walls would be a challenge, but the cats would be a joy—meeting my favorite subject in a different medium for once, like sharing a new experience with a friend.

They are matted and framed individually, but with the same mats and frames. Unlike most other portraits I feature, you are seeing these at about the actual size they were painted.

About the kitties

Kitty was a rather large and imperious long-haired black kitty they’d adopted from a shelter, and oh how I wanted a long-haired black kitty after meeting him! My black kitty Kublai was the love of my life, but that didn’t mean I couldn’t have a crush on another, even with Kitty’s, well, cattitude. He was okay, he never swatted me—but then I’d been well-trained by Sally, my white long-haired kitty, in the fine art of knowing when “happy happy purr purr” turned into “I’m totally done with this right now.”

Buster was but one kitten from many litters born to a cat in a trailer park who simply was never spayed. The fact that a neighbor was setting out antifreeze for them to drink neither inspired the cat’s owner to get the cat fixed nor to keep them all indoors and safe. Buster’s mom and dad had recently lost a kitten they’d adopted to feline leukemia, and Buster’s dad, wanting to save at least one kitten from death by antifreeze and help ease the grief of the loss, chose one tiny black and white kitten to take home. At first, he was ordered to take the kitten back, the loss was too soon, but within hours, reconsidering the possible fate of the little guy, Buster’s mom told him to go back and get him.

And Buster is also the January kitty in my Great Rescues Calendar and Gift Book. I hadn’t seen his mom for years when I began the book and wanted to use his portrait, then realized my photos from that era weren’t up to print quality and I’d have to rephotograph it. I had the chance to look her up and visit again (and, yes, I do have that photo of Buster and Ginger, they are on the list!).

Take a look at other portraits and read other stories

Read articles here on The Creative Cat featuring current and past commissioned portraits.

Read about how I create commissioned portraits.

Purchase a gift certificate for a commissioned portrait.

Visit my website to see portraits of my cats, commissioned cats, commissioned dogs, people and a demonstration of how I put a portrait together from photos.

Commissioned Cat Portraits

portrait of black cat in wicker chair

Commissioned Dog Portraits

pastel portrait of dogs

All images used on this site are copyrighted to Bernadette E. Kazmarski unless otherwise noted and may not be used without my written permission. Please ask if you are interested in purchasing one as a print, or to use in a print or internet publication.


Scarlett and Melanie

pencil portrait of two gray cats

Scarlett and Melanie, pencil, 18" x 30", pencil © B.E. Kazmarski

A full-color rendering that covers the entire ground—paper, canvas, etc.—is often what we think of when we envision a “portrait”, but less formal portraits in drawing media have been classics for centuries as well. Sometimes they are preferred, or they may simply be more affordable.

Or, as in the case of gray tabby sisters Scarlett and Melanie, the medium might also be most appropriate.

My second commissioned portrait, ever

This portrait was in the first group of commissioned portraits, way, way back at my beginnings so the photo quality is not as good as it could be; there is no shadow left and right, it’s only that the portrait is so wide at 30″ that I couldn’t avoid shadows left and right. In those days and still today, I take the final photos of a portrait right before I frame it, which is sometimes right before I hand it over to the customer. In the days before digital when we had to wait for film to come back, and in this early time when I wasn’t the most experienced photographer of art, I had to take the best guess when I photographed and hope I’d gotten it.

That major detail aside, Scarlett and Melanie were young gray tabby sisters, the only two children of a young couple who adored them completely. I met the couple at a cat show where they were stocking up on toys and treats for their girls and I was on my maiden voyage in promoting my portraiture to the feline community, at that point showing mostly my own personal portraits and a few of those early drawings I’d framed.

Deciding to use pencil for the portrait

pencil sketch of cat

Moses in the Sun, pencil © B.E. Kazmarski

I had a gray tabby named Moses who I’d sketched in pencil and while the full color, nearly full-size and realistic portraits caught their eye and brought them in to talk to me—a portrait of their girls? how exciting! they had to have one—it was the little pencil sketch of Moses that really convinced them.

Plus, they wanted a fairly large portrait to go over their fireplace, and had the idea of a long and narrow one to fill the space. In full color with two subjects, and then framing, that would be rather expensive even in those days. I have always charged less for monochromatic drawing media such as pencil, charcoal and ink simply because, while I may spend as much time in the planning as I do for a color portrait, I spend much less time in the actual rendering.

pencil drawing of a cat on a windowsill

Sleeping Beauty, my Sally, pencil © B.E. Kazmarski

My love for drawing in pencil

I was also secretly glad because I have always been most confident in pencil. I often refer to it here as my “first and favorite medium” because I began drawing with my mother’s No. 2 pencils when I was very young, and when I returned to drawing in my early 30s at the very beginning of this career I again picked up a pencil and began drawing (read about Sally and “Sleeping Beauty”, my “first drawing”, which was also in my display that day). Even today, most often my daily sketches are in pencil because I can pick one up and begin to sketch as if the pencil itself is thinking for me. I think this was my second commissioned portrait, the other was pastel and went along fine, but I was still nervous at being able to perform and I just knew I could do it in pencil.

Performance anxiety aside, we were also considering two gray tabby cats, and what could be better for them than pencil? I could just picture it, and I think they could as well.

Planning the portrait

I visited them after the show to meet and photograph the girls and see their place, a nice, sunny newer condo with a great room and fireplace at one end, perfect for a portrait of Scarlett and Melanie. At that time, when portraits were just subject with no background, I literally had nothing in the background but the drawing surface and I often used colored drawing paper so I always matched the color to the subject. In this case I thought a color would be nice and suggested a pale blue, to which they agreed. When we estimated the size, however, the drawing would be wider than my largest sheet of drawing paper—no problem, I would use mat board, which had a laid finish much the same as my drawing paper, just a little coarser.

pencil sketch of cat in bag

In the Bag, pencil © B.E. Kazmarski

And then positioning the girls—the possibilities were wide open. They were very active and playful, very social and we talked at length about what habits they would want to immortalize. Scarlett had a habit of playing the ceiling-stare game and was also always bobbing her nose around to get a good scent, usually in order to find th nearest catnip toy.

They had seen a sketch of my Sally in a paper bag and mentioned that Melanie LOVED paper bags and they even had a photo of her in one, but should they have something silly like this in a portrait? Sure, why not, portraits don’t have to be formal things, they need to be what you want to remember.

I remember doing a quick little rough layout of the two so they could see what I had in mind (don’t know where this is now) and determined they’d be darned near life size. The mats would be deeper shades of blue and black core mats, the ones that is black on the beveled edge, and the frame would be a particular walnut with a blue wash that I had used on one of my own paintings.

pencil portrait of tabby cat with green eyes and blue collar

Detail of Melanie, with blue collar and green eyes.

In the detail above, you can see a rather hard shadow of Melanie’s head on the side of the bag; I have since learned not to be so literal with photos used in portraits. Today I’d either soften or eliminate this, but I wasn’t confident enough then to make changes that might look unnatural.

I completed the portrait and invited them to my “studio”, actually my living room at that time, to see their portrait. They excitedly approved, and then had one more request, could I add a little color for a particular reason? Since the girls were nearly identical, they kept two different color collars on them, Scarlett of course was red, and Melanie was blue (we did joke about a Union kitty since Melanie Wilkes was a Southern girl). Could I add just a little color to their collars just to make it clear which was whom? No problem, watercolor would take care of that. I added the color later, after they had left. Looking at it I decided it looked a little unbalanced now, and their eyes should have color as well. I called them with the idea and they agreed it would be fine.

pencil portrait of gray tabby cat with red collar and green eyes

Detail of Scarlett with red collar and green eyes.

I apologize for the quality of the detail shots; they are cropped out of the full portrait and are about as clear as they can be from scanning the print of the photo. In some cases I can scan the negative with better result, and if I manage to do so I’ll update the images and post an update to this post.

I have done a number of other pencil portraits as well, and you can find some of them by browsing at the links below. Pencil has always been difficult to photograph and only in the past year or two have I become at all proficient with lighting the paper to avoid shadows and flashed areas so I’m working on rephotographing all the ones I can. In the future I’ll feature those as well.

Take a look at other portraits and read other stories

Read articles here on The Creative Cat featuring current and past commissioned portraits.

Read about how I create commissioned portraits.

Commissioned Cat Portraitsportrait of black cat in wicker chair Commissioned Dog Portraitspastel portrait of dogs

Visit my website to see portraits of my cats, commissioned cats, commissioned dogs, people and a demonstration of how I put a portrait together from photos.

All images used on this site are copyrighted to Bernadette E. Kazmarski unless otherwise noted and may not be used without my written permission. Please ask if you are interested in purchasing one as a print, or to use in a print or internet publication.


Portrait “In the Sink”: Why Not?

portrait of cat in sink

Madison in the Sink, pastel © B.E. Kazmarski

Yes, he’s really in the sink! I’m so pleased with this pose.

When I work with a customer for a portrait, I ask them what comes to mind when they think about their animal companion. I advise them to choose a pose and setting as close to that visual as we can devise, using my own portraits as examples. It’s nice to have a formal setting where we can see every stripe and spot and whisker and sometimes this is entirely appropriate depending on the subject’s personality, but if they had a cute or quirky habit that can be illustrated into a portrait, we should do it!

Madison’s person is the person I grew up next door to, but haven’t seen in years after she moved away for employment and then my mother moved out of her house and I sold it. We reconnected and managed to get our mothers  together for one last visit before each fell too deep into dementia to travel around.

She had also told me she would bring photos of Madison and that she’s like to have me do his portrait. How wonderful to find out she’s just as much an “animal person” as me.

I always let my customer make the decisions for the portrait, but if I see a good photo I’ll put in my vote without hesitation. He looked so natural in the sink and I loved his expression. “Oh, he was always in that sink!” she remarked. So here he is.

She lost Madison, who was her first cat, to diabetes at only eight years old. She didn’t have too many photos, but this pose was definitely a winner! Not just because he’s cute in the sink, although he is, but also because it will make her laugh when she looks at it, and what better healing for the grief of loss than to remember with a smile. I’m so glad to know that another person, a special friend, has a portrait that shows their animal companion as they want to remember them.

close-up of Madison

Close-up of Madison

Animal fur is different from human skin, and because of texture and pattern it looks different in every photo you’ll see. In each of Madison’s photos, the details of his face were lighter or darker, the area on his chest had a collar and tag in one photo and not in another. These are common things to work around, and from both experience and real life I can fill in the details. It just so happens that I am fostering a big tabby cat who looks so much like Madison and has been a great model, and who came in just as I was finishing, that it must have been meant to be!

What I always do in building a subject, especially one I never met, is to work from the photos until I feel that I know my subject and the photos start to get in the way. Then I put them away and work with nothing but what I see with my creative eye. That’s when the essence of the personality is instilled in the portrait, and every time I’m amazed at what’s taken life on the paper. And I know by the reaction of the person who’s come to look at the work.

I never delude myself to think that a portrait can take the place of a real live animal, but it can certainly help with grief. Through the years, many customers have contacted me to let me know how much it means to have the portrait in their home, that they greet the portrait or talk to it, or visit it when they are feeling overwhelmed with loss, even that other cats have reacted to it.

The portraits work for me. I have several of my own to visit.

But on a lighter note, here is a detail shot of the faucet. All that illustration experience really paid off.

detail of faucet

Detail of faucet, why not?

Take a look at other portraits and read other stories

Read articles here on The Creative Cat featuring current and past commissioned portraits.

Read about how I create commissioned portraits.

Commissioned Cat Portraitsportrait of black cat in wicker chair Commissioned Dog Portraitspastel portrait of dogs

Visit my website to see portraits of my cats, commissioned cats, commissioned dogs, people and a demonstration of how I put a portrait together from photos.

All images used on this site are copyrighted to Bernadette E. Kazmarski unless otherwise noted and may not be used without my written permission. Please ask if you are interested in purchasing one as a print, or to use in a print or internet publication.


Daily Sketch: Mewsette as a Sunny Spring Morning

cat shape in oil pastel

Mewsette As a Sunny Spring Morning, oil pastel © B.E. Kazmarski

All the trees and shrubs are leafing out here, especially the lilac right outside the north window where the bird feeder hangs. All morning long sun dapples the new bright green leaves with constant change and movement. Through the branches I can see neighbors’ blooming apples, crabapples, the first of the azaleas and the last of my forsythia.

All this came together as I watched the light play over Mewsette’s fur and became the third variation on this theme I’ve been exploring of oil pastel on canvas paper, mottled and mixed and then scraped and scored.

I’m actually not pleased with her shape because I liked her first position by the window and her second and tried to combine them. Still, these are just sketches, and I think after this I will move them to less-textured paper. It’s been fun to work it all out.

Here are the other two paintings of Mewsette in oil pastel: Mewsette in Blues and Greens and Mewsette as a Rainy Spring Day.

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Click here to see other daily sketches.

For a gallery of the ones available for sale, visit my Etsy shop in the “Daily Sketches” section.

Read about the reason for the daily sketches in The Artist’s Life: Daily Sketches.

And read about purchasing them and requesting them as a donation item for your shelter or rescue group in The Artist’s Life: Daily Sketches for Sale and Donation.

All images used on this site are copyrighted to Bernadette E. Kazmarski unless otherwise noted and may not be used without my written permission. Please ask if you are interested in purchasing one as a print, or to use in a print or internet publication.


Think Ahead for Mother’s and Father’s Day Commissioned Portraits

sample certificate

Sample Portrait Gift Certificate

If you’re thinking of a custom portrait as a gift for someone for Mother’s or Father’s Day, let’s get started now! From our beginning conversations to shipping the finished framed portrait to you takes about four weeks, and we’ll be just in time for Mother’s Day if we start now.

I also remind people that “pet parents” are parents as well and qualify for gifts in honor of these two holidays, so why not celebrate with a gift from your animal children?

While a custom commissioned portrait is a really unique gift, sometimes you can’t get the photos or you’d rather let the recipient design the portrait they want. I offer gift certificates for portraits in any denomination, but usually suggest $125.00 because it is the basic cost of a portrait, one subject in an area of about 10″ x 12″ depending on the subject matter. (The recipient is responsible for any amount the portrait costs over $125.00.)

portrait of kids and cats

For Our Grandparents, from 1992

How about all the children together, animal and human?

And even though I specialize in animals, I also paint people, and several times have painted portraits of people and their pets. I only have a few samples because some customers have requested privacy when the subjects were children and others haven’t given permission to be on the internet.

How the certificate works

The certificate itself is 8.5″ x 11″ and features a collage of portrait images with the recipient’s and giver’s names, printed on parchment cover stock. The whole thing is packaged in a pocket folder and includes a brochure, a letter from me to the recipient and several business cards. The certificate package can be easily mailed or wrapped as a gift and shipped directly to your recipient.

If you need your certificate in a hurry, let me know when you make your purchase, give me the name of the recipient and the holiday/event if any and I’ll e-mail you PDFs of the certificate, thank you letter and brochure so that you can print them out or forward them in e-mail. Please make sure you give me the e-mail where you want to receive them, especially if they are a surprise!

portrait of cat

Christie on her warm towel.

Prices are quoted per job, and include only the drawing (no mat or framing; this is extra, see below). Portraits start at $125.00 per subject for a color 8″ x 10″; prices increase according to size and complexity of work. Adding a background, extra objects (toys, etc.) and additional subjects are extra according to their complexity. I reserve the right to limit the content according to the finished size so that the subjects don’t become so small that details are impossible. And remember, I can only do so much with some photographs!

Framing is charged as a separate item, and we can discuss the framing when you contract for your portrait.

portrait of two cats and a dog

Shadow, Casey and Ralph, a mother's day gift.

Certificate can be used for other subjects as well

Animal artwork is not limited to pictures of your own pets, but may include pictures of any sort—wildlife images, for instance. In addition to portraits of your pets, I also offer portraits of your people, your house, or any other item of which you may want a portrait. I can always hold on to a portrait until a holiday, birthday or other event arrives, and I can keep a secret if the portrait is a gift.

You are helping a long list of animal shelters and rescues

Your purchase of a certificate supports many shelters and animal welfare organizations because I also donate at least a half dozen certificates to benefit auctions every year where all proceeds of the sale go directly to the organization; your purchase helps me cover the costs of creating original art for the winners of these certificates. I’m always pleased to see they auction for more than their face value—in this way, I can “give” more to the organizations than I ever could in cash.

carol and smudge

Carol and Smudge

Read about portraits and look at samples

You can read more about custom commissioned portraits on this site by clicking the tab at the top for Commissioned Pet Portraits and from there follow the links to my website.

You can also read stories about portraits on The Creative Cat, including progress images of more recent portraits and stories of portraits I’ve done in the past.
Take a look at other portraits and read other stories

Read articles here on The Creative Cat featuring current and past commissioned portraits.

Read about how I create commissioned portraits.

Commissioned Cat Portraitsportrait of black cat in wicker chair Commissioned Dog Portraitspastel portrait of dogs

Visit my website to see portraits of my cats, commissioned cats, commissioned dogs, people and a demonstration of how I put a portrait together from photos.

To go directly to the Gift Certificate on my website, click here, or go to my Portraits of Animals shop on Etsy.

All images used on this site are copyrighted to Bernadette E. Kazmarski unless otherwise noted and may not be used without my written permission. Please ask if you are interested in purchasing one as a print, or to use in a print or internet publication.


Daily Sketch: Mewsette as a Rainy Spring Day

oil pastel drawing of cat

Mewsette As a Rainy Spring Day, oil pastel © B.E. Kazmarski

Something about the light today and Mewsette with her calm quiet look, back to the window, watching me, I got out the oil pastels for the colors, then started experimenting.

I remember years ago with a weekend part-time job in an art and framing store—after a week of being a typesetter it was a joy with the added benefit of huge discounts on materials and meeting lots of local artists who came in to have their work framed. I was just beginning as an artist, had produced my first four cat paintings an decided I needed to look into this. What I learned form being there was invaluable.

A young man came in one day with a long narrow painting of a farm with a big sky done in oil pastel, totally foreign to me at that time. I worked up his estimate and studied his painting to see how he’d applied and blended the pastels, and saw that he not only had layers and blends of pastel, but in some areas he’d actually scratched away pastel for effect. What I was as a rail fence was actually where he had used a fork to scrape away the oil pastel for the highlights on the fence rails.

That memory never left me and years later I’ve been working in oil pastel now and then to develop a familiarity with it. Here I’ve applied many colors, rubbed them into the canvas paper, scraped others off and layered another color in its place, then used what was handy as a scraper, the edge of the cap of a pen, to scrape away the pastel in the shape I wanted.

I had intended something else entirely, but what’s here is fine. I did another painting of Mewsette in oil pastel a while ago, Mewsette in Blues and Greens.

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Click here to see other daily sketches.

For a gallery of the ones available for sale, visit my Etsy shop in the “Daily Sketches” section.

Read about the reason for the daily sketches in The Artist’s Life: Daily Sketches.

And read about purchasing them and requesting them as a donation item for your shelter or rescue group in The Artist’s Life: Daily Sketches for Sale and Donation.

All images used on this site are copyrighted to Bernadette E. Kazmarski unless otherwise noted and may not be used without my written permission. Please ask if you are interested in purchasing one as a print, or to use in a print or internet publication.


Buddy and Tibbie, Portraits With Stories

Buddy

Buddy, pastel, 15.5" x 23" © B.E. Kazmarski

This was one of my first posts way back in February 2009, and a portrait I’d done for old friends and former portrait customers about ten years after I’d painted their cat, Tibbie.

Buddy’s people loved his portrait, and told me the story of how Buddy came to be a part of their lives. Hearing the story, and knowing a painting of a black lab chewing on a stick in the back yard is something most lab owners can relate to, I asked Buddy’s people if I could have prints made of the portrait to sell to others. They were thrilled! The prints are being prepared now, and the information is on my website under “commissioned dogs“, with Buddy on the top.

black lab on Oriental rug

Our first choice for a portrait pose; see "Tibbie" below...

Buddy’s story
Even though Buddy was a gift to his mom and this is her story, he hangs out with his dad, too, especially sprawled on the floor next to the favorite recliner see at right. In Buddy’s mom’s own words…

“When I was age 10 and having a particularly rough time of it, as children will do, my parents surprised me with a black lab puppy who I named Buttons. He continued to be a source of joy, and my very best buddy, until his death at age 11 ½.

“After Jack and I married at age 24, I always pointed to black labs and sighed over missing my old one, and always wanted another, but because of the usual hectic life schedule with overtime at work, etc., we never adopted another lab.

“Jack went yearly to a fund raiser banquet for Ducks Unlimited. They raffled or auctioned off decoys, prints, ceramics, etc. of water fowl, dogs, and outdoor scenes. These always included various Labrador dog items and on occasion, a live Labrador Retriever pup. The first time Jack went to the banquet, he came home and told me he got me a lab. I was beside myself, and hurried to lock away our monster cat* before he brought the dog into the house. Well, he went back out to the car and came back in with a lab print! So after that, every year our standing joke was that I asked Jack to get me a lab when he went to the banquet. Sure enough, every year, he would come home and say he had my lab. And he always brought me a lab print.

“Fast forward to our fifties, and I was having a particularly sad time of it, again. My Dad had serious health problems, and had just been in the hospital 14 times in 4 months.

detail of portrait

Detail of Buddy, pastel

“So Jack went off to his yearly banquet, and once again, I asked him to bring me a black lab. He came home early that night, and I was very surprised. So he said that there was nothing more he was interested in bidding on. When I asked if he bought anything, he just handed me AKC papers. I, literally, couldn’t stand up, and sunk to the floor crying. Jack brought the pup in, and the poor pup must have thought I was crazy. I sat on the floor, with my arms around him, crying for 30 minutes, with happiness. My dear husband wanted to cheer me up, and he couldn’t have done it better. I wanted to name the pup Buttons after my first black lab. But the pup was too big for a Buttons. He was 13 ½ weeks old and was 32 pounds. He was named the next closest thing—Buddy.

“A postscript to this story: I always prayed that when I ever did get my new lab, that he would not have some very bad habits that Buttons had. I didn’t want him to bark outside, nor to bite people in an attempt to protect me. Well, our Buddy lives up to those virtues. He can walk past the neighbors’ dogs when they are tied up, barking and growling, and he doesn’t even look over. Nothing fazes him (except food!). I would like to add, that I know Buddy really is Buttons come back to me.”

Another postscript, this time from me…painting Buddy’s portrait was a gift from friends of Buddy’s people who are also portrait customers of mine, and who recognized at Buddy’s advanced age and advancing diabetes that he may not live too much longer. They did lose Buddy a short time after this portrait was done and hanging in their home and I am glad they have this happy memory of Buddy to keep forever.

Now for that Monster Cat

People look at this portrait in all its detailed glory and ask, “Why all the books and rug…?” Well, they wanted everything that was meaningful to them in their portrait, most of all Tibbie, the Himalayan kitty who was at that time 18 years old, and the Oriental rug, the leather-bound books, the hardwood floors; Tibbie had shared this elegant room and these things with them, and they wanted to remember him that way.

portrait of Himalayan cat

Tibbie, pastel, 15" x 23" © B.E. Kazmarski

Tibbie was as he appears, more than a little forbidding and more than once sending one of his people and a guest to the hospital with a bite wound for attempting to pet him. Despite his attitude, they loved him fiercely and cared for him through advanced age illnesses and he permitted them to handle him, no doubt understanding how they felt about him.

detail of portrait

Detail of Tibbie

They had initially adopted Tibbie on meeting a friends’ cat, and since the two worked long hours and traveled and both wanted pets they decided a cat sounded ideal. Tibbie’s personality precluded the adoption of any other cats to keep him company, though, except for a black cat they named Chelsea who showed up on their deck one spring and who they took in for the next ten years, overlapping with Buddy. We’ll get to Chelsea one of these days.

This portrait was one of the reasons for initially including the carpet and hard wood in the portrait of Buddy, above, because the portraits were intended to, and do, hang together; we later changed our minds when they found the photo of Buddy with the stick.

It’s a joy for me when I can have a long-term relationship with portrait customers—we began by sharing animal stories in order to produce their portrait, and so we generally continue sharing stories about the subjects and about subsequent adoptions and losses, and about all the other animals we know. How many other professions allow you to talk incessantly about your pets as part of the job?

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Read about other recent commissioned portraits here on The Creative Cat.
Read about how I create commissioned portraits.
Visit my website to see portraits of my cats, commissioned cats, commissioned dogs, people and a demonstration of how I put a portrait together from photos.

All images used on this site are copyrighted to Bernadette E. Kazmarski unless otherwise noted and may not be used without my written permission. Please ask if you are interested in purchasing one as a print, or to use in a print or internet publication.