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.

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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.


Tortie Girls Block Prints in Black with Red

block print in black ink with red mat

The Roundest Eyes, black ink in rice paper, red mat, black frame, 12" x 16"

What enchanted me first about block prints, and what I wanted most to see when I began creating with them, was the clarity of black ink on white rice paper. While I often use other colors and types and even prints of paper, the black on white is what I usually return to.

Even when the image is my tortie girls, usually also tinted with oranges and yellows and green for their eyes, pink for nose as I had designed. When I initially print them they are that familiar black on white, and all the cuts and trims I made on the surface of the block to create their image makes me smile as I remember designing the prints and cutting the blocks. The color completes the design, but I always save a few prints back to leave in black on white.

And when I was studying Japanese block prints and other similar styles of art from eastern countries a certain shade of red often seemed to accompany them, and it still seems appropriate, so I include that rich red mat with a black frame to complete the color scheme.

Each image is 8″ x 12″, signed and numbered, with acid-free rich red mat. Frame is 12″ x 16″ black matte-finish wood frame 3/4″ wide and 1-1/4″ deep, almost like a box with the print on the top.

“The Roundest Eyes” (at top)
Sometimes when I look at Kelly the only feature I can distinguish in all those tortie markings is her extremely round eyes. Find this print in my Etsy shop.

“The Goddess” (below)
Well, everyone knows a fat cat who knows she’s beautiful, and Cookie would tell you that a woman with a round shape was once most desirable and an object of worship. That’s why I call her “The Goddess”. Find this print in my Etsy shop.

matted and framed block print

The Goddess, black ink on rice paper, red mat, black frame, 12" x 16.

framed block print of tortoiseshell cat

The Roundest Eyes, hand colored.

And the usual colors

You can also find the hand-colored prints in my Etsy shop, though they have different mats to coordinate with the hand-coloring, and a slightly larger frame. Find the girls in my Etsy shop under “Prints”.

I have also printed the girls on white t-shirts. You can also find these in my Etsy shop under T-shirts.

I also occasionally have other items, usually textiles, printed with the tortie girls. In the past I’ve had curtains, placemats, tablecloths and runners, and I’ve been working on those at the same time as these prints. You’ll see them soon.

awakening block print with red mat

Awakening, matted and framed, linoleum block print © B.E. Kazmarski

And another block print in black with a red mat

While I offer this print both black only and hand-colored, and in a variety of mat colors, I still like it best in black and white and it’s striking with the red mat. This combination was popular at Valentine’s Day so I’ve prepared a few more to have for any time of the year. Read about “Awakening” or find it on Etsy.

About Block Printing

I really enjoy working in this medium and I can free myself from the traditional media and a greater realism in rendering. Linoleum block printing is a technique wherein the artist carves the surface of a piece of artist’s linoleum, leaving raised areas which will become the image. Ink is rolled onto these raised areas, then a piece of paper is pressed against the block and when it’s lifted away the ink remains, leaving the image on the paper.

The resulting work isn’t a one-time thing, but meant to be printed multiple times–and I do, on just about anything I can think of. They all start out on paper, but they’ve been printed on t-shirts and dresses and aprons and curtains, to name a few things. I will sometimes add color to them with watercolor or dyes to give them extra interest. The resulting work, even though they are all printed from the same block, is a unique print, still handmade by the artist.

Because of the nature of the medium, each print is unique and ink coverage is not always perfect. Most artists consider this random activity to be part of the process of creating an individualized print, and along with the hand-painting makes a unique work of art.

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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.


Favorite Daily Sketches Available on Etsy

framed painting of sleeping cat

Kelly in Warm Colors, framed pastel, 8" x 10" © B.E. Kazmarski

You could say this is a People’s Choice Gallery! I appreciate the feedback and requests about my daily sketches on The Creative Cat. According to what you’ve asked I’ve expanded the gallery of daily sketches in my Etsy shop to include both framed originals and digital prints as well as a few framed prints. I am working on framing for others as well. If there’s a sketch you’d like to see in my Etsy shop, please speak up!

Above is “Kelly in Warm Colors” in a frame I hand-tinted in tones of gold to match the warm colors in the sketch. For the mats I used a forest green suede-finish mat for that wonderful richness it imparts and the natural patterning of suede that mimics my blending and fingering style when I work my pastel on drawing paper, and a gold liner mat that brings a little bit of reflected light next to the painting. Overall it’s 8″ x 10″, and I’m very pleased to see this sweet little sketch in this more finished form. I am also offering it as a digital print, and in the very near future will also offer this and many others as small prints on stretched canvas—my first proofs of these have worked well and been very attractive. Read more about this sketch from the day I posted it.

Other small and colorful works

Here are a the other small and colorful sketches I’ve added to my gallery.

framed oil pastel sketch of cat

Grape Jelly Bean, framed oil pastel, 8" x 10" © B.E. Kazmarski

Read more about Grape Jelly Bean from the day I posted it. I learned the art and skill of picture framing years ago when I had an estimate on framing the first of my own cat portraits. Now I purchase directly from wholesale suppliers and often from manufacturers and a portion of my studio and my time is devoted to keeping my matboards, frames, glass, finishes and specialized tools for framing. But I’ll often shop for quality pre-made frames for smaller art because it’s often less expensive.

framed watercolor of cat

Colorful Kelly, framed watercolor, 8" x 10 © B.E. Kazmarski

Read more about Colorful Kelly from the day I posted it. I love these wide, plain white frames I found! The moment I saw them I knew they’d be perfect for these small simple and colorful paintings.

framed print of oil pastel painting

Two Cats After van Gogh, framed digital print, 8" x 10" © B.E. Kazmarski

Read more about Two Cats After van Gogh from the day I posted it. The weathered white frame is nice for small colorful works as well. I had spent some time playing around with customizing mat boards and wide wooden unfinished frames to coordinate with these three works, above, but no matter what I did it just overwhelmed the works. I decided to let them speak for themselves, and these simple frames to do that with just the addition of complementary, unpatterned mats.

The original sketch of “Two Cats After van Gogh” actually sold before I had the chance to post it, but I’ve decided to offer a print framed as the original in its place.

Larger sketches in one or two colors

Several pencil, charcoal, ink and conté sketches were also popular, and I’ve framed the first group for which I gathered complementary frames and mats. In addition to retail frames and custom framing, I also “repurpose” older frames which I purchase at thrift shops, and I have a constant supply which friends give me rather than tossing them in the trash or donating them. Matching art with frames is just as fun.

framed pencil sketch of cats on a bed

Curled on the Bed, framed pencil sketch, 12" x 14" © B.E. Kazmarski

Read more about Curled on the Bed from the day I posted it. I’ve had this frame for a while with its little scrolly pattern in a dull gold with a blue-gray wash that fills the areas between the curlicues. I had intentionally included background details in this sketch and thought this frame would help to bring them forward with both the pattern and color.

framed pencil sketch of three cats on bed

Three Cats, framed pencil sketch, 12" x 16" © B.E. Kazmarski

Read more about Three Cats from the day I posted it. I use this black molding for a number of things and its matte finish always takes as a very dense black, but that contrasts well with the more delicate pencil lines and shadings of one of my first daily sketches—the one that inspired me to begin posting daily sketches, in fact. I used softer tones with this, a mauve marbled top mat and solid mauve liner mat, to enhance the idea of peaceful rest demonstrated by three cuddling kitties.

framed pencil sketch of three cats eating

Dinnertime!, framed pencil sketch, 12" x 16" © B.E. Kazmarski

Read more about Dinnertime! from the day I posted it. This sketch of the three girls is one of my favorites, and because Kelly and Cookie are torties with touches of orange and Mimi has a good bit of mahogany in her fur I used a rust-colored liner mat to recall those tones, and a silver-gray marbled mat to complement the pencil.

framed pencil and watercolor sketch of cat

Peaches' Nap Spot, pencil with watercolor, 12" x 16" © B.E. Kazmarski

This sketch is not one of the current set I’ve been posting on The Creative Cat, but from a few years ago when I did sketches around the house occasionally, featuring sweet little Peaches. I’ve used this sketch to illustrate stories and also offer it as a greeting card, but the original has been tucked into a sketch book for safe keeping; I decided to frame it along with these others.

conte sketch of three cats

Massive Cuddle Puddle, conté and charcoal, 11" x 14" © B.E. Kazmarski

Read more about Massive Cuddle Puddle from the day I posted it. The full name of this sketch is “Massive Cuddle Puddle Blocks Major Work Space” and coordinates with a few photo posts from a day when my desk was piled high with cats cuddling under the kitty keep-warm lamps. It has surprised me that a medium like conté, which is not very well-known outside of art classes though it’s been around for centuries, was immediately popular with readers. I like its expressiveness and the richness of its colors, especially the red which mimics the natural red earth color often used in traditional art and craft and dating back to prehistoric cave paintings. The top mat on this matches that red color in a red earth toned suede-finish mat, again mimicking the swirls in the conte as it does in my pastels.

Sold Originals, but available as prints and more

painting of two cats

Purple Cats, Red Blanket, ink and watercolor © B.E. Kazmarski

Above is Purple Cats, Red Blanket, felt-tip ink technical drawing pen with watercolor washes, signed and dated 1/6/12. This painting sold, and thanks to the buyer for your wonderful complements. I love to see my art go to good homes just as much as I love to see my rescued kitties go to good homes! I’m offering full-size digital prints of this, and I have a small stock of small note cards. I’ll be offering it again at Valentine’s Day as a Valentine, and also as a blank greeting card. See it here on Etsy.

oil pastel sketch of two cats

Two Cats After van Gogh, oil pastel © B.E. Kazmarski

The original of this tiny oil pastel sketch also sold to another good home! I’m offering a print framed as the original on Etsy as well as digital prints, and I’m also looking forward to publishing this as a greeting card and in other forms as well. The 5″ x 7″ stretched canvases look nice (you’ll see), and it makes a cool little notebook cover too. We’ll see how many ways I can apply this and the other little colorful sketches. Suggestions are welcome!

Read more about Daily Sketches

Read my initial post about creating and posting my daily sketches.

See other Daily Sketches

I post my sketches here, and you can also browse them here in the menu by choosing “Daily Images>Daily Sketches“. You can find the ones available for sale by visiting my Etsy shop in Daily Sketches, Cats etc.

The Artist’s Life Series

Click here for more articles in “The Artist’s Life” series featuring my influences, inspirations, new work and new products.

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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.