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.


Lassie

portrait of collie in park

Lassie, pastel, 23" x 16" © B.E. Kazmarski

I was working on Lassie’s portrait when I initiated The Creative Cat, so she was the very first I featured just about three years ago today.

detail of collie portrait

Detail of Lassie's face.

Lassie was with her mom for 15 years and had just passed when her mom first called me. She was in nursing school and would graduate in the spring, and would like Lassie’s portrait for her graduation when family would be in town. A very special collie I could see by her photos, the two of them side by side into the college years and a new city.

Details like Lassie’s head tilt were very important. This face is the expressive, intelligent face her mom always remembered, when Lassie knew just what she was thinking. I just wish I’d had a slightly better digital camera then to show more of the detail here.

Lassie’s mom decided she wanted to remember Lassie in the outdoors so the portrait would have a scenic background, and its final shape would be determined by the scene. She didn’t have a photo of a favorite place, but they  both enjoyed visiting parks and trails, and I have plenty of photos of places like that I began designing with autumn backgrounds; colorful and familiar, they are very popular in canine portraits and I’ve added my autumn scenes to several other dog portraits.

idea for portrait

One of the autumn ideas.

However, Lassie kept blending into the background colors because her fur is primarily amber to brown, the same as the leaves we see, so I chose a late summer background of a rocky little stream and a row of trees in the background. The deep green of late summer grass shows off her fur to perfection and the glow of evening sun warms the scene. There was originally a tree in the near background, but I needed to get a little more detail on Lassie before I could find the best placement for the it so it won’t be distracting, and in the end we decided to leave it out.

Painting portraits of animals is plenty fulfilling and enjoyable, but I also love to paint my local landscapes so here was a painting that would be exciting in both respects, a landscape, and an animal. Not only have I worked for years to learn my palette and techniques for fur and wet noses, but also for landscapes. Here is a detail of the strip of woods from the top of the painting.

detail of portrait

Detail of edge of woods.

I thought I’d include a progress photo where the background is half done, moving from left to right, and Lassie will need her last details done, but that will be after the background is completed. Working in pastel, the colors dust over each other, especially with heavy coverage like this background and the contrasting colors.

Lassie's portrait, second proof

detail of painting

The rocks in the stream on the left.

In addition, here are two detail areas that I particularly like, the rocks on the left, and the rocks and grass on the right.

While the original portrait may look completely detailed in Lassie and in the landscape, a close-up look shows that many of the details are literally sketchy, just soft indications of light and shadow that when viewed together appear as they should.

Again, I wish I’d had a better digital camera then! I like to show these details not only for your enjoyment, but for those who have told me you are learning from these portraits as well.

detail of portrait

Detail of rocks and grass at right.

Reading things like this, in books and magazines in my day, and I still have many, was largely how I learned to do some of the things I do. I’m glad to pass it along.

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.


Nick, Slightly Unconventional

full portrait of himalayan cat

Nick, pastel, 10" x 12", 2003 © B.E. Kazmarski

Nick was a full-bred Himalayan and also a rescue cat. His person had won a certificate I’d donated to one of the animal shelter benefits and decided she wanted to remember this long-lived Himalayan cat who was just a little out of the ordinary in several ways.

For one thing, Nick was blind, and had been most of his life. The strange thing was she had no idea how long he’d been because he apparently adapted to it without notice, and for years looked right at her with those lovely blue eyes, truly seeming to focus on her face.

closeup of portrait of himalayan cat

Closeup of Nick's face.

His “sisters”, who were slightly younger, didn’t treat him any differently and he still followed all his habits, ate normally, drank his water, nothing seemed out of the ordinary. She had noticed he seemed a little “dreamy”, gazing around, perhaps not focusing his eyes, but never anything obvious like running into something or getting lost. One year, on an annual exam, her veterinarian mentioned his blindness because his pupils did not react, and that was how she found out. It didn’t seem recent, may have been months or even years, but he never seemed to mind.

For another he liked to go outdoors to patrol the yard and driveway, never going farther, and even once he was blind he apparently still followed the same patterns outdoors—though that included the winter as well. In fact, he loved snow, almost as much as he enjoyed stretching himself out on the asphalt driveway in the sun, the black surface absorbing heat and reflecting it back on to him and his sisters. I didn’t see this but laughed at her description of them as “looking like a bunch of dustmops out there on the driveway”.

And there are elements in the relationship with an animal that can’t be examined, but which make them special to us, and this is where I love my portaiture. To her Nick was decidedly out of the ordinary, she wanted a slightly looser style of portrait, something a little different. I love to loosen up, especially with lots of fur, and I also like to work my pastels on different surfaces in addition to the sanded drawing paper I typically use for fully detailed portraits. I’ll use a textured paper or add texture to a heavier drawing surface using gesso or marble dust, adding a bit of fine or coarse grit medium to hold the pastel. In this case I mixed gesso and marble dust in equal parts so that it was thick enough to hold brush strokes and brushed it in thin layers onto the the surface horizontally, then vertically, several times letting each layer dry in between, creating a varied cross-hatch linen-like surface (look closely in the closeups of his face, above, and paw, below, to see the texture).

closeup of paw

Nick's paw.

So I loosened up the lines as well, in part because on that surface it’s difficult to get the level of fine photographic detail. Also, I can rub colors into the surface of the board, then gently brush another color over the texture to create depth, as you can see in the shadow above.

photo of himalayan cat

Nick's photo.

We used a photo I took that day and he shows obvious signs of age in his posture, how his paws are held and even the texture of his fur. It’s clear that his eyes are not focused, and might be obvious to someone with experience with a blind cat that he actually could not see.

We decided to be honest about where he was in physical posture and all he looked like at that age, but to make his eyes focus as she remembered them for most of his life, even when he’d been blind.

Not wanting any objects in the portraits, we decided a blue background to match his eyes would be attractive with him and complement his fur, making it a very subtly-colored portrait using such a limited palette.

Nick was 18 when I did this portrait and I believe he lived another two years beyond.

 

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.


Two Portraits, Choose One

pastel painting of two borzoi dogs

Borzois, pastel, 1999 © B.E. Kazmarski

Too many ideas leads to two portraits, one for me and one for the customer!

Several years ago I had the pleasure of painting a portrait of two beautiful rescued Borzois, Traveller and Emma. Their person was also a friend of mine and lived in an enviable remodeled home on a few hilltop acres with wonderful light and horses romping in the pasture next door.

detail of portrait of borzois

Detail of faces.

I’d visited before and when she mentioned she’d like a portrait I began envisioning the two dogs and the places in her home and even outdoors in a fenced area where they could play. I knew she had photos but especially with larger animals, and one of them being primarily black, I was glad to be able to meet them and take photos of my own so that I could collect details. Back in the days of film, I had two 36-exposure rolls with me and all my lenses for my trusty little Pentax K-1000. The house was full of windows so lighting likely wouldn’t be an issue.

We followed the dogs around the house, Traveller, the big creamy white dog obviously being the boss and the smaller black and tan Emma following orders and feeling safe near her big brother.

photos of borzoi dogs

The inspiration for the above portrait.

She told me each had come from two different rescues from indiscriminate breeders who were breeding these huge dogs in apartments and condos. Emma was noticeably smaller than usual because there were—talk about hoarding—over 70 Borzois inside one condo. Because of that overcrowding and the sheer number of dogs, she hadn’t been socialized well and was timid and skittish, but could simply be a happy dog and feel safe around her big brother.

Their favorite room was a spacious sunroom addition at the west end of the home which their person told me had been ambitiously begun by the home’s former owners. They had decided to complete the project and the two-story space would be a paradise for any animal or human. I was enchanted by Traveller, whose head was nearly at my shoulder, and smaller Emma racing gracefully among the plants and wicker furniture and collectibles without touching a thing. I took plenty of photos of them playing along with detail shots of their faces in that wonderfully-balanced light.

collage of faces

Composite for facial portrait.

Arriving home with the photos I began to work on layouts for the portraits. She wanted a fairly large portrait and we had discussed just including their faces nearly life size, so I designed the layout with their faces above and below, befitting their relationship to each other. I could picture the colors I’d use in both creamy white and inky black fur and how I’d create the textures in each.

But I kept remembering their play in that sunny room and from one of the photos I’d taken. I designed another portrait with them standing together and a few plants around. This would not be a detailed and realistic portrait, more loose and impressionistic, capturing the light and color and motion I’d perceived. I knew my client would like that as well since I knew the work of other artists she’d purchased and commissioned as well as her other purchases of my art.

I proposed both ideas to her and showed her my layouts done in PhotoShop. She liked both as did I and we agreed I’d work up both of them and see what happened. She would choose one and I would get to keep the other, a great deal for me to have a live portrait on hand as an example.

portrait of two borzoi dogs

Traveller and Emma, pastel, 1999 © B.E. Kazmarski

In the end she chose the more realistic one of just the two faces because she wanted to remember the details of their expressions she’d loved so much, though I could tell the choice was difficult knowing how she loved an impressionistic style of painting.

I would have been happy with either one, but in the years since, whenever I’ve shown this painting in exhibits or at my tent in a festival it has always attracted people to come and study it, not just dog lovers or animal lovers, but the colors and composition are eye-catching to most people.

Borzois, framed.

Borzois, framed.

Now that I have a good digital file of “Borzois”, I have the original for sale, framed, as you see above.

And both of these are two of the canine portraits I’ll be selling as prints and art cards beginning this year. “Borzois” is currently available as a full-size giclee print in my Etsy shop. I will post the other prints here on The Creative Cat as well as on Portraits of Animals Marketplace, but you can always check my Etsy shop to see what’s available right now.

Take a look at other portraits and read other stories

Commissioned Cat Portraits

portrait of black cat in wicker chair
Commissioned Dog Portraits

pastel portrait of dogs

______________________________

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.


Creating a Portrait From Photos, Ideas and Memories

sketch on easel

A good start on this portrait.

I’m preparing to start two portraits right now, and until I get a little bit of work done on either one I’d like to give a demonstration of how I’ve put different portraits together, in this case one of multiple cats who I had the chance to meet and observe and photograph, and also to get to know the customer and her house. I created this portrait in the late 90s and you’ll see still photos, my old workspace and computer and so on, but the process is still the same.

Your animal companion as fine art

They may be prizewinners or bedraggled street survivors, but no matter—each is precious and fills our lives with joy. And our animal companions were meant to be shared; we can spend hours recounting memorable moments to fellow pet companions.

pastel painting of black cat

Made up mostly from memory..."Are You Looking at Me?" pastel © B.E. Kazmarski

And creating a lasting portrait of your animal companion should reflect all those moments in what usually ends up as a composite image of years of photos and memories. I began to create portraits with my own cats, combining not just my reference photos but my ideas, creating the pose and composition I always envisioned when I thought of them, and so I approach everyone’s portraits in the same way. This is the memory you want to cherish, and it’s a piece of lasting fine art for your wall.

For every portrait I create a composite image from many photos, both digital and film as many of our animal companions’ lives go way back before digital photos, often choosing each of the subject’s characteristics from a different photo—ears from this one, paws from another.

I like to be able to meet them as well though this isn’t always possible since many of my portraits are memorials after a pet has passed, or it may be a surprise gift for another person, and large group portraits may include animals from both past and present.

cat peeking out from under bed

She did this every day of her life..."Waiting for Mom", pastel © B.E. Kazmarski

In creating the initial composite image I can remove a background from a scene and add another, include toys or even group animals together in a way they’d never pose, and you’ll see this in the two portraits I’ve used as demonstrations, below. And the best portrait isn’t necessarily a face forward shot of a classic pose but a typical event in your pet’s daily routine, or one of those singular moments you love to tell everyone about. The more interesting, the better it describes your best friend, and the more I enjoy creating it. Working from your photographs, your custom portrait can include one or more pets and even family members (I do people, too), in pastel, pencil, pen and ink, watercolor or colored pencil.

Portraits can be any size or shape (within limitations, of course), and I like to discuss where it will hang in the home as well as framing even before we start so that it fits both physically and stylistically where it will be enjoyed.

Ripley, Murphy, O.G., Veda and Missy Kitty

pastel portrait of five cats

"Ripley, Murphy, O.G., Veda and Missy Kitty", pastel © B.E. Kazmarski

The process is different for each portrait depending on what’s needed. This portrait needed just about all the tricks I have in my little bag! I had the opportunity to visit their home and meet each one of them, and so spent about two hours talking to their mom about each one of them and following them around, photographing them in their habitat and with their habits even though their mom also had plenty of photos.

photos for portrait

Organizing the photos.

Being able to photograph them myself gives me the best visual information—after all, would you photograph just your cat’s tail anticipating that someday you might need that photograph? I can do that if I feel I need it.

Their mom adopted each of them individually either from shelters or from rescues, so each had a story that added to what I gathered about their personalities. We talked about where the portrait might be hung to help determine size and certain elements of the design, but she left the details up to me.

Depending on the complexity of the portrait and how many photographs I have to combine to get the scene, I may simply begin the drawing with no preliminaries or will create a pencil sketch to size. However, it’s a rarity that I don’t combine fewer than three pictures, and for this one I lost count of the number of pictures I combined. I used to have to sketch it out, even enlarging and cutting and pasting on a copier but now I use PhotoShop, scan the photos or use the digitals provided and combine them into a final finished composite.

composite for portrait

Composite created from individual images and even bits and pieces of images.

This, of course, means I have to make up shadows and highlights and the lay of the fur when I get down to the final drawing and when designing the posture and setting, I try to place the subjects against a background area which will complement their looks. But it’s not all about their looks—in combining multiples like this, I try to pair together animals which are friendly with each other and keep the “enemies” far apart.

three cats in portrait

O.G. loved everyone while Veda was a little skittish and Miss Kitty kept to herself.

For this portrait, I created two composites which I liked equally, and so did my client, but in the end the spot over the fireplace made the decision for the long narrow format. Each of the subjects is a composite of at least two photographs for face, paws, tail, eyes, ears, etc. I had an idea to use the bay window with windowseat for them all because the light was so beautiful and each of them visited this spot regularly, plus I enjoy painting architectural details.

I then combined each of the individual composites, added the window in the background, and sent it off to my client for approval. When I began work, I enlarged the composite to the actual size of the finished drawing, printed it out, covered the back with a dark shade of pastel, and transferred it onto my drawing paper, which is an archival quality, 600-grit sanded paper.

After generally filling in the actual colors in the drawing and checking to make sure that everything was in proportion and in proper perspective, I was ready to work the actual drawing at my easel, with all the reference photos near. I usually work the background first, then work one subject at a time, keeping the whole work at about the same level of detail. I may go over a portrait three or four times this way, each time working more color and detail into the work. In this case, because the window is a large portion of the work, I wanted to make certain all the structure and detail of it wouldn’t compete with the subjects, so I left it with less detail and color than the subjects and the surface they’re resting on.

two cats

Ripley and Murphy were buddies.

The final pass adds the highlights in the fur, the whiskers and the sparkles in the eyes. When they look back at me from the drawing, I know it’s done. But it’s not really done until my client reviews it to make sure I’ve gotten everything right—after all, they are your companions, and I’d be just as fussy about mine. In this case, Veda was just not right—she’s a very tiny, slender cat, but shy, and the only clear picture I had gotten of her was of her hunched up a little scared under a table. Even though the image was accurate, it just wasn’t Veda, so my client sent me a few more photos of just her and I reworked that area. Since I had to slim her down and make her a little taller, and Veda is primarily black against a pale background, I had to actually lift quite a bit of pastel off of the paper and start over in some areas. If you compare the finished portrait at the beginning of this article with the sketch directly above, you’ll see the difference in Veda’s image.

A few stories of how other portraits came together

I’ll tell these in greater detail someday, perhaps when I can track down the customer and photograph the portrait again, but here are two portraits that too a little extra ingenuity to compose. Both are fairly large, image size about 20″W x 15″H.

portrait of calico cat

Gypsy, pastel © B.E. Kazmarski

Gypsy

Gypsy was just about to turn 21 when I met her, and the challenge was for her human to choose one position out of all those years of companionship by which to represent her. She had no pictures of this position, and of course Gypsy did not cooperate by posing, so we pieced it together with other pictures of Gypsy plus a picture of a pillow placed in this spot behind the curtains. After she lost Gypsy to a brain tumor, her companion told me that she had hung the portrait by the door and every morning she said goodbye to the portrait and greeted it every day when she came home. I was glad to know that something I had done had brought comfort to someone in time of need.

portrait of doberman

Greta, pastel © B.E. Kazmarski

Greta

Greta was a gift from a woman to her long-time boyfriend, a portrait of the dog who had been his companion for nearly fifteen years, and she had known and loved Greta as well. He was still grieving Greta a year or more later when the woman asked me about a portrait, but said she had no good photos of Greta, at least not ones she could take away for a while. She gave me a few small snaps, a magazine page of a Doberman who was marked like Greta, and described how she posed herself, crossed paws and all. I visited my neighbor who had three rescued Dobermans and took a few reference photos and did a sketch. Even though I was uncertain about it all along the portrait was a success; the man who’d loved Greta called me some time after he received it, in tears, and simply thanked me.

Take a look at other portraits and read other stories

Commissioned Cat Portraits

portrait of black cat in wicker chair
Commissioned Dog Portraits

pastel portrait of dogs

______________________________

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.

 


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?

______________________________

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.