Meet Miko and Sasha, half-sisters but full-bred Himalayan kitties, and the center of life for their cat daddy for all of their years together. Miko came first, and she was such a joy that when she was still young he decided to adopt another kitty and a friend for Miko.
I had a wonderful time researching the Himalayan breed and meeting Himalayan cats at cat shows for background information (twist my arm, make me read about cats and go to cat shows), and it did offer me specific information on colors of fur and eyes and on body shape. Even if I don’t get to meet the subjects, it’s always helpful to see and feel and hold an animal of a similar breed before I start to work. But while Sasha had the same parents, though born in a later litter, even with the same parents and bloodlines the difference between the two girls was surprising and endearing. Miko was decidedly the older sister, and Sasha the little wild child even to the differences in their fur—Miko was about as smooth as a Himalayan can be, poised, crossing her paws, while Sasha’s fur was always a little wild and she was ready for action.
Their masks were different shapes, their ears were set just a little differently, partly by attitude, and the color and texture of their fur, while actually the same, looked quite different because it laid just a little differently to reflect the individual personalities.
With a stack of photos we determined what the portrait would look like, showing their faces, of course, but also their paws and tails as fondly-remembered features. In several photos they are sitting by the door you see looking outside, and because they loved that door to the outside so much we decided to use that as the backdrop, but to turn them around to face us which would accommodate all the features we wanted to see.
I met Miko and Sasha’s parents some time after the two girls had passed, so I never had a chance to meet them, and I thank Deb Chebatoris of Chartiers Custom Pet Cremation for the referral.
A little background
I’ve completed a few portraits in the past few years that I have not featured here because of the timing of the portraits. In the case of Miko and Sasha, I met with their people, unintentionally, of course, the night before Peaches died in October 2010. Normally I start on portraits right away but I really can’t work with much focus after a loss, especially if my subject is feline, so I got a later start than I had intended in assembling photos and getting my basic image done before I even got to paper. Then my mother was gravely ill and passed away, and it was March, 2011 before I had any significant work done. By that time I had forgotten details of our conversations and needed a refresher as I discovered I had gotten the two girls confused in their initial rendering.
I worked my way through more details, remodeled my studio and got new pastels which helped immensely, then discovered that my customers were not getting my e-mail updates at all. We did finally connect and I carefully passed along more updates, but it wasn’t until just before Christmas 2011 that they finally got their portrait! I am grateful for their patience, though I know it wore thin.
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.
Kelly’s tiny little face rests in deep thought as she sits in front of her favorite window on a winter afternoon.
I always associate this window with Kelly, even though she also spends time on the bathroom windowsill and the casement at the top of the stairs, and this year decided to visit my studio as I was working in there.
But since she began mingling with the house she’s been devoted to this side window with the bird feeders right outside and the lilacs where the birds perch and the butterflies visit. She was such an inspiration at this side window that I’ve done two pieces of artwork featuring her here.
I painted this in 2002 as a quick pastel while little Kelly was, again, pondering in front of the big north window on a winter afternoon.
Kelly pauses in the stark pastel light of a winter afternoon through the big north window in my studio, absolutely still in contemplation as she watches birds flit about at the feeders or Buddy the squirrel making a fool of himself. Kelly is petite for an adult cat, making the window seem vast, and the light is so diffuse that nothing has a hard edge. It is a scene I remember even in the heat of summer.
It’s available matted and framed in my Etsy shop.
Kelly’s Morning Bath
And, of course, there’s Kelly at her morning bath.
Kelly gives herself a complete bath every morning after breakfast on the table in front of the window in my studio, her every move full of purpose and industry.
This print captures an autumn morning, when the leaves on my maple trees have colored and filter the sun, speckling the table with splashes of sun and shadow. I print this on various types of rice paper with leaves or flower parts embedded in shades of yellow, green or warm brown. You can always find a print or two in my Etsy shop.
To see more daily photos go to “Daily Images” in the menu and choose “All Photos” or any other category.
All images and text used on this site are copyrighted to Bernadette E. Kazmarski unless otherwise noted and may not be used in any way 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.
Do I paint dogs too? Of course! Bodie and Bear Bear will be a holiday gift to a spouse.
This is the first draft of this portrait of the owner’s two dogs, painted in pastel as usual. I love images of our animal companions like this—isn’t this how we often see them, looking up at us expectantly? It’s a little difficult of an angle to draw because it’s often quite foreshortened, especially with taller dogs whose heads are simply closer to the lens. In this case I widened the two dogs’ lower bodies to keep them in natural proportion. I have fur to add to both of them, but that will come last.
This painting is about 12″ x 18″, plenty big enough for detail, so when I first looked at the photo and began to visualize, I knew I could work with the dogs as they were, just modifying their bodies as described above. But what about the hardwood floor, and that rug?
I actually charge extra for these background elements, and sometimes I’ll advise to omit them, both for various reasons. A smaller painting would make it difficult to work these details, more time-consuming, often more time than the subjects themselves so I make sure they are important to my customer. They can also be really distracting and take away from the subject being more of a design element, and people get tired of carpets and such. I hope this painting will hang on the wall for years and years, but what if my customer gets tired of the rug, or changes the colors all over the house? I doubt they’ll get tired of looking at the dogs, but the carpet might get a little tiresome years from now.
On the other hand, the hardwood floors and the carpet are from the era of these pets, and all together it looks like home. This painting is large enough to support the patterns, the dogs are large enough not to be overwhelmed, so I decided to include it, though simplified. Once I got my initial sketch done, I liked the composition and dove right in.
Because animal fur floats over its background, I usually finish the background of a portrait before I work on the subjects. The floor and rug are nearly done, but I need to finalize the details, especially in the floor, to give it a little bit more contrast. Both dogs have lots of loose, flowing fur which I can draw right on top of the background, filling out their figures and giving them both their familiar fuzzy shapes.
I can also finalize the details in the rest of the fur, but most importantly their faces, those eyes and noses and ears that are our most familiar features of our pets since we look at them most often. I paint until they look back at me.
The above portrait is for a certain wife. Happily enough about ten years ago I did a portrait of Rocky and Bullwinkle for said wife to give to her husband. What a wonderful set of circumstances.
I put together this portrait from many images of the two individually and together. I particularly liked the one of Bullwinkle on the floor with the repeated shadows and highlights, so I made that the basis of the portrait. We wanted to work some jewel tones into the background because they were predominant in the house, but we couldn’t go too dark since Rocky was mostly black. That was how this portrait came to be.
I’ll have an update very soon, since this needs to ship out on Friday!
You can see other portraits of dogs I’ve done, including progress images in Lassie and Buddy, and you can visit my website to see my portfolio of commissioned dog portraits. You can also view portraits of my cats, portraits of other cats, and portraits of people as well as other artwork commissioned and otherwise.
I hadn’t actually realized how much art I’ve done in, or and inspired by my backyard until I made my list. I had intended when I moved here to fill my yard with subjects for painting, and I guess I succeeded.
So here are thumbnails with links to the pages on my website where you’ll find them. I have them categorized by wild birds, landscapes, flowers and still lifes, and Winter White, which was a show I did entirely of small pieces of winter-themed artwork. You’ll have to scroll around because my pages are still in html, not php or any other script where you can do a customized search, but I hope you enjoy browsing.
All of these images are available as prints or sets of notecards, or you may purchase reproduction rights for use on a website or print publication. Please respect my ownership of these images and purchase them if you’d like to use them—check my online Marketplace to see what’s available and check my Marketplace blog for Backyard Inspired Greeting Cards and Eye on the Sparrow Notecards and Writing Paper, two sets which feature many of these images.
These are also primarily Landscapes but since they are winter-themed I have them linked to Winter White.
I hope you enjoy your visit!
Read all the articles in this series
Whether or not Sophie thinks she is all nose with tiny eyes and ears or that every ornament has her image on it, I don’t know, but she certainly looked a little disconcerted at encountering her reflection in this way. In any case, she provided the inspiration for a bright, cheerful piece of holiday artwork!
I sketched this little oil pastel work as soon as I came home from work when I still worked a day job. The idea had been building in my imagination all day, and it was all I could do to get it on paper–I could barely work fast enough. I used it as my holiday card in 1999.
I offer this as a framed print and also as a greeting card.
Kelly pauses in the stark pastel light of a winter afternoon through the big north window in my studio, absolutely still in contemplation as she watches birds flit about at the feeders or Buddy the squirrel making a fool of himself. Kelly is petite for an adult cat, making the window seem vast, and the light is so diffuse that nothing has a hard edge. My holiday card in 2003, but a year-round favorite.
Over the years, my cats have inspired many, many images, from realistic pastel paintings to block prints, silly images to serious, and I’ve even done a few Christmas dogs. You’ve already seen Cookie, full of holiday cheer, and beginning today I’m going to feature a holiday image every day.
I began a portrait of Madison way back in the summer, but between the festival and a few foster cats moving in and out of my spare cat room/studio it’s been difficult to work consistently. But Madison is finally done, and his person came to pick up his portrait this weekend.
She lost Madison, her first cat, last year, 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.
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.
I pledge to support the senior adoption programs at shelters by making a donation of $25.00 from the sale of every full-size print to the shelter of the purchaser’s choice.
Peaches came to my home at age 15, and despite my efforts to place her in a new home, she ended up staying with me. Most prospective adopters were concerned that Peaches was older and might not live long, but my point was that Peaches needed a home no matter what age she was. At the time this painting was done, she’d been with me three years, her petite prettiness, pleasant personality and simple friendliness providing much joy for me, and she’s a big favorite of most visitors to my home. And then, she’s also the subject of not only this painting, but several other paintings and sketches as well as photographs, so in three years she’s provided a good bit of inspiration, not to mention wake-up duties and not-so-gentle reminders about it being dinnertime.
Peaches came to be homeless because her owner died; she was nearly euthanized because no one could figure out what to do with her, not wanting to take her to a shelter. Often, older pets come from situations like this, or where the owner has to enter the hospital or a care home, and no one can take the animal left behind. They are euthanized by the family or end up in shelters and are most often passed by, even though a “seasoned” pet usually makes the best companion.
Three years or three decades or three weeks, every adoptable animal like Peaches deserves a good and loving home.
The 16″ x 23″ giclée prints are printed on heavyweight acid-free archival paper, each signed by me, the artist. You pay me $125.00, and you’ll make a check out to the senior pet adoption program of your choice for $25.00, that way you can track it as a donation (and I don’t pay sales tax on $25.00). Standard framing is available for an extra $300.00, custom framing is available for an estimate.
Especially now, during Adopt-a-Cat month, consider helping those who are most vulnerable.
Now that I found the right shade of dark green, the background looks much more complete; note that in yesterday’s proof the background was only complete halfway across, but now the entire thing looks done.
Lassie needs to be toned into the background now that its tones are pretty much in place. The darker grass around her keeps photographing darker yet; I’m using my smaller digital and it tends to enhance contrasts, so it’s making her a little lighter and the grass a little darker. Her mid-range tones are there, but she needs to have shadows on her legs and the shadows within her fur completed, then the highlights.
And now that her tones are nearly correct, I think her expression, the perk of her ears and the tilt of her head are that much more clear as well—I just love that head tilt, and I feel like she’s speaking to me when I look at her.
Here’s the latest version of Buddy-boy’s portrait. Black animals can be difficult, but I’ve had a lot of practice with the number of black cats who’ve shared my life. Here Buddy is in the shadow and in the original photo looks inky black with just hints of highlight. I’ve worked them out here and there, but he keeps ending up looking too shiny, almost plastic. Oh, well, at least the background has worked out well, and the highlights in that give guidance for the ones on Buddy! Still, I love this portrait because it’s so typical of a dog in his backyard, but it’s so special that someone wants to capture that silly moment.