Daily Sketch: Quickly, Before They Wake

pencil sketch of two cats cuddling

Quickly, Before They Wake, pencil © B.E. Kazmarski

Giuseppe and Mewsette spent the day on my desk and I watched as they cuddled, stretched and blocked my view. I’ve already sketched those postures, they are moving too much, I’m in the middle of something…

But when they tucked their heads in together like two commas cuddling, I furtively grabbed my sketchbook and a pencil and quietly but quickly stood up to do a quick sketch of their two faces tucked together; sometimes my movements or even looking at them wakens them, especially as the afternoon draws along and they are thinking of dinner. I did manage to snap a photo as well, but they sensed my vigilance and woke up to look around, shift, and the moment was over.

________________________

Click here to see other daily sketches, and for a gallery of the ones available for sale, visit my Etsy shop in the “Daily Sketches” section.

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.


Daily Sketch: Brotherly Time

pencil sketch of two cats

Brotherly Time, pencil © B.E. Kazmarski

Mr. Sunshine was having a nice complete bath and that was a good sketch on its own. Then Giuseppe, who has the be a part of everything, came over and initially crouched near Sunshine, waiting to be noticed, then they were licking each others’ faces so nicely—you can actually see Giuseppe’s partial outline as I quickly penciled him in.

Then Giuseppe sat up and looked at me, then he turned around and looked out the window on the other side of my desk. I waited for him to crouch back down, but I guess this was the pose he wanted.

At the same time, Sunshine methodically licked his chest and belly.

When I got the sketch done, Giuseppe turned around and settled his shoulder against Sunshine’s hip, and I liked that too, so I did a quick sketch in watercolor pencil, to be finished later.

Got a bunch of photos too. Not bad for just a few minutes of brotherly time.

________________________

Click here to see other daily sketches, and for a gallery of the ones available for sale, visit my Etsy shop in the “Daily Sketches” section.

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


Daily Sketch: Four Cats at the Window

pencil sketch of four cats at a window

Four Cats at the Window, pencil © B.E. Kazmarski

They were coming and going and shuffling around at the window today, and so was I at my desk. The sun was bright and their silhouettes clear, so I marked a moment I liked, then drew this in stages as I appeared at my desk and the cats appeared in their places, first Mewsette and Bean in the center, then Mimi way over on the right, and Mr. Sunshine, who never quite settled on the sill but stood on the table with his paws on the sill, on the left. I might put vertical bars on either end to hold them in, but I think you get the idea.

________________________

Click here to see other daily sketches, and for a gallery of the ones available for sale, visit my Etsy shop in the “Daily Sketches” section.

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


Daily Sketch: Leaning

pencil sketch of two cats

Leaning, pencil © B.E. Kazmarski

Mewsette sits up tall with her head under the work lamp, effectively blocking my light and a portion of my monitor. Giuseppe cuddles up there where it’s warm and uses Mewsette’s back as a pillow. I will give them the time it takes me to sketch them, but I am under deadline today, and they will unfortunately need to move soon enough. But they look awfully sweet, these two big black cats…

________________________

Click here to see other daily sketches, and for a gallery of the ones available for sale, visit my Etsy shop in the “Daily Sketches” section.

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


Daily Sketch: Curled on the Bed

pencil sketch of three cats curled on bed

Curled on the Bed, pencil © B.E. Kazmarski

What else to do on a lovely sunny afternoon but curl up in the sun on the bed? Well, some of us have to work, but kitties need their beauty sleep. They gave me a break from the computer when I decided they’d be today’s subject.

This was just as much about capturing all three, each of whom moved enough that they needed extra sketching, as it was about the bedding. I enjoyed the challenge of depicting the pattern on the postage-stamp quilt, each little square with its own pattern and color and the squares arranged in a repeating geometric pattern, as well as the pillow shams with the ruffled eyelet edging. How to render the details in pencil when much depends on color, and how much detail is just enough without drawing every little eyelet opening and every flower and line on each square? Very fun to let my hands figure it out without overthinking it, which is how I end up overdoing it.

I added a little more shading to Mimi, Jelly Bean and Mr. Sunshine since they are black, and I also liked their contrast against the quilt.

I love this particular vintage quilt because I love handmade things, and I use it as much for the background in photos and eventually paintings as just to enjoy its springtime feel. But I have to be careful with it and soon it will be gently soaked in the washer and dried outside in the shade on a warm sunny day to be put away for another spring.

________________________

Click here to see other daily sketches, and for a gallery of the ones available for sale, visit my Etsy shop in the “Daily Sketches” section.

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.


From the Lost Sketchbook, the Very Last One—a Bird’s Nest!

pencil sketch of bird's nest with eggs

Bird's Nest

What?! It’s been cats, cats, cats, and now a bird’s nest?

This was a general purpose sketchbook and I used it for many things in addition to extemporaneous sketches; that’s why it was at my desk.

The story behind this one, though, doesn’t have to do with my backyard wildlife habitat or my love of wild birds. I’m a member of a small business organization, and several years ago I was included in an article about small business owners setting up a retirement plan for themselves. The theme, of course, was “nest egg”, and the editors wanted some illustrative photos of us showing the nest egg theme. The nests and eggs the photographer brought were not like any I’d seen in real life, and in part because I was to be photographed out in my backyard wildlife habitat and I’d say something about studying and sketching birds and their nests, I wanted to use one of the nests I had on hand with a few reconstructed eggs. That was too realistic, perhaps, so I went to the next idea—I make my living as an artist, so I’m literally “drawing my own nest egg”.

Hence the sketch of the nest with eggs. I still like it just as a sketch too. I’ve been meaning to frame it for hanging somewhere in the house, but here it ended up in the sketchbook. Like the others, this one is also for sale. Please ask if you are interested!


From the Lost Sketchbook, Sketches I Actually Used

pencil drawing of striped cat

Stanley's Stripes, pencil © B.E. Kazmarski

Here is one of my favorites, “Stripes”, because those are his “racing stripes” down the back of his head; it’s my Stanley sleeping on a little bolster filled with buckwheat intended for me to use as a neck pillow. I think he liked the sound it made when he curled up on it and he practically glowed with contentment as he settled for his post-breakfast nap. I sketched this in one of his last three years of life when he slept long and deep, sometimes relaxing so much that he’d slide off the furniture. He was always vital, though, and a real character who I’ll never forget. I knew I’d frame this image for display at least and sell it as a print, and I also had it printed as a notecard, notepaper and memo pad in the “Feline Sketches” set. He’s a favorite as both a general purpose greeting cat and as a sympathy cat as some people have chosen this card to use for an animal sympathy card.

pencil sketch of a cat in a box

In the Box, pencil sketch © B.E.Kazmarski

And my other favorite from around the same time, “In the Box”, my Sophie, having stuffed herself into a box too small for her size, uses it as an observation point to watch out the door. Sophie was a little larger than average and had lots of fur, but she thought she was just a small cat. If I’m trying to accomplish something on my desk that I don’t necessarily want kitties walking across or through or knocking over or sitting on, I grab a handy box or two or more and set them near me. As if a magnet had pulled them there, each box I’ve set out will immediately have a cat in it. They tire of them, though and I’ll usually put them away. I don’t know how many months Sophie used this box, but it was falling apart by the time she finally tired of it and I recycled it. I knew I’d frame this image also and sell it as a print, and I also had it printed as a notecard, notepaper and memo pad in the “Feline Sketches” set.

pencil and watercolor sketch of a cat sleeping

Peaches Nap Spot, pencil and watercolor © B.E. Kazmarski

And this pencil sketch of Peaches with watercolor washes, “Peaches’ Nap Spot”, is the other that’s been framed, sold as a print and made into notecards. Dear little old Peaches in her pastel beauty, I just love how she sleeps in a circle. I’ll never know what is so inspiring about her, but I’m so glad she entered my life, even at the grand old age of 15. She’s still going strong four years later, and is the subject of many a sketch, painting and photo.

This is probably why the sketchbook was “lost”—I scanned or photographed several works in it and framed them, so it ended up in a cubbyhole in my upstairs workroom/studio instead of returning to my downstairs office/studio. Until I recently cleaned out and reorganized things upstairs, this was in a “safe” place. Don’t get the idea that my house is really big with all these upstairs and downstairs studios—it’s 15 ft. x 22 ft., and every room is involved in all I do! That includes the kitchen and bathroom, since that’s where I print items sometimes, dye fabrics, wash my brushes and even hang artwork for inspection sometimes. That’s why the sketchbook accidentally got “lost”, space is so tight that when I tucked it away I literally had to take apart a shelf for books and art supplies to see it in the stack.


From the Lost Sketchbook, Namir on the Windowsill

pencil sketch of cat on windowsill

Namir Pencil Sketch, pencil © B.E. Kazmarski

It’s obvious in this sketch that Namir had quite the Oriental breed influencing his good looks. The only problem was that he was gray tabby and white, n ot marked at all like an Oriental breed. I used to say that he was an Abyssinian cat who had been painted at birth.

I loved those huge ears, that prominent nose and whisker pads—especially since his muzzle was white and quite stood out—and those tourmaline eyes. His tail was very expressive, long and slender with a little bend about an inch from the end that only showed when he was feeling especially intense.

He fought hypertrophic cardiomyopathy and congestive heart failure for his last four years, but with his social nature, congeniality and general busy agenda no one would have known he was even ill. Instead of “he fought” I should say “he ignored” his illness, because he did. I lost Namir on July 1, 2009, and I’ve written a remembrance of him which is not sad, just remembering all his ways and days with lost of photos and artwork, and his last day. He is also the subject of several other works, including the art in the header of this page. You can find him on my website under “My Cats” in the first page of color artwork, and under “pencil” as well as in my Marketplace in individual and sets of notecards.


The Lost Sketchbook, Cookie Not Greeting the Day

pencil sketch of cat sleeping on her back

Cookie Doesn't Want to Wake Up

Apparently, Cookie was a hot subject all through this sketchbook. Actually, Cookie is always with me, no matter what I do, because I am her responsibility, and to make it look as if she’s not really following me she simply appears in the room where I’ve gone and performs some feline activity as if she meant to do that all along. She’s the subject of a lot of photos too, for the same reason.

This one is just a light sketch because I believe it’s drawn mostly from memory. Cookie used to sleep on her back in the place of honor, right next to me, between me and the edge of the bed where I would see her first when I awoke. When she would stretch, then curl her toes and draw in her hind feet, she would also curl her front paws and draw them in to her face. I’m not sure why she doesn’t sleep on her back anymore, but perhaps it’s difficult to get out of at the age of 17!

Of course, capturing this sketch would have been planned, knowing Cookie would be sleeping on her back when I awakened, and my stirring would cause her to stretch and curl her paws. When I would have moved to get my sketchbook, she would have been curious, so I would have had a very limited time to catch her in this position. I know I intended to keep the sketchbook by the bed in order to catch her again, thinking I hadn’t caught enough of the details of her position, but I probably forgot, and this is as far as I got.

That’s okay! It’s too bad that lighter pencil lines are difficult to reproduce because there’s actually more detail than can be seen in the scan unless you look really close.

As with the other sketches, this one is for sale, matted and framed. I used to regret letting my sketches go, but I’ve grown to love the thought of sharing my kitties. If you are interested, please send me an e-mail.