Another Place for My Art: Distinctively Different Decor…

framed print of cat looking through lace curtain

Sophie Keeps an Eye on Things, photo © B.E. Kazmarski

Interior designer—and fellow cat rescuer—Bonita Farinelli and I met yesterday to consign a number of pieces of my artwork and prints to her Boutique at Distinctively Different Decor & More in Carnegie.

framed pastel of two borzoi dogs

Borzois, pastel © B.E. Kazmarski

And you can have the chance to see it at her March Open House on Sunday, March 25, 2012.

Read more in this post on Portraits of Animals Marketplace.

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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.


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

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

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


Buddy and Tibbie, Portraits With Stories

Buddy

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

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

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

black lab on Oriental rug

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

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

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

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

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

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

detail of portrait

Detail of Buddy, pastel

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

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

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

Now for that Monster Cat

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

portrait of Himalayan cat

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

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

detail of portrait

Detail of Tibbie

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

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

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

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

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


The Spring Kitten

hand-tinted block print of a white kitten on a branch with flowers

The Spring Kitten, hand-tinted block print © B.E. Kazmarski

I once had a pure white long-haired kitty with pea green eyes and a pink nose named Sally. She was also completely deaf, and completely fearless; without distraction, she lived in her own little world, full of sleep and joy and play. She was the inspiration for many sketches, paintings and photos, and for this little piece as well.

detail of hand-tinted block print
Detail of hand-tinted block print.

Almost everywhere I’ve lived there has been a quince bush, an old-fashioned favorite for its early bright pink flowers—so early, in fact, that the bush in my neighbor’s yard in the years when Sally was young bloomed every year during the January thaw, and then snow would fall on the bright pink blooms, nestling in the curve of the branches like Sally when she’d found a good cozy spot.

detail of block print
Detail of block print.

The style of this design was inspired after studying and practicing many illustration traditions, from Asian-inspired block prints and brush paintings to metal and wood etchings and block prints used for books and periodicals. My reference photo (which I kept) shows the branch with the flowers against a brilliant blue sky, and a soft little pile of snow in the angle which became the sleeping kitten.

linoleum block print of white kitten on branch
The Spring Kitten, block print © B.E. Kazmarski

Also inspired by the idea of a book illustration, it’s just a little thing, image is 5″ x 3.5″, with mat and frame outside dimensions 10″ x 8″.

I offer a framed hand-tinted print on Etsy, and the other variations listed below in the Marketplace on my website.

Print only, $15
Hand-colored print, $25
Matted and framed, no color, $30
Matted and framed, hand-colored, $40

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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.


The Artist’s Life: Still Inspiring

Cookie, "The Goddess" block print © B.E. Kazmarski

In the last two months Cookie was with me I suddenly had orders for the t-shirt and print with this image, both directly to me and from wholesale customers, even customized versions of them. I will always think of this as a great sendoff for her, this favorite image immortalizing her and traveling out all over the world. And, of course, came the stories of the favorite torties who had led people to Cookie’s image.

The interesting part was that I didn’t actually have any prints or tees for sale at the time—none listed on Etsy or even on my website, though I had the image displayed as I always do. These people made special requests, checking to see if I had any or when I would have tees or prints. So I got busy and made up more of them to fill all the orders, and then made up more again, happily spending time with this image that is a favorite of mine, and in all that printing and painting it helped me have happy and positive thoughts about Cookie.

So in this article I have stories of Cookie and her inspiration, of the tortie lovers inspired by The Goddess including lovely photos of them, and I explain how I developed the hand-painted print including a little bit about block printing and testing fabric swatches, plus the new things I’m designing around my tortie girls as they continue to inspire.

In the studio

cat sleeping in rag basket

Cookie in her favorite bed, my rag basket in the studio, from October 2011.

Cookie always loved to be near me when I worked and she loved the “new” studio, heading there every day in her last few months for her long daily nap in the rag basket as you see in this photo; this was also a sketch in the months before I began posting them and a plan for a painting. I just loved to see her there.

The night Cookie died we were all in my studio and I painted new t-shirts for a while in an effort not to be too upset around her; me working on something and her watching me work was a lifelong activity we shared, and in her last few hours was likely a great comfort to her. For me, any creative work in my studio was relaxing and fulfilling and helped me to accept what was happening, and I’ve no doubt it was timed perfectly for me to be done and to catch that last truly conscious moment with her, when she looked into my eyes and put her paw comfortingly on my hand.

Cookie’s portrait

pastel painting of cat looking out sunny door

The Little Sunflower, pastel © B.E. Kazmarski

Because I paint commissioned portraits, people look for the portraits of my own cats. I will admit that I don’t have portraits of all the cats who’ve lived with me, though I have the missing ones planned.

But Cookie, my studio cat? Well, I painted one of her many years ago called “The Little Sunflower” (you’ll need to scroll down on this link). To anyone else, this may not be recognizable as Cookie, but because I adored this moment when Cookie had a sunbath every sunny morning, I loved her shape and her shadow, and the feeling of joy emanating from her when she quietly sat there, teaching me a lesson in yoga I’d yet to learn, it is the Cookie I took with me every day. In time, this led to her joining me outdoors, and anyone can see what a joy that was for both of us.

But I also have this block print, and while I exaggerated her shape for greater humor—Cookie was well-rounded but she was never that fat—her face, her expression and her markings are all the best portrait of Cookie I could ever have created; farther into this article I have a comparison between my reference photo and the print. After all these years, I still laugh when I look at her, the way a portrait should touch you.

Recent stories

Here are a few of the recent stories from people who contacted me about prints and tees in the past two months and who I thought about as I worked in my studio (authors have given me permission to print).

Rosie from the UK

tortie cat in the grass

Rosie from the United Kingdom

“I found your print of “The Goddess” and think she looks like my cat, Rosie…I live in the UK and was wondering if it was possible to get a print without the frame… If they’re not coloured, would it be possible to get one coloured like Rosie if I sent you a photo? I’m assuming not but thought I’d ask! (Of course I could, and the finished print is below.)

“We got Rosie when I was 11. My dad told me we were going to mum’s boss’s house to pick something up and asked if I wanted to go with him, and as Annie, the boss, had two ginger cats my sisters and I loved to play with I went. When I got there I saw a tiny purring little bundle of fluff and claws and played with her for about an hour. Then dad came in and told me to pick her up, we were going home!

“15 years later, and we’ve moved to another city. Rosie is still going strong, mum had a terrifying moment a few years ago when she felt a lump in Rosie’s belly and [went] to the vets with the instructions to not allow her to be in pain….The vet sent her back with a packet of diet cat food. She’s a wonderful purry old thing, with a beautiful temperament—she had to have one to grow up in a house of 3 little girls and all the neighbourhood kids!

tortoiseshell cat print

Polly as The Goddess

“Whilst we got Rosie as a kitten, Polly is the tortie who holds my heart. She was much more than a cat and was my constant companion for the two years we had her. I adored her, she adored me. Then one night she escaped, and my housemate forgot about her and didn’t let her in. I returned home to find her missing and we spent 4 days looking for her, I was distraught and couldn’t cope without her, but then we got a phone call from the vets, Polly was found by a lovely lady (who was also owned by a tortie – Mitzy) who realised how sick she was and took her to the vets. She lasted 2 days before dying of anti-freeze poisoning.”

Kitty

“This cat on the tee looks so much like my cat “Kitty”. She was a rescue cat..she just showed up at my door, and I took her in. I loved her..she slept with me..back to back, lol. But because of my allergy I needed to give her to a good home. I miss her so much..but it was something I needed to do.”

Kitty’s mom ordered a tee to remember Kitty.

tortoiseshell cat

SadieCat relaxing among the library books.

SadieCat

SadieCat’s mom bought a hand-colored print for herself as a birthday gift.

“…I especially love the pictures of the tortie cats. When I saw the block print of “The Goddess” my heart stopped. Three years ago I rescued a starving little kitten who soon became the love of my life. I couldn’t help myself from attaching a couple of pictures of SadieCat (seen here). Someplace I have a photo where she looks exactly like your print, but I couldn’t find it.

tortoiseshell cat face

Now there's a face!

“[Sadiecat] will only consent to being held when she’s in the mood and she’ll bite if you’re late with her dinner, but I love her and wouldn’t have her any other way. (Well, I could probably do without the biting). And thanks for…putting Sadie out there, I’m too shy. 🙂  She’s shy too, but what she doesn’t know won’t hurt her.”

Visit the original post, The Goddess Truly Inspires, to read more stories and to add your own.

About creating “The Goddess”

I looked at Cookie on the kitchen floor, on her back with her toes curled, a defiant look on her face, and it happened—that moment of visualization. I could see a linoleum block print in black ink on white rice paper, hand-tinted with oranges and yellows for the patches in Cookie’s tortoiseshell fur and green for her eyes and pink for her nose. I would call the print “The Goddess” for the many women depicted with generous figures in sculpture and painting through the millennia.

Compare the photo and the print:

tortie cat on back

Reference photo for "The Goddess"

Cookie, "The Goddess" block print © B.E. Kazmarski

From the time I first described it to someone, who chuckled at the idea of the image, I knew Cookie was a winner. And through the years she has continued to bring people and stories to my display no matter where I am—everyone knows a cat who looks like Cookie!

cut linoleum block

The full block, of course it's in reverse.

Cookie inspired not only a design, but a particular style and technique and a new element to my creative life and my merchandise. With an inspiration that strong, I probably would have done it anyway, but I had other reasons as well. In the late 1990s having my sketches and paintings reproduced was still expensive and not always successful and I wanted artwork that I could reproduce easily and inexpensively myself so that I could have something more affordable than original artwork to sell in my displays.

closeup of linoleum block

Closeup of Cookie's face in linoleum block; the light areas are the smooth surface that holds the ink.

I’d worked with small linoleum block prints for years and always enjoyed the medium, but this time I decided I wanted something larger and I might actually create a series—which led to “The Roundest Eyes” depicting my other tortie, Kelly, a few months later. Between the two, Cookie gets more notice and stories, but Kelly sells more t-shirts and prints…we just never let Cookie know that.

Capturing all Cookie’s freckles and spots and stripes was indeed a challenge, especially when I went to actually cut them out of the surface of the linoleum block.

printed fabrics

I have a lot of painting to do.

New items

colors on fabric

Success! The washed strip of muslin with thinned fabric paints passes the wash and dry test.

Why does this scrap of muslin stained with orange and yellow make me so happy? Because I’ve finally found the new coloring for my Tortie Girls prints!

Because I hand-paint the color into these prints I print them in oil-base ink, even on paper, because water-base ink is totally water soluble, like tempera paint. On paper I can use watercolor, but on the tees and other textiles I have to use a permanent dye of some sort. I want the wearer to be able to wash these without too much fuss, but in order to be able to create and sell them I don’t want to have to wash the fabric to set the dye, then iron the items for presentation, in part because of the oil-base ink and also because washing and ironing is very time-consuming. In creating merchandise for sale I need to strike a balance between my time and materials and what I charge for a product.

Years ago I found a cold-set dye that I could paint on just like my watercolors. I mixed it up about ten years ago and kept it in an airtight glass jar in the dark, but I’m nearly out of it. I created the tees mentioned above because tees are popular, but I’m not a t-shirt person so I’ve also printed a slew of other textiles through the years. Last year I printed the placemats, table coverings and even pillowcovers and appliques for bags you see above, but did not have enough dye to paint them so they have sat, waiting, since last May.

color swatches on cloth

First color test with drawing ink.

swatches of color

Letting it air dry.

washed cloth

Fail!

After several tries with drawing ink, above—which stains everything it touches and won’t wash out when you want it to, but washed right out when I tested it—various fabric dye substances including full-strength from the bottle and a strong mix of powder in various brands, and various paints and markers, none could both look like washy watercolors and stand up to the wash test.

color swatches on fabric

Second color test.

fabrics

Second color test air drying.

faded colors on fabric

Second fail! Not as bad as the first.

Until now, using Jacquard fabric paint and screen-print ink. And now I can follow through with all the new products I’d planned last year featuring The Goddess and the little girl with The Roundest Eyes—you’ll see them soon.

two black cats with art materials

As always, Feline Inspection and Quality Control; Mewsette and Jelly Bean have to approve as well.

Above are square muslin tablecloths to be painted and either hemmed or with a decorative stitch added around the edge and fringed, canvas placemats to be painted and possibly stitched, and simply printed squares of muslin ready to be painting and stitched onto bags, pillows, even clothing.

I love to know that I’m sharing Cookie forever with the block print of her, and while some day I’ll do the painting I’m visualizing as well as other paintings of her with other cats, this block print will always be the image I remember.

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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.


The Best People

closeup of tortie cat

Kelly feels much better now.

Whew, what a week!

Last Sunday began with a sick kitty and a big assignment that I needed to begin right away, plus two 12-page newsletters to lay out and some interpretive signs to design, then paperwork for mom and water in my basement, a website update, two photo slideshows to prepare and getting ready for a little art festival on Saturday that I decided not to attend because it rained  from before dawn, and all day. That’s the short list.

Not much time for The Creative Cat and completing the articles I had begun from the Sheep and Fiber Fest last Saturday and other articles I’d intended to write during the week! But there’s no time like the present, so perhaps begin at the present and work my way backward, or at least include last week in what I post this week.

point state park pittsburgh

Point State Park with Pittsburgh in the background.

Today, Saturday, was both a disappointment and a pleasure. I was so looking forward to the I Made It! Market in Point State Park in conjunction with the Venture Outdoors Festival. I had often visited the Venture Outdoors Festival to try out some of the outdoor activities and meet up with groups who bicycle, hike, canoe and plan other outdoor activities and see what they have planned for the summer. Also, many of my design customers are environmental interests and I can visit with them as well; I’ve often designed displays and materials for use at the festival. And just being at Point State Park, that little 18-acre point of historic land that’s technically part of Pittsburgh’s downtown formed my the joining of the Allegheny and Monongahela into the Ohio River, is a pleasure in any season. I was looking forward to friends and photos.

rain on trail

Rain on the Trail

Weather in May is completely unpredictable; I’ve seen it go from balmy 80 to hail and wet snow in a few hours, so outdoor festivals are always chancy. Still, weather doesn’t upset me—I hike on trails when it’s 10 degrees and enjoy a walk in the woods during a rain, and I’ll take a chance on just about anything where being a vendor at a festival is concerned.

But I always need to be careful of my merchandise because without that, what’s the point? In this case as in many others, these are unique things I’ve made individually by hand, investing hours and money, so I’m careful not to see them damaged or ruined.

I had packed my car with the art, prints and crocheted items I’d be taking the night before. I awoke to the sound of rain when it should have been dawn but was still dark because of a storm. It continued. I decided to check the radar and see what was headed our way and just wait it out. Sometimes rain only lasts until noon then the afternoon is gorgeous.

But radar showed lines of showers and storms coming from the south, the ones that bring the heaviest rains, about an hour apart for the next several hours. I checked my materials in the car, and the crocheted washcloths felt as if I’d spun them in the washer and left them damp. I could see some of my block prints beginning to ripple around the edges, even the ones in frames, which meant moisture was seeping into the packaging. If I was to be outdoors in the dampness all day, especially on a grassy area that had already been soaked by rain, even under a tent, they would all be rippled by afternoon. I would probably have to open up all the frames and plastic for a day afterward and let it all dry out. I wasn’t sure I wanted to do that, or to risk a violent storm coming through in the afternoon and hoping I could pack everything up before glass broke and small things blew away.

I never cancel, but I did. I’m sure I would have had a great time meeting new people and talking to other artists plus sneaking visits to the Venture Outdoors vendors, but I would also likely have few sales on a day like this, and have a mess to clean up when I got back.

view of display

Cozy on a rainy day.

So I drove the car back to my shop at Carnegie Antiques and began putting things away, including the vintage earrings and delicate pink crocheted dresser scarf borrowed from Judi’s shop that just made the outfit I had planned for the day. I had thrown on an old pair of shorts and tank top, my well-humidified hair tied back by a bandanna, no makeup, flip flops left in the car, totally unsuited to greet the public.

block print

Near and Far Away, block print

But that was when the fun began. In packing I had discovered a few other block prints and some black and white photographs I didn’t know I still had and decided to photograph those in preparation for posting on Etsy. I looked forward to filling out my Etsy shop with those inspirations and pondering the new ones I was planning since I now had the space in my studio to make them and the place to display them, so I’d be spending at least a half hour at the shop.

black and white photo

Feverfew Field, black and white photo

As I began, Judi, proprietor, walked back to my room with a friend who was also an animal lover, and we spent almost an hour exchanging stories about or households. She has an Akita which she had adopted and a yellow Lab she took in when her friend, the dog’s owner, had died a few years earlier. She also has three cats, two adopted from shelters and one rescued from a stray/feral colony she cares for across the road at an abandoned house.

pencil sketch of kitten

Ready for Play, pencil sketch

How do you choose just one kitten from a colony? This was early in her career with this little group, before she began spaying and neutering and swiping kittens for adoption to keep the group under control. She went to feed them one day and one particular kitten caught her eye, and she couldn’t forget the kitten. The next day she simply told the kitten she was coming home across the street, picked her up and carried her away, much to the kitten’s consternation. But the kitten adjusted to the house with the guidance of the other two cats and today isn’t even interested in the outdoors.

Her dogs were an interesting story of how animals communicate, though, and how they know more than we think they do about how we feel. Akitas and Huskies can be aggressive with cats, except when they know the cat “belongs” to the owner, and so it was with these cats. The woman had unfortunately discovered the colony across the street when her Akita ran across the street, chased a cat and killed it. The Akita was not allowed to run free, but was focused on his task and that was that.

Once the colony was discovered, she began providing food and water daily and also trying to interact with the cats, catch a few to be fixed, and social the kittens. The Akita ran across the street a few other times, but only stood guard at the colony and never tried to harm the cats again, even nosing around among them now and then.

On this particular Saturday morning, with the heavy rain, she decided to wait for the rain to subside before feeding the cats. Her Akita and Lab would have none of it. They actually refused outdoor privileges and treats until she figured out what they wanted because they kept looking across the street. She filled two food containers and fed the cats. As soon as she returned the dogs accepted their treats and ran outdoors on their leashes.

photo of printed curtain

Tabbies Curtain in Tan

We agreed that it’s amazing what animals know and perceive about us, their humans, how they not only love us unconditionally but also the things we care about, simply because we do.  They know how she feels about those cats, and they probably feel just as responsible for them and they had no intention of having fun until the cats were taken care of.

She was very pleased to find my shop and made note of several things she’d get as gifts in the coming year plus the animal sympathy cards. She has no computer, but I have a few other friends who are offline and we can still keep in touch.

The second woman came in just a little later as I was photographing curtains I’d printed with a good bit of the shop pushed out of the way. She walked through with Judy, then on her way back stopped and said, “Oh, my, you’re the cat lady!” and proceeded to tell me that she had rescued and fostered for years and at one time had 18 cats, some of whom were FeLV positive, many of whom had been injured or abused. Of course, we also shared stories! She is now down to two cats because she had been planning to sell her house for several years and so didn’t replace the cats who had passed or been adopted, but she’s building a bigger house and will be fostering again, for sure.

watercolor of cat on windowsill

Buster Lookin' at His Toes

She remarked that there were no good places to buy “cat stuff” in Pittsburgh anymore because the four gift shops specializing in cat gift items that had been in the area were closed. I had just learned this myself as I’ve been looking for merchants to carry my things and attempting to reconnect with shop owners I’d known in years past.

She suggested I attempt to fill that void. I told her this little back room was about as much as I could manage at the moment, but my ultimate goal was to have a gallery that featured my animal artwork as well as that of other artists. Someday.

As I put my shop back in order she walked around looking at everything she could, actually going around several times as we continued to talk. The room isn’t big, but, “there’s so much to look at!” she said. Well, it’s the result of a little over 20 years of creative effort and it will take some time to see everything. I assured her that as long as Judi would have me I’d be there so she should please come back to visit again.

image of block print

Awakening, block print

Perhaps missing out on a rainy day in the park wasn’t a bad thing as I met two new people and likely future customers. Both women were very happy to find me, and I was also pleased to make their acquaintance, both for the prospect of new customers and of trading cat stories and talking about pets in general. This is what I have always loved best about my career as an animal artist.

People who love animals are the best people, and somehow we always find each other. These women had not even known I was there and had come to visit Judi’s shop, not me, and I’m rarely there on Saturday, so our meeting was completely serendipitous.

I have also found that many of the customers I’ve worked with for years as a designer, writer and photographer are also animal lovers, most, in fact, cat people, only discovered when they arrived here to drop off work and greet my cats, and then we trade cat stories. I’m surrounded! But by some of the best people in the world.

If you don’t hear from me for a while, you can always check What’s New in Bernadette’s Studio?, the blog where I post upcoming events and shows, certain new assignments, and just about every project I have completed whether it’s fine art, graphic design, photography, or anything else.


Congratulations to the Winner, and to FosterCat!

pastel painting of a cat on a table with peonies

Peaches and Peonies, pastel © B.E. Kazmarski

Congratulations and thank you to Kym Detrick who had the final bid on the print of “Peaches and Peonies” last night at 11:46 p.m.! Because of her generosity, FosterCat will receive $130, and just in time to rescue more adult cats as kittens are arriving in earnest already at shelters.

Donations were also being made to FosterCat through MyThreeCats.com and on Peaches’ BFF Eva’s blog, so Peaches and I can’t wait to see all the generosity people offered through Peaches’ simple request—consider senior pets for adoption, and simply be aware of a few special health conditions, and your senior can live many happy healthy years longer than we’d ever expected them to live before now.

fostercat logo

Thank you to Alexa Howald of FosterCat for guest blogging to tell us about FosterCat and the importance of adopting and caring for senior cats, to Ingrid King of the Conscious Cat for writing an article about health care for senior cats in honor of Peaches’ birthday, to Linda Mohr for congratulating Peaches and telling us about her senior girls, to Marg for telling us about Squeaky and to Eva for being Peaches’ BFF and to her mom Renee for allowing computer privileges so Eva can communicate with Peaches.

Peaches appreciates your interest in and support of senior cats. She enjoyed a wonderful 100th birthday yesterday, gobbling a whole can of salmon pate through the day! I can tell when she gives me her special look, however, that every day is a celebration, and I love her just as much.

The print which Kym will receive is an 11″ x 14″ giclee, the highest quality reproduction method true to color with archival inks, printed on matte-finish archival paper, which I sell for $75.00.

In one way or another, I make donations for animal welfare through every piece of artwork in donating pieces for auctions or through the portraits I create. I also offer other sizes of giclee prints, and have a special offer which includes a donation with for purchase of a full-size print. I sell the print for $150, but $25.00 of that will go directly to a senior pet adoption program of your choice. Please visit Senior Pet Adoption Program on this blog.

For those who are still interested in a print of “Peaches and Peonies”, I offer several options in size and price:

  • The most affordable is an 8″ x 10″ photo print double-matted and framed in an 11″ x 14″ mahogany frame for $45.00 plus shipping. I also offer this as a matted and framed 5″ x 7″ for $25.00, but the image loses detail at that point, though it’s still very beautiful as a small wall piece.
  • I also offer various sizes of digital prints, which are not archival but are still very true to color and clear in detail. An 11″ x 14″ of this print is $25.00, and other sizes are available.

All of these items can be found on my website.

Other articles celebrating Peaches’ 100th Birthday

Bid on this Print and Start Celebration Peaches’ 100th Birthday

How Peaches Stole My Heart

Old is Awesome!

Loving Care for Your Senior Cat, Part 1

Beyond Food and Water, Loving Care for Your Senior Cat, part 2

My Feline Garden Sprites

Eva Offers a Donation in Honor of Peaches’ 100th

A Poem Dedicated to an Old Cat

Help FosterCat Even More Through My Three Cats

Cookie Reminisces

It’s Peaches’ 100th Birthday!

On The Conscious Cat

How to Care for Your Older Cat

On Catnip Chronicles

Peaches and Peonies

On Marg’s Pets

Old Cats Are Wonderful

Donate to FosterCat Through Other Blogs and Websites

Eva Offers a Donation in Honor of Peaches’ 100th

Help FosterCat Even More Through My Three Cats

Other articles about Peaches

Peaches Applies for a Job

Get Well Wishes for Peaches

Peaches Says, “Thanks for All the Get Well Wishes, They Worked”

Feline Faith and Understanding

This is a short list—Peaches appears in many articles I’ve written on my household, on pet loss, and even some silly things I’ve written on my website before I had a blog! Search “peaches” in the search box for more articles.


Open House at Portraits of Animals Shop!

I’ll be part of Carnegie Antiques’ open house the first weekend of May. Read about it on “What’s New in Bernadette’s Studio?” at Open House at Portraits of Animals and Carnegie Antiques!


Portraits of Animals Has Set Up Shop

photo of shop entrance

Entering my room at the shop.

Literally, I’ve got a room in a shop to display my merchandise, and I’m so happy to be there! Between moving in and setting up a shop on Etsy, that’s where I’ve been the past several days, but it’s so exciting to do this.

I love posting my art and merchandise online in my Marketplace blog and in my online Marketplace, but I’ve always enjoyed being out in the public with my things, talking to people at festivals and events, talking about my work, getting direct feedback and personally thanking the person who decided to buy something from me.

I my “other life” when I’m not blogging about cats and posting daily photos and creating artwork I’m a “visual designer” creating print and web products and layouts; this is pretty much what I do all day long, and I’ve done this for almost 30 years. You can read more about this on my website in Graphic Design and Illustration.

photo of merchandise on display

Greeting cards, notecards and small framed items.

My dream has always been to slip away from this career and open a real bricks and mortar gallery named “Portraits of Animals” featuring my artwork inspired by animals and nature and also featuring and showing the art of others inspired by animals. I had a little shop five years ago but with the demands of graphic design I could never be there, but I was seriously bitten by the bug and have been looking for an opportunity ever since.

Though I’m not selling antiques or even vintage items, I am in a room in Carnegie Antiques at 423 West Main Street in Carnegie, just a few blocks from where I live.

photo of merchandise

A stack of mugs and the poodle cloth on the table.

The owner, the generous and multi-talented Judi Stadler, is a friend of mine, and her set of businesses, including both Carnegie Antiques and J.D. Llama Estate Sales and Appraisals, is one of my customers for design and promotion. I actually designed her website and photographed all the items on it, and I visit regularly for gift items and especially that special vintage necklace or earrings to match one of my outfits.

Judi and I have been discussing this for a while, and decided the time was right as I took down my display after my poetry reading and moved it right into the room.

In this room I’ll have all of my greeting cards, note cards and writing paper, plus small and medium framed and unframed prints of my artwork and photographs.

I’ll also have framed prints of all my block prints and a selection of my block-printed t-shirts and other textiles, and the joy of that is being able to create more of them all the time; these especially don’t like to be folded and packed away for too long!

photo of shop display

The desk and my small Tabbies block prints.

I also carry mugs with my artwork printed on them, and this has always been the best way to sell them—they are more expensive to ship than the average small item, and they are so fragile that I’ve damaged them in carrying from show to show.

This is also where I can try out new items, like my gift bags, which I’ve been experimenting with for a while and think I might finally have a working design. In addition, I will have a few copies of “Heal Your Heart: Coping With the Loss of a Pet” for sale, and may carry a few other items by other artists and authors if sales go well.

photo of art display

A few originals, a few prints.

In this case, I’m only personally there one afternoon a week, but the shop is open nearly every day while Judi or a few other friends are there. I am in the third room back on the first floor, right on the path of people cruising all the neat things Judi has packed into the place.

We were both encouraged when, as we moved my things in on a Sunday afternoon while she wasn’t even open, people driving by knocked on the door and, while browsing, purchased a few things from her and some greeting cards from my partially-unpacked display!

photo of window display

Photos and curtains and ceramicware.

During the summer months I participate in local outdoor festivals from city streets to parks and conservation areas, carrying my tent and tables and plastic bins of art and textiles all over the area in my little Ford Escort, unpacking early in the morning, packing up again at dusk and driving home; in fall and winter I find indoor events as well, and at least once a year I’ll host my own event, such as my annual Poetry Reading and Art Exhibit. I’m working on my schedule for this year, and as soon as I have some events scheduled I’ll post them.

In the meantime, my stuff is just packed away in my tiny spare bedroom/studio, and that’s a very sad thing for me—the things I create are meant to be shared, they need to be on display, and I have no room here to display them.

photo of curtains and ceramics

Kelly and Cookie keep watch at the window.

photo of printed valance

Kelly has her morning bath on the valance.

photo of lamp made of driftwood

Driftwood lamp.

photo of collector chickadee plate

Chickadee plate

So this little room and its arrangements are just perfect for right now, just enough space for me to fill, and just enough time for me to be there myself while things are available when I’m not there.

And not only that, I LOVE vintage things, all the imagination and skill that went into creating everything from 18th-century furniture to 1960s glass paperweights and everything in between. I not only get to spend time in the midst of all these things, but I also get to use a fair number as fixtures in my shop!

I can neither fit into my house nor afford all the things I’d like to have, but I can certainly use the green farmhouse stick chair to display a few things, and the turquoise wicker desk is a natural display for my fine art note cards  and writing paper. I’ve had my eye on the driftwood lamp for years, and I also found a black panther lamp with a fringed shade that I have to fit somewhere.

photo of green stick chair

The green farmhouse chair.

photo of cat figurine

The Purdue Cat.

Judi and I have been choosing animal- and nature-oriented items to display in my room, and while feline-themed things actually move pretty quickly (I have to admit I have several from her store), I did manage to find a 1950s-style modern design black cat planter from Purdue University to hold my business cards. Who would know?!

Speaking of vintage pottery, remember all those silly little planters your grandmother had holding philodendrons on her windowsills that were shaped like lambs and cows and pony carts? Those were originally designed to be used to take plants to persons who were ill or in the hospital to cheer them up, and often baby-themed ones were given to new parents (like they needed a plant to take care of). They still work fine for plants, so I’ll be planting all the little spider plant babies and cuttings from my houseplants, plus we’ll be planting herb plants in them to sell on the sidewalk flea market Carnegie hosts during the summer.

photo of poddle printed tablecloth

brown and turquoise poodle cloth, also in brown and salmon

I’m also a fool for vintage table linens from the 30s, 40s and 50s, and while you don’t see too many cat-themed tablecloths (though you do see kittens now and then), poodles were a very popular  theme as in the cloths in vintage color themes.

So if you’re in the area make sure you stop in, and if not you can always visit my Marketplace blog and in my online Marketplace and my shop on Etsy. While Stanley is the feline who watches over my shop as you can see on my Marketplace and on Etsy, Cookie is the enforcer!

photo of shop sign

Cookie says, "Visit, or else!"


The Spring Kitten

hand-tinted block print of a white kitten on a branch with flowers

The Spring Kitten, hand-tinted block print © B.E. Kazmarski

As I assemble the photos and sketches I’ve done this snowy month, it’s time to celebrate spring with one of my favorite little kitty block prints.

I once had a pure white long-haired kitty with pea green eyes and a pink nose named Sally. She was also completely deaf, and completely fearless; without distraction, she lived in her own little world, full of sleep and joy and play. She was the inspiration for many sketches, paintings and photos, and for this little piece as well.

Almost everywhere I’ve lived has been a quince bush, an old-fashioned favorite for its early bright pink flowers—so early, in fact, that the bush in my neighbor’s yard in the years when Sally was young bloomed every year during the January thaw, and then snow would fall on the bright pink blooms, nestling in the curve of the branches like Sally when she’d found a good cozy spot. I have it shown with a watercolor hand-tinting, but you can see other variations on it on my Marketplace blog, and in my online marketplace where you can order the prints framed or unframed and even plain black and white.

I’m just beginning to print these now, and it’s exciting to see them all lined up; in a day or two I’ll start hand-tinting them, then let them dry for another day or two before I put some in the frame. I have always found a wonderful satisfaction with block printing. You can see other block-printed items, such as tees on my Marketplace blog and lots of prints of kitties in my online marketplace.