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.


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

A Visiting Artist

man with black cat

Chaz visits, looking for hidden cats

Giuseppe makes sure he gets ALL the attention from our visitor. Perhaps he wants to be sketched by Chaz and have other black kitties hidden in him?

I featured Chaz a few months ago in Creating With Cats. He has had hidden animal drawings featuring cats for years (guy knows what’s good for him, featuring cats first, and in more than one drawing), but he also showed me a few hidden dog drawings in different breeds he’ll be featuring at the upcoming dog show and they are very clever, I really liked them, especially the Boxer.

Chaz is working on a new idea for his hidden-animal ink sketches and stopped over for me to help him set up the art for the project. While I had my hands and attention on the keyboard, Mimi, Jelly Bean and Mr. Sunshine all twirled around acting as cute as could be and got their share of attention, but Giuseppe decided to get on Chaz’s lap, thereby being closest to both hands.

Being on the road with shows most of the year, Chaz doesn’t have any pets of his own, but the big ginger neighborhood cat, Sammie, stops by for a visit every so often, hangs out for a while, then asks to go back outside. It looked to me as if he was used to petting cats all day long.

So will we see hidden black kitties in Chaz’s next drawings? Guess we’ll have to see! If so, perhaps I’ll feature those nice dog drawings and a few other new animals…


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 New Daily Sketches on Etsy

watercolor of two cats on blanket

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

I’ve added two more daily sketches to my Etsy shop, both Purple Cats, Red Blanket from 1/6/12 and Sleeping and Bathingfrom 1/10/12. Looks like Mewsette and Jelly Bean are the winners this week! Read the post on Portraits of Animals Marketplace.


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.

Donate to WPHS in Honor of Penny the Angel

sample feline art card

Sample Feline Greeting Card.

I’m so excited Penny was adopted from WPHS, and the whole story of her rescue and the people who adopted her just warms my heart.

calico cat in carrier

Here's Penny.

I used to be angry with people who “dumped” pets at shelters, but you can’t generalize reasons why pets end up there nor the people who surrender them, and you do much more good helping the shelter that has taken them in. Instead of getting angry I put my energy into helping people keep their pets, helping people adopt pets and creating things that help people love animals all the more, helping shelters find good and loving permanent homes for the animals in their care.

box of cards

Feline Art Cards set of 12

Please make a donation to the Western Pennsylvania Humane Society to help support what they do for other cats and dogs all year round. I’ll give you a gift if you do: Visit my Friendraiser page for WPHS and order a dozen Feline Greetings cards in honor of Penny, and $10 of every purchase will be donated to WPHS. Use the link on the Friendraiser page to go to my Etsy shop, and make sure you enter the code WPHSPENNY in the notes section when you order!

You can read about the inspiration for the cards here.

western pennsylvania humane society logo

WPHS logo

About the Western Pennsylvania Humane Society

While Penny was at WPHS, they spayed her and treated her for an upper respiratory infection, and of course they fed her and supplied litter for her personal use. This is not free, and the medical care can get expensive. WPHS is an open-door shelter, charged with accepting any animal brought to their door—a little over 14,000 cats and dogs last year.

The WPHS is an “open-door” shelter helping animals in need in Pittsburgh and Allegheny county since 1874.

I prefer the term “open door” for a shelter which will take in any animal in need at any time because I know the alternative to a shelter is a drop off in a park or isolated woods or some lonely back road for a cat or dog or rabbit—I’ve rescued plenty of them. I have also seen WPHS through the years find every new and ingenious way of getting their animals out in front of the public and into a permanent home, and I know the costs of running a shelter that serves over 13,000 animals per year is huge, only accomplished with the help of donations large and small. And they are apparently wise with their money; Charity Navigator has designated the Western PA Humane Society as a Four-Star charity, its highest ranking for efficient use of donations, five years in a row!

If not WPHS, please support your local shelter in any way you can. And if you are looking for an angel kitty, there are many more kitties who have stories as well. Adopt if you can, foster if not, or donate to your local shelter in time, goods or money this coming year.


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

Tortie Girls Block Print Tee Shirts

The Goddess block-printed t-shirt

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

I’ve had several requests about my tortie girls t-shirts lately, so I thought I’d add the ones I have back to my Etsy site. While I am low on sizes I had put them all aside until I could print more and have all sizes available. But considering I print these in oil-based ink and clean up with turpentine I usually wait until I can have the windows open or I can print outdoors, which is March at the earliest. So for now, they are either very large or very small.

Read about the tees and about creating these prints on Portraits of Animals Marketplace.


To see more daily photos go to “Daily Images” in the menu and choose “All Photos” or any other category.

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

Creating With Cats: An Unintentional Life’s Work

"Cat's Tale", ink drawing by Chaz Letzkus

If you are of a certain age you will …well, you may remember the rock group “Santana” and the cover of their eponymous album, “Santana”. This cover featured an ink line drawing of a roaring lion which, on closer inspection, was actually composed of sketches of many other subjects worked together to create the features of the lion’s face and mane. You’ll just have to look it up, because any further description ruins the surprise.

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The Artist’s Life: The Splendor of Autumn

still life of wildflowers

Autumn Harvest, 12" x 10", pastel © B. E. Kazmarski

Sometimes things happen in our lives that move us along in ways that seem totally unrelated to the incident. I found this to be true in my early years of attempting to develop myself as an artist as job and schedule and relationship changes buffeted me about and I found myself turning increasingly to creating artwork to fill the void and give myself at least that in my life as a constant. I often wonder if I would have progressed apace if I hadn’t had these nudges and shoves.

Often that catalyst is a loss of some sort, the passing of a loved one or a change that leaves an open spot in our lives which eventually we must fill in order to heal. In the autumn of 1996 I lost two of my cats two weeks apart, but discovered my love for painting my familiar local landscapes en plein air and also began painting still lifes and I know in no small part their spirits led me to this.

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Namir at the Window, Reprise

painting of cat with flowers

Namir at the Window, acrylic © B. E. Kazmarski

Now that I’m getting my studio in order, I’m also finding a few unfinished projects, so last night I decided to reacquaint myself with this painting and with acrylic paints and techniques.

Normally, I’m pretty linear with working on something, focusing on one clear idea at a time. When I’m learning something new I hit points where I’m not skilled enough to do something and need to either work it out there or outside of that piece, or just stop and let the lessons I’ve learned sink in and get back to it when I’m ready to move on. This is the third time I’ve worked on this and a fresh eye has led to a few decisions.

paitning of cat at window

Last proof of painting from 2009.

I began this painting in January 2008 from photos I took of Namir in 2005, I think, soon after I’d gotten the acrylics, but hit a learning wall at one point and put it aside to work on commissions. I pulled it out again in April of 2009 when Namir, at 15 with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, was having increasing trouble with congestive heart failure, kidney failure and related health issues, and I know we didn’t have much time left. I wanted to work on the painting when he was still with me. He died in July 2009, and again I left it where it had been at that time.

Namir is gone but I love to remember him in any way I can. The area where I keep this windowbox is too shady for the colorful geraniums and petunias and marigolds I’d always grown in it, and the pleasant memory of him at the window with the flowers is a treasure to spend time with.

My changes this time

Where before I wanted to get the reflection in the window so it didn’t “t look like a big black hole in the middle of the painting”, get “a little more detail on the shutter on the right…”, I’ve decided there is too much background that isn’t necessary. I originally liked the “cottage-ish” look of the shutter and windowbox, but they aren’t interesting enough. If there was, or I could add, something of interest there, I’d do that, but I think what I’ll do instead is crop the painting, literally.

painting of cat at window

The cropped version.

I want it to show what I remember most and what I feel is most important, and I don’t need to show the whole scene to do that as I first thought. It’s a canvas stretched on cardboard, not stretchers, so all I need to do when I’m done is cut out the part I want to use and frame that. I’ve done that with other paintings in other media including other acrylics (see below). For now, I just won’t work on that anymore. That’s kind of freeing!

I also adjusted the color of the lace curtain. There is a screen in the window that tends to tint everything that’s not sunlit with brown, and even though it’s lighter than it is in the original photo it makes more sense. I’ll also add more texture back into it, now that I have the shade right.

I had also wanted to change Namir’s so “he looks less like a grey coyote”. He does have big ears, an angular face and a prominent nose, but I had painted the curtain around his face and overlapped a little too much, taking too much away from the edges of his face and head and working his ears out too long. I adjusted his forehead, shortened his ears and added a little more to the back of his neck. His coloring isn’t right yet, but I’m still working him out against the background. And while he was very slender I may add a little more roundness to his lower torso.

Also, his eye in the photo is barely apparent, a fluke of a leaf shadow that crossed over his face when I took the photo, but it didn’t work in the painting, so I’m working that out from other photos. It’s amazing what our eye will accept in photos but not in a painting. Not there yet, but definitely an improvement.

Acrylic painting and me

painting of laundry on line

My Neighbor's Laundry, acrylic © B. E. Kazmarski

Acrylic painting is a challenge because I’m most accustomed to pastel for color work like this, and I use my fingers for much of pastel, holding it directly in my hand and blending with my fingers. Pastel is also very patient and waits for me to do something, remaining exactly as I left it for indefinite periods of time, where acrylic paint has an annoying habit of drying right away.

The work above began as an 18″ x 24″ painting of a view I see all the time—one neighbor’s laundry hanging in front of their neighbor’s huge old white garage, which was at one time a carriage house and stable. It was the barn, not the laundry, that initially made me want to paint this on a summer morning because I loved the look of the colors reflected in the white paint from all the green, the blue from the sky and so on.

That was one time where I wasn’t skilled enough in acrylic to pull it off (though I did in pastel–I actually did the same painting in pastel just to give myself some guidance), and I totally overworked the barn. I learned quite a bit about acrylics in that one, but had no intention of showing it to anyone, much less enter it in “Carnegie Painted”, the annual art show it was destined for.

But I loved, loved the laundry. It was exactly what I wanted, and the green of the grass and the dappled leaves behind. I had a frame on hand so I cut it down to fit that, 14″W x 7″H. I thought I’d kept the rest because I keep everything and I also might want to use it in teaching some day, but I couldn’t find it. Nor could I find the pastel drawing. I sincerely doubt that I tossed them because I had a purpose, though in a moment of desperation for space in this house I may have. Probably they are safely packed together somewhere.

I’m not sure I like acrylic paints generally because of the drying issue, I like the more glossy finish on oil and the colors resemble my pastels a little more closely, but two friends gave me unused acrylic paints and canvases and brushes, so I’m getting all the practice I can and I’m sure I’ll get used to it. What I love about acrylics is the brushwork I can do that is difficult in pastel, and it’s not just about the shapes and colors on the canvas, but the 3-D texture of paint. I also love working with a brush, choosing the right brush for the task, loading it with paint, sometimes several colors at once, it’s a very different way of thinking than my pastels. I just need to do more acrylics and see how it works out!

We’ve Shipped Out the First Few Copies!

black cat sleeping on desk

Mewsette, my erstwhile shipping supervisor.

We’ve organized our paperwork and packed up and sent the first orders for Great Rescues!

[Mom worked all day and it was really boring but we couldn’t distract her. Mewsette made sure everything was address, packed and labeled correctly; note that she can do this in her sleep.]

Now we just have to wait and see what people think. Please feel free to write your comments about Great Rescues on the blog at Great Rescues, on the Reviews page or on any page on the Great Rescues site.

Photographs and Memories

cat sprawled on bed

Sophie having a good nap

I’ve been working on a design project using my artwork, so I’m digging back through recent digital photos and farther back into the years of film prior to that to find my shots of the artwork as I work on my layout.

Digging through photos is not unusual as I use my own photos for my design assignments all the time. But this is different—these are commissioned portraits of cats through the years and the memories the portraits bring back, mingled with the memories of all the cats I’ve known through the years, is like a review of my cats, of my art, of my past 20 years and where it’s all led me.

And as I look through them an old song simply begins to play in my memory as well.

Photographs and memories…

photo of cat on desk

Peaches is ready to eat.

Just last year, there is Peaches, and though I knew she was ill and our time was limited, we still had wonderful days, she a part of each moment I was home. Her petite frame, her creamy white fur with the big peach and gray patches, her quiet self-centeredness and her devoted expressions greet me from photos of her from nearly every day until October when she passed.

three cats

One of these things is not like the other.

And there with her is Dickie, that big silly tabby cat I fostered for a year who managed to fit right in with everyone in the household, trying to look like one of the girls on the cabinet in the kitchen so he could get some of their food, sleeping in one of his truly bizarre positions, bathing Kelly in the library.

Cookie and Namir and Me

The year before that I find Namir and Cookie and I out in the yard for that last splendid June mingled with photos of the flowers as they bloomed, the two of them trailing me around as if I needed supervision, the yard lush and green.

mimi nursing kittens

Mimi's first night here.

Then I find the year of Mimi and the Big Four as they grew from black fluffballs to rangy juveniles, back when they were hardly more than just another momcat and litter of kittens who needed homes, before they all stole my heart.

All that I have are these
To remember you…

black cat on table


Before them I find Lucy, their half-sister who I lost so young, lithe and active, a part of every scene, already a subject.

two calico cats

Peaches and Cream first day.

Back to the time when Peaches and Cream were strangers who had just arrived, and when Peaches officially joined the household.

two cats on bricks

Stanley and Moses

There is Moses, quiet and gray, reclining in the sun on the bricks just outside the basement door, Stanley accompanying me in my garden, all the greenery noticeably smaller than a few years later in Namir and Cookie’s photos.

photo of a cat at a window with lace curtain

Sophie Keeps an Eye on Thingsn photo © B.E. Kazmarski

Sophie peeks at me through the lace curtains, blue forget-me-nots filling the windowbox just outside the window; I am so glad I turned around to see her and quickly snapped that shot as I was leaving the house one evening.

calico cat on couch

Where is Nikka?

I wonder why I photographed my Recamier, a piece of furniture I no longer have in my house, and there I see Nikka, the dilute tortie, nearly lost in the floral pattern.

white cat in garden

Sally of the Garden

I am again filled with wonder at the beauty of Sally’s glowing, silky white fur as she simply sits in the sun, and laugh when I see her sleeping in the shade under the Brussels sprout plants.

Memories that come at night
Take me to another time
Back to a happier day…

orange cat in sunshine


Then, as I move farther and farther back through the boxes of prints sorted into envelopes I watch my household grow younger, I see them walking on different floors and draped on different furniture, cats who’ve been gone five, ten, fifteen years reappear. Allegro sits on the windowsill soaking in the winter sun.

two cats

Kublai with Fawn

cat in sink

Cookie in the Sink

Kublai frolics in the deep snow the winter it was two feet deep from nearly November to April.  There is Fawn comforting Kublai in the last year of his life as a puzzling, undiagnosed illness caused him to waste away to nothing. Cookie amply fills up a pedestal sink in the bathroom I removed years ago.

two kittens

Smudge and Timmy

gray and white cat nursing two gray kittens outdoors

A Stray Cat with Her Kittens

There are the leagues of foster cats, individuals, momcats and litters of kittens, who I scooped up from a back road, trapped in a barn or accepted from someone who simply didn’t want to or couldn’t keep anymore who lived with me for days to weeks to months, but who went on to other loving homes, their “portrait shots” showing them from all angles and closeups of their faces intended for a dozen or so reprints to hand out to friends to help find them homes in the old-fashioned way before electronic communications made it so easy.

But we sure had a good time
When we started way back when…

two cats

Namir and Kelly beginnings.

And through this I am reminded of the first meetings with each of the cats who came to spend their lives with me, however brief or long that life was.

At one time each of them was a refugee and stranger, and that it was only by the chance of not being adopted that they came to stay with me.

How was I fortunate enough that these cats who I grew to love so desperately came to stay with me?

cat under bed

The photo

cat peeking out from under bed

Waiting for Mom, pastel © B.E. Kazmarski

Because among all these photos is me with my dreams, behind the scenes, behind the camera, learning to see, to plan, to think in different media, following their lead as they showed me their inner beauty, taught me about sunlight on their fur, looked intently at me to be sure I’d learned the lesson.

I didn’t know where I’d end up, but I knew that in these photographs of the lessons they gave me were what would lead me to…today.

black and white cats

The photo

image of block print

Awakening, block print

I see the photos that became paintings, sketches, block prints—Fawn peeking out from under the bed, Stanley on the table, Moses on the pink sweater, Kublai and Sally curled together like yin and yang, each of the works a combination of studying their movements and their personalities, and finding that one special moment that I found exceptional with each of them, instilling my love for them as I worked.

Through their patient, constant guidance I was directed from simply seeing, to visualizing, to realizing not only what I saw but what I felt, I photographed, remembered the moment within and without me, and put that on paper as best I could.

cat on table

The photo

pastel painting of a cat sleeping on a table

After Dinner Nap, my Stanley, pastel painting © B.E. Kazmarski

Others saw my paintings of my cats, saw perhaps my talent and skill but also how I felt about each of them, and asked if I could celebrate their beloved animal companions in the same way. I had thought that no one could love their cats as much as I loved mine, but in discussing their portrait with each of the people who commissioned me I learned that each of us loves our animal companions just as deeply, and that having people not only give me photos but also stories of love and devotion are essential to a good portrait.

pastel painting of black cat

Are You Looking at Me?

Sharing all of this led a richness to my life I would never have known in any other chosen profession, and even my decision to work at home as a commercial artist was influenced by the desire to create more time and space  for this artwork.

Photographs and memories
All the love you gave to me
Somehow it just can’t be true
That’s all I’ve left of you.

But we sure had a good time
When we started way back when…

photo of white cat sitting in sun

Speckle Sally Sitting, my Sally, photo © B.E. Kazmarski

I look around my home and there they are, in the flesh, on the walls, in boxes of photos and books of sketches, every moment of life with them an inspiration to do more, to try a new style or medium, to simply awaken my senses to shape and color and the essence of an image. If I ever leave a legacy it will be because of them. I thank them every day for giving me this life.

Thanks to Jim Croce for such a sweet song: “Photographs and Memories” © 1973 EMI Records