Think Ahead for Mother’s and Father’s Day Commissioned Portraits

sample certificate

Sample Portrait Gift Certificate

If you’re thinking of a custom portrait as a gift for someone for Mother’s or Father’s Day, let’s get started now! From our beginning conversations to shipping the finished framed portrait to you takes about four weeks, and we’ll be just in time for Mother’s Day if we start now.

I also remind people that “pet parents” are parents as well and qualify for gifts in honor of these two holidays, so why not celebrate with a gift from your animal children?

While a custom commissioned portrait is a really unique gift, sometimes you can’t get the photos or you’d rather let the recipient design the portrait they want. I offer gift certificates for portraits in any denomination, but usually suggest $125.00 because it is the basic cost of a portrait, one subject in an area of about 10″ x 12″ depending on the subject matter. (The recipient is responsible for any amount the portrait costs over $125.00.)

portrait of kids and cats

For Our Grandparents, from 1992

How about all the children together, animal and human?

And even though I specialize in animals, I also paint people, and several times have painted portraits of people and their pets. I only have a few samples because some customers have requested privacy when the subjects were children and others haven’t given permission to be on the internet.

How the certificate works

The certificate itself is 8.5″ x 11″ and features a collage of portrait images with the recipient’s and giver’s names, printed on parchment cover stock. The whole thing is packaged in a pocket folder and includes a brochure, a letter from me to the recipient and several business cards. The certificate package can be easily mailed or wrapped as a gift and shipped directly to your recipient.

If you need your certificate in a hurry, let me know when you make your purchase, give me the name of the recipient and the holiday/event if any and I’ll e-mail you PDFs of the certificate, thank you letter and brochure so that you can print them out or forward them in e-mail. Please make sure you give me the e-mail where you want to receive them, especially if they are a surprise!

portrait of cat

Christie on her warm towel.

Prices are quoted per job, and include only the drawing (no mat or framing; this is extra, see below). Portraits start at $125.00 per subject for a color 8″ x 10″; prices increase according to size and complexity of work. Adding a background, extra objects (toys, etc.) and additional subjects are extra according to their complexity. I reserve the right to limit the content according to the finished size so that the subjects don’t become so small that details are impossible. And remember, I can only do so much with some photographs!

Framing is charged as a separate item, and we can discuss the framing when you contract for your portrait.

portrait of two cats and a dog

Shadow, Casey and Ralph, a mother's day gift.

Certificate can be used for other subjects as well

Animal artwork is not limited to pictures of your own pets, but may include pictures of any sort—wildlife images, for instance. In addition to portraits of your pets, I also offer portraits of your people, your house, or any other item of which you may want a portrait. I can always hold on to a portrait until a holiday, birthday or other event arrives, and I can keep a secret if the portrait is a gift.

You are helping a long list of animal shelters and rescues

Your purchase of a certificate supports many shelters and animal welfare organizations because I also donate at least a half dozen certificates to benefit auctions every year where all proceeds of the sale go directly to the organization; your purchase helps me cover the costs of creating original art for the winners of these certificates. I’m always pleased to see they auction for more than their face value—in this way, I can “give” more to the organizations than I ever could in cash.

carol and smudge

Carol and Smudge

Read about portraits and look at samples

You can read more about custom commissioned portraits on this site by clicking the tab at the top for Commissioned Pet Portraits and from there follow the links to my website.

You can also read stories about portraits on The Creative Cat, including progress images of more recent portraits and stories of portraits I’ve done in the past.
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.

To go directly to the Gift Certificate on my website, click here, or go to my Portraits of Animals shop on Etsy.

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.

Donation to a WPHS Event and a Visit to the Cat Colony Room

me with kittens

Help, I'm surrounded (there's one behind me too)!

Help! I’m being mobbed by kittens!

Not that I mind, in fact that’s kind of the point of the Cat Colony Room at the Western Pennsylvania Humane Society (WPHS)—to get you in touch with your inner kitten, and hopefully with your next kitten or adult cat best friend.

I recently visited in order to drop off my donation to the WPHS Best Friends’ Calendar 2012 Preview Event upcoming on September 13 (details below), a certificate for me to create a commissioned portrait for the winner.

kitten on shelf

He blends right in!

The Cat Colony Room

Of course, I couldn’t pass up a visit to the newly-developed room which opened just this past June with the purpose of providing more room for 10 or more kittens to live together and run and play, and a space for people to walk in, sit down on the floor and have kittens crawl all over them so they’ll just be able to get to know them a little better before adopting.

“This used to be a storage room full of cabinets to store food and things for the cats and rabbits and sinks to clean the litter boxes,” said Gretchen Feiser, Director of PR and Business Relationships for WPHS who took the time to give me a tour. “We had only one room for meeting cats, and on a busy Saturday people get frustrated with waiting—and we certainly don’t want that if they’ve come here to adopt!”

orange kittens on shelf

Kittens wake up, ready for play!

They made a decision in spring to create a second feline meeting room room in time for the dreaded “kitten season” to help with housing the overflow of kittens and the occasional backup of adopters.

“These kittens have come back from foster homes,” Gretchen continued, explaining that they try to get litters of kittens brought in for surrender into foster homes “until they are a good age and good weight for spay or neuter.”

Normally there are many more kittens in the Cat Colony Room, but this morning there were four, all girls, all spayed and ready for homes. The brown tabby who greeted us at the door and had a thing for my shoes was Zipper, at 11 weeks. The three orange kittens were all 12 weeks and all from one litter: Ringo, the orange and white girl; Lala, the orange tabby; and Sasha Fierce, the cream tabby—now there’s a name to tell you about a kitty!

gretchen with kitten

Gretchen with Zipper.

The importance of foster homes

The kittens chewed on our shoes and pulled on our earrings and climbed all over us, apparently secure in the knowledge that humans are just big cat toys, as Gretchen explained the importance of foster homes for kittens and all other animals in the shelter.

Kittens often come into the shelter too young to adopt, even needing to be bottle-fed, they may have illnesses common to young kittens, may have been found orphaned and need nurturing, or they may have been born outdoors and never been socialized with people. Kittens do much better in a home situation in the hands of people who are willing to feed and cuddle and play with kittens to socialize them and introduce them to children and other pets and a true home situation so that when they are adopted they know how to behave.

“We have a great group of foster homes,” Gretchen said, adding that they numbered over 100 at the moment, ready to take pets of any age for wellness, socialization and cage breaks.

“But we need more, especially at this time of year,” she continued. “We took in 48 cats on Tuesday [August 23], and we adopted out 11.”

Those foster homes help take care of the overflow of animals, especially cats during the summer. A typical foster session may be only days to give an cat a break from being in the shelter, or it may be a week or two if they are being treated for an illness such as an upper respiratory infection and need medication, or it may be a month or two in the case of young kittens. In all cases, WPHS covers the cost of medication and veterinary care in their own shelter clinic.

“And then they come here like this, friendly, healthy and ready to play,” said Gretchen as she cuddled an orange kitten.

“If you want to adopt but can’t, or you want to help out but can’t come here to volunteer, you can always foster,” she added.

volunteers with kitten

Volunteer Cat Cuddlers


While we were there two Volunteer Cat Cuddlers, Siobhan and Sean, came in to play with the kittens.

“We come in about twice a week,” said Siobhan, “and we really do hug kitties!”

person with kittens

Sean with kittens.

“We take them out of the cages and visit with them too,” Sean added as a kitten was hanging off his glasses and another was climbing up his back.

We continued playing with the kittens until they started piling up for a nap.

The wonderful adult cats

Next we visited the cages in the main cat room and played with as many kitties as we could.

yoshi and miko

Yoshi and Miko

Yoshi, a long-haired tortoiseshell, 8 months, and Miko, a long-haired tabby, 2 years, had come from a home where there were “too many cats”. They were a beautiful pair of kitties, playful, gregarious, curious—anyone who adopted these two would have a home instantly full of the loving and playful companionship of two cats who were best buddies, ready to be best buddies with you.



Peaches, white with a few orange spots, looked cool and distant at first, until she fell down on her side and began begging for pets, nearly falling out of her cage!



Gizmo is a big and quiet kitty, long-haired tabby with white, but I could tell he had a lot of mischief in him, and the way he made direct eye contact told me he’s ready to be best friend with a human.

I could hear Ursula purring all the way down the row of cages, and while she appeared to be a plushy gray kitty rubbing back and forth and being as cute as possible, on closer inspection I could see she was a dilute tortoiseshell. Unfortunately, her photo didn’t come out well. It’s a shame I can’t sometimes be Lakshmi with several extra hands to hold kitties and take photos at the same time!

Of course, there were other kitties, and I visited last Thursday, so there may be new kittens and adult cats for adoption, but I can assure you that any of the cats I met would make a wonderful companion! Stop over at the shelter to visit, adopt if you can, or consider being one of the Humane Society’s wonderful foster homes.

The 2012 Best Friends’ Calendar

Each year the WPHS creates a wall calendar featuring photos of wonderful pets as a fundraiser for the shelter through sponsorships and sales. The Preview Event on September 13, 2011 will be at the Fox Chapel Yacht Club from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. and will feature hors d’oeuvres and a cash bar, calendars for sale and an auction of donated items, such as my portrait certificate, to benefit the shelter. For all this, tickets are only $25.00 each. Visit or call 412-321-4625, ext. 248.

Open Door Shelters

“Being an Open Door Shelter means we never turn away an animal in need. We currently take in over 14,000 animals each year and have been helping people and pets since 1874. Visit the Open Door Shelters website.”

sample portrait certificate

Sample Commissioned Portrait Certificate

Donation of Commissioned Portrait Certificates

As my way of giving to shelters, I donate a limited number of commissioned portrait certificates to shelters and rescue groups every year to sell or auction in their fundraisers. The certificates are worth $125, the minimum cost of a portrait, and typically auction for well more than that. The winner receives a presentation folder with the signed certificate, a thank you letter from me for supporting the organization, one of my brochures and the invitation to begin the process of a portrait of their design.

I have to limit the number of certificates I donate because of the amount of time I put into each portrait, but I also offer commissioned portrait certificates at a reduced cost to other shelters and rescues when my yearly quota is reached. I like to help as many organizations as I can, but the kitties need to eat too! Please contact me if you are interested.

All images used in this article 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.

Bodie and Bear Bear Are Ready to Go Home

bodie and bear final portrait

Bodie and Bear Bear final portrait

I have completed and framed this portrait, and it’s off to its people to be a surprise holiday gift.

Bodie face

Bodie's face

You can read more about the background on it in my first post, and the fact that the husband is returning the favor to his wife, who commissioned me to do a portrait several years ago.

I had gotten a pretty good start in the first draft, but if you look closely you’ll see a lot more fur this time, and more detail generally.

Bear's face

Bear's face

The portrait is 18″ wide by 14″ tall, and the dogs’ faces a pleasantly big, large enough to work good detail around the eyes and on their noses. Working the fur on subjects this large is a little more time consuming, especially with long-haired animals such as these. I start with general areas of color to mark where the shadows and highlights are, but then I layer other tints and hues over that and the final top color in wisps, blended with my fingers. This is what gives the fur the depth and texture while maintaining the right coloration.

I really enjoy dog’s noses—there’s so much going on there! And in an extreme close-up you see so many different-colored hairs and whiskers of every length.

Read the details of building the portrait and the people who commissioned me in my first post.

I can’t wait to hear what the recipient has to say, and I’ll be sad to see them go so soon!

Read more about my animal portraiture.

Meet Bodie and Bear Bear

painting of two dogs on rug

Bodie and Bear Bear waiting for action, first draft.

Do I paint dogs too? Of course! Bodie and Bear Bear will be a holiday gift to a spouse.

detail of dog's face

Detail of Bodie.

This is the first draft of this portrait of the owner’s two dogs, painted in pastel as usual. I love images of our animal companions like this—isn’t this how we often see them, looking up at us expectantly? It’s a little difficult of an angle to draw because it’s often quite foreshortened, especially with taller dogs whose heads are simply closer to the lens. In this case I widened the two dogs’ lower bodies to keep them in natural proportion. I have fur to add to both of them, but that will come last.

This painting is about 12″ x 18″, plenty big enough for detail, so when I first looked at the photo and began to visualize, I knew I could work with the dogs as they were, just modifying their bodies as described above. But what about the hardwood floor, and that rug?

detail of dog's face

Detail of Bear Bear's face.

I actually charge extra for these background elements, and sometimes I’ll advise to omit them, both for various reasons. A smaller painting would make it difficult to work these details, more time-consuming, often more time than the subjects themselves so I make sure they are important to my customer. They can also be really distracting and take away from the subject being more of a design element, and people get tired of carpets and such. I hope this painting will hang on the wall for years and years, but what if my customer gets tired of the rug, or changes the colors all over the house? I doubt they’ll get tired of looking at the dogs, but the carpet might get a little tiresome years from now.

On the other hand, the hardwood floors and the carpet are from the era of these pets, and all together it looks like home. This painting is large enough to support the patterns, the dogs are large enough not to be overwhelmed, so I decided to include it, though simplified. Once I got my initial sketch done, I liked the composition and dove right in.

detail of carpet and floor

Detail of carpet and floor.

Because animal fur floats over its background, I usually finish the background of a portrait before I work on the subjects. The floor and rug are nearly done, but I need to finalize the details, especially in the floor, to give it a little bit more contrast. Both dogs have lots of loose, flowing fur which I can draw right on top of the background, filling out their figures and giving them both their familiar fuzzy shapes.

I can also finalize the details in the rest of the fur, but most importantly their faces, those eyes and noses and ears that are our most familiar features of our pets since we look at them most often. I paint until they look back at me.

painting of a dog and cat

Rocky, the dog, and Bullwinkle, the cat, pastel portrait © B.E. Kazmarski

The above portrait is for a certain wife. Happily enough about ten years ago I did a portrait of Rocky and Bullwinkle for said wife to give to her husband. What a wonderful set of circumstances.

I put together this portrait from many images of the two individually and together. I particularly liked the one of Bullwinkle on the floor with the repeated shadows and highlights, so I made that the basis of the portrait. We wanted to work some jewel tones into the background because they were predominant in the house, but we couldn’t go too dark since Rocky was mostly black. That was how this portrait came to be.

I’ll have an update very soon, since this needs to ship out on Friday!

You can see other portraits of dogs I’ve done, including progress images in Lassie and Buddy, and you can visit my website to see my portfolio of commissioned dog portraits. You can also view portraits of my cats, portraits of other cats, and portraits of people as well as other artwork commissioned and otherwise.

A Very Special Portrait

sketch of man holding black and white cat

Fred and Simba © B.E. Kazmarski

Well, the recipient was presented with his portrait on Saturday, totally surprised with the gift and rather emotional at the subject.

Several months ago my friend and customer Carolyn Kozlowski of My Three Cats & Co., Inc. said she’d like to commission me to create a portrait of her brother-in-law and his cat as a gift for his retirement from 40 years of teaching high school biology.

sketch of man looking at cat

Detail of two faces © B.E. Kazmarski

The cat, Simba, is a great love of Fred, and has been for all Simba’s 17 years. While Simba is generally well he’s pretty arthritic and moving slower all the time. Fred’s retirement, his affection for Simba and realizing Simba’s age all came together into the idea of the portrait.

And Pam, Carolyn’s sister and Fred’s wife, had captured a wonderful image of Fred cradling Simba on his left arm as they had done many times in those 17 years. After consideration of other poses, there was no question that this was the best image, not only as a portrait of Simba, but also as a gift for Fred to remember a special moment between the two.

Medium and style are always part of the decision in creating a portrait, finding what really suits the subject and theme, and even before I have all the materials together I usually visualize a image of the portrait from just the communication with the person and meeting the animal if I have had the opportunity to do so. In this case, at hearing about the pose, then seeing it on Pam’s phone (photos come from everywhere now), I immediately visualized a less formal style, something loose and flowing that didn’t pin down the details of Fred and Simba but let the image represent any moment in the years they were together.

tuxedo cat face close up

Detail of Simba's face © B.E. Kazmarski

In the original photo, Simba is facing Fred, a wonderful moment between the two. But we decided we wanted to capture a little more of Simba’s features in the portrait so we turned his head to look out of the portrait so you can see his wide face, big green eyes and pink nose.

Pencil was my first thought, a nice loose sketch on a warm-toned slightly textured paper, but the revised view meant adding color. A charcoal sketch with touches of pastel on a medium-toned paper would capture the image I was visualizing. Charcoal is available in various densities in pencils, in vines and in powder, but it has the necessary dense pure black I had in mind, the ability to work as a line or blend to muted, softened areas, and the soft matte finish I prefer for fur. The mid-range tone would enhance both the black and white of Simba’s tuxedo coat and allow me to highlight a few other elements in the drawing to give it body and depth, but leave non-subject areas with less detail.

Painting animals is a huge pleasure because I love studying their features and then capturing those features in some medium that illustrates them best, be it pencil or ink, or pastel or watercolor. I get to know another animal in a deep and intuitive way, even if they’ve passed, and they add another angel to my lifetime of animals I love, and another story to the long list of mine and others’.

Getting to know their people, most of whom have become friends over the years, has been a second great pleasure of animal portraiture, and another group of people with whom I can share the lives, loves and losses of a very important personality in our lives.

A portrait which is a gift is a level of honor I truly appreciate—the idea that another person trusts my talent enough to have me create this special gift is almost a frightening thought, but such a joy; we can never give too many gifts, and sharing in anothers’ gift is beyond compare. While I always think of my subject and the people involved while I work, I can also think about this other person who knows nothing about the special gift we’re creating, and the loving, joyous, usually highly emotional surprise they’ll have with it.

two people with painting

Fred and me with his portrait

I am rarely present at the presentation, though, and that made this portrait all the more special. I couldn’t imagine this portrait any other way, and everyone was pleased with it. Carolyn presented it, and Fred suddenly understood why I’d visited Pam a few times and why I was at his retirement party, other than being a friend of his wife and sister-in-law. My last visit was to determine the mat and frame.

But a little sad note…one thing that makes this portrait a little bittersweet is that Simba had a brother, Shakespeare, another tuxedo cat. When they were a little less than two, Shakespeare, investigating something on the floor, was startled enough to suddenly leap backward, hitting his back and neck on a doorframe, and after writhing in pain for a minute or two while Fred and Pam tried to look him over and decide what to do, he simply quit moving and quit breathing. Such a shock, to say unexpected is an understatement, and Fred and Pam have never forgotten, but Simba was never the same without his brother, much quieter and less playful, all the rest of his life. Simba hid while they buried him in the garden, but later Simba went to sit there.

So many stories, we all have so much to share.

I’m working with a few other people in designing their portraits now, plus I’ve got several I’ve had in mind to do for myself. You would think that I would have done portraits of all my cats, but it’s like the shoemaker’s kids going without shoes, I don’t always take the time for my own things. Plus my studio has been out of commission for a while so I haven’t pursued portraits, and now with merchandise moved out into my shop and things rearranged so that I can easily set up and work, I’m ready to get back to business.

To see other portraits I’ve done read about Madison, proof and finished portrait from last summer, and Lassie and Buddy from last spring. You can also visit my website and look under “Fine Art and Portraiture“, choosing “My Cats”“Commissioned Cats”, “Commissioned Dogs” and “Portrait Demonstration”.

My Creative Process on “Buckley’s Story” by Ingrid King

As both an animal artist and photographer and a commercial artist and designer, my cats are my muse, even if they aren’t the subject of my creative endeavor.

ingrid king and amber

Ingrid and Amber

Ingrid King, author of Buckley’s Story, has featured me again on Buckley’s Story in “The Creative Process” as I get to offer my understanding of how I create a piece of artwork, writing or a poem, and how my cats have been my muse and encouragement all along, even in commercial art.

While you are there, take the time to read about Buckley’s Story: Lessons from a Feline Master Teacher and about Ingrid’s holistic approach to animal wellness, and make sure you visit The Conscious Cat as well.

I met Ingrid King at the Cat Writer’s Association annual conference in November 2009 and heard her speak about her book. From her loss of Buckley, a joyful and affectionate tortoiseshell cat who was diagnosed with heart disease after only two years, came an entire book, written immediately after Buckley’s passing. Since then it has received glowing reviews in the pet and pet loss industries.

image of book cover

Buckley's Story

I featured Ingrid and Buckley’s Story in my series Pet Loss in the First Person in the article entitled “Turning Loss into Creativity with Ingrid King and Buckley’s Story”. Ingrid tells how her career wandered around, forming into a helping, healing profession until Buckley joined, then left her life. She began writing in the midst of her grief, with a goal of having the book available to others by the first anniversary of Buckley’s passing, like a promise kept.

Pet Love and Pet Loss, and How it Gave Me My Art

Seventh and last in a series of “pet loss and grief told from personal experience”

pastel painting of cat on windowsill

Suncatcher © B.E. Kazmarski

I simply have the observation that every time I’ve lost a cat, I’ve gained something in my life. I’ve made decisions about my career, began working in a new medium and found new friends, all around the time of a loss.

Perhaps the trauma of the loss caused me to see things from a new perspective, or to break an old habit and begin reorganizing my life, or just gave me a new perspective on myself so my same old life felt new again. I really think it was a gift from them so I might be distracted from my grief.

It began with love

I have a degree in English and wanted to be a writer and go on to study linguistics and comparative arts. Life took a different turn and presented other possibilities, and where I had neglected my interest in art before I suddenly had the time to practice.

A few years out of college, at night after work, I chose to pick up a pencil and paper and put them together because I felt the need to start expressing myself in images.

At the same time, inspired by my love for Kublai who had rescued me, I had been rescuing and fostering cats and, of those I picked up from streets and midwifed into the spare bedroom, a rag tag bunch of six had come together to share my life. Because of my experience with Bootsie I was busy learning as much as I could about feline health, diets, history and allopathic and naturopathic medicine so that I could give them the best care possible and not miss a single symptom of anything.

pastel painting of a cat on a bed

Sunday Morning © B.E. Kazmarski

And while they may have looked like common garden variety cats to everyone else, I thought they were the most beautiful beings to ever walk the earth. I had always loved cats because of their quiet grace and independent nature, but the opportunity to know these cats had rendered it from the general to the specific.

Images of my cats kept appearing in my thoughts as pencil drawings and paintings and I decided to draw what I was envisioning. The need to express and the subject matter came together at just the right time and I began producing images I could never have imagined I was capable of rendering, moving from pencil, the only medium in which I had any skill, to ink to pastel because I could leave them every day and return the next night without worrying about drying time or too much set up or clean up.

I worked faithfully on learning my technique and sharpening my inner vision as I spent years painting my cats. Learning each new medium, technique or style has been based on a vision of one of my household residents before I moved off to another subject, flowers or landscapes, usually. With their guidance, I’ve mastered pencil, ink, chalk pastel, oil pastel, watercolor, acrylic, oil, collage, mixed media and photography.

It continued with loss

I realized with my first loss after beginning to sketch and paint the power of a portrait, and while they had started out as expressions of love, they became also expressions of remembrance, and as I lost that original family of muses that this was the greatest gift of all, giving them a sort of immortality.

Through the years my cats have been the subjects of dozens of works, and others, seeing these works, want a similar piece with their own animal companion as a subject. I have had the pleasure of creating more than 100 commissioned portraits of cats, dogs, cats and dogs, and cats and dogs and people. They are gifts for loved ones, memorials to cherished companions who’ve gone before us, and lovely pieces of artwork featuring an animal a person loved. You can find out more about my animal portraits in the “Custom Pet Portraits” page on this blog or by visiting my website where I have a demonstration and images of cat and dog portraits.

.pastel portrait of cat


pastel portrait of dogs

Sophie and Ellie

watercolor portrait of dog and two cats

Washburn Trio

Now Stanley watches over my studio in “After Dinner Nap,” Kublai forever rolls on the floor like a goof in “Are You Looking at Me?”, Fawn peeks out from under the dust ruffle waiting for me to walk by in “Waiting for Mom,” and there is also Moses and Sally and Sophie and Namir whose portraits I can smile and look at. I have two new portraits planned, of Allegro and Nikka that I intend to work on this spring, now that I’ve found the best reference photos.

The animal sympathy cards

But there was one other project that had been waiting in the wings all these years, and with the loss of Namir I felt as if I had finally, somehow, come full circle and arrived at the point where I could put my grief in images and design the animal sympathy cards I had always planned to do, but kept putting off until the time was right. I think I wanted to make sure that I had enough experience and perspective so I wouldn’t design something I’d turn my back on later, thinking it was incomplete or immature. Of all cats, Namir doesn’t appear here except for his pawprints in “I’ll always walk beside you”. But I wanted to make sure I memorialized Lucy, the little black kitty you see twice below, who I lost at 15 months to FIP, right after I had lost my four oldest friends.

animal sympathy card

No other eyes will look at you in quite the same way again.

animal sympathy card

The sweetest memories often come in quiet moments.

animal sympathy card

Remember the best moments with love and joy.

While I am a fine artist, I have actually worked as a graphic designer for more years than I want to tell. Designing everything from letterhead to websites every day, the task of designing these cards was second nature to me. I was glad, for once, to use my commercial art skills to create something for my offering of animal art, especially since my poor neglected cats could just expire all over my desk before I took my eyes off the computer.

animal sympathy card

always in your heart

animal sympathy card

They find a comfortable spot in your heart to live in forever and ever.

animal sympathy card

They find a comfortable spot in your heart to live in forever and ever.

I’ve found, to my surprise, that these cards are sometimes purchased for the loss of a human, or even a “thinking of you” card for persons who like animals—I never considered this. Using the images of my own cats for these cards, especially ones who had passed, was a little frightening; if one of the designs was not at all popular it could feel like a rejection of that kitty, who I loved so much. I am so glad I waited until my sentiments and designs were more universal, not so personal, to create these cards. Some are more popular than others, but I have reprinted all of them so no one has been left behind.

animal sympathy card

I will always walk with you.

animal sympahty card

Remember the beautiful moments with love and joy.

animal sympathy card

No other eyes will look at you in quite the same way again.

I intentionally chose to use photos rather than paintings for most of the designs. I like the softness and little bit of fiction I can work into a painting, but somehow I felt the realism of a photo was needed when expressing deep and sincere emotions of these cards.

animal sympathy card

Remember the beautiful moments from all those years together.

animal sympathy card

No other eyes will look at you in quite the same way again.

animal sympathy card

They leave their mark on us, don't they?

Each of the cats depicted here was or is one of mine and the dogs are ones I’ve come to know through friends and art customers. I am currently working on more dog images as well as images of home and nature where we remember our animal companions best. There are more cats than dogs because I live with cats and have lots of material, but more than that I am careful with the images I use, not only that they are easily recognized and accepted, but that I know the animal well enough to use its image for this purpose. They are conveying a heavy thought, and I don’t take the relationship with my subject matter lightly.

All animal sympathy cards can be found in my Marketplace under Animal Sympathy Cards.

Other images used for sympathy

And in addition to the intentionally-designed sympathy cards are the blank greeting and note cards I have available portraying a special moment of one of my cats I’ll always remember.

pastel drawing of a cat on a bed

Afternoon Nap

pastel painting of a cat looking out a window

Winter Window

oil pastel drawing of cat in the sun

Warm Winter Sun

pencil drawing of a cat on a windowsill

Sleeping Beauty, my Sally, pencil © B.E. Kazmarski

pencil drawing of striped cat

Stanley's Stripes

pencil drawing of cat sleeping

Don't Wake Me Up

We have each other to thank

Animals give us so much in everyday life, but my cats have given me my career.

Pet loss and grief told from personal experience

When I was losing a pet and making decisions, and after I had lost a pet and was dealing with grief, I was most comforted by hearing stories from others about their experiences. Sitting with one of my cats in the middle of the night, trying to determine if they were suffering in any way, if they were ready to let go, struggling to make the decision about euthanasia and what to do after they died, I felt so alone and only hearing what others had experienced and what they had decided helped me put my own situation and decisions into perspective, and let me know that I was not the only person to experience the anguish I was suffering. I’ve composed this series of articles in the hopes that others find comfort in my experiences and those of the others mentioned here, and that information included about services and products may help them in their decisions.

Read the other articles in this series:

To love that well, which thou must leave ‘ere long: my first and worst lesson in pet loss

Starting with pet loss—before the loss: begin preparing yourself for loss by being proactive about care and providing palliative care yourself at home

Options for “After Care”, featuring Chartiers Custom Pet Cremation: aftercare, and a profile of a business and a person I find exceptional, and exceptionally comforting

Heal Your Heart After Pet Loss, a Remarkable CD and Guidebook: your grieving process, and a very special CD and guidebook for those times when you need a comforting voice

Turning Loss into Creativity with Ingrid King and Buckley’s Story: how grief can become the catalyst for change, turning grief into a creative effort

Pet Loss Support Information: ideas and resources for where to find comfort and support in your loss, including books about and inspired by the author’s personal experience

Pet Love and Pet Loss, and How it Gave Me My Art: my own experience turning multiple losses loss into multiple creative endeavors

About the images used in this post

All of the images used here are of my artwork, from portraits to designed cards. It’s one of the things that helps me with losing them, to know that their image goes out in the world and they are thereby, in a way, immortal. To see the art visit my website and look under “Fine Art and Portraiture” for the gallery, “My Cats“. Also look under “Photography” for the five galleries of “My Cats“. You can browse prints and notecards in my “Marketplace“.