In Good Company: Cat Writers’ Association Communication Contest Awards

I couldn’t be in White Plains, NY, with all my fellow members of the Cat Writers’ Association (CWA) this Friday and Saturday, but I was there as much as possible in spirit, obsessively checking e-mail and Facebook to read news of what was happening in the workshops and social gatherings, and at the awards banquet on Saturday night. Most of all I truly missed the opportunity to socialize face to face with all these e-friends!

I am also very proud to have won four Muse Medallions, the highest honor awarded by the Cat Writers’ Association, these chosen from the awarded Certificates of Excellence announced last month. When the awards list is published, I’ll post a link so you can explore all the winners.

the creative cat

You'll recognize this one.

Read the rest of this entry »


Gathering Portraits and People: My Book Signing and Art Exhibit

portrait of black cat in wicker chair

Samantha, pastel © B. E. Kazmarski

Samantha’s portrait and Samantha’s mom will be there! I’m really looking forward to seeing some of my portraits and portrait families tomorrow night from 7 to 9 at Andrew Carnegie Free Library & Music Hall. Samantha’s mom is even bringing the photo I worked from, and she’ll be glad to talk about Samantha and her portrait. I am thrilled to be able to share this original portrait, so important to my career as an artist, with guests.

detail of portrait

Detail of Christie's face.

closeup of cat's face

Felix, detail of his face.

In addition to Samantha will be Felix and Christie and their mom and dad, as well as the other three portraits I’ve done for them. You can read more about these wonderful rescuers and their portraits in Big Kitty Love.

Milan and Felix

buster

Buster

Milan and Felix‘s mom and dad won’t be able to attend, but I’ll be able to show the portrait of these two wonderful rescued friends.

But you will be able to see Buster’s portrait and the other one I did for the set of two, and his mom will be there as well.

three orange cats

Amaretto, Simon and Merlin

I’ll also show Amaretto, Simon and Merlin and the other portrait I did of Cassie and Tyler, this family’s two dogs, and portraits from friends who will visit who are not in this calendar.

I will also be showing my personal portraits and feline artwork, including Peaches and Peonies, Waiting for Mom, Are You Looking at Me, Warm Winter Sun, Afternoon Nap, The Little Sunflower, Interior with Cat, Sunbath, Sunday Morning, Winter Window, Sleeping Beauty, and perhaps even more if I can carry them all. Visit “My Cats” on my website to see these and more.

Details of the event are included below!

Join me Thursday, September 22, 2011 from 7 to 9 pm at Andrew Carnegie Free Library & Music Hall in Carnegie for a reception and book signing for Great Rescues Calendar and Gift Book.

Augie

For that night only, I will display several of the original portraits included in Great Rescues as well as other original portraits, including some of my own, in the Reception Hall.

Many of the people whose portraits and stories are featured in the book will be joining me.

I will be happy to dedicate your copy to your rescued pets, to a rescue organization or shelter or, if it is a gift, to a friend or relative who rescues animals.


Celebrating the stories of rescued cats and the people who rescued them, and the artwork of animal artist and writer Bernadette E. Kazmarski.

I’m pleased to present my first published work, truly a labor of love from creating the portraits within it to collecting the stories and  designing, printing and publishing it.

buster

Buster

Reviews

“Lovely to look at and read and hold in the hands, Great Rescues is an altogether ‘up’ experience, where people are compassionate and good, and however troubled their beginnings, all cat stories have happy endings.” Marion Lane, former editor of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) newsletter Animal Watch.

“Received my copy of Great Rescues, a most exquisite book/calendar jammed-packed with irresistible fine-art paintings of cats of all kinds, and wonderous stories about them, painted and penned by Bernadette E. Kazmarski…I highly recommend this book; give it 4 paws up.” Allia Zobel Nolan, author of more than 170 illustrated books and former children’s editor of Readers’ Digest Books.

painting of dilute calico with amaryllis

Peaches

“This is one of the most beautiful cat calendars I’ve seen. The paintings are stunningly beautiful, and the stories are heart touching. And it’s so much more than just a calendar.” Ingrid King, author of Buckley’s Story: Lessons from a Feline Master Teacher.

“I knew it would be breathtaking – after all, the calendar creator is artist extraordinaire Bernadette Kazmarski! But I don’t know if I was prepared for how engaging this beautiful work of art turned out to be. I sat down and read it from cover to cover – I just couldn’t put it down!” Chris Davis, artist and author of For Every Cat An Angel, For Every Dog An Angel and several other illustrated animal books, and publisher at Lighthearted Press.

You can read the full reviews from these reviewers as well as more reviews and comments and the continuing stories of the cats and their rescuers at www.greatrescuescalendar.com.

pastel painting of a cat peeking out from under a bed

Waiting for Mom, pastel painting © B. E. Kazmarski

Great Rescues is a 16-month desk calendar and gift book featuring 15 portraits of rescued cats I’ve been commissioned to paint in the 20 years I’ve been an animal portrait artist, plus the portrait of my own which I consider my first.

While the portraits are lovely and I’m proud of my body of work, the stories of these cats, and the people who rescued them, is what compels me to share them with you. Each of the stories tells of cats from shelters and cats abandoned and saved, cats found inside car engines and cats reluctantly surrendered by people who could no longer care for them, but each one has a happy ending as a cherished companion in a loving home.

page in great rescues calendar

Christie

And while each cat has an individual story, each rescuer has a story as well of reaching out to an animal in need to bring it in from the streets. In many cases they helped heal physical and emotional wounds and gave that cat a lifetime of love, in return receiving love and devotion; often those humans received some healing in return they weren’t aware they needed.

About the Calendar

Great Rescues is spiral-bound and measures 8″ x 8″ to easily fit on your desk or in a purse, briefcase or backpack. It has a die-cut cover with the title stamped in gold foil and each spread features a portrait  and the stories of the rescue and calendar pages including every pet day, week, and month currently celebrated listed in each month of the calendar.

collage of cats on notepaper

"22 Cats" Notepaper

Following the calendar section is a section of stories of the rescuers and their feline families today, notes on the design and rendering of each of the portraits, a mini cat-care book illustrated with my drawings and “22 Cats” decorative notepaper with a collage of all the portraits.

Visit the Great Rescues Calendar website to learn more and if you can’t join us on September 22 you can purchase one on the site.
www.greatrescuescalendar.com

If the calendar is a gift to someone, or you have a particular cat or cats in mind, I would be glad to add an inscription in the front of your calendar.

—————————————————————

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.


Great Rescues Book Signing and Art Exhibit

Join me Thursday, September 22, 2011 from 7 to 9 pm at Andrew Carnegie Free Library & Music Hall in Carnegie for a reception and book signing for Great Rescues Calendar and Gift Book.

Augie

For that night only, I will display several of the original portraits included in Great Rescues as well as other original portraits, including some of my own, in the Reception Hall.

Many of the people whose portraits and stories are featured in the book will be joining me.

I will be happy to dedicate your copy to your rescued pets, to a rescue organization or shelter or, if it is a gift, to a friend or relative who rescues animals.


Celebrating the stories of rescued cats and the people who rescued them, and the artwork of animal artist and writer Bernadette E. Kazmarski.

I’m pleased to present my first published work, truly a labor of love from creating the portraits within it to collecting the stories and  designing, printing and publishing it.

buster

Buster

Reviews

“Lovely to look at and read and hold in the hands, Great Rescues is an altogether ‘up’ experience, where people are compassionate and good, and however troubled their beginnings, all cat stories have happy endings.” Marion Lane, former editor of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) newsletter Animal Watch.

“Received my copy of Great Rescues, a most exquisite book/calendar jammed-packed with irresistible fine-art paintings of cats of all kinds, and wonderous stories about them, painted and penned by Bernadette E. Kazmarski…I highly recommend this book; give it 4 paws up.” Allia Zobel Nolan, author of more than 170 illustrated books and former children’s editor of Readers’ Digest Books.

painting of dilute calico with amaryllis

Peaches

“This is one of the most beautiful cat calendars I’ve seen. The paintings are stunningly beautiful, and the stories are heart touching. And it’s so much more than just a calendar.” Ingrid King, author of Buckley’s Story: Lessons from a Feline Master Teacher.

“I knew it would be breathtaking – after all, the calendar creator is artist extraordinaire Bernadette Kazmarski! But I don’t know if I was prepared for how engaging this beautiful work of art turned out to be. I sat down and read it from cover to cover – I just couldn’t put it down!” Chris Davis, artist and author of For Every Cat An Angel, For Every Dog An Angel and several other illustrated animal books, and publisher at Lighthearted Press.

You can read the full reviews from these reviewers as well as more reviews and comments and the continuing stories of the cats and their rescuers at www.greatrescuescalendar.com.

pastel painting of a cat peeking out from under a bed

Waiting for Mom, pastel painting © B. E. Kazmarski

Great Rescues is a 16-month desk calendar and gift book featuring 15 portraits of rescued cats I’ve been commissioned to paint in the 20 years I’ve been an animal portrait artist, plus the portrait of my own which I consider my first.

While the portraits are lovely and I’m proud of my body of work, the stories of these cats, and the people who rescued them, is what compels me to share them with you. Each of the stories tells of cats from shelters and cats abandoned and saved, cats found inside car engines and cats reluctantly surrendered by people who could no longer care for them, but each one has a happy ending as a cherished companion in a loving home.

page in great rescues calendar

Christie

And while each cat has an individual story, each rescuer has a story as well of reaching out to an animal in need to bring it in from the streets. In many cases they helped heal physical and emotional wounds and gave that cat a lifetime of love, in return receiving love and devotion; often those humans received some healing in return they weren’t aware they needed.

About the Calendar

Great Rescues is spiral-bound and measures 8″ x 8″ to easily fit on your desk or in a purse, briefcase or backpack. It has a die-cut cover with the title stamped in gold foil and each spread features a portrait  and the stories of the rescue and calendar pages including every pet day, week, and month currently celebrated listed in each month of the calendar.

collage of cats on notepaper

"22 Cats" Notepaper

Following the calendar section is a section of stories of the rescuers and their feline families today, notes on the design and rendering of each of the portraits, a mini cat-care book illustrated with my drawings and “22 Cats” decorative notepaper with a collage of all the portraits.

Visit the Great Rescues Calendar website to learn more and if you can’t join us on September 22 you can purchase one on the site.
www.greatrescuescalendar.com

If the calendar is a gift to someone, or you have a particular cat or cats in mind, I would be glad to add an inscription in the front of your calendar.


“You Are the Most Beautiful, Precious Girl…”

portrait of orange and white cat on towel

Christie, 2007, pastel, 14" x 23" © B.E. Kazmarski

Would you choose to adopt a kitty who was known to have, ahem, litterbox issues?

And after hearing many warnings and so much failure in this area, do you think you’d be the one to find the magic solution?

Christie was brought to a veterinarian for treatment, but her owners never returned; apparently Christie wasn’t using the litter pan and they didn’t want to take her back. The veterinarian obtained ownership and put her up for adoption, and as the news spread that a kitty needed a home the story eventually reached her adoptive people. They met the charming and quiet girl, impressed by her affectionate nature, and were willing to take a chance with the litter pan issues. Her forever family discovered that Christie needed to be told frequently, at least once each day, that she was the most beautiful and precious girl and to have her lovely long orange fur massaged or she would become visibly depressed. Apparently she is no longer wanting for praise and affection, and a neatly folded towel still warm from the dryer and carefully placed on the kitchen counter doesn’t hurt, either.

This is Christie’s story in Great Rescues Calendar and Gift Book

About Christie’s adoption

Apparently in Christie’s case, love was the solution, and her people apparently knew it the moment they saw her.

“We knew that was an issue when we met her,” Christie’s mom said, “but we just liked her so much we thought we’d give her a chance.”

cat using scratching post

Scruffy demonstrating scratching post.

Living with breed Persians for many years this couple was smitten with a rescue cat, Felix, after they lost their tabby Persian, Scout. Now they find rescue cats, always adults, to fill their home, usually two at a time, and they also care for a number of outdoor cats in style. At right is Scruffy, Christie’s current house mate, using the scratching post right next to the window so he can pretend he’s in the outdoors.

The idea that they would be willing to bring a cat who had known litter box issues into their rather new and elegant home, and to work with the cat until the issue was resolved by simply finding the cat’s own needs is a testament to their belief in rescue and their skill with and sensitivity to animals.

“She did have a few accidents at first,” Christie’s mom continued. “We gave her lots of attention when she was new so she’d know we loved her and she belonged here and she’d get used to the place. After all, she’d been abandoned.” The occasional errant litterbox non-use disappeared.

orange and white cat with love

Christie gets her love session.

“I just discovered that she needs to be held and petted and massaged and told every day, more than once if possible, that she is the most wonderful, beautiful, precious, lovely girl, and we love her very much,” she said as she demonstrated the process of love with Christie on her lap, massaging her fingers through Christy’s thick fur as Christie flexed her front toes and slowly blinked her eyes, knowing that this sort of treatment was her divine right.

Eventually, people have to go to work or away on a vacation or just out somewhere for long days, such as during the holidays. “When she doesn’t get her quota of love, she will ‘miss’ the box,” her mom said, “so we give Christie her love every day, but we understand if she misses.” Even the pet sitter indulges Christie when they are away.

But avoiding Christie’s issues isn’t the reason for lots of love, and trying to resolve her issues wasn’t a reason for adoption; rather, it was the other way around. They simply knew when they met her that they loved her and they felt Christie would love them too. Finding the solution—frequent demonstrative love sessions—was a happy by-product of how much they loved her, and she loved them.

detail of portrait

Detail of Christie's face.

About the portrait

I’ve done several portraits for this couple, as you can see in Felix’s article, Big Kitty Love, and Christie was the most recent. By this time I no longer needed to review with them the process of considering the scene and posture they’d like in order to remember their kitty forever on their wall. When they called me, they knew exactly what they wanted, because nearly every day, they warmed a towel in the dryer, folded it neatly and, while still warm, placed it on the counter dividing the kitchen and dining area where they frequently sat after dinner. They had taken a number of photos in preparation and I took a number of close-ups of Christie as well, and happily got to their portrait.

Some people react to this portrait in an interesting way, saying she looks sad, but it’s only because she’s lying down and her expression is relaxed, her eyes aren’t as round and alert as usual—and that’s where the portrait posture is personal to the humans of the cat. Her people know she’s extremely happy and see nothing else.

Here is Christie’s page in Great Rescues:

page in great rescues calendar

Read other stories about cats and their rescuers from Great Rescues.

The Portrait That Started it All

Big Kitty Love

There Was Just No Other Kitty After Samantha

The Cat of a Lifetime

A Bridge Between the Ages

I’ll Be Seeing You

Simon Says…

Irina and Isis, Saved from the Flood

Four Ferals

Riley

Milan and Felix

Learn more about Great Rescues Calendar and Gift Book

Visit the Great Rescues website


Big Kitty Love

portrait of Maine Coon cat named Felix

Felix, pastel, 2004, 16" x 23" © B.E. Kazmarski

This magnificent cat was rescued and originally placed with someone who unfortunately not only let him out, but literally kicked him out, causing a permanent injury. Felix found himself back with his original rescuers who kept a registered rescue for cats in their home.

His forever family had recently lost one of their three Persian cats, long-haired of course, and with tabby markings. Waiting a respectful time after the loss, a friend at work told the story of Felix, the big, gentle long-haired tabby who truly resembled a Maine Coon cat; one day soon after there was a photo of him left on the desk. The gentle hints were well-timed and effective and soon they traveled to meet him, won over the skeptical rescuer, and brought him home.

This is Felix’s story in Great Rescues Calendar and Gift Book

About Felix’s mom and dad, serial adopters and rescuers

portrait of gray persian cat

Flint, pastel © B.E. Kazmarski

Both Felix’s mom and dad had grown up with pets but those animals had always gone outdoors and as a young married couple living in an apartment they were sure a pet wouldn’t be happy. A friend had Persian cats and in visits they were so impressed with the cats’ looks and personality that they adopted, over time, three of them.

painting of white persian cat

Cameo, pastel, © B.E. Kazmarski

I first met them years later after they had lost that first Persian kitty, Flint, and he became one of the first portraits I painted the year I began this business in 1993. I also met Scout and Cameo and painted their portraits in time as well; Scout is the tabby Persian kitty mentioned in Felix’s story, above.

painting of tabby persian cat

Scout, pastel © B. E. Kazmarski

Felix was their first mixed-breed rescue cat. They had been so impressed by the Persian cats they met and lived with, and while they moved from an apartment to a home and didn’t need to be concerned about space, they also each worked long hours and traveled frequently. The Persian cats they adopted from their breeder fit well into their lifestyle and they weren’t sure about taking on a shelter or rescued cat whose needs they might not be able to meet. Until Felix, that is.

four cats outdoors

Liam, Ceili, Julia and Amy

Since Felix they’ve adopted several rescued cats in about the same way as Felix—photos passed around the office, or a flyer, or an e-mail with a story. In addition, they’ve rescued a few of their own from the outdoors, taking them in, getting veterinary care and finding homes for them, and also feeding, spaying and neutering a parade of outdoor cats.

When I visited there were two rescues lounging indoors and four cats who they fed outside the door on the patio who had been spayed and neutered through the Homeless Cat Management Team, a TNR program based in Pittsburgh. I was not surprised to see there was even a water bowl that could be heated for winter use. After a recent visit to them I wrote about their little outdoor family.

closeup of cat's face

Felix, detail of his face.

About Felix

Felix was a natural model, a big, confident cat who knew just how to pose. I took a number of reference photos when I visited to be used for details, but this portrait was modeled after one shot I particularly liked for the lighting and the minimal details in the background.

It is not unheard of to find a breed cat living on the streets, but most often the ones who appear to be a breed simply have a majority of breed traits pulled up from their genetic history. Maine Coon cats are very popular for their mellow personality, and aside from being very large they don’t look exotic as many other breed cats do. I’ve seen people call nearly any long-haired tabby cat, or just a big tabby cat, a Maine Coon cat. Yet he did have many features and the demeanor of a Maine Coon cat, and I believe a friend of his peoples’ who was a breeder looked him over and said he certainly looked like one. There’s no way to tell without genetics, but when I met him, I certainly sensed the traits I associated with Maine Coon cats—not just a big cat, but a big presence, and even with the gentle demeanor, a sense of the wild in them. I loved watching Felix walk on those huge feet padded with so much fur.

Unfortunately, Felix didn’t live too long past the portrait, and they only had six years to enjoy his company, but after his horrible beginnings—no one knew how such a nice and handsome cat ended up on the streets—at least he spent his last few years with two of the best people any cat could hope to find.

Here is Felix’s page in Great Rescues:

page in great rescues calendar and gift book

Read other stories about cats and their rescuers from Great Rescues.

There Was Just No Other Kitty After Samantha

The Cat of a Lifetime

A Bridge Between the Ages

I’ll Be Seeing You

Simon Says…

Irina and Isis, Saved from the Flood

Four Ferals

Riley

Milan and Felix

Learn more about Great Rescues Calendar and Gift Book

Visit the Great Rescues website


There Was Just No Other Kitty After Samantha

portrait of black cat in wicker chair

Samantha, pastel © B. E. Kazmarski

There has not been another kitty since Samantha. Sometimes a memory is too dear, and time must pass before the heart is ready for another love.

The Story

In Samantha’s mom’s case a dramatic change in schedule just didn’t allow for another adoption for quite a few years after she lost Samantha. Her employer began reorganizing the company nationwide, and she was given an opportunity that required her to travel frequently and for several days, even weeks, at a time. In a way, it was an antidote to the suddenly empty home.

But the heart is sensitive in other ways after caring for a loved one through a sustained or chronic illness as well, less likely to take risks in many ways.

While many kitties were presented and could have done well with her travel schedule, the memory of Samantha’s long decline into kidney failure and the final months of administering subcutaneous fluids herself at home made her consider what she would do if a feline illness presented itself while she was traveling. Risky; best not take the chance, at least until the traveling is over. Sometimes that is the best decision, especially as the months turned into years.

Another portrait at the same time

Though there has not been another kitty since Samantha, there were several kitties before. In fact, when I painted Samantha’s portrait, I also painted another of three cats she had known before and who were, in part, the ones who led her to Samantha.

portrait of three cats

Honey, Tommy and Andy, pastel © B. E. Kazmarski

Honey, Tommy and Andy were mom, son and daughter and while Honey had other kittens this little family of three was a perfect combination: Honey, though petite, was decidedly the boss; Tommy, big and rangy was as sweet as candy; and Andy playful and affectionate.

Honey, in the front, was the mother, and Tommy on the left and Andy on the right were two of her kittens. “Honey was tiny, but she was the boss, definitely the leader,” Samantha’s mom said, remembering the three cats. “Tommy was big but as gentle as a kitten—Honey used to boss him around—and Andy was sweet and playful. We were definitely a family,” she continued. Honey lived into her late teens, outliving both her children, and after that the home was without cats for a while, and then…

Samantha’s Rescue Story

During a visit to a friend who had cats, Samantha’s mom realized she needed the love and affection a cat provides. At a local Humane Society she saw this tiny kitten alone in a cage. Her large yellow eyes begged her mom to save her. The kitten was very small and delicate, her coloring totally black with very fine silky fur; asking the attendant, she learned the kitten was a Burmese and was the runt of a litter. She picked up the kitten who immediately cuddled on her shoulder and she was in love! Then she thought it would be nice for the kitten to have a playmate and selected another kitten, holding both in her arms. The Burmese would have none of this and hissed at the other kitten, possibly due to her bad experiences being bullied by her litter mates. Deciding the kitten needed her as much as she needed the kitten, she took the kitten home, named her Samantha, and had 19 wonderful years with her. (From Great Rescues Calendar and Gift Book)

Planning the portraits

When we planned the two portraits, Honey, Tommy and Andy would be “in heaven”, so they look as if they are in the clouds.

When we ultimately chose Samantha’s pose, that one perfect photo of her awakening from a nap on her little wicker chair, nestled among pillows in the sun, she was looking upward at just the right angle that when we hung the portraits on the landing in her home she was indeed looking up at them, and thanking them for leading the way for her mom to find her.

And Samantha’s mom remembers taking the photo, just capturing that moment when Samantha awoke and gazed around sleepily, relaxed and content.

I can attest that it’s difficult to photograph black cats and used my own black cat, Kublai, as a model for the highlights on her face, paw and body. I remember, initially thinking Samantha was a fairly large kitty, comparing her to the chair and thinking it was a papasan-style or one of those grand wicker chairs I used to see at Pier One and other places, with a deep seat so the pillows were off in the background, but it turned out to be a petite little chair, just right for a petite little kitty.

And not only does the heart hold the memory dear, but also the things attached to the memories. Samantha’s mom still has the little wicker chair, knowing it’s just an object, just a part of all the things Samantha touched in her home, she’ll always keep it as part of the memory of Samantha.

Creating the portrait

I never met Samantha for all the times I visited this person’s home, though she was still around but in her late teens when I painted the portrait, and not feeling well. After the portrait was completed her mom told me that Samantha had developed renal failure, and she was giving her subcutaneous fluids on a regular basis.

I’ve done this plenty of times since then, but at that time I had not and was greatly intimidated when my black cat, Kublai, needed them a few years later. I remembered Samantha and her mom, and that gave me the reassurance if they could get through it, I could do it too. I’ve learned so much from both the cats I’ve known and the persons who’ve loved them.

closeup of portrait

Closeup of Samantha's face

This portrait was a turning point for me. With each portrait I’d done I had experimented with colors and techniques and been able to start visualizing the way I’d work certain areas as I studied my reference photos, determining the colors, the way I’d apply and blend them so the decisions didn’t even seem conscious.

I remember finishing work on Samantha’s eyes, leaving to take a break, and looking later to see things I didn’t even remember doing, colors applied, blends and clarified edges I hadn’t consciously decided to create, the clarity of her eye in front of her pupil and the shadows and highlights within her eye, highlights on her face and paw, I didn’t know how I’d done this. I knew I’d reached a new level of skill and observation, and with it the confidence that I was on the right path. For many years, Samantha was the signature of my my business, on my business card and brochure until the portrait of Stanley, which is my signature portrait now.

Choosing Samantha as the cover kitty

great rescues cover

Samantha as the cover kitty.

I had visualized this project, cover and all, for over a decade, and in a corner of my mind I had always pictured Samantha on the cover, possibly because she had also been on my brochure and her portrait meant so much to me as an artist. I knew I wanted to use a warm, rich color for the cover, dark enough to support the foil stamped text I had in mind. I had initially used the portrait of Bandit because of the red in his portrait and how I love that portrait as well, but my heart went for the little black kitty and the portrait that had changed my outlook on my career as an artist.

Samantha’s mom agreed for Samantha to be on the cover; it’s one thing to be in the book, quite another to be on the cover and therefore see your kitty’s portrait all over the place as I promote the book. I knew how she felt about Samantha still, after all these years, and that might be painful. In the end, it’s a joy for her to have a copy forever on her coffee table so she can not only look at her portraits on the wall, but her copy of the calendar in her living room.

Here is Samantha’s page in Great Rescues:


Read other stories about cats and their rescuers from Great Rescues.

The Cat of a Lifetime

A Bridge Between the Ages

I’ll Be Seeing You

Simon Says…

Irina and Isis, Saved from the Flood

Four Ferals

Riley

Milan and Felix

Learn more about Great Rescues Calendar and Gift Book

Visit the Great Rescues website


The Cat of a Lifetime

painting of cat outdoors

Sherman's Portrait No. 1

Sherman’s family had not lived with any cats prior to Sherman, and have adopted none since, in fact, they are allergic to cats. Yet when an animal-loving friend needed to move from Pennsylvania to Texas and wanted to place as many as possible of her cats and dogs in homes before she left (taking the “unadoptables” with her), they met Sherman and decided to take him home. He was a full-bred ruddy Abyssinian with the gregarious personality and intuitive nature of the breed and adapted immediately, managing their schedules and greeting the neighbors.

If you’ll only be able to share your life with one cat, then finding a cat like Sherman is truly finding the cat of a lifetime.

Sherman is one of the rescued cats featured in my Great Rescues Calendar and Gift Book. The opening paragraph is his “rescue story” from the book, and here is more about him and his people.

When their friends with four children and a house full of animals needed to move, they thought it would be best if they found homes for as many of their cats and dogs as possible rather than make them endure the long drive and resettle. They had a number of animals they considered “unadoptable” because of illness, age or temperament, and those would travel with them. They would try to find homes for as many of the others before they left, but take any who hadn’t been adopted.

“We went to visit them and we came home with a cat!” said Rose. “The last time we visited they told us they wanted us to take Sherman.”

Sherman apparently had an idea what was going on. “I didn’t really want to adopt a cat, but Sherman knew Lou would be easier to work on so he started rubbing around Lou’s legs,” Rose recalled. Then Sherman wrapped himself around Lou and wouldn’t let go. Of course she couldn’t say no, and of course she fell in love with him too.

“We were totally unprepared,” they said “Of course we had nothing for a cat. We don’t remember what they gave us, a litterbox and some food maybe, I’m not even sure if we had a carrier.” They drove 40 miles with him sleeping in the back seat until he started wandering around the car, even trying to get under the gas pedal, but they were almost home.

Rose never had a pet of her own, though her sister had had a cat growing up, but Lou never had a dog or a cat ever in his life. What made Sherman’s owner approach these two as his adoptive family? Knowing them myself I would think it was something about their kind and gentle natures. Sherman probably knew he could easily manipulate them. It was meant to be.

Sherman was eight years old then, but was so friendly and outgoing he sometimes seemed “like a puppy”. “He adapted right away,” Rose said. “It was as if he’d always been here.” He hadn’t been just manipulating Lou, though, Sherman just fell in love with him, and began the continuing habit of sleeping on Lou’s pillow.

This was when the allergies surfaced. Lou had always had some allergies and symptoms of asthma, but never having had a pet had no idea what the effect would be.

“The doctor said I had to get rid of the cat. I told the doctor, ‘No way, I’m not getting rid of the cat.’ The doctor said keep him out of the bedroom, I said ‘No way,’”

So Sherman always got his way. It was because they loved him so much.

They were amazed at some of his abilities.

“He could read your mind, he knew how you felt and what you wanted to do,” said Rose.

Lou worked night turn, when Sherman decided Lou had slept enough he would pull Lou’s eyelids open.

“He loved everyone,” said Lou. “When we would take walks, no leash or anything, it wasn’t necessary, he would walk along with me, go up to greet people, and sometimes sit to wait for people to walk up to him,” he continued. “On a day when a lot of people were around or out in their yards the walk would take a long time, especially when there would be an open garage door and he would have to go and investigate until he was satisfied.” Of course, Lou would patiently wait on the sidewalk until Sherman was done with his investigation.

Rose recalled that when someone come to do an energy audit of their house, after the tour they settled down at the dining room table to talk over the findings. The guy had a beard, and Sherman started grooming this guy’s beard.

“Lou has a beard, and Sherman groomed his beard too” Rose said. “I think Sherman thought Lou was a big cat.”

And though most of the memories of Sherman involve his relationship with Lou, Rose had her time with Sherman as well. “He was very comforting because he was so soft to touch. Sherman had a silky coat, it looked soft and it was soft,” she remembered

Sherman lived to be 18, a good ten years with a very special cat.

After they lost Sherman, Lou “realized how much breathing he had been missing”, and they both decided another cat was probably not a good idea.

“We see cats and we talk about it, but he’s allergic. He’s not so allergic that he can’t visit someone with pets, some he’s more allergic to than others,” Rose explained.

Sherman is still a big influence, and they still use his name whenever possible.

Sherman’s portrait set was one of the ones I needed to rephotograph in order to print the calendar. They are small, 8” x 8” each, and I had painted them in 1994 (the calendar says 1996, but I had the wrong date on my paperwork from way back then). The photos I took then were fine to trim down and add to my portfolio book, but enlarging them only lost detail and the colors were impossible to adjust. The lens I had then made focusing on something small very difficult; shortly after that I finally purchased a high-quality scanner and used that for anything small enough to fit in the scanner bed.

And even when I visited to pick up the portraits—I needed to bring them home to photograph them—the stories continued, and Lou was concerned about how long Sherman’s portraits would be away.

“He knew when the kids would be coming home from school, and would sit at the top of the steps to greet them,” both Rose and Lou agreed, “and then he’d be back in the house getting involved in whatever we were doing.” He also waited for Lou to come home from work, sitting on a chair which Rose had placed in front of the screen door.

Creating the portrait

Rose and I worked together for several years in the 90s, and in addition to her day job Rose is herself a textile artist, so though we worked in different departments we would sometimes discuss local art events, like the Three Rivers Arts Festival, and what we’d seen there and were working on. Later, when I needed to learn about cold-set dyes and purchasing blank t-shirts for my Tortie Girls prints, she would also be the person to explain the different types of fabric dyes and guide me to Dharma Trading Company where I buy my blank shirts and dyes.

Remembering Lou’s relationship with Sherman, she decided a couple of years after they had lost Sherman she’d get Lou a portrait of him that he could keep forever.

As we discussed Sherman’s portrait and looked at photos considering postures and settings, we initially decided on the image one of him outside on the patio since they had spent much time out there and it was simply a nice image, appealing to both of us.

Yet she had mentioned more than once him sitting on the chair in front of the door, and knew that was a very special memory for Lou.

Sherman at the door was a big, strong memory, but simply not as nice to look at as the one on the patio, yet the one on the patio wouldn’t serve all on its own, and I knew this from trying to choose images for portraits of my own cats.

I suggested two small portraits and she liked the idea so we didn’t have to choose one and eliminate the other, risking a regret later, and the possibilities of framing and hanging them appealed to her as well.

However, she didn’t have a photo of Sherman at the door. Well, I rarely work from one photo, and often add things that people have described to me, painted in backgrounds from photos I have, imagined what an animal looked like before the cataracts or the amputated leg, or tried to visualize an animal from the one and only photo available that shows the animal very small, blurry, and the flash washing out its face. If I have enough information, I can visualize the rest. It’s a different sort of a challenge to create a portrait from scratch.

We discussed the type of screen door and chairs they’d had, the house was pale yellow brick, and I took it from there.

painting of cat at door

Sherman's Portrait No. 2

Here is Sherman’s page in Great Rescues

great rescues page

Read other stories about cats and their rescuers from Great Rescues.

A Bridge Between the Ages

I’ll Be Seeing You

Simon Says…

Irina and Isis, Saved from the Flood

Four Ferals

Riley

Milan and Felix

Learn more about Great Rescues Calendar and Gift Book

Visit the Great Rescues website


A Bridge Between the Ages

gray cat and calico cat

Houdini and Holly, best friends to the end, courtesy Judi Stadler

“Holly was my first and only kitten,” Judi told me. “All my cats were adults that I rescued or adopted. She was a real treat—I’d never seen the energy of a kitten.”

kitten in toolbox

Holly in the toolbox, courtesy Judi Stadler

Holly was about six weeks old when Judi’s partner Don brought her home in the cereal box and is a featured rescue kitty in Great Rescues:

Holly’s dad was working on his apartment building in a small town 50 miles from his home and noticed a tiny kitten, maybe five weeks old, running from under the porch at the house next door; apparently they were just letting a new litter run the streets until they decided what to do with them. He put milk out for the kitten as she visited the back stairway, then went next door to confirm the kittens belonged to them, asking if he could adopt the little calico, to which they agreed.

calico kitten on ladder

Holly on the ladder, courtesy Judi Stadler

He took her into an apartment and fed her there, took her to the local vet for a checkup and kept her with him for about 2 weeks as he worked on the building. The neighbor stopped him in the driveway a few days later and said she had promised the kitten to her sister. Holly’s dad immediately replied that he had already given her a new home in Pittsburgh, 50 miles away, and she was no longer available. Later, he secreted Holly out hidden in a cereal box and brought her home.

two cats wrestling

Houdini and Holly, wrestling, courtesy Judi Stadler

“She got along with everybody. They were all equally annoyed with her kitten games—but Houdini took to it right away,” she continued.

And that would be very special for Judi; Houdini was then 19 years old, and he had been her first cat, ever, in a lifetime of rescuing cats. At that age, she knew they wouldn’t be together too much longer. “Holly kept him playing like a kitten in his last year,” she said.

Separately and then together, Judi and Don have rescued at least a dozen cats, and it’s always interesting to find out how serial cat rescuers got their start. Often, it begins with just one very special cat, and many other cats’ lives are ultimately saved because of the loving relationship between that cat and that person. For now, we’ll focus on the story of Judi and the cat who started it all for her.

Finding Houdini

gray cat

The young Houdini, courtesy Judi Stadler

So how does a person who’s never lived with a cat end up with a cat like Houdini? And with a name like that you know there’s got to be a story.

“I had just bought my house, and I decided, ‘This is my first house, I’m buying it by myself, and I’m going to get a cat’,” Judi stated. Those three activities might not seem entirely congruous to some people, but getting your own place is often the time people adopt their first pet.

While a cat was Judi’s choice for a pet, it was her friend Joanie, already a cat owner, who took her to the Animal Rescue League where Joanie herself had adopted her three cats.

But Judi would say the rest of it was up to Houdini.

“He picked me,” she said simply. “We walked past all the cages and he was laying on his back reaching his paws out through the bars at me. He was about a year and a half old, not a kitten. Everything in his cage was upside down—litter, water, food. I wanted him so badly, but I had to wait three days,” she remembered, referring to the fact that he had been brought into the shelter as a stray and the shelter policy at that time was to give the owner time to come and claim the animal.

He got his name the very first day he was in her home, which was new to her as well since she’d just moved in. When she brought him home she put him in a room by himself that had nothing in it but his food, water and litter—and he disappeared! Then she found him in the next room. New house, new cat owner, she had no idea what to think.

cat in fish cat bed

Houdini being swallowed by fishy cat bed, courtesy Judi Stadler

There was a countertop with shutters between that room and the next, but as far as Judi knew the shutters were decorative or fixed in place, she hadn’t really noticed them until she started to look for the cat. Houdini, however, had jumped up on the counter which pushed the shutters open, continued through to the other room, the shutters closed behind him, and no one could know better.

For the next few years it was just her and Houdini as Judi accustomed herself to the wiles of a very intelligent, intuitive cat. She kept him indoors, but he managed to pop the screen out of a first-floor window early one morning and was gone when she awoke. She ran around the neighborhood calling for him and saw him soon enough walking next to a neighbor’s house. Not knowing cats she had no idea what to do, but quickly decided trying to run him down on foot wasn’t a good idea, so she simply greeted him. “Hi, Houdini, there you are! Come here, buddy! I’m so glad to see you!” Houdini hurried over happy and purring, and Judi picked him up and took him inside.

And he had his five wake-up routines—lifting the lid on the cedar chest with his nose far enough to let it fall down with a bang several times, and if that didn’t work he’d bite the edge of her silk lamp shades, and so on.

Orange Stray Cat on Porch

Gabby

When she moved to her current house the neighborhood hosted a number of cats who were either stray or fairly neglected, and she was immediately taken with concern for them, thinking “what if one of them was Houdini?”

The dark tabby she saw daily walking around in the box gutters of the apartment building a few doors down she named Luther. The black and white cat who was always on a windowsill crying to get into an apartment and who ran to greet her when she came home she named Sylvester. And the scruffy long-haired orange cat whose owners were totally unconcerned if she lived or died she named Gabby, and though they managed to get Gabby back from her, Gabby would return another day.

two cats in bed

Houdini and Holly, courtesy Judi Stadler

So it was that she had three lovely kitties and a few years after that Don moved in with his three rescued cats, Heart, Kitty and Callie (a male calico), and that’s the way they all became “The Brady Meow Bunch”.

Fast forward almost ten years and a few more cats, and Houdini had lost his best playmate, Kitty, shortly after Holly came into the household in November 2007. Houdini, always congenial, let her torture him where the other cats were none too amused, and wrestled with her as she grew, and they curled to sleep together until he passed in January 2009.

woman on computer with cat

Judi with Hilda

It wasn’t planned, she wasn’t looking to find another Houdini, but in March that year Judi found herself at the Animal Rescue League and came home with another young adult gray cat, who she named Emerson (of the undescended testicles) and who is a story unto himself.

“When you live with animals you are just less self-centered,” Judi said. “You come home from work and the stress of the day just disappears when you see your cats, you let things go for a while and realize it’s not all about us.

“When we come home,” she said to Hilda, “it’s all about you.”

antiques with cat bed

Antique desk and lamp, vintage ceramics and glass, and cat bed

About the rescuers

Obviously, Judi and Don have a lot of rescue stories between them just waiting to be told. I’ve enjoyed getting to know these kindred spirits personally and professionally, and sharing stories of our rescues, our daily funnies and our losses as well.

Aside from having our cats in common, Judi owns Carnegie Antiques where I have my little shop in the back room. We met when I was running Carnegie Renaissance, an all-volunteer community development group I’d helped found in order to bring businesses together and host community activities; Judi welcomed me the first time I entered her shop and she was always willing to volunteer and participate in activities.

I’ve also designed and am redesigning her website and assist her with marketing and social networking. In fact, we were hard pressed to keep our minds on Judi’s website redesign the other day because Holly and Hilda and Emerson and Alli and Tiffany were much more interesting subjects!

calico cat

Holly

black and white cat

Hilda

long-haired calico cat

Tiffany

gray cat on landing

Emerson

gray and white cat

Alli

Here is a little more information about them, also from Great Rescues.

Holly’s mom and dad are friends of mine and I see her regularly. She’s a congenial little calico who greets you at the door and knows she’s the center of attention. Among other things, they own an antique and vintage shop and collect furniture and household items, hence their large Victorian house is full of neat and colorful things—and always about a half dozen cats. Both have adopted from shelters, rescued cats much like Holly and taken in stray cats from the neighborhood as well as the relentless parade of e-mails advertising cats who need homes, including lovely but troubled Tiffany, who requires lots of patience to understand a cat who turned out to be feral but was not described as such.

On the back of the rocker Holly is accessible to everyone who walks through the room and can see most of the first floor of the house. In addition to the subject of a portrait I’ll often add a certain amount of a background scene which will truly make it an accurate portrait of a person’s pet showing it in the actual setting of the house where they lived. I had taken the photo on a bright winter day I visited and knew it would one day be a wonderful painting, and so it turned out to be. In this case, because it shows so much of the background including the stained glass window, I wanted it to look more like an illustration than a formal detailed portrait, so used the natural transparency of watercolor.

Here is Holly’s page in Great Rescues

page in great rescues calendar

Read other stories about cats and their rescuers from Great Rescues.

I’ll Be Seeing You

Simon Says…

Irina and Isis, Saved from the Flood

Four Ferals

Riley

Milan and Felix

Learn more about Great Rescues Calendar and Gift Book

Visit the Great Rescues website


Great Rescues Book Signing at FosterCat Spaghetti Dinner

great rescues calendar and gift book

Great Rescues Calendar and Gift Book

Join me for a book signing for Great Rescues Calendar and Gift Book at the FosterCat annual spaghetti dinner on September 10! I’ll be there with my special pen to inscribe a dedication to your favorite rescue kitty—or kitties, no matter how many.

It’s also time to think about “back-to-school” gifts, and not to early to think of holiday gifts for the end of the year. I’ll donate 10% of all my sales that day to FosterCat, so you can increase your donation if you attend the dinner and buy a book!

I’ll be donating a few things to the Chinese auction—one copy of Great Rescues Calendar and Gift Book which I’ll be happy to inscribe for the winner, a framed print of one of Peaches and Peonies, and perhaps set of crocheted pawprints or a basket of notecards as well.

The Carnegie Arts & Heritage Festival is that weekend, but I will be at the dinner for the signing and with merchandise for sale.

I hope to see you there!

FosterCat Spaghetti Dinner

Click this image, print it out and post it!

The dinner is on Saturday, September 10, 2011  from 4:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. at Wallace Memorial Presbyterian Church in Green Tree.

The menu includes spaghetti with a choice of either meat or meatless sauce, salad, rolls, beverage and dessert. Takeout orders will be available.

Helping to raise more funds in addition to the meal prices, Chinese auction items including restaurant and other gift certificates donated by local businesses will be on display, and you can also buy tickets for the 50/50 raffle. Cat toys and other items will be offered for sale at the event.

Tickets are $9 for adults and $4 for children ages 12 and under.

Click the image of the flyer at left, print it out and post it wherever you think people may be interested in attending—vets’ offices, hair salons, your local church, local businesses and gyms in the area, groomers and at your own place of business.

fostercat logo

FosterCat, Inc.

If you can’t attend but still want to help FosterCat and its network of 25 foster homes, you can always make a donation at their website, www.fostercat.org. Even if you don’t live near Pittsburgh, consider making a donation to this organization that both removes cats in peril from shelters and keeps them out of shelters in the first place, giving them a loving and comfortable foster home until a permanent home can be found.

FosterCat, Inc. is an all-volunteer 501c (3) organization formed in 1999 to provide for the temporary care and also permanent placement of homeless kittens and cats.  Through its network of 25 foster homes, FosterCat has fostered and placed over 1,050 kittens and cats for permanent adoption. There is no paid staff but everyone volunteers their professional talents as well as foster talents, and the only expense outside of direct care for cats is the cost of advertising the organization for potential homes and for foster homes.

pastel painting of a cat on a table with peonies

Peaches and Peonies, pastel © B.E. Kazmarski

They were the recipient of the online auction of the print of “Peaches and Peonies” in honor of Peaches’ 100th birthday, and I regularly feature cats they have in foster in June for Adopt-a-Cat Month.

Wallace Memorial Presbyterian Church is located at 1000 Green Tree Road, Pittsburgh.

For tickets, visit www.fostercat.org to purchase on line or call Carolyn Kozlowski at 412-531-4776.


I’ll Be Seeing You

pastel painting of black and white cat

Cooper, 1996, pastel, 22” x 17” © B. E. Kazmarski

Seeing Mimi settling down near Peaches’ portrait reminded me of another instance of a cat communicating with one of my portraits.

I usually keep in touch with the family for whom I’ve created a portrait. We’ve often done quite a bit of work determining the exact posture and scene for a portrait, gathering images and sometimes I paint purely from visualizing what my customer is describing. Also, nearly half my portraits have been memorials, created either after the animal has passed or around the time of its passing, and working out the details of the portrait include working through a certain portion of the family’s grief.

Besides that, we came together to do their portrait because we love animals, and that’s a natural friendship. I often hear news of the household, the arrivals of new animal companions and the passing of others, and stories of the household in general.

In the months after I finished Cooper’s portrait, I received a call from his family to tell me the sad news that they had lost Patches to complications from polyps she had developed in one ear.

Patches and Cooper had been best buddies. Cooper had passed about a year before I painted his portrait, and when it was finished and we hung it over the couch, I met Patches and the other kitties they had rescued and adopted, inspired by their love of Cooper.

Soon after, Patches showed signs of illness, but it took a number of tests to find the polyps. They were inoperable, and while her family eagerly tried a number of standard medical treatments as well as naturopathic treatments, all too soon she was losing her battle.

closeup of cat face in portrait

Detail of Cooper's face.

They told me that just days before Patches died, even though she was weak and declining quickly, one evening she climbed up on the back of the couch, sat up and gently touched the glass over Cooper’s face in the portrait, looked at him for a short while, then carefully got down.

“Was she saying, ‘There you are,’ or ‘I’m coming, I’ll see you soon,’ we don’t know,” they commented. “After that, she seemed to accept what was happening to her.”

Anyone who has lived with animals knows that they communicate with us as well as with each other, and that they experience the same range of emotions as we do, including love and grief.

When I create a piece of artwork, any subject, I not only work with the images I have and the medium I’ve chosen, but I also instill what I would be sensing if I was standing in that spot, and what I’m feeling about the subject, all as if I was experiencing it in that moment.

When the subject is one of my animal portraits I also consider the relationship between the animal or animals and their family while I’m working, either through observation or from what they’ve related to me.

In the case of Cooper’s portrait, I had received a call from someone saying he had one photo of his girlfriend’s cat who had passed the previous year and he’d like to give her a portrait of him for the anniversary of his passing and her birthday, which were close—and also a little over a month away. It was possible to paint and finish, mat and frame a portrait in that time, but as I still worked a day job with a lot of variables I usually wouldn’t risk it, except that he had given the same photo to another artist who had not gotten the portrait done and still felt strongly that the portrait was what she needed to have.

This could be tricky—not only would I not be able to meet Cooper, nor would I be able to meet his person or see the household or have any other connection with my subject other than this one photo, and the portrait was fairly large, 22″ x 17″. But though he only had the one photo, he was generous with stories about Cooper and the household, and very much emotionally invested in the project himself.

We did meet the deadline, and in that concentrated period I spent a good bit of time considering what he’d told me about Cooper and the household.

I know that depth was invested in the portrait itself, showing in a physical manner—I always say that I paint until my subjects look back at me—and perhaps in a spiritual manner as well, recognizable by both humans and animals. My families will tell me that, though I’ve often thought it was the confused musings of someone who stayed up too late and spent too much time alone with my painting.

Cooper’s story is this:

page from book

Cooper's page in Great Rescues

Cooper had literally been born in a barn but was adopted to a friend of the farm owner who cared deeply for his barn cats including the occasional drop-offs and strays. Cooper lived happily with his mom for three years as she moved from Pittsburgh to Philadelphia and became engaged to a man who was dangerously allergic to cats. Though they tried treatments his reaction was life-threatening and she carefully began the process of finding a home for her precious Cooper. The same farmer put her in contact with Cooper’s eventual mom, who had recently divorced and bought a house but resisted the idea of a pet. On a trip to Philly for a conference she met Cooper, enjoyed the visit, but said no. After a week alone in her house, she called the woman back and said she needed Cooper’s company. Cooper was chauffeured back across the state to his new forever home.

Cooper’s portrait and rescue story are featured in Great Rescues Calendar and Gift Book.

cat with three legs

Simon Says...

Each family for whom I have created a portrait also has a continuing story and so much to tell, like this story of Patches and Cooper. This family has continued to rescue other cats, including Simon, and I’ll have more stories to tell about their family of cats ranging from those comfortably indoors to those who visit the feeding stations outdoors and use the carefully constructed shelters in the winter.

Also, read about my commissioned portraits and visit my website to see samples of cat portraits, dog portraits and more.