Meet Miko and Sasha

portrait of two Himalayan cats

Miko and Sasha, pastel © B.E. Kazmarski

Meet Miko and Sasha, half-sisters but full-bred Himalayan kitties, and the center of life for their cat daddy for all of their years together. Miko came first, and she was such a joy that when she was still young he decided to adopt another kitty and a friend for Miko.

I had a wonderful time researching the Himalayan breed and meeting Himalayan cats at cat shows for background information (twist my arm, make me read about cats and go to cat shows), and it did offer me specific information on colors of fur and eyes and on body shape. Even if I don’t get to meet the subjects, it’s always helpful to see and feel and hold an animal of a similar breed before I start to work. But while Sasha had the same parents, though born in a later litter, even with the same parents and bloodlines the difference between the two girls was surprising and endearing.  Miko was decidedly the older sister, and Sasha the little wild child even to the differences in their fur—Miko was about as smooth as a Himalayan can be, poised, crossing her paws, while Sasha’s fur was always a little wild and she was ready for action.

face of himalayan cat

Miko with her crossed paws and neat hair © B.E. Kazmarski

Their masks were different shapes, their ears were set just a little differently, partly by attitude, and the color and texture of their fur, while actually the same, looked quite different because it laid just a little differently to reflect the individual personalities.

With a stack of photos we determined what the portrait would look like, showing their faces, of course, but also their paws and tails as fondly-remembered features. In several photos they are sitting by the door you see looking outside, and because they loved that door to the outside so much we decided to use that as the backdrop, but to turn them around to face us which would accommodate all the features we wanted to see.

face of himalayan cat

Sasha with her wild eyes and wild hair © B.E. Kazmarski

I met Miko and Sasha’s parents some time after the two girls had passed, so I never had a chance to meet them, and I thank Deb Chebatoris of Chartiers Custom Pet Cremation for the referral.

A little background

I’ve completed a few portraits in the past few years that I have not featured here because of the timing of the portraits. In the case of Miko and Sasha, I met with their people, unintentionally, of course, the night before Peaches died in October 2010. Normally I start on portraits right away but I really can’t work with much focus after a loss, especially if my subject is feline, so I got a later start than I had intended in assembling photos and getting my basic image done before I even got to paper. Then my mother was gravely ill and passed away, and it was March, 2011 before I had any significant work done. By that time I had forgotten details of our conversations and needed a refresher as I discovered I had gotten the two girls confused in their initial rendering.

I worked my way through more details, remodeled my studio and got new pastels which helped immensely, then discovered that my customers were not getting my e-mail updates at all. We did finally connect and I carefully passed along more updates, but it wasn’t until just before Christmas 2011 that they finally got their portrait! I am grateful for their patience, though I know it wore thin.

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

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


Georgie’s Portrait: Final

portrait of maine coon cat

Georgie, final version, pastel © B.E. Kazmarski

Catching up on portraits I completed late last year, here is Georgie with her big tail and long, long whiskers, on her chair and all of her favorite toys around her. Below is a view of just her lovely face.

maine coon cat face

Close up of Georgie.

After all the color changes with Georgie’s portrait I am very pleased with her final image: her eyes are the right shade of soft seafoam green, no tan in her ruff, no patina on her curly belly, and her paws crossed in the right way. I have to thank Georgie’s mom for her patience and for sending more photos as I was working.

In Georgie’s portrait I also had the chance to work a style that focuses on the subject and leaves the background loose and undetailed, more impressionistic and colorful. For some reason, I think it was the finish on the drawing paper I used, I couldn’t get the level of photographic detail I usually want with a portrait, one of the things that really slowed me down. But at a point it was either to start over or live with it, and though she wasn’t as “smooth” as I wanted I still loved the way she looked at me.

I’ve written so much about Georgie’s portrait as I was working there isn’t much left to say here, as is always the case when a portrait is finished, but at the end of this post I’ve included a slideshow of all the images I posted of Georgie’s portrait so you can see the development (if the slideshow presents them in my numerical order…sometimes this depends on your browser), and links to the other three articles about her portrait so you can read about Georgie, the 20-year-old Maine Coon cat adopted from a shelter.

And…

I’m sad to report that Georgie died just before Christmas, 2011, unexpected since she was not suffering from any condition, but at 20 we know how quickly that can change. She is missed not only by her person but by the entire family; I remember hearing frequently how her father bought Georgie toys and visited her and took care of her when her person was away. She had always described Georgie as being very innocent and gentle, something we tried to capture in her eyes. Her person said of Georgie:

She touched so many lives in such a gentle and loving way—and had such an impact with my family, me and so many others because she had such a big heart, in addition to her big eyes and tail.  We all learned a lot from her gentle soul.  That’s why it was so difficult to lose her—everyone wanted to take care of her and be generous with her in kind.

I was honored to be able to in some small way prepare for Georgie’s passing, and to refer her to the comforting services of Deb Chebatoris of Chartiers Custom Pet Cremation.

And because it had made me feel that my cats will always be remembered when I use their images on greeting cards or tote bags or some other merchandise bearing their portraits, I asked if we could share Georgie that way too. She agreed, so we will have Georgie’s big, gentle presence in the portfolio of felines sending greetings to your friends or becoming a gift for someone special.

Read the articles about Georgie.

Georgie’s Portrait and Another: Color Corrections

Update on Georgie’s Portrait

Meet Georgie

And enjoy the slideshow!

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


Georgie’s Portrait and Another: Color Corrections

detail of portrait

The latest on Georgie.

Here is the latest view of Georgie’s lovely face. Since the last update I posted I’ve been working on the detailed areas, tightening up the patterns on her face especially, and working out the rest of her shape.

full portrait

Latest full version of portrait.

I actually sent an interim version of updates to the customer as I was working out the details in her face, and she pointed out something I had missed, and something that’s a common hazard of working from photos—even when you get to meet the subject.

Read the rest of this entry »


Update on Georgie’s Portrait

detail of portrait

Detail of "Georgie"

detail of portrait

Portrait of Georgie, detail of her face.

I’ve been working on tightening up the details in Georgie’s portrait, especially around her face, which will be the most detailed area of the finished portrait. I’ve included the first update at right for reference for where I left off the last time.

We’re planning this portrait to focus on her face and then the rest of her, but for the toys and the background not to be as detailed as her. I will continue to work her face in greater detail, even from this point.

Several things were obvious the last time, most notably her eye color. I like to underlay areas of portraits with either complimentary colors or more vivid shades of the native color to give more depth and dimension to a portrait. However, I’m not accustomed to the intensity of these new pastels and while I loved the color I had layered too much in place and had a dickens of a time using it as an underlay. Each time I added the cooler softer greens to her eyes I’d be pleased with what I saw, walk away to refresh my perceptions, come back and find they were still too bright! It just took a little longer to get them to resemble Georgie’s soft sea-green color, though, and the little bits of actual Nile green you can see add to the dimensional quality of her eyes while what’s under the top layer of color helps to brighten it.

I also tightened up the details of her ears to finalize the shape and larger areas of color and shadow, though much of the ear detail with come at the end because she has such deluxe ear hair.

I’m building the fur on her face, the short fur around the eyes and nose with no underfur where the agouti is most apparent in layers of color areas, then working in the details of individual areas. She has a very distinctive “M” on her forehead which needed to be made more clear. From there it’s working in the transition between the short fur on her face and the areas where it begins to grow longer but still doesn’t have too much of an undercoat as there is on her torso, around her muzzle and chin, the sides of her face below her ears, and the top of her head. I picture running my fingers through that fur, remembering what it feels like, and it helps me to work the texture correctly.

update on portrait

The full portrait.

I’ve also worked in the rest of her torso, adding the stripes in her side and on her tail that are mixed in with her long fur. I plumed out her tail a little more, though I still don’t think it’s quite long enough. Seeing her in person it looks a little shorter, but that’s only because it’s a little thinner with her age. I have photos from younger years for the full effect of her big tail.

Her big ruff is still a little too colorful, but I want to work the rest of her torso before I finalize the color and mix of highlight and shadow in that area.

Those pink and red toys are working in okay and look balanced now that the rest of her is more detailed. Sometimes it just works out that way.

But in the process of all this I undid her paws—well, that’s for the next round.

See the first draft of the portrait and read about Georgie.

Meet Georgie

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

 


Meet Georgie

pastel portrait of cat

Portrait of Georgie, first proof

One of my newest portraits is Georgie, decidedly the princess of her household!

This is the result of my first session, and I just love the energy of these early portraits with loose details and big strokes; it’s also my first session with my new Sennelier pastels and I largely attribute my satisfaction with this proof compared to past portraits at this point to the colors, texture and quality of my new pastels—more on those in another article.

detail of portrait

Portrait of Georgie, detail of her face.

But at this point I can tell if the portrait is on its way if I can see the finished work my customer and I discussed and, more importantly, feel the subject in it at this early stage, and I definitely feel Georgie here. So did her mom when she saw this proof. I have a number of things to adjust, like her eye color, details in her face and the rest of her fur, and ultimately add the all-important whiskers and ear hair, but I’ll work those out as I go along.

portrait on easel

Georgie on the Easel, ready for her closeup.

Georgie is 19 years old, and though she was adopted from a shelter all those years ago she is apparently either fully or predominantly of Maine Coon cat breed with those extra large features and lush tabby fur.

And her personality is just as big with lots of conversation and direction for her human, and very particular requirements for her toys.

Read the rest of this entry »


“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