A Gift for all Moms and Dads

pastel portrait of long-haired black cat

A Mother’s Day gift: Hobbes, pastel, 12″ x 15″, 2004 © B.E. Kazmarski

Did your parents pass on to you a love of animals? Did they decide one day you needed an animal companion of your own, starting you on a lifelong path of sharing your days with cats and dogs and birds and bunnies and ferrets and any other animal that came along?

watercolor of tulips

Veronica’s Tulips, watercolor, 16″ x 23″, 2008 © B.E. Kazmarski

Thank those people who gave you this gift—and I’m loosely defining mother and father because sometimes the person who shared their love of animals with you was an aunt or uncle or grandparent, or even a neighbor who rescued cats or dogs. In everyone’s life is at least one special person who shared a love of animals, and in that person’s life there is often an animal companion who is or was very special to them. Read about Shadow, Casey and Ralph and a special Mother’s Day gift from 2006.

And thinking a little less conventionally, consider a piece of custom art that also includes an animal. For “Veronica’s Tulips”, right, this pet mom got the painting for herself, and wanted both flowers and, after a lifetime of rescued Schnauzers also wanted a Schnauzer in her painting, though not to represent any individual she had lived with. This was the very natural solution.

I’m offering 10% off the purchase of a portrait certificate or a commissioned portrait that is booked between now and Mother’s Day—and Father’s Day as well. Portraits take up to four weeks, especially with framing and then shipping, but we can work things out with certificates and portraits that are done some time in the next two months.

About Commissioned Portrait Gift Certificates

sample portrait certificate

Sample Commissioned Portrait Certificate

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.

I can also make it downloadable if you’re in a hurry.

Portrait certificates are a minimum of $125.00 because that is the minimum cost of a portrait.

Certificates are good for up to one year after issue.

Mother’s Day Discounts in my Etsy Shop

Use MOTHERSPORTRAIT10 to receive 10% off the purchase of a portrait certificate or of the cost of a commissioned portrait (we will discuss the portrait and I will give you an estimate).

Use MOTHERSDAY10 to receive 10% off the purchase of Mother’s Day gifts, which may include a portrait certificate or of the cost of a commissioned portrait.

sketch of man holding black and white cat

Fred and Simba © B.E. Kazmarski

Father’s Day Discounts in my Etsy Shop

Think guys aren’t cat daddies? I’ll be telling more about Fred and Simba, at left, in a few weeks, but trust me they aren’t the only cat and guy combinations around.

Use FATHERSPORTRAIT10 to receive 10% off the purchase of a portrait certificate or of the cost of a commissioned portrait (we will discuss the portrait and I will give you an estimate).

Use FATHERSDAY10 to receive 10% off the purchase of Mother’s Day gifts, which may include a portrait certificate or of the cost of a commissioned portrait.

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.

Purchase a gift certificate for a commissioned portrait.

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.

Commissioned Cat Portraitsportrait of black cat in wicker chair Commissioned Dog Portraitspastel portrait of dogs

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


A Very Special Mother’s Day in 2006

watercolor portrait of dog and two cats

Shadow, Casey and Ralph, watercolor, 12" x 16", 2006 © B.E. Kazmarski

Several years ago, a couple who had each had me paint portraits of their cats Dusty and DeVille as gifts for each other decided they wanted to give her mother a portrait of her mother’s dog and two cats as a Mother’s Day gift. They all shared the same love for their animal companions, and Shadow, the dog, was growing older. All the animals were rescues, adopted from shelters.

detail of portrait

Shadow's face; Shadow was black with a lot of mahogany in his fur.

The two went about sneaking photographs from her mother and mailing them to me. The very first portrait I had done for them was a watercolor of his cat Dusty and the second a pastel of her cat DeVille, but for this portrait they chose watercolor.

detail of orange cat's face

Casey's face, clear stripes and yellow eyes.

Most of my portraits are pastel but I enjoy the break when I the commission is a different medium. I looked forward to it, studying the photos and visualizing the colors and the brushes I’d use for fur and stripes and animal eyes and noses, seeing the brush strokes on the watercolor paper.

detail of portrait

Ralph, deep orange and white, and a little timid.

They gave her the portrait in my studio

When portraits are gifts, I am rarely present for the giving but in this case they decided to present it here because they wanted her mother to meet me. She actually had no idea why she was coming to this stranger’s house, just appreciating the day out with her daughter and son-in-law.

I had the framed portrait on my easel in the corner covered with a silk scarf I keep for the occasion. This was several years ago and I now work upstairs, but I have always kept an easel in the corner of my “office” downstairs, the room intended to be a living room into which you enter, for presentation and display of current work. At the right time of day you can see right into the room so I’ve always been careful when people were coming to visit their portraits that they couldn’t see them before they even came into my house.

pastel portrait of tabby and white cat

DeVille, pastel, 10" x 12", 2005 © B.E. Kazmarski

They introduced me and my household of cats, and we talked about our pets while we had snacks and iced tea. Then I slipped into the kitchen and they took over, leading their mother to the easel and letting her know the purpose of the visit, pulling the scarf off the portrait so she could see Shadow, Casey and Ralph. I re-entered the room; it was a wonderful moment to share with the three of them.

They were sure her mother would love a portrait of her companions, and I knew if her mother was anything like the couple I had gotten to know there was no better Mother’s Day gift—not only recognizing and sharing her mother’s love for her pets, but also the gift the daughter had obviously inherited from her mother, a loving and generous heart and compassion for people and animals.

detail of portrait

Detail of DeVille.

A Mother’s Day Special, and Father’s Day too

Did your parents pass on to you a love of animals? Did they decide one day you needed an animal companion of your own, starting you on a lifelong path of sharing your days with cats and dogs and birds and bunnies and ferrets and any other animal that came along?

Thank those people who gave you this gift—and I’m loosely defining mother and father because sometimes the person who shared their love of animals with you was an aunt or uncle or grandparent, or even a neighbor who rescued cats or dogs. In everyone’s life is at least one special person who shared a love of animals, and in that person’s life there is often an animal companion who is or was very special to them.

I’m offering 10% off the purchase of a portrait certificate or a commissioned portrait that is booked between now and Mother’s Day—and Father’s Day as well. Portraits take up to four weeks, especially with framing and then shipping, but we can work things out with certificates and portraits that are done some time in the next two months.

About Commissioned Portrait Gift Certificates

sample portrait certificate

Sample Commissioned Portrait Certificate

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.

I can also make it downloadable if you’re in a hurry.

Portrait certificates are a minimum of $125.00 because that is the minimum cost of a portrait.

Certificates are good for up to one year after issue.

Mother’s Day Discounts in my Etsy Shop

Use MOTHERSPORTRAIT10 to receive 10% off the purchase of a portrait certificate or of the cost of a commissioned portrait (we will discuss the portrait and I will give you an estimate).

Use MOTHERSDAY10 to receive 10% off the purchase of Mother’s Day gifts, which may include a portrait certificate or of the cost of a commissioned portrait.

Father’s Day Discounts in my Etsy Shop

Use FATHERSPORTRAIT10 to receive 10% off the purchase of a portrait certificate or of the cost of a commissioned portrait (we will discuss the portrait and I will give you an estimate).

Use FATHERSDAY10 to receive 10% off the purchase of Mother’s Day gifts, which may include a portrait certificate or of the cost of a commissioned portrait.

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.

Purchase a gift certificate for a commissioned portrait.

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.

Commissioned Cat Portraitsportrait of black cat in wicker chair Commissioned Dog Portraitspastel portrait of dogs

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.


Kitties and Curtains and Watercolors

painting of two cats on windowsill with sheer curtain

Buster and Kitty, watercolor, 4" x 5", 1995 © B.E. Kazmarski

Back when I was just beginning in animal portraiture a friend and fellow cat rescuer showed me photos of her cats, Buster and Kitty, and offered me prints in case I’d ever like to create paintings from any of them. Though I have difficulty just keeping up with my own household I won’t turn down photos of any cats, especially those in her lovely Victorian-themed apartment.

“Cats looking out windows” has always been a favorite theme of mine. Add the delicacy of sheer ruffled curtains and I’m totally hooked. It’s the whole scene I love, the moment, even the silly one of just seeing butts and tails on the windowsill and shadowed silhouettes through the curtain. Those memories are special, and even if we’re looking at others’ cats they still call to mind our own cats at the same moments.

I knew her cats and her apartment as she knew my cats and my home. We worked together and were also cat sitters for each other, and while my visit to her house was fairly simple with her two and then three cats, I had nine cats for her to feed and pet and entertain in my house.

She and her husband purchased a home and as I pondered what would be an appropriate housewarming gift for a friend I remembered the photos, especially those two of the kitties on the windowsills. I’d do a portrait! I remembered how she had loved the traditional features of that apartment, the oak parquet floors, big rooms and high ceilings, that wide traditional molding on the windows darkened with age. And of course she loved her cats, so the combination of the two was sure to be a winner.

But which photo? The photo with both cats didn’t show their faces, and while I do like unconventional poses and scenes for portraits I didn’t feel that was enough. The other was a typical posture for Buster with his legs stretched out and “looking at his toes”, and while I pondered how to fit Kitty in there from other photos I decided I’d rather not.

I’d do them both. Just two little paintings. That solved it.

painting of black and white cat on windowsill

Buster Lookin' at His Toes, watercolor, 4" x 5", 1995 © B.E. Kazmarski

I loved the sheer curtain and the traditional wooden windowsill, but rather than my usual pastel, I had been visualizing them in watercolor all along. I was pretty new to watercolor then, just about two years into it and not too many paintings yet, but I’d been studying quite a bit of other artists’ work. I could picture how I’d render the harder shadows and highlights on the wood, and knew it would carry the gauzy shadows on the curtain. The soft shadows on the walls would be a challenge, but the cats would be a joy—meeting my favorite subject in a different medium for once, like sharing a new experience with a friend.

They are matted and framed individually, but with the same mats and frames. Unlike most other portraits I feature, you are seeing these at about the actual size they were painted.

About the kitties

Kitty was a rather large and imperious long-haired black kitty they’d adopted from a shelter, and oh how I wanted a long-haired black kitty after meeting him! My black kitty Kublai was the love of my life, but that didn’t mean I couldn’t have a crush on another, even with Kitty’s, well, cattitude. He was okay, he never swatted me—but then I’d been well-trained by Sally, my white long-haired kitty, in the fine art of knowing when “happy happy purr purr” turned into “I’m totally done with this right now.”

Buster was but one kitten from many litters born to a cat in a trailer park who simply was never spayed. The fact that a neighbor was setting out antifreeze for them to drink neither inspired the cat’s owner to get the cat fixed nor to keep them all indoors and safe. Buster’s mom and dad had recently lost a kitten they’d adopted to feline leukemia, and Buster’s dad, wanting to save at least one kitten from death by antifreeze and help ease the grief of the loss, chose one tiny black and white kitten to take home. At first, he was ordered to take the kitten back, the loss was too soon, but within hours, reconsidering the possible fate of the little guy, Buster’s mom told him to go back and get him.

And Buster is also the January kitty in my Great Rescues Calendar and Gift Book. I hadn’t seen his mom for years when I began the book and wanted to use his portrait, then realized my photos from that era weren’t up to print quality and I’d have to rephotograph it. I had the chance to look her up and visit again (and, yes, I do have that photo of Buster and Ginger, they are on the list!).

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.

Purchase a gift certificate for a commissioned portrait.

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.

Commissioned Cat Portraits

portrait of black cat in wicker chair

Commissioned Dog Portraits

pastel portrait of dogs

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.


Scarlett and Melanie

pencil portrait of two gray cats

Scarlett and Melanie, pencil, 18" x 30", pencil © B.E. Kazmarski

A full-color rendering that covers the entire ground—paper, canvas, etc.—is often what we think of when we envision a “portrait”, but less formal portraits in drawing media have been classics for centuries as well. Sometimes they are preferred, or they may simply be more affordable.

Or, as in the case of gray tabby sisters Scarlett and Melanie, the medium might also be most appropriate.

My second commissioned portrait, ever

This portrait was in the first group of commissioned portraits, way, way back at my beginnings so the photo quality is not as good as it could be; there is no shadow left and right, it’s only that the portrait is so wide at 30″ that I couldn’t avoid shadows left and right. In those days and still today, I take the final photos of a portrait right before I frame it, which is sometimes right before I hand it over to the customer. In the days before digital when we had to wait for film to come back, and in this early time when I wasn’t the most experienced photographer of art, I had to take the best guess when I photographed and hope I’d gotten it.

That major detail aside, Scarlett and Melanie were young gray tabby sisters, the only two children of a young couple who adored them completely. I met the couple at a cat show where they were stocking up on toys and treats for their girls and I was on my maiden voyage in promoting my portraiture to the feline community, at that point showing mostly my own personal portraits and a few of those early drawings I’d framed.

Deciding to use pencil for the portrait

pencil sketch of cat

Moses in the Sun, pencil © B.E. Kazmarski

I had a gray tabby named Moses who I’d sketched in pencil and while the full color, nearly full-size and realistic portraits caught their eye and brought them in to talk to me—a portrait of their girls? how exciting! they had to have one—it was the little pencil sketch of Moses that really convinced them.

Plus, they wanted a fairly large portrait to go over their fireplace, and had the idea of a long and narrow one to fill the space. In full color with two subjects, and then framing, that would be rather expensive even in those days. I have always charged less for monochromatic drawing media such as pencil, charcoal and ink simply because, while I may spend as much time in the planning as I do for a color portrait, I spend much less time in the actual rendering.

pencil drawing of a cat on a windowsill

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

My love for drawing in pencil

I was also secretly glad because I have always been most confident in pencil. I often refer to it here as my “first and favorite medium” because I began drawing with my mother’s No. 2 pencils when I was very young, and when I returned to drawing in my early 30s at the very beginning of this career I again picked up a pencil and began drawing (read about Sally and “Sleeping Beauty”, my “first drawing”, which was also in my display that day). Even today, most often my daily sketches are in pencil because I can pick one up and begin to sketch as if the pencil itself is thinking for me. I think this was my second commissioned portrait, the other was pastel and went along fine, but I was still nervous at being able to perform and I just knew I could do it in pencil.

Performance anxiety aside, we were also considering two gray tabby cats, and what could be better for them than pencil? I could just picture it, and I think they could as well.

Planning the portrait

I visited them after the show to meet and photograph the girls and see their place, a nice, sunny newer condo with a great room and fireplace at one end, perfect for a portrait of Scarlett and Melanie. At that time, when portraits were just subject with no background, I literally had nothing in the background but the drawing surface and I often used colored drawing paper so I always matched the color to the subject. In this case I thought a color would be nice and suggested a pale blue, to which they agreed. When we estimated the size, however, the drawing would be wider than my largest sheet of drawing paper—no problem, I would use mat board, which had a laid finish much the same as my drawing paper, just a little coarser.

pencil sketch of cat in bag

In the Bag, pencil © B.E. Kazmarski

And then positioning the girls—the possibilities were wide open. They were very active and playful, very social and we talked at length about what habits they would want to immortalize. Scarlett had a habit of playing the ceiling-stare game and was also always bobbing her nose around to get a good scent, usually in order to find th nearest catnip toy.

They had seen a sketch of my Sally in a paper bag and mentioned that Melanie LOVED paper bags and they even had a photo of her in one, but should they have something silly like this in a portrait? Sure, why not, portraits don’t have to be formal things, they need to be what you want to remember.

I remember doing a quick little rough layout of the two so they could see what I had in mind (don’t know where this is now) and determined they’d be darned near life size. The mats would be deeper shades of blue and black core mats, the ones that is black on the beveled edge, and the frame would be a particular walnut with a blue wash that I had used on one of my own paintings.

pencil portrait of tabby cat with green eyes and blue collar

Detail of Melanie, with blue collar and green eyes.

In the detail above, you can see a rather hard shadow of Melanie’s head on the side of the bag; I have since learned not to be so literal with photos used in portraits. Today I’d either soften or eliminate this, but I wasn’t confident enough then to make changes that might look unnatural.

I completed the portrait and invited them to my “studio”, actually my living room at that time, to see their portrait. They excitedly approved, and then had one more request, could I add a little color for a particular reason? Since the girls were nearly identical, they kept two different color collars on them, Scarlett of course was red, and Melanie was blue (we did joke about a Union kitty since Melanie Wilkes was a Southern girl). Could I add just a little color to their collars just to make it clear which was whom? No problem, watercolor would take care of that. I added the color later, after they had left. Looking at it I decided it looked a little unbalanced now, and their eyes should have color as well. I called them with the idea and they agreed it would be fine.

pencil portrait of gray tabby cat with red collar and green eyes

Detail of Scarlett with red collar and green eyes.

I apologize for the quality of the detail shots; they are cropped out of the full portrait and are about as clear as they can be from scanning the print of the photo. In some cases I can scan the negative with better result, and if I manage to do so I’ll update the images and post an update to this post.

I have done a number of other pencil portraits as well, and you can find some of them by browsing at the links below. Pencil has always been difficult to photograph and only in the past year or two have I become at all proficient with lighting the paper to avoid shadows and flashed areas so I’m working on rephotographing all the ones I can. In the future I’ll feature those as well.

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.

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.


Portrait “In the Sink”: Why Not?

portrait of cat in sink

Madison in the Sink, pastel © B.E. Kazmarski

Yes, he’s really in the sink! I’m so pleased with this pose.

When I work with a customer for a portrait, I ask them what comes to mind when they think about their animal companion. I advise them to choose a pose and setting as close to that visual as we can devise, using my own portraits as examples. It’s nice to have a formal setting where we can see every stripe and spot and whisker and sometimes this is entirely appropriate depending on the subject’s personality, but if they had a cute or quirky habit that can be illustrated into a portrait, we should do it!

Madison’s person is the person I grew up next door to, but haven’t seen in years after she moved away for employment and then my mother moved out of her house and I sold it. We reconnected and managed to get our mothers  together for one last visit before each fell too deep into dementia to travel around.

She had also told me she would bring photos of Madison and that she’s like to have me do his portrait. How wonderful to find out she’s just as much an “animal person” as me.

I always let my customer make the decisions for the portrait, but if I see a good photo I’ll put in my vote without hesitation. He looked so natural in the sink and I loved his expression. “Oh, he was always in that sink!” she remarked. So here he is.

She lost Madison, who was her first cat, to diabetes at only eight years old. She didn’t have too many photos, but this pose was definitely a winner! Not just because he’s cute in the sink, although he is, but also because it will make her laugh when she looks at it, and what better healing for the grief of loss than to remember with a smile. I’m so glad to know that another person, a special friend, has a portrait that shows their animal companion as they want to remember them.

close-up of Madison

Close-up of Madison

Animal fur is different from human skin, and because of texture and pattern it looks different in every photo you’ll see. In each of Madison’s photos, the details of his face were lighter or darker, the area on his chest had a collar and tag in one photo and not in another. These are common things to work around, and from both experience and real life I can fill in the details. It just so happens that I am fostering a big tabby cat who looks so much like Madison and has been a great model, and who came in just as I was finishing, that it must have been meant to be!

What I always do in building a subject, especially one I never met, is to work from the photos until I feel that I know my subject and the photos start to get in the way. Then I put them away and work with nothing but what I see with my creative eye. That’s when the essence of the personality is instilled in the portrait, and every time I’m amazed at what’s taken life on the paper. And I know by the reaction of the person who’s come to look at the work.

I never delude myself to think that a portrait can take the place of a real live animal, but it can certainly help with grief. Through the years, many customers have contacted me to let me know how much it means to have the portrait in their home, that they greet the portrait or talk to it, or visit it when they are feeling overwhelmed with loss, even that other cats have reacted to it.

The portraits work for me. I have several of my own to visit.

But on a lighter note, here is a detail shot of the faucet. All that illustration experience really paid off.

detail of faucet

Detail of faucet, why not?

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.

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


Two Portraits, Choose One

pastel painting of two borzoi dogs

Borzois, pastel, 1999 © B.E. Kazmarski

Too many ideas leads to two portraits, one for me and one for the customer!

Several years ago I had the pleasure of painting a portrait of two beautiful rescued Borzois, Traveller and Emma. Their person was also a friend of mine and lived in an enviable remodeled home on a few hilltop acres with wonderful light and horses romping in the pasture next door.

detail of portrait of borzois

Detail of faces.

I’d visited before and when she mentioned she’d like a portrait I began envisioning the two dogs and the places in her home and even outdoors in a fenced area where they could play. I knew she had photos but especially with larger animals, and one of them being primarily black, I was glad to be able to meet them and take photos of my own so that I could collect details. Back in the days of film, I had two 36-exposure rolls with me and all my lenses for my trusty little Pentax K-1000. The house was full of windows so lighting likely wouldn’t be an issue.

We followed the dogs around the house, Traveller, the big creamy white dog obviously being the boss and the smaller black and tan Emma following orders and feeling safe near her big brother.

photos of borzoi dogs

The inspiration for the above portrait.

She told me each had come from two different rescues from indiscriminate breeders who were breeding these huge dogs in apartments and condos. Emma was noticeably smaller than usual because there were—talk about hoarding—over 70 Borzois inside one condo. Because of that overcrowding and the sheer number of dogs, she hadn’t been socialized well and was timid and skittish, but could simply be a happy dog and feel safe around her big brother.

Their favorite room was a spacious sunroom addition at the west end of the home which their person told me had been ambitiously begun by the home’s former owners. They had decided to complete the project and the two-story space would be a paradise for any animal or human. I was enchanted by Traveller, whose head was nearly at my shoulder, and smaller Emma racing gracefully among the plants and wicker furniture and collectibles without touching a thing. I took plenty of photos of them playing along with detail shots of their faces in that wonderfully-balanced light.

collage of faces

Composite for facial portrait.

Arriving home with the photos I began to work on layouts for the portraits. She wanted a fairly large portrait and we had discussed just including their faces nearly life size, so I designed the layout with their faces above and below, befitting their relationship to each other. I could picture the colors I’d use in both creamy white and inky black fur and how I’d create the textures in each.

But I kept remembering their play in that sunny room and from one of the photos I’d taken. I designed another portrait with them standing together and a few plants around. This would not be a detailed and realistic portrait, more loose and impressionistic, capturing the light and color and motion I’d perceived. I knew my client would like that as well since I knew the work of other artists she’d purchased and commissioned as well as her other purchases of my art.

I proposed both ideas to her and showed her my layouts done in PhotoShop. She liked both as did I and we agreed I’d work up both of them and see what happened. She would choose one and I would get to keep the other, a great deal for me to have a live portrait on hand as an example.

portrait of two borzoi dogs

Traveller and Emma, pastel, 1999 © B.E. Kazmarski

In the end she chose the more realistic one of just the two faces because she wanted to remember the details of their expressions she’d loved so much, though I could tell the choice was difficult knowing how she loved an impressionistic style of painting.

I would have been happy with either one, but in the years since, whenever I’ve shown this painting in exhibits or at my tent in a festival it has always attracted people to come and study it, not just dog lovers or animal lovers, but the colors and composition are eye-catching to most people.

Borzois, framed.

Borzois, framed.

Now that I have a good digital file of “Borzois”, I have the original for sale, framed, as you see above.

And both of these are two of the canine portraits I’ll be selling as prints and art cards beginning this year. “Borzois” is currently available as a full-size giclee print in my Etsy shop. I will post the other prints here on The Creative Cat as well as on Portraits of Animals Marketplace, but you can always check my Etsy shop to see what’s available right now.

Take a look at other portraits and read other stories

Commissioned Cat Portraits

portrait of black cat in wicker chair
Commissioned Dog Portraits

pastel portrait of dogs

______________________________

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

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


Buddy and Tibbie, Portraits With Stories

Buddy

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

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

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

black lab on Oriental rug

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

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

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

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

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

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

detail of portrait

Detail of Buddy, pastel

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

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

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

Now for that Monster Cat

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

portrait of Himalayan cat

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

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

detail of portrait

Detail of Tibbie

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

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

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

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

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


Madison’s Portrait

Madison

Madison

I began a portrait of Madison way back in the summer, but between the festival and a few foster cats moving in and out of my spare cat room/studio it’s been difficult to work consistently. But Madison is finally done, and his person came to pick up his portrait this weekend.

She lost Madison, her first cat, last year, to diabetes at only eight years old. She didn’t have too many photos, but this pose was definitely a winner! Not just because he’s cute in the sink, although he is, but also because it will make her laugh when she looks at it, and what better healing for the grief of loss than to remember with a smile. I’m so glad to know that another person, a special friend, has a portrait that shows their animal companion as they want to remember them.

Madison, detail of face

Madison, detail of face

Animal fur is different from human skin, and because of texture and pattern it looks different in every photo you’ll see. In each of Madison’s photos, the details of his face were lighter or darker, the area on his chest had a collar and tag in one photo and not in another. These are common things to work around, and from both experience and real life I can fill in the details. It just so happens that I am fostering a big tabby cat who looks so much like Madison and has been a great model, and who came in just as I was finishing, that it must have been meant to be!

What I always do in building a subject, especially one I never met, is to work from the photos until I feel that I know my subject and the photos start to get in the way. Then I put them away and work with nothing but what I see with my creative eye. That’s when the essence of the personality is instilled in the portrait, and every time I’m amazed at what’s taken life on the paper. And I know by the reaction of the person who’s come to look at the work.

I never delude myself to think that a portrait can take the place of a real live animal, but it can certainly help with grief. Through the years, many customers have contacted me to let me know how much it means to have the portrait in their home, that they greet the portrait or talk to it, or visit it when they are feeling overwhelmed with loss, even that other cats have reacted to it.

The portraits work for me. I have several of my own to visit.


Lassie’s Portrait is Moving Along!

Lassie's thrid proof.

Lassie's third proof.

Now that I found the right shade of dark green, the background looks much more complete; note that in yesterday’s proof the background was only complete halfway across, but now the entire thing looks done.

Lassie needs to be toned into the background now that its tones are pretty much in place. The darker grass around her keeps photographing darker yet; I’m using my smaller digital and it tends to enhance contrasts, so it’s making her a little lighter and the grass a little darker. Her mid-range tones are there, but she needs to have shadows on her legs and the shadows within her fur completed, then the highlights.

Lassie's face in detail.

Lassie's face in detail.

And now that her tones are nearly correct, I think her expression, the perk of her ears and the tilt of her head are that much more clear as well—I just love that head tilt, and I feel like she’s speaking to me when I look at her.

 

 

 

 


Lassie’s Portrait Progress

Lassie's portrait, second proof

Lassie's portrait, second proof

Lassie’s portrait is nearly done, though I haven’t been able to photograph her too frequently so I haven’t done the progress updates, but here she is as of Sunday, April 5. The background is half done, moving from left to right, and Lassie will need her last details done, but that will be after the background is completed. Working in pastel, the colors dust over each other, especially with heavy coverage like this background and the contrasting colors. She’ll be a little green for a while until I get the background done, then I’ll work out her final details. I’ll probably post a new update tomorrow after today’s work, especially since it’s nice and sunny today!