How Long Did I Sleep?!

tortie cat on picnic table with leaves

Cookie awakens to find she's covered with leaves.

Wait a minute, I’m covered with leaves! I thought it was still summer!

How long did I sleep?!

And I’m how old?! No way!

tortie cat covered with leaves

Cookie confides the truth of the matter.

Don’t believe it. I’m just humoring my mom.

I laid down here in my favorite spot for a nice cozy nap and she thought it would be funny to toss leaves all over me and try to convince me I had slept for weeks, even years. Really, she was scouting all over the yard for yellow and orange leaves and giggling at how clever she was.

I know my mom, and you have to let her follow her flights of fancy when she gets an idea. Well, more correctly, you have to just get out of her way because there’s no way to stop her. I’ve spent plenty of long nights keeping her company!

And time? I can tell time, but she was born without an internal clock. Really, years could go by and she’d still think it was yesterday! So she’s more likely than me to wake up—from one of her creative fugues—and discover a season or a decade had gone by.

She won’t even let me off the deck without her, no way she’d let me sleep out here for that long!

She can’t fool me!

But the last time I looked all the leaves were green.

I’m not sure what to think.

And I’m not really 19, am I?

—————————————

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.


The Gift of a Morning

tortoiseshell cat in greens

Cookie in my garden.

I thought Cookie
was being stubborn, contrary,
when she wandered away
into the overgrown garden
sauntering at her own pace beneath the stems
of fallen burdock and grasses
and through the forest
of tall goldenrod and burdock
where I couldn’t follow.

She sat calmly among grasses and blooming beggar’s ticks
and when I arrived at her side, irritated,
skirt prickly with stickseed and burdock pods.
I reached to pick her up, bad girl,
and turned to see what she studied,
and saw my garden awash with sun
majestic tufts of goldenrod backlit by beams of light
humming with hungry bees finding
the sweetest autumn nectar for their final meal,
white poofs of sow thistle holy in their radiance,
and the first calico asters, my favorite
dappled with passing drops of sun
against the backdrop of dark silhouetted trees;
so much to love in a sweet autumn morning
so much I would have missed.

—————————————

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.


Cookie Contemplates a Rainy Morning

tortie cat with blue rocker

Cookie contemplates next to her turquoise rocker.

Cookie sits on her footstool quietly contemplating as the rain softly falls on her back yard.

The misty morning cools the colors and flattens the dimensions, but Cookie and her turquoise rocker are always vivid.

Rain had fallen all night and though there were slight puddles on the steps and her big flagstone at the bottom were wet, not to mention the dripping grass, Cookie still did her morning wander down the steps and stood on her lookout point, nibbled some grass and explored a little further. I think the light rain felt good on her—it certainly did on me.

Eventually she decided she was damp enough and joined me on the deck messing around with plants. Stepping onto her footstool she took one last look into her beloved morning back yard before stepping one more step up onto the woven seat for a little bath and nap while I sat on the swing to finish my coffee. A perfect way to start the day.

—————————————–

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.


Two Torties on One Lap

two torties on one lap

Two Torties on One Lap

There really are two torties on my lap, Kelly on the left curled up on top of Cookie. And Cookie is not complaining or threatening death to Kelly.

Actually, I have my legs crossed, and Cookie is curled in the hollow, actually on the seat, and Kelly is mostly on my leg, so she’s not really using Cookie as a bed.

For all the tortitudinal reputation tortoiseshell calico cats have, I feel blessed with the two nicest torties I’ve ever met. The girls are friends, but not sister-girlfriends or anything, they tolerate each other more than anything. Sometimes they’ll get a little tired of each other and I’ll hear a low growl, sort of.

It’s funny to look at them now, the two oldest at 19 and 17, and remember when Kelly first arrived at about age 4 and Cookie was 6 with a big attitude about this scared and scrawny cat, asking me why we had to have another tortoiseshell when we already had a perfectly good, well-rounded one!

But for cases like this, I’m glad I have long arms so that I can reach waaaay forward to type on the keyboard.


Laboring At What We Love

portrait on easel

Portrait in Progress.

You hear about me and my work all the time, but I also try to give credit where credit is due—to my feline family, who through the years have always worked just as hard as me…in their own way. But as I constantly reiterate, they were my inspiration for art, and I might not be where I am today if not for them, showing and selling my art was the basis for my business plan for self-employment along with commercial art, and being able to be at home with them, especially as my first group grew older, was one of the decision points in actually deciding when to take the plunge.

(Kelly adds this, “9+**************366666……”. Go figure.)

You can find the portrait above, “Ripley, Murphy, O.G., Veda and Missy Kitty”, in progress and finished on my Portrait Demonstration page.

And below, I’ve pasted a few posts of my cats at work with links to others. We are busy today as I prepare for an upcoming month of events!

Ready for Work

two torties in studio

Tortie Girls reporting for work.

My studio supervisors arrive at work before me! I’m working on starting the day in my studio when my eyes are rested and I have daylight to work with instead of ending it there and working too late into the night.

My tortie girls agree! They’ve been staying up all night with me for more years than they want to remember—after all, they have to supervise me or how could I get any artwork done? The most important role they serve is sleeping on my lap or next to my feet so that I need to stay put and therefore get work done. One would never get up or move while a cat is sleeping.

The younger ones have something to learn from keeping me under control, perhaps someday one of them will show some potential.

Cookie has had a lifelong role in what I do, and this will clarify what she does: I Will Never Get to Retire.

———————————————————————————————————————————–

And Then I Gave Up Work for the Day

four black cats on desk

Maybe she'll notice us now.

Okay, okay, I admit I’ve been busy, but do you guys like to eat?! Then you’ll keep doing things like this as inspiration.

I also admit I posted this nearly two years ago, but it’s still appropriate today, as is the text below. The one thing I’d add is two torties on my lap, and Mimi on my keyboard shelf. I have been busy, and I’ve missed sharing a lot of photos.

For now, enjoy somewhat over 50 pounds of black cat on one desk.

They are always doing something unique, that whimsical quartet of siblings, but sometimes they have the right idea. I really was tired, my eyes were strained, I was losing focus at the end of a long day, and one by one the three boys piled up trying to get their point across (we need dinner, you need to stop working), hence the multiple nap. Then Mewsette, the big sister, piled on top of all of them and began bathing them all in turn, causing things to start falling off my desk. Still, I could pile papers on top of them and keep working. When the paws and tails expanded onto my keyboard, I decided to take their advice and quit working for the day.

———————————————————————————

My Tenth Anniversary

desk with six cats

Desk with Six Cats; sometimes my office is not so beautiful! From left it is Stanley, Sophie, Kelly, Namir, Cookie and Peaches. Only Cookie and Kelly are still with me, but still working hard.

Ten years ago today, January 1, 2000, I fulfilled a dream I had worked a decade to reach when, for the first time in forever, I stayed home to go to work. Even considering the wild ride this past decade has been, I wouldn’t reconsider my decision. I love everything I’ve had the chance to do, all the people I’ve met, and all the businesses and organizations I’ve helped to succeed. In return they’ve helped me, too, as every assignment has also been a lesson, and every accomplishment another level of confidence and credibility.

Needless to say, my cats also approved of the decision.

I remember the 1990s after I had bought my little house and done a good bit of fixing-up, and all I wanted to do was stay here and enjoy what I’d accomplished so far. When I left for work each day I’d stop at the door and look at this room with its new windows, new paint, my art on the walls and carry that vision with me as I left for another day of unknown length and content working as a typesetter for a direct mail company.

[Read more as I describe my work history and working at home with my cats]

——————————————————————————-

Move Over Ikea Cats, Cookie’s Back in the Shop!

tortie cat in front window

"I'm so pretty, I'll bet all sorts of customers will come in today just to see me."

While I had enjoyed Cookie’s company in my Portraits of Animals shop room at Carnegie Antiques through the spring, summer was hot and busy, and Peaches needed Cookie’s company too, so Cookie has had to stay home all these months. Yesterday, she gave me the look and I decided I’d love to have her company down there again.

blur of cat

Cookie was a whirlwind as soon as she got there.

It’s good to be back! I hated the ride in the pink thing and I really let my mom know about it, but once we got here I knew exactly where I was and I got right to work.

Who needs those fancy IKEA cats—I can run around and jump on things as well as any kitty, and I don’t have to share it with 99 others!

[Read all about Cookie’s adventures with links to other her trips to the shop.]

—————————————————

Peaches Has Her Interview

photo of peaches looking at me

"Go do something else."

Oh, my! I’ve been waiting ALL DAY for my mom to leave the computer. Eva posted a comment on my blog post last night, and I even sat on my mom in bed this morning trying to get-her-up!

We finally got to the computer and I heard her say, “It’s a good day to concentrate and get things done,” something to do with the weather which is out there and I don’t pay any attention to it, but she barely left her seat for long enough for me to grab a snack and get back before her.

Read more, including a link to Peaches’ decision to apply and her application! Peaches Applies for a Job

 

Happy Labor Day everyone! We are off to work!


Ready for Work?

two torties in studio

Tortie Girls reporting for work.

My studio supervisors arrive at work before me! I’m working on starting the day in my studio when my eyes are rested and I have daylight to work with instead of ending it there and working too late into the night.

My tortie girls agree! They’ve been staying up all night with me for more years than they want to remember—after all, they have to supervise me or how could I get any artwork done? The most important role they serve is sleeping on my lap or next to my feet so that I need to stay put and therefore get work done. One would never get up or move while a cat is sleeping.

The younger ones have something to learn from keeping me under control, perhaps someday one of them will show some potential.

Cookie has had a lifelong role in what I do, and this will clarify what she does: I Will Never Get to Retire.


Has Your Cat Been Sending Messages Today?

tortie cat with paw on keyboard

Cookie has been communicating with other cats, I'm sure.

If so, it may have been from Cookie, who was on my desk all day, reaching out and touching the keyboard and sending messages like, “3fsefdc4tre” and “8/-9” and “btgfbth” and “555555555555555555555”.

Cookie will often interact with the keyboard, walking on it, sitting on it, and reaching out a paw from the desk, I always presumed to stop me from typing and pay attention to her.

But today was different. She was persistent, and even when I dared to move her, got back into position and pressed her little paw on a cluster of keys.

Is she playing Ouija? I thought. Or if we get a bunch of torties together with typewriters, will they write Puss in Boots?

I wasn’t too concerned until I posted this activity on Facebook and friend Allia replied that her Angela had replied, “.dk84en2=/.” Then I began to wonder. Was her sleepy look actually a sly sideways glance to see if I was paying attention?

And Allegra and Ruby’s mom Ingrid answered that she thought it was a secret code to start a tortie revolution. And Stirfry’s dad Jay said Stirfry had been on his computer and remarked that torties had already taken over our houses, now they are taking over the world.

We called yesterday “International Cat Day”, innocent enough, but I think it was actually “International Cat DOMINATION Day”! I think they all made connections yesterday and today they are using our computers to plot FELINE WORLD DOMINATION and it’s being led by torties!

Or at least all the torties are talking to each other. That in itself is unsettling—imagine a world run by “tortitude”!

Keep your cats under control! I’ll definitely keep my keyboard out of their reach.

It’s a good thing they sleep up to 20 hours a day.


The Inspiration of a Certain Black Kitty

black cat sculpture

Graceful Bath, sculpture © B. E. Kazmarski

It was something about the flowing curved shape he made as he swung around to begin washing his shoulder and hip, from his nose up over his forehead and around and over his back, and continuing around and around to the very tip of his tail. Of all the things he did I seemed to love this best, this twirling juggernaut of happy feline energy and all the other minor curves and rounded shapes in the posture, the rounded torso balanced lightly on the surface, the tail curled in a circle.

line art cat sketch

Minimal Bath, sketch © B.E. Kazmarski

I continually sketched this shape trying to catch just that line of energy, thereby developing a minimalistic style rendered in black on white, then for a sculpture class did my best to translate that minimalism into a 3-D composition.

black cat on windowsill

A very young Kublai

Many years ago a certain black kitty who rescued me while I was in college inspired me to many things aside from loving him and the practice of rescuing cats. Cats in general, and he in particular, began appearing in my creative efforts as I moved through my classes in college.

I have known many cats in my life but none as simply graceful as him perhaps because he was my awakening to feline fluidity, and I found myself then trying to describe his grace in even the simplest of movements in words and image, a short story, a poem, an animated film, and this sculpture. And like this sculpture, I also learned ways of managing lines on paper and putting words in a certain order that could efficiently describe what I was visualizing. What a number of gifts for one cat to give.

black cat sculpture

The Sculpture

The project was to design a simple shape that could be cast using a two- or three-piece latex mold. We initially created the object in plasticine clay and used that as the basis for creating the mold, painting the latex onto it and letting it dry, then since latex was flexible we added something on the outside to help it keep its shape (sorry, after 30-odd years don’t remember what that was). The last step was to cut it into the pieces that could be easily put back together, the seams sealed shut, and something such as plaster of Paris poured into it. When the plaster was set, the mold would be taken apart, leaving the cast sculpture which would then be trimmed, sanded and polished if necessary.

I only made one and I have no idea where the latex mold ended up (I may yet find it somewhere here), but this plaster sculpture has moved with me over a dozen times, always on display not only because I was proud of my accomplishment but because it reminded me of Kublai’s grace.

 black cat scuplture

I managed to catch the angle of his head as he turned, and I added some soft and some acute edges and flat areas that defined planes and that would catch the light, that described the smaller curves, and that finally helped to carry the larger curve along that minimalistic line.

 

I might have wanted to make a few changes to it even then, and I see the same ones now. For one, while Kublai did have a triangular face as most cats do, and as he had a fairly rounded head and face it tended to look like a wider triangle, I think it’s too heavy and too wide in this sculpture. I may have brought the curve between his ears farther down onto his forehead, and this would have enhanced the position of his ears, folded back as they do when they are bathing.

I would also have loosened up the curl of his tail, making it rounder, and even possibly made the roundness of his torso wider to accommodate the curl, and weighted a little more to the left to counterbalance the weight of his face and further enhance the curve.

This is painted with matte black designer spray paint, though you can see some of the inconsistencies in the finish. I wasn’t as patient as I could have been with sanding and polishing the plaster, and now, lest I sand off all the paint and start again, it is the way it is.

Manner of creation, or how I got from there to here, in part

tortie cat and sculpture

Kelly, acting as studio assistant, cautiously approaches the sculpture.

Of course, all these judgments are made after the fact. I don’t plan things out in that logical way before I start working, not then or now. An idea begins to build and I visualize it to the point that I can see what would be the final version of it, then begin to work. I may make some logical decisions while I work, but for the most part I just keep that visualization fresh in mind and keep working until what I have is what I see.

Back in the day, I did most of my visual expression in more abstract terms, enjoying just the composition of a non-objective work, the interplay of shapes and colors, and I worked frequently in 3-D, but I was not visualizing entirely in the abstract. While I could and did render the abstract ideas I had, I could not render the more realistic ideas. In short, I could not draw to save my life, and I not only desperately wanted to, I also needed to show more skill than I had in order to pass those drawing and painting classes if I continued with my major in art.

tortie cat with sculpture

Cookie, as studio supervisor, tells me the lighting is all wrong.

Despite some successes—I did occasionally produce a sketch that looked something like the model in our drawing classes—I didn’t feel confident that I could do well enough in my classes to graduate well. I was also taking complimentary classes to earn a degree in Art Education, but didn’t feel I could teach it all that well either, feeling such a lack of confidence. I really just felt that I could do better, but I just wasn’t getting there no matter what I did.

Although I continued to take art classes, focusing them on design, I changed my major to English and focused on writing which was what I had wanted to do in the first place, though I was encouraged by my high school teachers to consider studying art and figured they knew best—and they did, it just took me a little longer to get to the place where I could develop my skills. More than a decade later, coming home from work late at night to greet my kitties, there it was.

scan of sketch

Scan of the original sketch.

The original sketch

And as I keep every artifact from everything I do—because I find I use these things later—here is the original sketch on a little slip of paper, drawn in water-based magic marker way, way back. It’s nearly all faded now, but long ago I had made a copy of it and converted it into the line art you see above. It’s one of many that I did and tossed until I came to this one and decided I’d finally gotten it right.

I had it taped to things around my desk for years, on my phone, on a bookshelf on the front of a drawer, and more recently on my computer monitor. It’s got coffee and water and, knowing my Stanley, probably a little cat pee on it, and a good sample of various cat hairs through the years stuck on the tape. But for all that and for its origin, I just can’t give it up, though now I keep it in an envelope in my desk drawer.

The photo from above

And just because I’ve always like the photo above, I’m featuring it as today’s daily cat photo.

sketch of woman holding a cat

Self-portrait with Kublai

And another thing

I forgot to mention that my profile image on Facebook, LinkedIn and a few other places, a sketch of me holding a cat, is called “Self-portrait with Kublai”. I sketched it when I participated in an art exhibit with the Pittsburgh Society of Illustrators and needed an image of myself to include in the catalog; most of us either had or decided to do self-portraits.

As the summer wore on in the months before Kublai died, I had a friend take a few photos of us, and as Kublai was in the final stages of some wasting illness I was shocked at what he looked like in the photos. I decided that I liked the pose, but I’d paint him in the way I had been picturing him. I never got around to the painting and unfortunately didn’t have the time when the exhibit came up, but I quickly did a little sketch of us for the show catalog.


Now it’s Cookie in the Studio

tortie cats in studio

Cookie in the tool tray—a new room to try on for size?

Since I’ve been spending more time in the studio lately, and Kelly has too, Cookie has decided to “try some things on for size”. I guess she’s getting a little bored with the kitchen.

Here she has tucked herself, well, most of herself, into the tool tray on the edge of my worktable. The thing is 4″ wide; needless to say, Cookie is wider than that. But no matter to Cookie, she can make anything comfortable, letting her paws dangle out the end, casually crossed, stretching one hind leg and her tail behind her.

She is very pleased I purchased the Nile green work lamps in the background. They match her eyes perfectly.

Kelly is busy bathing. Kelly’s motto has always been, “When in doubt, wash.”

Here is the list of other posts featuring Cookie’s Kitchen Escapades including the most recent—let’s see if she can come close to this in my studio!

Cookie Picks Her Own Corn
We Have Sweet Corn
And A Bag of Rotini For a Bed
Cookie Dough in the Salad Bowl
Sweet Dreams, and a…Tomato for Your Pillow
Cookie in the Pasta Bowl
A Cookie in Every Pot
Chocolate Chip Cookies
Cheesecake


Cookie and Kelly Help Out in the Studio

two tortie cats

Cookie and Kelly lend me a paw.

Not just supervising today, the girls decide to get in on the action, Cookie making sure the papercutter stays in place and Kelly holding the papers secure.

No kitties could possibly be harmed in the taking of this photo—I wasn’t using the guillotine blade (I rarely do, for paws and noses reasons), and the trimmer blade runs in a track underneath the bar on the left that only five sheets of paper can slide underneath, so I can’t even manage to trim my own fingernails by accident. I apologize for the quality of these photos—I don’t have as much control over the little camera since I dunked it in the creek, I think it’s trying to make me pay for that mistake by taking most photos on ISO1600, nice and grainy and badly colored.

tortie cat on paper cutter

Cookie has been waiting for the paper cutter all day.

But, first of all, here is Cookie at it again. She likes to try out all sorts of household items, not just kitchen items, and she has always adored flat, smooth surfaces to exercise and stretch out on. I set the papercutter on the table and she immediately came over, stepped up onto it, turned around and did a little test digging, turned around again and laid down, stretching out against the locked blade holder and trying to cover as much of my work surface as possible, purringly pleased with herself. Apparently, this is just what she was waiting for to make her afternoon perfect.

Cookie has been helping me for 19 years, and that is not about to change soon.

By “test-digging” I mean scratching with both paws as if she is digging in the box or in something soft like soil, but it’s always a firm surface. In sorting books I found my copy of “French Impressionism (The Big Book of)” which in an earlier day had actually been a coffee table book when I had a coffee table, and which Cookie chose for her performances of digging and spinning around and stretching; the paper cover bears criss-crossed scratches from such activity, as do magazines and quite a few other things.

two tortie cats

Kelly rolling her eyes at Cookie.

She always enjoyed the glass surface of my lightbox which I use to trace images onto a drawing surface. I had often thought that might be because the lights inside the box, being strong enough to shine through heavy papers or drawing materials, also made the box and its surface very warm, but she also enjoyed it when it was turned off. There were times I actually had to rudely remove her and even close her out of my studio for a brief time just so I could get my work done because she simply spread-eagled herself over the top and would not move. One of these days I’ll get a photo of this; I don’t use it nearly as often as I used to, but I’m sure she’ll still enjoy an adventure.

Kelly, on the other hand, kind of rolled her eyes at Cookie but decided there was room enough for her so she might as well get some attention too. She decided that walking around and talking about it was a better idea so at least I could get my pages cut in half while Cookie held my papers with her paw and purred and Kelly walked around giving color commentary.