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.
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.
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.