SOMETIMES THE SHORTEST lives and the smallest cats leave the biggest pawprints on your heart, and the generosity of people who adopt from shelters and rescue cats off the street is a lifetime habit.
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A couple headed for the Animal Rescue League in Pittsburgh intending to adopt at least one cat, the husband finding the elegant Percy and the wife, seeing that all Ebi’s siblings had been adopted but not her, decided to adopt her as well, and the two calicos and two people lived happily for several years. In the middle of the night during a July thunderstorm a few years later they awoke to hear what sounded like a baby crying outside, Percy and Ebi on the windowsill, but no cat was found. A week later the husband ran inside—“There’s a kitten out here!”—and together they ran to the neighbor’s truck, eventually using a golf club to get the tiny terrified kitten out from inside the chassis. They took her home, bathed her and cleaned up the fleas, simply becoming attached to their little August 1 surprise who they named Augie.
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Yesterday I told the rescue story of little Augie, the kitty in the center of this portrait, and a little about her sisters, Percy and Ebi. Today I’ll tell you more about them, and about their portrait.
The initial reason for wanting a portrait was to remember Augie, her brief life and the impact on her household, and in this of course they wanted to include their original girls Percy and Ebi, unrelated but adopted together from the Animal Rescue League in Pittsburgh. While the three girls were friends, especially Percy and Ebi, there were no photos of them all together so—twist my arm—I had to visit and we had to look at cat pictures to find the ones we wanted to use, and then I could take others of Percy and Ebi for the details I’d need.
One of the challenges with creating a grouping of three or more, especially when they are calicoes or torties or spotted or some coat pattern that is not symmetrical, is to determine the features you most want to remember, like tails or unique markings, and make sure to include them in the painting. And you have to get all those spots in the right places!
But you also have to position the subjects logically—if two cats really didn’t like each other or didn’t cuddle, it might feel wrong that they were tucked up together in their portrait. Of course, their humans may also want to imagine the moment they might have cuddled, it’s really all up to the humans there. Balancing their physical appearance with their positioning, especially with more than two, can be like a virtual Rubik’s Cube of juggling cats and details that is also pleasing to look at. In the end, we find a composition.
In this case, I am eternally glad for Photoshop, where I can scan the images, trim them out, and even add tails that weren’t in the original photos, change out facial expressions, move paws around, all sorts of neat things, and often provide as many ideas for my customer as necessary.
But M. and S., the kitties’ humans, had a few lovely and clear photos of Percy and Ebi, especially one with the position we decided we wanted to use. The girls were young here, so they also provided a photo of Ebi closer the age we wanted to depict her; Percy I knew I could work out her age from the photo I was given. And because tails are often the casualty in photography, either out of the picture or just not in view, as here, I also took photos of the girls’ tails when I visited, because, you know, it was very important to get that unique little orange spot on the end of Ebi’s tail, and Percy’s tail was just glorious, as most long-haired cats’ tails are, adding the random multiple colors.
That image also easily accommodated adding Augie. We couldn’t have her lying down because she was so small in comparison to the other girls, but there were two good photos of her sitting upright. We did like the left-hand one because it showed her stripy side and her tail with the little white spot on the end. However, it was the expression in the other photo that was the most important, so typical, but impossible to work into her posture in the side view. It meant not showing too much of her in the portrait but she was tucked between her sisters and her most important feature, that little face, would be prominent.
And I had to be sure to maintain Percy’s dreamy expression (“she’s the ‘Queen Bee’ and we kind of compare her to Cindy Crawford” her mom said), and Ebi’s extremely alert expression as the little clown. We didn’t want a scenic background, just the cats, so I chose a neutral tone to match the tones in her home, and added in a number of other muted colors to give it interest, especially shades of green to enhance the reds in their coat colors.
Below is a detail image of the three faces and some of the background.
And just for good measure, here are detail images of just their faces, Augie, Percy and Ebi.
I not only love to get to know the stories of my subjects, I need to in order to be able to create a portrait I feel is accurate. Even if I meet them in person and take my own reference photos, I need to hear their person describe them. I want to capture not only the image, but also the relationship between the two. How else could I paint those faces? And I meet some truly wonderful people.
I also painted another portrait for this couple in 2003 of a dog they had adopted, Nelli. They had initially wanted to adopt both a dog and a cat but with their schedules didn’t feel a dog would be happy and so adopted Percy and Ebi. After losing Augie they felt the need for another animal companion and decided they could probably work with a dog. A friend was a registered breeder of English Labradors, only breeding her females three times before retiring them, spaying them and offering them for adoption. Nelli had a perfect personality for living with two cats who ruled the house, and for hanging out with humans. Nelli will have her own article some time, but for now, here is her portrait.
Also, last year I painted a portrait to be given as a gift to the rescuer’s sister, “Paige”. Her portrait is below, and you can read more about Paige in this post.
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Here is Percy, Augie and Ebi’s page in Great Rescues Day Book
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And here is the quote for August:
A home without a cat—and a well-fed, well-petted and properly revered cat—may be a perfect home, perhaps, but how can it prove title?
~ Mark Twain, The Tragedy of Pudd’nhead Wilson, chap. 1
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My original version of “Great Rescues” was Great Rescues Calendar and Gift Book, a sixteen-month calendar, so sixteen portraits are included in that original version. When I changed it to a day book with only 12 months I couldn’t figure out what to do with the extra four portraits, so I placed them all in the middle of the book to be sure that you would flip past them as you used the book. I don’t want any of the subjects or the stories to be forgotten!
Sherman is one of the rescued cats in my Great Rescues Day Book, an undated monthly journal to record the dates of birthdays, anniversaries and events featuring sixteen of my commissioned portraits of rescued cats along with their rescue stories.
This book is built from Great Rescues Calendar and Gift Book, the original 16-month calendar published in 2011 to inaugurate my series of rescue stories related to the portraits I’ve painted over the years.
Click here or on the image of the book at left, or either of the links above to read more.
Also, read more about Great Rescues families, those who appear in each of the two volumes so far. I’ll be featuring one story each month corresponding with the portrait that appears in the book for that month. That means there are four extra, and I’ll slip those in when the story itself feels appropriate.
Read other stories in my Rescue Stories series.
Also read about other Commissioned Portraits and Featured Artwork
I also feature artwork which has not been commissioned, especially my paintings of my own cats. If you’d like to read more about artwork as I develop it, about my current portraits and art assignments and even historic portraits and paintings, I feature commissioned portrait or other piece of artwork on Wednesday. Choose the categories featured artwork.
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 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.
Download a Brochure
My brochure is an 8.5″ x 11″ two-page full-color PDF that half-folds when it’s all printed out, showing examples of portraits with an explanation of my process and basic costs.
Purchase a Gift Certificate
I offer gift certificates for portraits in any denomination beginning at $125.00, which is the basic cost of a portrait; the recipient is responsible for any amount the portrait costs over $125.00.
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.
You can purchase gift certificates here or from my Etsy shop if you are also purchasing other animal-inspired merchandise.
You only need to enter an address if it is different from the address I’ll receive through PayPal. These are often surprise gifts and need to be shipped away from the home address to make sure they are a surprise.
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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 using one in a print or internet publication. If you are interested in purchasing a print of this image or a product including this image, check my Etsy shop or Fine Art America profile to see if I have it available already. If you don’t find it there, visit Ordering Custom Artwork for more information on a custom greeting card, print or other item.
Weekly schedule of features:
Sunday: Essays, Pet Loss, Poetry, The Artist’s Life
Monday: Adoptable Cats, TNR & Shelters
Tuesday: Rescue Stories
Wednesday: Commissioned Portrait or Featured Artwork
Thursday: New Merchandise
Friday: Book Review, Health and Welfare, Advocacy
Saturday: Your Backyard Wildlife Habitat, Living Green With Pets, Creating With Cats
And sometimes, I just throw my hands in the air and have fun!