Anniversary Sketch Reprise: Two Cats After van Gogh, and More

oil pastel sketch of two cats
Two Cats After van Gogh (revised with background), 5″ x 6″, oil pastel © B.E. Kazmarski

I looked at yesterday’s little sketch at my desk and decided that if I was to truly create homage to van Gogh, I needed to have a background for these two to exist within, especially that lovely cerulean blue and turquoise van Gogh often used, and lots of little sketch lines and areas. I covered up yesterday’s signature so I scraped my name into the oil pastel in the lower left as Vincent often did in his paint. Ah, this has been too much fun.

So I said when I posted this sketch two years ago today! I have been featuring this one more often than others lately, but when a piece of artwork makes that much of a difference in your life as an artist, you like to celebrate a little bit. I mentioned this to my friend yesterday—she is one of my customers and also Fromage’s human—and thanked her again for getting me out to see this exhibit. This piece of artwork went on to win a Certificate of Excellence, a Muse Medallion and the President’s Award in the 2013 Cat Writers’ Association annual Communications Contest as well.

I traveled with a friend in April 2012 to see the “Van Gogh Up Close” exhibit. Although it seems I love the Impressionists best, van Gogh is a step apart from the Impressionist styles we find most familiar in Monet, Renoir, Degas, Cassatt with his stylized forms and brilliant, often non-representational colors. I’d only seen a few original van Gogh paintings, and taking in an entire exhibit intended to show you van Gogh’s work near enough to touch and to see his influences filled my head with dimensional flower petals, rippling wheat textured in fields, dappled leaves seeming to move with the extra layers of paint. I closely studied the way he roughly blended colors into one another and what colors he used, the brilliant greens contrasted with the earthy sepia, lots of yellow and blue.

oil pastel drawing of two cats
The original version of “Two Cats After van Gogh”

All the way home on the Megabus I remembered the colors and shapes and textures, and wanted to work the same energy and form I saw in his brush strokes, visualizing oil pastel to layer and blend the strokes as an experiment. Arriving home in Pittsburgh just a few hours later I saw Giuseppe and Mr. Sunshine, just quietly hanging together on the landing, Giuseppe sitting upright, Sunshine loafing, and visualized exactly what I would sketch, and posted this sketch without the background on April 11.

I am channeling Vincent van Gogh tonight, trying to work the same energy and form I see in his brush strokes. I can layer with oil pastel, but can’t apply or build up the thickness of medium that can be accomplished with paint; this sketch is also quite small, about 6″ x 5″, so I can’t work all the little strokes in as I’d like, but perhaps I’ll actually try this on canvas at some point, and something a little bigger.

Originally the sketch had only the two cats as do most of my daily sketches, but I decided that if I was to truly create homage to van Gogh, I needed to have a background for these two to exist within, especially that lovely cerulean blue and turquoise van Gogh often used. I added the background the next day, scraped my name into the oil pastel in the lower left as Vincent often did in his paint. This is final the one you see at the top. I truly think it was the energy I brought back from that exhibit that made this an award-winning piece of artwork, and one of the most popular in my feline artwork gallery.

"Two Cats After van Gogh" as a gallery-wrapped canvas print.
“Two Cats After van Gogh” as a gallery-wrapped canvas print.

Where to find this artwork

I have this artwork available in many different print forms—on paper and canvas, as a highest-quality giclee and as a mousepad, and now and then I use the image on a handmade item like a keepsake box.

Click this link to find all the various prints I have in stock in my shop Portraits of Animals on Etsy, and simply search the title, “Two Cats After Van Gogh” to find anything else I might have on hand at the moment (note that you can search only my shop from my shop’s front page, searching from a product or category page will search all of Etsy).


oil pastel of apples in bowl
An example of an earlier oil pastel, “Green Apples”, oil pastel, 1998 © Bernadette E. Kazmarski

Other works in oil pastel

Since then, when the pull of the textures and layers and colors draws me in, I’ve worked several other images in oil pastel in similar style. Oil pastel is not a popular medium, and I found it difficult to learn to handle. I’d actually done a few other landscape and still life paintings with them years ago, but put them aside in favor of my chalk pastels in my tiny crowded studio. With the first daily sketch I did in oil pastel, “Grape Jelly Bean”, I explained the basic difference between oil pastels and chalk pastels, and what a challenge the oil pastels were for me:

I frequently work in chalk pastel, especially for commissioned portraits, because of its versatility in application and range of colors from delicate to vibrant to deep. Chalk pastels are made from pure pigment in a binder ranging from fine clay to gum arabic or cellulose to form a shape to be held in hand to draw and are, as the term “chalk” would describe, a dry medium.

Oil pastels may have a similar name but that’s about the end of the similarity. A relatively new medium at less than 100 years old, the pigment is combined with a non-drying oil and wax which makes it more like a soft crayon, and that was exactly what it felt like when I first began to work with it years ago, a crayon! I put it aside, disliking the feel of it and my lack of control, but when I worked in an art supply store and frame shop, I framed an oil pastel drawing that absolutely fascinated me with how it had been applied with abandon, layered, and even had areas carved out of it nearly down to the paper to create visual and physical texture.

For me, this is the fun and the importance of creating my daily sketches. I don’t get the opportunity to experiment as often as I’d like, it’s best for me to use a subject I’m familiar with. When I was learning calligraphy and mastering the different pen tips and inks, I used my name, all 25 letters of it and including some atypical shapes and combinations, lettering it over and over so that I could focus on just the skill. Years ago, when I’d decided I was finally going to learn to draw I decided to use my cats as models for the same reason, and today it is the same; rendering things I see all the time in my familiar space I am able to focus on the medium and explore its capabilities without worrying if my subject is correct.

Below is a gallery of all the oil pastel sketches I’ve worked in this similar style since then. I’ve included four I did earlier that spring prior to “Two Cats After Van Gogh”, “Grape Jelly Bean” and series of “Mewsette as a (Weather Condition)”: “Mewsette in Blues and Greens”, “Mewsette as a Rainy Spring Day” and “Mewsette as a Sunny Spring Morning”; these last I feel I need to add a background before they are truly done, but I like the direction they are going. All of them show me I was headed in this direction and just needed a little push. I have them in order of completion, from “Grape Jelly Bean” at the beginning to the most recent so you can see how I’m working with the style.

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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.


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Bernadette

From health and welfare to rescue and adoption stories, advocacy and art, The Creative Cat offers both visual and verbal education and entertainment about cats for people who love cats. From catchy and creative headlines to factual articles and fictional stories, The Creative Cat provides constant entertainment and important information to people who love cats, pets and animals of all species.

2 thoughts on “Anniversary Sketch Reprise: Two Cats After van Gogh, and More

  • April 13, 2014 at 9:26 pm
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    Bluemoonalone, thank you so much! Vincent van Gogh is a longtime inspiration to me, all that energy in his paintings despite all the strife in his life. He followed his path to the end, and his stars shone even brighter as the end came near. My last poster of Starry Night, which I’ve had in my room since before college, finally fell to bits but it’s been with me all my life. I look forward to developing this style as well as the ones with Mewsette–carving into the oil pastel, what fun!

    I’m always glad to know my posts go out to readers like you!

    Reply
  • April 13, 2014 at 1:33 pm
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    Van Gogh has always been my favorite..I am a person who loves color and his brilliant colors just draw me right in to his paintings..The man himself was brilliant..if only he could have seen that himself..you did a wonderful job of reproducing his style..as I told you before..I have the garden flag version of this..I liked it when I saw it online and when it arrived I absolutely loved it..Years ago I went on a trip to New York City with the art department at the college I was attending..When I entered the room where Starry Night was hanging I was just about knocked over..there was my most favorite painting by Vincent..inches away..I had to fight myself from wanting to reach out and touch it..So I do understand how you felt at the exhibit..I really like your paintings of Mewsette as the weather..they are so interesting..and of course Grape Jelly Bean..He is always adorable..whether in real life or on canvas..I am so glad that I found your blog and that you share your daily art with us all..

    Reply

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