The Artist’s Life: Something Familiar About That Black Cat in the Studio

Jelly Bean posing like the kitty on the box.
Jelly Bean posing like the kitty on the box.

In 2011 I took a series of photos of my cats in my studio while I was working called Sunday in the studio. One of the photos later reminded me of yet another artifact from my collection of feline-themed things from my childhood, one of the things that became an inspiration to me …

The Feline Artist With Her Black Cat
The Feline Artist With Her Black Cat

And what is that? A girl wearing a beret at an easel painting a black cat sitting on a stool?! Did someone know something I didn’t, or was the universe sending me signs?! Why did it take me so long?

Above is that artifact, a satin-covered keepsake box, about the size of a shoebox but not as deep, given to me by my aunt, I think. To be perfectly honest, this one was my mother’s and it’s in quite good shape since she kept hers in a dresser drawer with her cotton and silk gloves from years ago, though I remember admiring hers just as much. Mine, on the other hand, was always out on display because I liked to so much, and I still have it, though you can barely see the image on the lid. The items I kept in it varied over the years, from pencils to hair combs to photos and jewelry, and now I have kitty things in it because I keep it near my display of photos on my sewing machine. My mother’s keepsake still has her gloves and a few scarves.

My kitty keepsake.
My kitty keepsake.

Cute little girls with unnaturally big eyes were the fad in the 1960s, and so were little girls and kittens. But I really did always love this keepsake box and displayed it on my vanity wherever I lived—and still do. Mine has a gold base with a Victorian flocked pattern, and the little girl is wearing a gold cowl neck and the kitty a gold polka-dotted bow—and was also a tabby. Purrhaps my aunt, my mother’s older sister, had given us the wrong ones?

No matter, it still fascinates me to see this and remember how much I loved it from all those years ago. I don’t remember not having it, I must have been very young when I received it. Considering I was eight when my parents got me my first cat in 1969, I think I received mine before I even had a cat.

But the other cute thing is Jelly Bean himself, who is the cutest thing on four legs, and who at that time was really getting to like the attention from photos. I set up the black velvet on the table by the window to photograph these two boxes and he came hopping down the steps and sat by the box as if he had an appointment!

Jelly Bean posed himself like this, I did not make any suggestions.
Jelly Bean posed himself like this, I did not make any suggestions.

Then he stayed around as we did a number of shots. I hadn’t intended to include him in the photo session because, you know, getting cats to do what you want and all that, but he not only volunteered, he chose his own poses and designed the shots.

 I put down the second box and Bean moved between the two.
I put down the second box and Bean moved between the two.

Note that the kitty in the painting also has a generous white area on his chest, much larger than the Bean’s which is more of a smear, but he does have his big belly spot. I’ll have to get him a red tie with polka-dots and maybe a gold one too, and he and I can pose for a silly photo.

Other side, maybe?
Other side, maybe?

But I don’t think I’ll have to pose Jelly Bean—he’s got the runway method perfected. I’ve included the slideshow below so you can see how Jelly Bean posed himself in this little shoot in order, then added the featured shots, above. He really did come noisily hopping down the steps as soon as I set the box on the velvet, and moved himself around and posed. In between he brushed a little dust off his lapel and shined his white spots. I’ve eliminated the really blurry images—and even by a window, photographing black on black is a challenge—but included the rest of them. Of course, had I known he would join me I would have used something else as the backdrop. What an assignment, photographing a black cat on black velvet. It just fascinated me that he had been sleeping and showed up for this and acted like a professional! Something else I don’t know?

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I published this originally on this date in 2011 as a daily photo, and since it came up today, the day I typically publish profiles of portraits and other art, I thought I’d share it for a change of pace.

Read other articles in the category The Artist’s Life.

Browse some rescued cats and kittens!


All images and text used on this site are copyrighted to Bernadette E. Kazmarski unless otherwise noted and may not be used without my written permission, although links to your site are more than welcome and are shared. Please ask if you are interested in using and image or story in a print or internet publication. If you are interested in purchasing a print of an image or a product including it, check my animal and nature website Portraits of Animals 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.

Art and Gifts featuring cats you know! Visit Portraits of Animals


Handmade Keepsake Boxes from Portraits of Animals!

keepsake box with two cats
“Two Cats After van Gogh” keepsake box.

Could it be this long-ago keepsake inspired some modern-day keepsakes? I know it did! Click on the image above to see this keepsake of “Two Cats After van Gogh” or browse my gallery of handmade goods to see more keepsakes and other items inspired by these early influences.

© 2017 | | Published by Bernadette E. Kazmarski

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!



Inspire Me Monday

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