Commissioned Portrait: My First Commissioned Portrait

Passion, Honor, Temperance, Joey and Spot, pastel on mint green Mi Tientes paper, 16" x 25", 1992 © Bernadette E. Kazmarski
Passion, Honor, Temperance, Joey and Spot, pastel on mint green Mi Tientes paper, 16″ x 25″, 1992 © Bernadette E. Kazmarski

Meet Passion, Honor, Temperance, Joey and Spot, the feline family with the distinction of being the first of my commissioned pet portraits, ever, from 1992.

I’ve been intending to share this portrait for its historic nature, and the weather this week—hot, then storms, then windy and sunny and kind of cold—reminded me of the day I visited the person who commissioned me for this portrait and met this wonderful family of adopted and rescued cats.

Also, this is National Small Business Week, and 25 years ago I applied for my fictitious business name and license to collect taxes in the state of Pennsylvania and so became an actual small business. Although I’d been freelancing for design and illustration prior to that year, I wanted to make this portrait business a real business, not just something I did on the side. I had no idea where I’d go with it, but I wanted to set things up right and grow from there. I got all the paperwork done and went to my first cat show as a vendor in February 1992. I met three families who later commissioned me for portraits based on my paintings of my own cats (one other was the couple who commissioned Scarlett and Melanie).

What I wrote of them in my portfolio of photos of my portraits:

I had to meet these cats to be able to distinguish between them. The two patched tabbies are sisters and differ only slightly in size but quite a bit in temperament. And apparently Temperance did not live up to her name but outsmarted her owner one night and a couple of months later produced Passion and Joey, who, although they look alike, despise each other. Spot is unrelated to any of them and acts as the household clown. I walked away from this meeting with a photo album and a multi-opening picture off of the wall, but even still, it was a trick to arrange them all so that you could see most of all of them, because the only pictures of Joey were of him sitting. My customer’s living room was done in mint green and navy blue so I worked those colors in using mint green pastel paper and navy blue in the shadows.

Below, a detail of Passion, and more of the story below.


She had adopted Honor and Temperance from a shelter, but the rule back in the dark ages was was that cats could not be spayed or neutered before six months and if they “got pregnant” you let them have the litter. And then Spot showed up and he was so much fun, kind of…more fun than her other cats that she decided to keep him. It’s nice to think I began my career as a pet portrait artist with a family of cats who’d been adopted from a shelter and rescued.

Because I had always painted and sketched my own cats before this, I had known how to arrange them because I saw them all the time. But these were someone else’s cats. I had so many questions. What was typical for them? Did they ever cuddle together? How was I going to arrange them all in one portrait when they never spent time like that in reality? I’ve done many portraits of cats and dogs who may not have even lived together since then, but this was the first time I had to figure this out and decide what photos to use as a reference.

Honor and Temperance.
Honor and Temperance.

She and I discussed who did not like whom and who slept or sat in which position and what features she wanted to be sure to capture. Spot’s habit of draping himself off the edge of things was one thing for sure, and the tip of Joey’s tail had to be in there. Honor and Temperance were very close despite their different temperaments and always cuddled. Passion was a sleepy kind of kitty. I gave them some sort of a level plane to sit and lie on, and arranged them in the best way possible with the many photos I was provided.

I really enjoyed those tabby stripes on the orange boys, especially Joey’s narrow stripes.


I found I had to make a composite, and I made two that are in my file. I traced their outlines from the photos and enlarged them on the copier at work. Those were the days. Then I cut them out and shuffled them around. But they had no features and I’m sure I felt a little lost so I actually copied the photos and cut them out and then shuffled them into a composition, taped them together and enlarged them to fit the size we’d agreed on. The finished sketch is 16″ high x 25″ wide, and I’m pretty sure that was because of a sketch of two of my cats that I used as an example for the long and narrow layout.

Below, Spot, the clown, was hanging off the edge of whatever.


One of the other things I had learned around this time was terminology concerning what pastel works are actually called. I’ve been calling this one a sketch, thought I usually call my portraits paintings. What was explained to me then, and still seems to work today, is that a work that covers the entire image area with pastel from edge to edge, or nearly so, is called a painting, but on that only covers a section of the paper, as this does with the subjects and some shading, and also uses the drawing substrate as a part of the work is called a sketch or drawing. I tend to call something that’s looser a sketch and something that’s more finished with clear edges a drawing, but sometimes I change my mind on that.

So there you are, portrait number one. I’ve been saying it’s “over 100” commissioned portraits for years but I’m actually closer to 200 at this point. I kept track on paper at first, but got my first computer with early spreadsheet software prior to modern Windows, then upgraded when a more modern version of Windows came out, then again, and in one of those upgrades I could not import old records so I started from where I thought I was, and then I moved it to a database program, and never got around to typing in all the prior portraits. I’m not sure why, I was such a paperwork geek in those days and loved spreadsheets. A few years ago I typed in all the names of the prior portraits and ran out of open spaces before the “new” list began. Now that I’ve gone this far the next time I get back to it I should be able to get it all straightened out. I like to know these things.

Also read about other current 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 on The Creative Cat featuring current and past commissioned portraits.

Read about how I create commissioned portraits.

Commissioned Cat Portraits

portrait of black cat on wicker chair
Samantha, pastel, 1994 © B.E. Kazmarski
Commissioned Dog Portraits

portrait of two dogs
Sophie and Ellie, pastel, 2009 © B.E. Kazmarski
Portraits of
My Cats

pastel painting of cat on table
After Dinner Nap, pastel, 1996 © B.E. Kazmarski

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

cover of brochure
My Portraits 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

Sample Commissioned Portrait Certificate
Sample Commissioned Portrait Certificate

I offer gift certificates for portraits in any denomination beginning at $50.00, which is the basic cost of a small monochromatic portrait.

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.

Certificates are good for up to one year after issue.

You can purchase gift certificates here or from Portraits of Animals if you are also purchasing other animal-inspired merchandise.

I prefer to look over the work and price the portrait according to how much work will go into it, as described above, but you can either set a budget or get started by purchasing a certificate for yourself or as a gift.

How to Order

  • “Certificate A” is for a minimum-size 8 x 10 black and white or monochromatic portrait with one subject.
  • “Certificate B” is for a minimum-size 8 x 10 color portrait with one subject.
  • Choose “A” or “B” depending on whether your portrait is black and white or color.
  • If your portrait will be larger or have more subjects, add $50 or $100 or more to your certificate value with the drop-down below.


  • Size: 8 x 10
  • Subjects: One
  • Color: black and white media such as charcoal, pencil, ink, or monochromatic media such as one color of pastel, watercolor, colored pencil, etc.
  • Background or objects: none but shading or colored paper


  • Size: 8 x 10
  • Subjects: One
  • Color: full color media such as pastel, watercolor, colored pencil, etc.
  • Background or objects: none but a color or colored paper

Add to your certificate purchase

You can use the second drop down to add $50.00 or $100.00. For amounts over this we’d probably have a conversation and I can set up a custom certificate for your purchase.

You only need to enter an address if it is different from the address I’ll receive when you order. These are often surprise gifts and need to be shipped away from the home address to make sure they are a surprise.

Subscribe to my e-newsletter

Subscribe to The Creative Cat Preview E-newsletter.


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



Mother’s and Father’s Day Portrait Certificate Specials May 1 through June 30 from Portraits of Animals!

Sample Commissioned Portrait Certificate

In everyone’s life is at least one special person who shared a love of animals, and in that person’s life there is often an animal companion who is or was very special to them. Mother’s Day is May 14 and Father’s Day is June 18. Portraits take up to four weeks to complete, especially with framing and then shipping, but you can also give a certificate and invite the recipient to choose their own portrait subject and provide photos and memories.

I’m offering 25% off the purchase of a portrait certificate or a commissioned portrait that is booked between now and June 30, 2017, whether it’s for mother, father, grandparents or any of those special persons who encouraged your love of animals. Use the coupon code MOTHERSFATHERSDAY25 and purchase a certificate here or on Portraits of Animals.

© 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!



Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...


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 “Commissioned Portrait: My First Commissioned Portrait

    • May 4, 2017 at 1:11 pm

      Thank you, Tabbies! I’m still surprised I did as well as I did this early on with someone else’s cats.


Leave a Reply


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox

Join other followers