Tommy was another portrait from 2016, and he and his family were very special customers. I’ve known his person, Melanie for several years as a rescuer, corresponded with her and assisted her efforts as much as I could. Because I knew her I also knew Tommy, virtually, through following his rescue and his health for the years he was with her. It’s not that all portraits, especially memorials, aren’t special. Each one is an individual identity for me to explore, know, love and interpret, that’s my joy in creating a portrait. But usually I don’t know my portrait subjects very well when I’m commissioned and I often don’t know the people who commission me. Though I’d never met Melanie or Tommy face to face, I knew Tommy’s sad history, his rescue and his joyous and loving personality through it all over the course of his last two years, and I knew how deeply Melanie and her husband had felt for him. I also knew how I felt about Tommy. For that reason, you get to hear a little bit about him before I talk about his portrait.
Tommy the survivor
You’ve met Tommy here a couple of times. In 2014 he was rescued by Melanie, literally right off the street as he’d been neglected and discarded by a careless owner. She nursed him back to health, and then he was so happy and she and her husband loved him so much she couldn’t let him go to be adopted. He became a permanent member of her large household of rescued animals.
You met him again in June 2015 when he suffered a saddle thrombus, and by patience, lots of care from veterinarians and Melanie herself, and possibly a little bit of a miracle, he not only survived the thrombus but he also regained use of his hind legs and went back to living pretty much the same life he had before, just as active and playful and affectionate with his people and his cat and dog roomies.
A cat who has suffered a saddle thrombus and survived is at high odds to suffer another one, and even though Tommy had regular checkups they are unpredictable so Melanie and her husband kept watch. Tommy lived eight months before the next thrombus, and there was no way to save him the second time, in February 2016.
A cat who can survive the neglect that had nearly killed him the first time, then survive a saddle thrombus has one huge will to live, and generally one huge personality. How do you capture all that in a portrait?
But Melanie knew what she wanted. She wanted those eyes, that expression of love, in much the same way I tried to capture what I called Namir’s “bedroom eyes”. She sent me as many photos as she could for both his expression and his other qualities, and I felt this photo captured him best.
Of course, the focus is on Tommy so all else is removed from the image. From there, what best supports the focus on that expression? Views from above can be awkward and oddly foreshortened, but that can also help to focus on a portion of the image. In this case I decided to fade him out and blur him into the background with just enough of his coloring and markings to remember those as well. Initially I had his tail wrapped completely around as a somewhat abstract way of creating a cloud of orange and white, but Melanie and her husband wanted to see his paws. I love those little mittens and I initially had them in there, so I just added them back in. The background is just a marbled application of different shades of blue pastel blended with my fingers to complement his orange fur and yellow green eyes.
Because most of my portraits are highly realistic, I relate as many details as possible, but focus on the ones I call “the details of love”. When I paint an animal subject’s face, I obviously take great care to capture markings and structure, but there are details that are so important which the average photo doesn’t capture, although a professional photo would, that make the face feel dimensional, real and full of expression. It’s what portrait artists in all media try to find in a subject.
The shape and color of the eyes are important, but the shadows and reflections within them, the changing colors and highlights, fill them with life. And of course, the final strokes are the whiskers, as each animal’s whiskers are unique in length and thickness, color and curves, from the short little wisps right around the mouth to those longest ones near the jaw, and even the ones on the cheekbones and brows if pets have them.
While painting and finishing a portrait I pay special attention to the little hairs around the nose and mouth, on the chin and cheeks and around the eyes. Often I can’t see these in the photos I’m given but I know they are there and how important they are in making an animal face speak, and am guided in visualization of these minute details by both technical familiarity and a knowledge that must come from the animal itself. People have asked me how I knew about that one white hair in the midst of the black, or how the eyes glowed red and gold in the light, when photo references didn’t show it.
I want them to look back at me. I want to feel they could take a breath any moment, whiskers quiver and ear flick or swivel to hear something behind them, and their eyes blink at me in that universal expression of love and trust. I want that because I’m sure the portrait subjects who come to me would want to convey those memories to their humans.
I scanned Tommy’s portrait, as I do all portraits, at very high resolution, a more accurate reproduction than cameras will often capture, and even here whole sections of detail are lost that are in the actual portrait. The lightest area across the top of his nose are a matte white with slight shadings in color that show his facial structure. But you get the point. It’s the face Melanie and her husband want to remember.
I have Tommy’s portrait framed and will be delivering him to them in a week or so. For all our online conversations dating back to 2011 when Melanie was helping longtime rescuer Dorothy with brain cancer rehome her remaining cats and dogs, I actually just met Melanie in person when they came to see the finished portrait. I’ll finally get to meet Melanie’s animal household, including little Princess Ophelia Powderpuff, another rescue who managed to survive with a genetic and often fatal birth anomaly, but she’s a whole other story.
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.
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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 $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.
CERTIFICATE A $50.00
- 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
CERTIFICATE B $100.00
- 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.
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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.
© 2016 | www.TheCreativeCat.net | 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!