Commissioned Portraits: A Quartet of Sketches

Composite of all four sketches.
Composite of all four sketches.

I had a wonderful little “family of pets” commission last year: a series of four small charcoal/pencil sketches of three long-haired black cats and one long-haired silver tabby. I rarely get the chance to create a simple sketch as a portrait and the idea of creating four was exciting.

We decided they would be in charcoal except the silver tabby who would be pencil because pencil carries silver tabbies so well, and we’d add color to each of their eyes. For the charcoal sketches I used HB, 2B, 4B and 6B charcoal pencils, blending the softer ones into the paper with my fingers, and a combination of a kneaded eraser to remove charcoal for light areas and an HB white charcoal pencil to add the highlights. For the eye color I used pastel pencils. I used my smooth multi-media paper for each of them.

Each would fit in an 8″ x 10″ opening in a mat or frame though each was in a different posture.

Above are the four images and below are each of the individual portraits.


"Princess", charcoal pencils, 8" x 10", 2014 © Bernadette E. Kazmarski
“Princess”, charcoal pencils, 8″ x 10″, 2014 © Bernadette E. Kazmarski

Princess was the woman, lead kitty. Yes, she’s pretty round but that’s how she is, a big fluffy girl with an imperious expression.

The challenge with black cats is always finding the highlights and with three of the cats with long black fur they might all look the same, but my black cats don’t all look the same. There is always a difference in texture, fur length, even tone, and that’s what I looked for in the reference photos along with things like the shapes of their ears, and the silhouette of the top of their head between their ears. All cats are different in this area, but nowhere is it more apparent than with black cats. Princess had the fluffiest fur, so she had the fewest highlights.

And I can’t show all the reference photos for all of the portraits, but I have to share this one, a baby Princess, because she’s so darned cute. And her person wanted me to use this baby picture for Princess’s posture in her portrait.

Princess's baby picture
Princess’s baby picture


"Bear", charcoal pencils, 8" x 10", 2014 © Bernadette E. Kazmarski
“Bear”, charcoal pencils, 8″ x 10″, 2014 © Bernadette E. Kazmarski

Bear is a big guy too, as his name might suggest, but he had sleeker long fur and his person compared his tail to a peacock feather. This type of fur lies flat along the back and shoulders for lots of defining highlights. I like his position, tail up and walking toward you, coming to say hello.


"Hershey", charcoal pencils, 8" x 10", 2014 © Bernadette E. Kazmarski
“Hershey”, charcoal pencils, 8″ x 10″, 2014 © Bernadette E. Kazmarski

Hershey is a little more shy, so she chose a pose of him facing away, but looking back over his shoulder. He has fuzzier fur and a dense tail, so he has fewer highlights, but his posture defines his shape well.


"Jackson", pencil, 8" x 10", 2014 © Bernadette E. Kazmarski
“Jackson”, pencil, 8″ x 10″, 2014 © Bernadette E. Kazmarski

As the odd kitty in this group of house panthers, Jackson not only looks completely different but we also have him in a different posture, one where we can see plenty of his stripes and his big thick tail. Unlike the softness of the charcoal, I liked mixing the blended and softened pencil with some hard lines in his fur to define his stripes and those stray furs.

I really enjoyed the little sketches and getting to know this family.

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

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 $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.

Enter the recipient’s name
Enter shipping address

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.

Also browse 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.

This is shared in Inspire Me Monday on Create With Joy.
Inspire Me Monday
Inspire Me Monday

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Browse some rescued cats and kittens!


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.

© 2015 | | 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!



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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.

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