I met the little blind kitten Odilia at BlogPaws last May. I sketched her one morning at breakfast and auctioned off the sketch to benefit Odilia’s rescue group. You can read about her here and follow the links to Tails from the Foster Kittens.
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Included in the joy of creating my art is putting my art to use for the good of causes I believe in. Today’s featured artwork is a sketch of a very special kitten.
At BlogPaws last weekend I had the chance to meet in the flesh fellow bloggers whose blogs I read as well as a few of the animals I’ve read about on those blogs, and I was thrilled to hear little Odilia would be there and to actually meet her and her foster mom, Connie, from Tails from the Foster Kittens.
Odilia was born blind, but like most “special needs” or “differently abled” animals this doesn’t slow down tiny Odilia. You can read more about Odilia in Connie’s post about her, but in brief, Odilia is not only blind but she has no eyes at all, was simply born without them. Her sibling had died and her owner felt the mom cat couldn’t take care of Odilia properly, so turned Odilia in alone to the shelter where Connie, as a skilled long-time cat foster, was asked to take the tiny kitten, thought to be only about three weeks old. In Connie’s care Odilia has thrived and bravely explored her world, learning to eat and play like any kitten, and is also quite social and happy to be handled by people.
Wherever Odilia appeared all through the weekend hands were reaching to hold her, and at breakfast on Saturday morning she was not at all bothered by being passed around the table from one person to another. I had a chance to cuddle her, getting my kitten fix for the moment, then she settled on Amy Palmer’s shoulder next to me.
After being able to hold and pet and nuzzle an animal, my next means of expression and communication is to render them creatively in photographs and art, and drawing from life always adds to what I do rather than working from a photo—it’s one of the reasons I sketch my own cats every day—and my hands were itching to draw with all I was taking in. Could I capture this perpetual motion kitten whose little face was so different, and could I sketch in public which I rarely had the chance to do and am not always confident about? Whether or not I could or should I was visualizing her face and fur in pencil, she would be a challenge, but I already had my sketchbook out.
Connie was about to put Odilia into her carrier for a break and I asked for just a couple of minutes, since Odilia had actually slowed down a bit. Odilia gently explored Amy’s face and walked around on her shoulders, occasionally settling back on the shoulder next to me.
Typically when I sketch anything from life part of the way I capture details quickly is from my own knowledge and memory of the subject generally like a type of shorthand, remembering the details of landscapes or cats and kittens I’ve seen before and lightly blocking in an area to be filled with actual detail as I work, at the same time studying the subject at hand for those details.
Sketching subjects different from what I’m accustomed to gives me a chance for a little creative growth, as when I’d sketched hairless Sphynx cat Disco on Friday. Odilia does not have a typical kitten face and I knew this would be a challenge, my brain visualizing one thing, my eyes seeing another as Odilia continued exploring, her tiny face moving to follow noises and scents in the noisy room filled with breakfast smells.
I quickly drew a gentle outline of her draped on Amy’s shoulder and her face in a position where I could capture both her delicate kitten self and the details of her uniquely-shaped face, her tiny nose and narrow muzzle, the underbite, and of course the area where her eyes should have been, quite the different experience from sketching the usual kitten.
As I do with most animals when I sketch I used my pencil to return her face to the position I’d chosen, but where I typically only have to wave and move my pencil in front of them to get an animal’s attention, I gently touched Odilia’s nose then moved the pencil slightly away where she could still smell it, and she followed it with interest while I studied her facial details.
After a few minutes I was pleased seeing it would turn out well, and mentioned to Connie that what I often do with my sketches, publicly or privately, is donate the selling price to one of the organizations I know locally by simply having my customer send the amount directly to the organization so they can claim it as a donation, and I’ve also “auctioned” prints on The Creative Cat to increase the selling price with the winning bidder sending their winning bid directly to the organization, and I send them the artwork. She readily agreed to the idea and she and Amy and Lisa Richman of A Tonk’s Tail photographed me working on the sketch and posted about it right then. Love social media!
UPDATE: You can also read posts about Odilia, the sketches and the photographs of me working on Lisa Richman’s blog and Amy Palmer’s blog, Sebastian the Sensitive Soul. I’ve added the photos they took, below!
About Odilia’s foster program
On Tails From the Foster Kittens I always enjoy reading about and looking at the photos of the latest litter of kittens or occasional adult cat Connie is fostering for her local shelter, the Animal Welfare Society in Kennebunk Maine, www.animalwelfaresociety.org, an open-door shelter that according to Connie has done an amazing job getting the word out and getting help from the community and as a result they have near no-kill stats, which is very impressive for an open-door shelter. Often the animals who are fostered would have been euthanized because they had illnesses or temperament issues that shelters often don’t have the time, staff and finances to handle on a day-to-day basis.Their lives are saved by the generosity of volunteer fosters like Connie as well as support of a program that covers the costs of the animals while they are in a foster home as well as when they are in shelters.
About Odilia’s name
According to various sources including Wikipedia and information on Catholic saints, Odilia or Odile was born blind and given up by her wealthy father because she was a girl and handicapped, but in the village she was later baptized and miraculously regained her sight, went on to a distinguished career as a nun and miracle worker and is associated with the eyes and vision. In Hebrew her name also means “brave in battle”, which is the sense of the name Connie liked, feeling early on Odilia would have a life-long battle considering not only her blindness but possible health issues being noticeably smaller than usual and having lost a sibling. In another source the name also means “little flower”, which I like best.
For a gallery of the ones available for sale, visit my Etsy shop in the “Cat Art and Prints” section.
Read about the reason for the daily sketches in Two Years of Daily Sketches.
And download your free desktop wallpaper calendar for computer or mobile, usually based on a daily sketch.
A collection of 34 images of feline artwork
Feline Style Sampler
Daily sketches, illustrations, commissioned portraits all in a small coil-bound gift book.
or find this book in my Etsy shop.
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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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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!