It’s hard to believe it’s been six years since I saw the exhibit “Van Gogh Up Close” and came home with a head full of ideas—and that evening sketched Giuseppe and Mr. Sunshine on the landing for my first “Cats After van Gogh” sketch, a theme and style that’s stayed with me for over a dozen other sketches and created a new style for my art. I’m celebrating the original sketch today, and I’m offering a discount through April 30 on Portraits of Animals. Use the code “VANGOGH5TH” to get a 25% discount on all the things I’ve made with this image. Many items are shared below and others are still in production.
I looked at yesterday’s little sketch at my desk and decided that if I was to truly create homage to van Gogh, I needed to have a background for these two to exist within, especially that lovely cerulean blue and turquoise van Gogh often used, and lots of little sketch lines and areas. I covered up yesterday’s signature so I scraped my name into the oil pastel in the lower left as Vincent often did in his paint. Ah, this has been too much fun.
So I said when I posted this sketch April 12, 2012! I like to celebrate the anniversary of this sketch each year—when a piece of artwork makes that much of a difference in your life as an artist, you like to return to it to find the magic. I mentioned this to my friend recently—she is one of my customers and also Fromage‘s human—and thanked her again for getting me out to see this exhibit. This piece of artwork went on to win a Certificate of Excellence, a Muse Medallion and the President’s Award in the 2013 Cat Writers’ Association annual Communications Contest as well.
How the sketch, and the style, came to be
I traveled with that friend in April 2012 to see the “Van Gogh Up Close” exhibit. Although it seems I love the Impressionists best, van Gogh is a step apart from the Impressionist styles we find most familiar in Monet, Renoir, Degas, Cassatt with his stylized forms and brilliant, often non-representational colors and the heavy impasto of paint applied and layered with palette knife and brush. I’d only seen a few original van Gogh paintings, and taking in an entire exhibit to show you van Gogh’s work intended to bring the viewer near enough to touch and to see his influences filled my head with dimensional flower petals, rippling wheat textured in fields, dappled leaves seeming to move with the extra layers of paint. I closely studied the way he roughly blended colors into one another and what colors he used, the brilliant greens contrasted with the earthy sepia, lots of yellow and blue.
All the way home on the Megabus I remembered the colors and shapes and textures, and wanted to work the same energy and form I saw in his brush strokes, visualizing oil pastel to layer and blend the strokes as an experiment. Arriving home in Pittsburgh just a few hours later I saw Giuseppe and Mr. Sunshine, just quietly hanging together on the landing, Giuseppe sitting upright, Sunshine loafing, and visualized exactly what I would sketch, and posted this sketch without the background on April 11.
I am channeling Vincent van Gogh tonight, trying to work the same energy and form I see in his brush strokes. I can layer with oil pastel, but can’t apply or build up the thickness of medium that can be accomplished with paint; this sketch is also quite small, about 6″ x 5″, so I can’t work all the little strokes in as I’d like, but perhaps I’ll actually try this on canvas at some point, and something a little bigger.
Originally the sketch had only the two cats with no background as do most of my daily sketches, but I decided that if I was to truly create homage to van Gogh, I needed to have a background for these two to exist within, especially that lovely cerulean blue and turquoise van Gogh often used. I added the background the next day, scraped my name into the oil pastel in the lower left as Vincent often did in his paint. This is final the one you see at the top. I truly think it was the energy I brought back from that exhibit that made this an award-winning piece of artwork, and one of the most popular in my feline artwork gallery.
Where to find this artwork
I have this artwork available in many different forms—on a garden flag, on paper and canvas, as a highest-quality giclee and as a mousepad, and now and then I use the image on a handmade item like a keepsake box, all of which are pictured in this post with links to Portraits of Animals. Use the code “VANGOGH5TH” to get a 25% discount on all the things I’ve made with this image. Many items are shared below and others are still in production, so you can also search “van gogh” on my site to see them all.
Seen above, it looks great on canvas. Visit this post and check the drop-down list for prints:
- 8″ x 10″
- 11″x 14″
- 12″ x 16″
Paper prints, digital and gicleé, and framed
I offer this as an archival digital print on 110# matte cover and as a highest quality giclee on 110# hot press paper in this post:
- 5″ x 7″
- 8″ x 10″
- 11″x 14″
I offer this art on a 7.75″ x 8″ rubber-backed mousepad.
Of course, we can’t forget the garden flag with Mimi on the other side!
My keepsake boxes are usually one of a kind, but this 6″ x 6″ x 3″ handpainted keepsake box is one that I try to keep in stock.
Two Cats After van Gogh Gift Bag
Currently this bag is listed under “Daily Sketches Gift Bags”, but I found some new gift bag colors and I’ll be offering it on its own in several other colors. I’ll share that here when I get them finished and they’ll be available for discount under the coupon code.
Click this link to find all the various prints and merchandise I have in stock in my shop Portraits of Animals, of “Two Cats After van Gogh” and other cats painted in my “After van Gogh” style, or search the title, “Van Gogh”.
Other works in oil pastel
Since then, when the pull of the textures and layers and colors draws me in, I’ve worked several other images in oil pastel in similar style. Oil pastel is not a popular medium, and I found it difficult to learn to handle. I’d actually done a few other landscape and still life paintings with them years ago, but put them aside in favor of my chalk pastels in my tiny crowded studio. With the first daily sketch I did in oil pastel, “Grape Jelly Bean”, I explained the basic difference between oil pastels and chalk pastels, and what a challenge the oil pastels were for me:
I frequently work in chalk pastel, especially for commissioned portraits, because of its versatility in application and range of colors from delicate to vibrant to deep. Chalk pastels are made from pure pigment in a binder ranging from fine clay to gum arabic or cellulose to form a shape to be held in hand to draw and are, as the term “chalk” would describe, a dry medium.
Oil pastels may have a similar name but that’s about the end of the similarity. A relatively new medium at less than 100 years old, the pigment is combined with a non-drying oil and wax which makes it more like a soft crayon, and that was exactly what it felt like when I first began to work with it years ago, a crayon! I put it aside, disliking the feel of it and my lack of control, but when I worked in an art supply store and frame shop, I framed an oil pastel drawing that absolutely fascinated me with how it had been applied with abandon, layered, and even had areas carved out of it nearly down to the paper to create visual and physical texture.
For me, this is the fun and the importance of creating my daily sketches. I don’t get the opportunity to experiment as often as I’d like, it’s best for me to use a subject I’m familiar with. When I was learning calligraphy and mastering the different pen tips and inks, I used my name, all 25 letters of it and including some atypical shapes and combinations, lettering it over and over so that I could focus on just the skill. Years ago, when I’d decided I was finally going to learn to draw I decided to use my cats as models for the same reason, and today it is the same; rendering things I see all the time in my familiar space I am able to focus on the medium and explore its capabilities without worrying if my subject is correct.
Below is a gallery of all the oil pastel sketches I’ve worked in this similar style since then. I’ve included four I did earlier that spring prior to “Two Cats After Van Gogh”, “Grape Jelly Bean” and series of “Mewsette as a (Weather Condition)”: “Mewsette in Blues and Greens”, “Mewsette as a Rainy Spring Day” and “Mewsette as a Sunny Spring Morning”; these last I feel I need to add a background before they are truly done, but I like the direction they are going. All of them show me I was headed in this direction and just needed a little push. I have them in order of completion, from “Grape Jelly Bean” at the beginning to the most recent so you can see how I’m working with the style.
Each week on Wednesday I feature a piece of artwork, sometimes a current or historic portrait, sometimes an illustration or an art project from years ago, usually cat-themed, but sometimes wildlife or even non-animal subjects, and even projects from my commercial art life. Read other Featured Artwork posts.
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.
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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!