Featured Artwork: Coquille Cats

sketch of black cat on porch
“Black Cat on Porch”, 1998, 10″ x 10″, black colored pencil in on coquille board © Bernadette E. Kazmarski

In addition to the sketch of Allegro and Stanley I used yesterday to illustrate “Watch Your Window Screens” I wanted to share a few of the other sketches I’d done on coquille at the time, in part because of the season. These sketches are black and white yet they were done from photos taken in summer and could be rich with color and texture, yet techniques like this sketch on a textured surface can carry the feeling of the light and of the scene well.

One thing about them is that none of the cats are my cats, and that’s significant for two reasons. First, I didn’t look at my own photos as subjects for artwork yet, but drew inspiration from magazines and calendars. Second, it was at one time permissible to draw from reference images in copyrighted printed materials because you were changing the medium or representation significantly enough that it did not copy the original; now, as creation and use of images has changed, this is a big no-no without express permission from the copyright holder.

Back in the day, when I wanted to use a few images for illustrations for a brochure for a veterinary hospital (I’ll cover those one day) I wrote to the publisher and asked if I could use the photos as reference, and they did give me permission. These I simply decided to use, and so I can display them as saomples, I can give them to someone as a gift, but I can never reproduce them or use them in a way that specifically earns me a profit. But I liked these two so much for how they turned out that I’d like to share them.

sketch of two cats
“Two Cats on the Porch”, 1998, 10″ x 10″, black colored pencil on coquille board © Bernadette E. Kazmarski

It’s not surprising that I was inspired by a black cat on a wooden porch! I liked the solitary feeling of the cat as well as the details of the wood and the blended shapes of the leaves in the background. And in the second one I really liked the light and air feeling of the scene, the two cats just have a cat moment on the porch, a few plants, a chair. The texture of the board softens the shadows, yet I could still achieve a good dark, clean line when I needed to. One of the best ways to success in creating a two-dimensional image is to choose a medium that is right for the subject, and I knew with this paper I could pull details as well as achieve gentle shadows, and that was what inspired me about these two scenes.

My secret for these is a tool I still use now and then—my light table. You’ll see larger versions of these used in photo studios and sign shops and other places where its best use is needed, but I have just a small one, 15″ x 21″, that I can place on a tabletop when I need it. In any size, it’s basically a box with bright lights inside and a glass top that diffuses the light so that you can put an image on the surface then a piece of some sort of paper on top to trace the image. Mine has three fluorescent under-cabinet lights inside and two pieces of clear glass with a piece of vellum tracing paper in between. I used it far more in my beginning days when I didn’t trust my coordination to keep things in proportion, and I often did an entire drawing on the light table as I did with these two.

Below is a demonstration image of a black and white printout of a photo of Giuseppe’s amour Mlle. with a piece of coquille taped over it and the light shining through so that I can sketch the tones and shapes immediately, as I see the image through the coquille. (No, Giuseppe, I’m not sketching your girlfriend, at least not in this medium!) Of course, in the olden days, images were enlarged to the desired size by sneaking multiple copies on the copier at work when no one was looking so that by the time you had your image to size there wasn’t much detail left.

light table
How the light table looks.

The light table also comes in use for another matter—it is gently warm, and a great place to display one’s self ans have a bath if you are a feline, as Mimi demonstrates. Always before I used my light table I had to leave it out for Cookie to have her fun on it, mock-scratching at the surface—for some reason she loved smooth surfaces—then spreading herself out all over the top and refusing to move. When I finally did move her, and I had to move her, she would indignantly come back and lay on the work I was doing. Clearly I had to break my dependence on the light table so that Cookie could assume her rightful ownership of it. I believe I did get one clear photo of Cookie on the light table—because the room has to be dark for greatest light transmission it was difficult on film—but I haven’t found it yet. Mimi was happy to model in her place.

black cat on light table
How the light table looks with a cat.

Coquille can be used with color, of course, and one day I’ll scan up those illustrations I did in colored pencil on coquille. Colored pencil seemed to work the best for me, but you can also use pencil and other dry media to take advantage of the texture. Now that I’ve found my little stash of coquille board I may do a daily sketch on one or two and also experiment with some other ways the board and its texture can be used. One drawback is that it is not acid-free and as you can see it turns a bit yellow.

I’ve also used coquille in my set of notecards from that era, “Kitties Being Kitties” and also mentioned its use in “The Artist’s Life: Early Feline Influences and Memories”.


Featured Artwork

If you’d like to read more about artwork as I develop it, about my current portraits and at assignments and even historic portraits and paintings, each week I feature a piece of artwork on Wednesday and a new product on Thursday. Choose the category for featured artwork.




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4 thoughts on “Featured Artwork: Coquille Cats

  • July 10, 2014 at 11:35 am
    Permalink

    Really like the drawings.
    Mimi also demonstrates,very well, the use of the light box 🙂

    Reply
    • July 11, 2014 at 2:18 am
      Permalink

      Georgia and Julie, I have to find that photo of Cookie on it. She owned it!

      Reply
    • July 11, 2014 at 2:18 am
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      Thanks, Island Cats! It’s interesting to look at them from so long ago.

      Reply

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