Featured Artwork: Fawnball, and the Tabbies Series of Block Prints

block print of curled cat
“Fawnball”, block print on silk paper, 1993 © Bernadette E. Kazmarski

I’m working up some textiles and hand-printed note cards and prints based on these designs and though it will be a few weeks before I get them done and present the new stuff, I’m so excited about presenting this set of block prints again and I wanted to share them.

This particular image—”Fawnball”—and it’s especially dear to me. Fawn’s habit was to rest rolled up in a tight ball when waiting for me to finish something and give her some attention (note the eye watching you). Just the way my sketch of Mimi the other day captured that moment and its long line of memories, this image captured a moment and this endearing habit of Fawn’s so that the memory will always be fresh for me. This image was also the inspiration for the four-image series of block prints called “Tabbies”, and it is dedicated to her.

Below is the reference photo I used for this, but it’s only one of many of Fawn curled on the bed in her characteristic supervisory position. On this day, I’m pretty sure I was using the sewing machine.

torbie cat rolled in ball
Fawn in her Fawnball position.

It’s difficult to see her stripes in this photo, but believe me, they are there! Fawn was a torbie, and while her basic body color changed between orange and tan, her tabby stripes continued without a break all over her body, most of them black with a few orange sections. When I looked at Fawn on the bed rolled up like this I remember noting all the marks around her eyes, and also that wonderful flow of one big stripe down the middle of her back with all the small ones branching off that actually helped to define her shape.

The stripes made me do it! The clarity of tabby cat stripes as they outline a cat’s features and define its shape has always been an inspiration for more graphic designs.

This gave me the idea to create a block print, my favorite medium for clear shapes on a background. And then I thought I should have a few other designs, and print them up as note cards which I was just beginning to produce at that time. Bright idea, not as easily executed, though—it meant finding four similar images to use and cutting out the blocks for each one. Well, a photo of Stanley sleeping came up pretty easily, all his stripes looking like the wrinkles in pajamas, and I was hooked on the idea. I found a photo of one of my rescues on the windowsill with a geranium, and a photo of a friend’s two tabby cats, and went to work.

Printing the cards

These cards were block printed, a technique wherein the artist carves the surface of a piece of linoleum, leaving raised areas which will become the image. Ink is rolled onto these raised areas, then a piece of paper is pressed against the block and when it’s lifted away the ink remains, leaving the image on the paper. The first thing is to cut out the block, below, with all four images.

linoleum block
The block with all four images.

And here is the section with just Fawnball.

linoleum block
The “Fawnball” section of the block.

When I planned these, I could ink up the block and press a sheet of 11″ x 17″ handmade paper, which was readily available then, onto the designs and print them all at once, then trim them apart later. Now I print two at a time.

cat block print
The design with the border.

The original design included a border as well, which made the card an A-6 size, or 4.5″ x 6.25″. The border included silhouettes of cats in action that I’d designed from photos of my cats and watching them; I’ve always liked silhouettes and at that time, in graphic design, they were very popular.

block print card
A teeny tiny version of the card in color.

Once I’d placed them around the design I added the wavy border to make it look more finished. Here is one image in black and white, and one teeny tiny scan of an actual card from my old website, only 180 pixels wide. That was way back when we all had dial-up connections and monitors were about 8″ x 10″…and it’s also been since then that I printed this set of cards with the border.

Set of six "Tabbies" Summer note cards.
Set of six “Tabbies” Summer note cards.

Of course, you’ve also seen them without a border in my a “Summery” set and a “Brights” set, and a couple of the designs as Valentines. I’ve also printed these on various textiles like placemats and curtains and such, and that’s what I’m working on right now. I can’t wait to share them with you!

Below is a gallery of prints and textiles I’d made in the past. I stayed with “kitty colors”, and I still love them, but I’m also printing in the colors you see above and they look so exciting.

A little bit about block printing

I really enjoy working in this medium and I can free myself from the traditional media and a greater realism in rendering. Linoleum block printing is a technique wherein the artist carves the surface of a piece of artist’s linoleum, leaving raised areas which will become the image. Ink is rolled onto these raised areas, then a piece of paper is pressed against the block and when it’s lifted away the ink remains, leaving the image on the paper.

Despite the fact I’ve been trying to video a little block print demonstration, all I have are a few photos taken as I was printing the “Tabbies” cards for Valentine’s Day last year. Here’s a brief slideshow:

The resulting work isn’t a one-time thing, but meant to be printed multiple times–and I do, on just about anything I can think of. They all start out on paper, but they’ve been printed on t-shirts and dresses and aprons and curtains, to name a few things. I nearly always add color to The Tortie Girls with watercolor or dyes since that was part of the original design, and I’ll often add color to other designs to give them extra interest.

Because of the nature of the medium, each print is unique and ink coverage is not always perfect. Most artists consider this random activity to be part of the process of creating an individualized print, and along with the hand-painting makes a unique work of art.

I’ve always intended to do others with tabbies and spots and even solids as I did with “The Goddess” and “The Roundest Eyes”, and did start branching out to wildlife with “Yes?”, but soon after this four-color digital printing became widely available for a reasonable price and I focused on note cards and greeting cards featuring paintings I’d done and moved to larger block prints. I’ll have to get back to these little ones—they are so much easier to print!

Featured Artwork

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.

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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.

© 2017 | 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!



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2 thoughts on “Featured Artwork: Fawnball, and the Tabbies Series of Block Prints

  • March 22, 2017 at 7:31 pm

    I’ve always loved your block prints, B – and they’re beautiful framed!

    • March 23, 2017 at 10:00 am

      Thanks, Chris. I love how flexible they are and I’m planning some new ones.


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