This particular image—”Fawnball”—is 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). This image was the inspiration for the four-image series of block prints called “Tabbies”, and it is dedicated to her.
I always associate this art with Thanksgiving for a sentimental reason. Fawn was diagnosed with lymphoma just before Thanksgiving, 1998. This is usually an immediate death sentence, but with lots of love and actually minimal treatment, all physical symptoms completely disappeared and for three months she was in remission and was back to tripping me and racing me up the steps. That remission was one Christmas gift I will never forget.
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.
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.
And here is the section with just Fawnball.
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.
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. 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.
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.
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!
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.
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.