Today is officially Peaches’ birthday, and while she appears in dozens of sketches and hundreds of photos, this is the painting that captures her, pretty, petite, unassuming, a creature of feline habit in her adopted home after she’d spent a lifetime with someone else, perfectly relaxed and assured that she belonged on the table having a bath in the sun. While I photographed this scene because it was a pretty picture and I also knew it would be a lovely painting, I don’t devote the 30 to 40 hours and limitless patience it takes to create a painting at this size and level of detail unless I’m committed to the subject. Just the peonies on the table with the wrinkled cloth would have been a striking still life and I did take a few photos of just that, but that alone would not have inspired me to work this hard for a painting.
I’ve repeatedly referenced this painting, but never written about the painting as I have other works. “Peaches and Peonies” hangs above my worktable in my studio; each time I walk into the room I look at this painting, and as I work in here I find myself studying some small detail of it, and each time I do, I remember Peaches. For me, that’s what art is about, the work itself, and what it gives to us each time it touches our lives, whether that’s a memory, a new insight, or a reassurance for something we believe.
It was at the beginning of June 2006 that I took the reference photos for this painting over the course of two or three days until the angle of the sun moved far enough and the river birch outside fully leafed out and the sun was gone. I have about 30 photos over that time, but below was the photo I published on my website at the time (no blog yet), and the one I chose as the position I liked best; note all the “stuff” in the background…this is why we have art.
There it is, that moment that turns on all the lights for me…one of my cats in the sun, the conditions that have inspired most of my portraits. Cats are creatures of habit, and Peaches chose this spot to have her after-dinner bath every day for a few weeks when the sun was right; I knew it was a keeper whether a photo or a painting, so I photographed it several times over a period of several days, knowing I’d use at least one photo or all the photos as reference to create one painted image. A painting this size and level of details is a significant investment of time, so I had to wait until my schedule allowed the night-after-night sessions with tiny sections of detail. It’s one of those paintings I still look at and can’t believe I painted; Peaches and Peonies hangs in my studio watching over my work and providing constant inspiration.
Working pastel at this level of detail
Soft pastel is generally known for more Impressionist applications, not classically detailed portraiture or still life, and that had always been my experience with it as well. In those late-night sessions after work years ago when I was reaching for my voice as an artist and working in pencil I desperately wanted to “paint”, apply color to a surface and mix and blend and create the lovely images I was visualizing, but with the irregular times I had to work setting up, cleaning up and working on a canvas in oil or acrylic just didn’t work. I found that box of cheap pastels I’d picked up somewhere, and even added colored chalk to fill in for colors that weren’t in the box and found that no matter where I stopped a painting, it was always there for me when I got back, no drying or shrinking or anything. In time and with lots of experimentation I developed the highly realistic style I use today for my commissioned portraits, landscapes and even illustrations.
“Peaches and Peonies” came along 20 years after that learning curve, and with the experience of those two decades I could visualize not only the scene in pastel but the actual pastels I’d use in all my boxes of them, the way I’d apply them and blend them, the pastel pencils and harder pastels I should have on hand, working out possible difficulties and planning which colors I’d need to purchase to be sure I had the right hues, and enough of the major colors for maximum coverage. I have three shades of violet and purple in that background, all blended together with just a bit of creamy light coming in at the upper corner. There was a lot of purple in the air, on the floor, and on my kitties as well—good thing it’s non-toxic, and I always keep a little hand-held vacuum handy for when I really make a mess.
Where to start…?
It all begins with a rough, blocked-in underpainting of areas of color, and these colors may or may not be the final colors you see. Most media aren’t entirely opaque, even paint, and our eyes are more sensitive than we give them credit in being able to sense layers of color and blend them to one final perceived color.
Shadows can be still and “dead” as I call them, and dark colors can recede in our perception. That background stood a good chance of being one of those “dead” areas, but I didn’t want to introduce any other objects or even lighter tones, I wanted that big dark background, which is why I chose purple for its relation to the palette in the painting and its ability to be vibrant though dark, though even that can be dense and still. To liven it up I begin with a color complement underneath, in this case shades of yellow, which make the purple more vibrant, and this was also the reason for the variety of shades of violet and purple, warm and cool both layered and blended but still dark. Our eyes can perceive this as giving the area dimension instead of being just flat, though at first glance it looks like just a big dark purple background.
Lighter areas also get a complementary color treatment underneath, usually in a darker color so that I can build the highlights out from the shadows. Peaches’ fur is creamy white and is even warmer in the sunlight, so she has lots of tones of blue and green underneath to give her fur its sense of softness and the richness of its color. Each of her highlighted furs is a single or blended tone of warm yellow, in contrast with the cooler background on which it’s drawn.
Colors are relative…
Most of the objects in this painting are actually white—the cloth on the table, the table and chairs, the cabinet—and Peaches, for the most part, yet it was the beauty and richness of all the reflections from the peonies and from the golden late-afternoon sunlight reflected off all that white that makes the scene what it is.
I planned out the details of Peaches’ fur as silhouetted against a dark background with nearly every hair lit by direct or reflected light you could see all the little guard hairs and this was integral to the overall effect of a sunlit Peaches. In addition, she has her basic fur colors of peach and gray and creamy white, but they are each influenced by the type of light that shines on or reflects on them, especially that spot on her upper shoulder that is actually peach, but the peonies reflecting on her make it look quite pink!
Those peonies reflected on everything giving the entire scene a warm pink tone hence the purple background, and I wanted to work their complicated structure of petals from their most brilliant highlights to fade into the darkness as I’d seen in countless classic still lifes. There are some colors that can’t really be reproduced in reflective media like pastels and paint and even photography, and the shade of pink where the sun shines fully on the peonies is one of those because there are so many colors in sunlight, one single flat tone, even blended, can’t really capture the depth and brilliance, but we can come close and hint at it and also show the effects of the color on the rest of the scene. Like the reflections on Peaches and the overall pink tone, the reflections on the cloth are brilliant.
Go ahead, straighten out that embroidered cloth
And the detail in that embroidered eyelet cloth had me itching to get started. When it comes to paintings like this I love those sorts of everyday details, choosing an area to work all at one time, sometimes as small as one square inch, to be certain I stayed consistent in color and style. Way back when I painted “Waiting for Mom” I had painted the braided rug completely flat with no wrinkles, but another artist friend advised me to include that buckle in the rug because it added interest, so in household items like the cloth I’ve capturing wrinkles and the areas around the eyelets that are puckered. I not only want you to reach out and pet Peaches, I want you to reach out and straighten out that cloth.
The challenge of painting transparent objects
But even with decades of skill and experience there are always things we don’t know, and times we just have to move beyond our logical reality and trust our senses and intuition; this is one of the greatest lessons the practice of art has taught me.
In prior paintings I had encountered cats, of course, as well as tablecloths and painted furniture and flowers, but I had never painted glass or transparent objects as in the vase with water at this level of detail. I knew the vase would be a challenge and savored working out the methods for representing only what our eyes perceive about an object that is transparent.
Sometimes I give myself a challenge by drawing something in reverse of what I’m familiar with, a reflection in a mirror, or simply drawing a mirror image of something I’m looking at. For all my flexibility of visualization and constant practice in drawing, I’ll just say this really blows my mind—I find it very difficult, and it gives me a headache because I am trying to constantly draw what I know and not what I see. And this was the way I felt at first approaching the vase in this painting—I knew what it “should” look like, but what I was producing did not look like water-filled molded glass. I just had to let go and draw what I saw, trusting it would all come together in the end. And so it did.
Senior Pet Adoption Donation Program
Purchase a giclée of “Peaches and Peonies” and automatically make a donation to help senior pet adoptions
I would make a big donation to the shelter or rescue of the person’s choice who chose to purchase the original of Peaches and Peonies, but I also have a Senior Pet Adoption Donation Program regarding the purchase of a giclee of this painting. Through the purchase of a full-size giclee of “Peaches and Peonies”, $25.00 of your purchase price will be donated to the senior pet adoption program in your name or the name of your choice. And because many shelters and rescues don’t have a formal senior pet adoption program though many foster and rehome senior pets, I can be fairly liberal with who gets the donation, as long as it’s made in the name of a senior pet.
Giclée prints are printed on heavyweight acid-free archival paper with light-fast archival inks using a direct liquid printing process so fine that my prints are often indistinguishable from my originals. Each print is signed by me, the artist. I prefer this process not only because of its clarity and precision but also because I can order only one print at a time instead of ordering dozens or hundreds, and it costs the same per print no matter how many I get. For that reason I can order them from my printer as I receive orders instead of trying to keep them in stock and store them free of damage.
- Full-size, 23″ x 16″, $150.00
- Half-size, 13″ x 9″, $75.00 (see “framing” below)
You pay for the print and give me the name of the senior pet adoption program of your choice. I process your order and send a donation to the program in your name or the name of your choosing, and either ask them to send you an acknowledgement or send you one myself. I usually make the donations through PayPal since most shelters use it now, and I can send you a acknowledgement through PayPal. Where it’s different or I need to write a check or use another payment method, I will still send you an acknowledgement.
I can ship the smaller prints flat for $10.95, but need to ship the full-size prints rolled $15.95 since the package is slightly oversized when shipping flat. However, I can ship flat for $25.95, or a surcharge of $10.00. I’m not fond of rolled prints, but I don’t like bent ones either.
Framing is often more expensive than the art itself. Custom framing is available for an estimate; I custom frame all my own things. To save a little bit on framing, I chose 13″ x 9″ for the the smaller print so that it would fit into a pre-made 16″ x 20″ frame that comes with an 11″ x 14″ mat leaving white space around the print, which is typical in framing a high-quality print. The larger will fit into a pre-made 24″ x 30″ frame, though you may need to purchase a mat since most larger frames don’t come with a mat.
Visit the Portraits of Animals Marketplace on my website, choose “Cats” under “Original Art and Prints”, or click here to go directly to “Peaches and Peonies” in my Marketplace. In your PayPal shopping cart you’ll be able to give special instructions, and you can add that you’d like to donate through the program and give me the contact information for the shelter of your choice.
You can also visit my Etsy shop, and when you order through PayPal you’ll be able to enter instructions about your chosen donation program.
I firmly believe that looking at beautiful images fills our hearts with a special sort of peace, and also promotes love for the subject of the image, and so I always hope with every image I share that I am helping to promote a peaceful world in even a tiny way and a love of cats in all their beautiful shapes and colors and ways of being.
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Purchase a Gift Certificate
I always offer portrait certificates, but can only extend that automatic 10% discount through Etsy, but you are more than welcome to purchase a gift certificate right here.
I offer gift certificates for portraits in any denomination beginning at $125.00, which is the basic cost of a portrait; the recipient is responsible for any amount the portrait costs over $125.00.
The certificate itself is 8.5″ x 11″ and features a collage of portrait images with the recipient’s and giver’s names, printed on parchment cover stock. The whole thing is packaged in a pocket folder and includes a brochure, a letter from me to the recipient and several business cards.The certificate package can be easily mailed or wrapped as a gift and shipped directly to your recipient.
I can also make it downloadable if you’re in a hurry.
Portrait certificates are a minimum of $125.00 because that is the minimum cost of a portrait.
Certificates are good for up to one year after issue.
You can purchase gift certificates here or from my Etsy shop if you are also purchasing other animal-inspired merchandise.
You only need to enter an address if it is different from the address I’ll receive through PayPal. These are often surprise gifts and need to be shipped away from the home address to make sure they are a surprise.
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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.