This 1987 pencil sketch is one of the originals I recently sold. “Sleeping Beauty” always hung over my desk until I took her down to Chartiers Custom Pet Cremation to hang in the living room for others to see at that important moment in their lives with their pets. I brought it back and took the sketch out of its frame and replaced the glass for a little chip in a corner, and rescanned the original to have a better final digital image than the one I had. Holding this sketch in my hand, looking at the details with no glass between us 32 years after I’d finished it, all the other art that came after this sketch, because of this sketch, was a very happy reunion.
I sketched my Sally in soft smudgy pencil over 30 years ago. This pencil sketch is meaningful to me as a rescuer, a cat guardian, and as an artist and its impact on my confidence and career, and even though my color works get much more attention they would not exist without this sketch. Up to this point I was still working in pencil, but for the most part was putting my drawing paper over a photo on my light table and copying the image underneath in pencil strokes and smudges, but I longed to set my hands free of all the things that kept me from seeing my visualization, the image I really wanted to draw. This sketch was the first time I looked at a scene, took in all the necessary details, visualized the finished work, and actually created what I had visualized on the paper. This is what has to happen for anything I render, whether it’s a commissioned portrait from photographs or a drawing en plein air.
I took the reference photo for this sketch in midsummer 1986 and as the same time of year rolled around again in 1987 I decided I’d had enough practice tracing images in pencil that I could free myself of all the assistance and sketch what I was envisioning in that summer photo of Sally sleeping on the kitchen windowsill with her head on the Swedish ivy, the dotted Swiss ruffled curtain cascading down next to her lush and full tail, one paw gracefully draped as far as it would reach off the windowsill.
Though I moved from that place in 1990 and Sally left this existence 20 years ago I can still see her on that windowsill as if she was napping downstairs in my current kitchen. The visualization was that strong, and I stepped away from all the tracing and rulers, lightboxes and special erasers that helped me keep the image in perspective and correct. I wanted to follow the line of Sally’s back with my eyes, to sketch and smudge her fur as if I could feel it, and then to add the dotted curtain and its eyelet lace trim, and do it all without outlines, with positive and negative space. I had never done any of this but boldly experimented with my newfound confidence. And I wanted softened edges that faded out to nothing; I didn’t want a full scene, I wanted just the important parts so I could show other people how beautiful Sally was in a way that photos could not.
I had a large sheet of textured watercolor paper that would keep pencil lines softened, and, looking at the photo, began to sketch her face, then to add shadows and shading with the side of the pencil, with a paper stomp to blend, with a Q-tip, my fingers. I had never done this but followed my intuition and referenced Sally in the fur wherever she was as I worked. I have no idea how long it took me.
When I say I have my cats to thank for being an artist, that when, as an adult, I chose to pick up a pencil and paper and put them together, it was because images of my cats kept appearing in my thoughts as pencil drawings and paintings and I decided to draw what I was envisioning, this is what I meant. When I visualized them and the image I might create, my heart swelled with love in a way even greater than usual. Drawing my cats expresses how I feel about them as surely as anything else I do, and without that feeling for them I don’t know if I would have had the courage to put aside the tracing and just draw, if I hadn’t wanted to express what I feel and not just what I see and think. But I did, and it worked. And the rest is history. This is the gift they gave to me, and I will be forever in their debt, spending a lifetime to pay it off by sharing them with others.
I have had no shortage of feline models after rescuing and fostering since the early 1980s. Through the years my cats have been the subjects of dozens of works, and others, seeing these works, want a similar piece with their own animal companion as a subject. I have had the pleasure of creating hundreds of commissioned portraits of cats, dogs, cats and dogs, and cats and dogs and people. They are gifts for loved ones, memorials to cherished companions who’ve gone before us, and lovely pieces of artwork featuring an animal a person loved.
Animals give us so much in everyday life, but my cats have given me my career.
Where to find this artwork
As I mentioned above, I have sold this original to another cat rescuer who follows us, who said it reminded her of one of her cats. For years in Chartiers Custom Pet Cremation’s “living room”, where people gather to say goodbye to their pet or receive back their cremains, it gave me great joy to know that Sally was there to offer comfort to people in a time of grief. Now Peaches will be there for them.
The original “Sleeping Beauty” was not always for sale, not until I was sure I’d learned all I needed from it. But I don’t create my art for me, and I am very sad when I don’t get the chance to share it. Knowing Sally will sleep in a home that loves this image fills my heart.
I also offer giclée, digital and canvas prints of this sketch, and can always have prints made for you in other sizes. I can also custom frame your print or custom cut a mat for a frame you already own. The original is matted with an oval mat.
This image is also available in my set of Feline Pencil Sketches. You can purchase the whole set or a set of just this one card. I’d be glad to make up a special box for you, just ask.
Browse Featured Artwork
I also feature artwork which has not been commissioned, especially my paintings of my own cats. If you’d like to read more about artwork as I develop it, about my current portraits and art assignments and even historic portraits and paintings, I feature commissioned portrait or other piece of artwork on Wednesday. Choose the categories featured artwork.
Gifts featuring cats you know! Visit Portraits of Animals
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!
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