I sketched my Sally in soft smudgy pencil 30 years ago this summer. Even though 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, I have never featured it. But 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.
It’s that time of the year again, and though I moved from that place 27 years ago and Sally left this place almost 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—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.
It was a turning point in my career as an artist; it 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. 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 had a large sheet of textured watercolor paper that would keep pencil lines softened, and, looking at the photo, began to sketch, 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.
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
I still have the original which has for years hung in Chartiers Custom Pet Cremation’s “living room” where people gather to say goodbye to their pet or receive back their cremains. It gives me great joy to know that Sally is there to offer comfort to people in a time of grief.
The original “Sleeping Beauty” is for sale, though, and 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.
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! —