A study of winter sunlight, because there’s a cat in it. It’s a very simple scene: a black cat having a bath in front of a white painted kitchen cabinet with chrome handles, and a yellow and orange patterned carpet, but the play of light has fun with the colors and objects. A beginning watercolorist I’m shocked it came out so well after a few very constrained smaller paintings, but then I knew this image would make a great watercolor, I just needed to learn how to do it.
Brilliant light streams in the window at a long angle in the late afternoon seeming to point to the cat having a good bath in the sun. It’s Kublai, wrapped around licking his hip in one of those only-cats-can-do-that positions, really the first painting I did of him, though I’d hardly call it a portrait. The mahogany tones in his fur gleam in amongst the black, and the highlighted areas are bluish in complement while his darkest shadows are an inscrutable rich velvety black. Sun shines through one ear coloring it coral.
The sun is so bright that the most brilliant areas in the carpet patterned as Spanish tiles are simply brightness with no pattern or color at all, yet the yellow-orange carpet reflects up onto the painted white cabinets leaving trails and smudges of yellow and cantaloupe and coral and orange, just enough to brighten up the cold winter light. Best of all, and one of the details that convinced me to paint this in watercolor, the chrome handles flash the reflection of sunlight while capturing a bit of the yellow and orange and reflecting Kublai, below.
I painted this from a photo a took soon after I’d gotten my Pentax K-1000, another in the group I’ve been exploring in my vintage photos “girl and cat meet camera” in autumn 1983. I finally permitted myself a roll of color film after Christmas and photographed this scene in January 1984.
I found the composition of the photograph very inspiring, with the strict horizontal and vertical lines of the cupboard doors and the strong diagonal shadows all leading to the very organic shape of Kublai, a little off-center, washing his hip among the shadows on the floor. The intensity of the sunlight almost makes the scene look abstract, and I found that very challenging in watercolor. It was a photo I held onto until I had the time to do it—about ten years—because I wanted to paint it as a watercolor but had no experience at all with watercolor at the time. I had done a few small watercolors prior to this, then a large seascape, but this one left large areas of the paper untouched and had all those soft edges that I didn’t know how to work in a watercolor. After producing a few muddy watery jumbles I sat down and focused and produced this painting. No better way to learn than to just do it.
And silly me, I was doing the humility thing and didn’t want to sign the painting in the lower right as is usual, instead I signed in one of the shadowed areas, as you see below. I’ve been intending to photograph this again for several years, and before I put it back in its frame I think I’m going to give it a real signature; for now I have a watermark signature.
To this day when I look at this painting, I expect Kublai to pause in his bath and quickly lift his head to look at me with his celery green eyes, and I can hear his little bell on his collar jingle when I think of it.
I had featured this painting as a monthly desktop calendar in January 2014. It has hung above my desk in my office for all the years since I painted it.
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Sunbath, Watercolor is an original framed watercolor, 20″ x 14″. The frame is a 1.5″ rounded walnut with a gray top mat and white bottom mat. It’s also available as prints on paper and canvas and as a greeting card, but the 25% discount is only good on the original painting.
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.
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