As a cat lover and animal lover I always say I care more for what’s under the fur than the fur itself and I’m sure most of us would say that. As an artist I also love all varieties and types of fur on all my animal subjects, and in the animals I live with I have always enjoyed a variety of color and pattern and solid.
But just a glance at The Creative Cat will tell you that we find black cats to be very special, especially since those of us here who are not black cats are greatly outnumbered! Here’s the portrait of the black cat who started it all for me, and it’s about time I featured him as a desktop calendar for all those who love black cats—in fact, I’ve had a few requests for it!
About the inspiration of black cats
Before I had a cat of my own, I loved black cats. Each summer when the neighbors’ cats had kittens, back in the days before regular spay and neuter, I loved the dark tabby swirls and stripes and the creamsicle orange and whites and the shimmering solid grays. But the fuzzy black kittens, the sleek black adults, appealed to a visual style that I still love today—the clear silhouette, the contrast of eyes, no matter the color, in dark fur, the play of light on physical structure, finding the graceful curves of cheekbone and hip as if their highlighted dark fur made them somehow transparent. I had no idea then what was developing in my young aesthetic sensibilities, but it is still with me today as I look at these five, still a surprise to see a highlight gracefully trace the spine to the tail, or see whiskers emerge from the darkness of a muzzle tucked in sleep. And all the colors that shine from black fur in different light…I could go on and on, but you see it nearly every day in my sketches and in the art I present.
And long before Mimi and the Fantastic Four, before most of the cats who shared my life, in fact, was the first black cat, the first cat I adopted as an adult. He rescued me while I was in college and became my feline muse even then, before I was even working as an artist, and continued to guide and inspire me, to both art and to rescue—his rescue and the way I came to feel for him was the reason I began rescuing years ago.
And even as I began sketching, drawing, painting, and developed my techniques with animal portraiture, he remained an inspiration, but never a model. He died in 1996, but it wasn’t until 2005 that I finally painted his portrait. In part this was because I had so few photos of him, and not for the lack of a camera but because he was always on me somewhere, draped around my neck under my hair, hanging with his paws around my neck and nestled in my elbow, on my lap, on the back of my chair. Even with studying him all the years he was with me, I still needed reference photos to be certain I had the details right.
About this portrait
But he was also a very complex cat, we had been through quite a lot, and for years I simply could not decide what pose would be best to capture him, I could visualize him in so many ways and while I considered the idea of painting a series of portraits of him, I knew I just needed to wait, and it would come to me.
And it did one morning when I turned around and saw the winter sun shining brilliantly on the bare wooden floor of the landing and I remembered watching him rolling around there in the way he did, acting silly, often in apology for something he’d done that I didn’t particularly care for like opening the refrigerator and pulling food out.
But I knew what I was remembering was a moment when he was acting as feline therapist, because I was having a bad day as I sometimes did and he knew it and was doing his best to get me past my dark mood, not just with being adorable and irresistible but also with letting the sun play across his fur, pulling all those wonderful mahogany and blue-purple shades from within it, his pale green eyes contrasting with the depth of his face, his velvety paws waving aimlessly. After years of living with cats and being aware of how they react to me as I go about my business and work on my art I’m absolutely certain they know what’s going on in my head, and that my whole being changes when I’m feeling the inspiration to something I find visually inspiring. That’s why so many of the photos of them I publish are in my studio because my cats have always loved to be with me when I’m in that “alpha state of mind”, and I’m convinced that my success of fostering has been in part because these new cats always spent their first weeks with me in my studio. I think animals know us best when we’re in this place beyond verbal communication, and I’m sure they could see the lovely images playing in my head and feel the peace that steals over me as I visualize.
So as I looked at the shadows falling crisp in the sun and soft in light reflected off the doors and walls, pulling the details from the old wood boards, each one different, I could see him there and knew that was the moment.
Then, his expression, direct, “Are you looking at me?” Not only for attention for himself, but for my own distraction. It worked every time.
All the lights came on for me and I saw this portrait in that moment. I found the few reference photos I had and began immediately. Dark mood? He could still dispel it nearly ten years later.
This painting was done in a variety of different brands of pastels and pastel pencils on Wallis sanded paper. The original art for this painting is available for sale, and while it may seem difficult to imagine that I could part with it, the memory is enough, and I need to let go of my paintings in order to create more. The painting is available on Portraits of Animals as well as digital, giclee and canvas prints. I also offer it as a greeting card it is included in my “Feline Greetings Art Cards” collection. He also appears on a great many gift items, and a search of either “Kublai” or the name of the painting will find what’s available.
I also have the original, he’s watching over me in my kitchen, but I’m not quite ready to part with him just yet…if ever.
I hope you enjoy him watching over you for the month of March as well!
This month’s desktop calendar
I’ve worked this image into a desktop calendar for you to enjoy and use for the entire month. Looking at the downloads from previous months and averaging out which dimensions fit which devices, I have reduced the number of variations from 12 to three. It was very time-consuming to create all the variations with new devices arriving all the time, so I have one for horizontal monitors/screens, one for square monitors/screens, and one that should fit the dimensions of nearly all mobile devices. If these sizes don’t work for your device, please let me know.
How to download and use your desktop calendar
- Click on one of the images below that matches the dimensions of your monitor to open the image in a new page.
- For desktop computers and laptops, right-click on that image and on a desktop computer choose “save as desktop wallpaper” or “save as background” or whichever option your operating system gives you to be able to do this. You may also simply save it to your hard drive and set it as your background from there.
- For mobile devices, download the image to your gallery then choose it as your wallpaper—this is slightly different on all devices.
Horizontal and HD monitors and screens
. . .
Square monitors and screens
. . .
Small Mobile Devices
. . .
Cell Phones and Smartphones
. . .
Take a look at other featured artwork and desktop calendar posts.
Each month I feature a piece of feline artwork from the archives to the present day, discuss its history and process, and set it up as a free downloadable desktop calendar for just about every electronic device available.
click here to see other artwork featured on The Creative Cat
or visit Fine Art and Portraiture on my main website.
If you are interested in a print of this image, check my Etsy shop 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.
Gifts featuring cats you know! Visit Portraits of Animals
Great Rescues Day Book:
Portraits, Rescue Stories, Holidays and Events, Essential Feline Information, All in One Book
Each month features one of my commissioned portraits of a feline or felines and their rescue story along with a kitty quote on the left page and on the right page the month name with enough lines for all possible dates, with standard holidays and animal-themed observances and events. Great Rescues also includes a mini cat-care book illustrated with my drawings including information on finding strays or orphaned kittens, adopting for the first time or caring for a geriatric cat, a list of household toxins and toxic plants, or helping stray and feral cats and beginning with TNR.
Each book includes also 10 sheets of my “22 Cats” decorative notepaper with a collage of all the portraits in black and white so you can make your own notes or write special notes to friends.
The portraits in this book, collected as a series, won both a Certificate of Excellence and a Muse Medallion in the 2011 Cat Writers’ Association Annual Communication Contest, as well as the 22 Cats Notepaper mentioned below.
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.
Subscribe to my e-newsletter
Subscribe to The Creative Cat Preview E-newsletter.
Weekly schedule of features:
Tuesday: Rescue Stories
Thursday: New Merchandise
And sometimes, I just throw my hands in the air and have fun!