A LITTLE WHITE LIE is sometimes what it takes to save an animal from a bad situation. Well, that and a convenient cereal box, but it all works out for the better.
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Holly’s dad was working on his apartment building in a small town 50 miles from his home and noticed a tiny kitten, maybe five weeks old, running from under the porch at the house next door; apparently they were just letting a new litter run the streets until they decided what to do with them. He put milk out for the kitten as she visited the back stairway, then went next door to confirm the kittens belonged to them, asking if he could adopt the little calico, to which they agreed.
He took her into an apartment and fed her there, took her to the local vet for a checkup and kept her with him for about 2 weeks as he worked on the building. The neighbor stopped him in the driveway a few days later and said she had promised the kitten to her sister. Holly’s dad immediately replied that he had already given her a new home in Pittsburgh, 50 miles away, and she was no longer available. Later, he secreted Holly out hidden in a cereal box and brought her home.
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I call this one “the portrait I couldn’t resist”. Holly’s portrait wasn’t really commissioned, but I couldn’t help myself for painting her, and her person couldn’t help but buy her portrait, so it’s almost the same. Holly’s mom and dad are friends of mine and long-time cat rescuers as I described in the story “A Bridge Between the Ages”.
Holly is a congenial little calico who greets you at the door and knows she’s the center of attention. On the back of the rocker Holly is accessible to everyone who walks through the room and can see most of the first floor of the house.
The scene of this portrait is pretty much what I was looking at when I visited one bright winter afternoon, and while my portraits usually feature the animal subject prominently in this case I wanted to capture the colorful and beautiful, warm and welcoming feel of their home where the cats go where they please despite all the pretty stuff.
And I decided that I wanted to paint this as a watercolor instead of my usual pastel, I simply visualized it that way in the moment. I remember thinking, “Neat watercolor….I should probably take some pictures…” I showed the photos to Judi and asked her if she’d mind if I painted from one of them—I’m always sensitive about the interiors of peoples’ homes—and she said that was fine with her and she’d probably be interested in the painting too.
So the scene was pretty much as you see. I was excited at the challenge of the window and the footstool as well as Holly. I used a watercolor block instead of a free sheet of watercolor paper, and the sheets are all attached around the edges and stay fairly flat. The block of paper I have is 9″ x 12″, perfect for the smaller size I wanted to paint.
I’ve always been a little uncertain with watercolor and usually traced the scene in this way to make sure I could keep things in perspective (that was why it was such a big deal when I painted “Lazy Saturday Afternoon” without pencil lines, it took a lot of practice). I enlarged the photo to the size of the paper and, covering the back of the paper with the side of the pencil lead, I placed the sheet on top of the watercolor pad and lightly traced the outlines of the image from the printout so that the lead would transfer from the back of my printout to the watercolor paper. There’s always a danger of actually impressing the paper with a dent from the pencil which gets in the way of painting, so this step has to go easy. I also don’t always want the traced pencil lines and in this case I was sure I didn’t because the details were so fine. Tracing lightly not only doesn’t impress the surface of the paper, it also just leaves a faint pencil line which is easy to paint over or erase.
Then to choose the colors and techniques. I lightly painted over each area in a base wash of color to block it off, erasing pencil lines where the colors would be light enough to see them. Generally with watercolor, unlike pastel where I nearly always use a colored paper and work the white back into the area for greater depth, the watercolor paper is white, and anything pure white in the painting is not painted at all, and believe it or not it was difficult to remember not to paint Holly. And even though I enjoy working out animal fur in pastel I was looking forward to her clear calico markings done with a brush and liquid.
The chair is upholstered in velvet and that texture is a natural for pastel and I’ve done plenty of wood tones in pastel, and it was exciting to translate my usual methods from a medium I’m so accustomed to into watercolor. This can be confusing, visualizing one thing but accustomed to creating it in a totally different method! Once I had practiced a bit and was accustomed to the techniques of layering colors to mix and blend and simply deepen with each successive layer, then washing off areas for soft blends and highlights, I was glad for my narrow liner brushes when it came to Holly’s markings, the flowers on the footstool, the lead in the window and the shadows on the door at right.
One thing I’m a little disappointed in with the reproduction is the right-hand window next to the stained glass window. It’s a plain glass window behind a mini-blind with lots of light coming through, and I carefully painted the shadow of each horizontal slat. You can see a trace of them, but I don’t think you get the feel of the blind. The only reason I mention it is I decided to paint the blind because I felt that area needed a pattern to balance the rest of the painting. With the heavy leafy darkness of the ficus tree on the left, the right side needs a pattern as well. But that’s why studying original art is important, while looking at prints is nice.
And to be perfectly honest, I have always wished I had thought change that blue terry hand towel to something more Victorian, a shawl perhaps. I had intended to when I was visualizing, but forgot when it came to transferring the image and didn’t remember until it was pretty much in place. I did try to remove some of the paint in preparation for a change, but the paper started to show too much wear and tear from reworking. But I can live with this!
About Judi and her business(es)…
Judi is a friend of mine and a customer for my business, so visit the website she and I designed and see if anything strikes your fancy, and if you are local to Pittsburgh, visit her shop Carnegie Antiques where I had my little shop in the back room and also the estate sales she sets up and hosts for her customers.
You can see a little more of her lovely home and photos of her cats in “A Bridge Between the Ages”, and you can also see other of her cats in Out in the Garden, one of my favorites, and sweet since the subject, Houdini, is now gone, and Emerson, which I took just a few weeks ago when I checked on him while Judi was out for a long day with an estate sale.
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“Holly was my first and only kitten,” Judi told me. “All my cats were adults that I rescued or adopted. She was a real treat—I’d never seen the energy of a kitten.”
Holly was about six weeks old when Judi’s partner Don brought her home in the cereal box as described above.
“She got along with everybody. They were all equally annoyed with her kitten games—but Houdini took to it right away,” she continued.
And that would be very special for Judi; Houdini was then 19 years old, and he had been her first cat, ever, in a lifetime of rescuing cats. At that age, she knew they wouldn’t be together too much longer. “Holly kept him playing like a kitten in his last year,” she said.
Separately and then together, Judi and Don have rescued at least a dozen cats, and it’s always interesting to find out how serial cat rescuers got their start. Often, it begins with just one very special cat, and many other cats’ lives are ultimately saved because of the loving relationship between that cat and that person. For now, we’ll focus on the story of Judi and the cat who started it all for her.
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Here is March with Holly’s portrait and rescue story in Great Rescues Day Book
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And here is the quote for Holly:
The smallest feline is a masterpiece. ~ Leonardo da Vinci
Where to find this artwork
I offer a variety of signed digital prints of this painting including digital, gicleé and canvas prints, and even offer a framed print as well. Visit my Etsy shop for details about prints. Visit Ordering Custom Artwork for more information on ordering a custom product.
This image is also available in my set of Feline Greetings Art Cards on Etsy. You can also purchase a single card or a dozen in a box on my website, and I’d be glad to make up a special box for you, just ask.
Holly is one of the rescued cats in my Great Rescues Day Book, an undated monthly journal to record the dates of birthdays, anniversaries and events featuring sixteen of my commissioned portraits of rescued cats along with their rescue stories.
This book is built from Great Rescues Calendar and Gift Book, the original 16-month calendar published in 2011 to inaugurate my series of rescue stories related to the portraits I’ve painted over the years.
Click here or on the image of the book at left, or either of the links above to read more.
Also, read more about Great Rescues families, those who appear in each of the two volumes so far. I’ll be featuring one story each month corresponding with the portrait that appears in the book for that month. That means there are four extra, and I’ll slip those in when the story itself feels appropriate.
And click here to see the whole year of monthly posts of featured portraits!
Read other stories in my Rescue Stories series.
Also read about other Commissioned Portraits and 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.
Take a look at other portraits and read other stories
Read articles here on The Creative Cat featuring current and past commissioned portraits.
Read about how I create commissioned portraits.
|Commissioned Cat Portraits
|Commissioned Dog Portraits
Visit my website to see portraits of my cats, commissioned cats, commissioned dogs, people and a demonstration of how I put a portrait together from photos.
Download a Brochure
My brochure is an 8.5″ x 11″ two-page full-color PDF that half-folds when it’s all printed out, showing examples of portraits with an explanation of my process and basic costs.
Purchase a Gift Certificate
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.
© 2015 | www.TheCreativeCat.net | Published by Bernadette E. Kazmarski
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!