Friday, July 19, 2024
animal artworkcat artworkcatsmy household of felinespastelportraitstanley

A Portrait of an Old Cat

pastel painting of cat on bed
"Afternoon Nap", pastel on hand-finished paper, 7.5" x 7.5" © B.E. Kazmarski

An old cat, a gentleman,
he has found a quiet spot, upstairs in the afternoon,
and has so perfectly placed himself a little off-center
on the expanse of white bedspread,
illuminated by stark winter light through the window.
(Stanley finds all the best places.)

You know those moments where you walk upon a scene of your cats doing something that you always want to remember, whether it’s a regular habit or a one-time thing? This scene was one of Stanley’s regular habits during his last few years; every afternoon he’d head upstairs with intent and I’d find him curled in the same spot on the bed.

As part of “Senior Pet Adoption Month”, am featuring my senior cats; Stanley was today’s Wordless Wednesday image, and you’ll see him again later today. Stanley lived to me about 25, and was with me for over 21 years. Cats can live full and inspiring lives well into their teens and twenties, so don’t be concerned if a feline you find for adoption is in the double digits—you could have many more years together.

pastel painting of cat on table
After Dinner Nap, pastel, 1996 © B.E. Kazmarski

Portrait or sketch?

All of my art begins with a moment, be the subject my cats or nature or even a more abstract visual theme. It’s where I go from that moment of inspiration that differs from one work to the next. Sometimes I’ll decide on a more formal portrait, more detailed, more planned, to capture a moment. I’ll take photos and write a few notes and keep it in my files for the day when I have time to follow up, and often this is determined by how often and how clearly my original image appears in my conscious mind—sometimes a painting really wants to be done and I find myself visualizing it all the time, other times it leaves and comes back at a moment that is meaningful.

But sometimes I’ll do a quick sketch and leave it at that. The image is simple, it works best small, I only want to capture the mood, and there isn’t enough essential detail to warrant a larger, more detailed piece.

cat on bed
A blurry photo of Stanley on the bed from December 2002.

You’re probably familiar with “After Dinner Nap” above, another memorable and inspirational moment. This image could have gone either way, painting or sketch, but in this case I was intent on capturing all the subtle details in his face, and all that wonderful direct and reflected light.

With “Afternoon Nap” I decided I wanted that moment. I’d already taken a few photos of him just to preserve the moment, at right, and was considering this sort of a scene as a more formal portrait.

photo of cat on bed
Stanley on the bed from February 21, 2003, the day I did the sketch.

On this day I went upstairs for something and saw Stanley on the bed. As usual I had my little digital camera with me, the old original 2MP that captured surprisingly good photos. I took the photo below, but in standing there and studying the image I decided I wanted the light, the delicate colors, just a hint of the objects and the sketch began to materialize. I hurried to get my art stuff for the sketch I was visualizing.

At his age he slept pretty soundly but I still tiptoed out of the room and ran down the stairs for my stuff. I grabbed my small box of pastels and a piece of my “experimental” drawing paper, choosing a heavy drawing paper to which I’d applied marble dust mixed with gesso and just a little bit of fine fine grit pastel medium, applying it with a brush to have just a bit of texture. I got to work, standing at the foot of the bed to quickly capture the essence of the scene I visualized in that instant: all the shades of shadow and highlight in the white bedspread, the fold under the pillows and the curve of the mahogany headboard just giving enough detail to know it was a bed, and the pastel winter light full of sun and just a bit of green reflected from the ivy on the tree outside the window. Instead of drawing with the ends of the pastels I dragged them over the surface in layers to get the depth of color and shadows, Stanley himself just in simple tonal colors, the only solid detail in his white paw.

It was all over in about ten minutes, and though I’d taken the reference photo I never made any changes from that initial inspired session. In its frame, I have allowed the edges to show, mounting it on deep burgundy mat board. I still have this painting, treasure it for its memory of Stanley, and use it as inspiration for other similar sketches.

holiday card
"Afternoon Nap" as a holiday card.

Where to find this sketch

“After Dinner Nap” is available as a full-size print available in my Marketplace, and it’s also one of the cards in my “Feline Greetings” set available on my Marketplace and on Etsy.

This is also one of the cards I’ll offer as a square card; you’ll see that in my Marketplace.

Stanley is also featured in my “Feline Gifts” holiday cards set.

In addition, I use Stanley on products, and recently included him my Winter Cats coaster set.


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 Portraitsportrait of black cat in wicker chair Commissioned Dog Portraitspastel portrait of dogs

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.

Click here to see other daily sketches, and for a gallery of the ones available for sale, visit my Etsy shop in the “Daily Sketches” section.

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.



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.


From health and welfare to rescue and adoption stories, advocacy and art, factual articles and fictional stories, "The Creative Cat" offers both visual and verbal education and entertainment about cats for people who love cats, pets and animals of all species.

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