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The Artist’s Life: “After Dinner Nap”, One Painting, A Turning Point

pastel painting of cat on table
“After Dinner Nap”, pastel on Hahnemuhle sanded watercolor paper, 1997 © Bernadette E. Kazmarski

“The face that launched a thousand portraits,” my Stanley, the feline mascot of my business, appearing on my business card and brochure cover. I’ve been working on that website I mentioned last weekend, and as I set up the pages I sat back and thought about possibly using another piece of artwork as my signature for the site.

I decided that my whole relationship with Stanley and this painting is too significant a part of my career to change it.

Anyone who knows my beginnings in this business understands why Stanley’s portrait watches over what I do. Years ago, I was wondering what to do with the artwork I kept producing. Selling originals isn’t all that easy, but there aren’t too many other opportunities available for getting your artwork “out there” in front of people who will appreciate it.

This portrait changed my world, as an artist and in my career. The day I finished this portrait in 1997, I knew I had reached a higher level of skill as an artist and a deeper level of visualization combined with that skill that goes way beyond reproducing what I see, very far into what I feel. I marvel now at how I applied and blended the pastels, the colors I used, to create this image so full of different kinds of light. I knew what I saw, but how to draw that? Stanley was a classic tabby with big black swirls on his sides and just bits of a warm tan to warm gold between, and then the brilliant sunlight shone on his fur and also reflected up from the pine table.

detail of painting
Just Stanley

And I knew I had to share this image, so decided right then that I’d create the four images I was visualizing of “my cats in the sun”, and this became my first set of color notecards, and my first offering of high-quality prints of my artwork. You’ll find those notecards and the corresponding prints in my Etsy shop.

When high-quality photography became available to make gicleé reproductions of my artwork, this painting was the first I had photographed; when giclees came along, “After Dinner Nap” was the first one I had made. I still offer the highest quality gicleé prints as well as digital prints, canvas prints and mousepads in my Etsy shop.

The original painting is sold to a friend who understands its meaning to me and I can visit him whenever I want, which leaves me the space to continue to grow as an artist.

About Stanley

Stanley was with me for 21 years, and considering that he was an adult when he arrived on my porch of his own accord, that meant he was nearing the quarter-century mark when he died in 2007, inspiring until the end as I was photographing and sketching him until his final month.

Bright sunshine on anything will catch my eye, especially when it’s illuminating one of my cats. During the late winter, the sun shone in at just the right angle for my Stanley to take a comfortable nap right after eating and the obligatory bath. The combination of his sleepy expression and the glare of the sun on his (sparkling) white chest and paws and the angle of the shadows, a daily visual treat for me, became a pleasurable subject for me to draw.

detail of painting
Light and shadow on Stanley’s side

Stanley was a difficult soul, but his real personality was sweet, fun, silly and relaxed, and for all his issues I loved him completely. He had been abused and traumatized before he was dumped outdoors and just showed up on my porch one day, friendly and talkative, trying to get into my car with me when I left for work in the morning and wondering why I didn’t just let him in the door when I came home—I initially thought he was a girl kitty in heat trying to court little Allegro inside who had just achieved the age of knowledge and been neutered, and I actually posted “found cat” signs.

It was two full weeks before I “got it”, and poor kitty had to go and stand in a November ice storm and let ice crystals collect on his fur before I just opened the door and said “come on”. And I did just let him in, this being the early days of rescuing for me, 1986, when I knew little of socializing cats or feline contagious illnesses. I had four cats and I really didn’t want any more, but what else was there to do when this pretty kitty crouched, shivering, perfect white paws tucked under his white chest, the perfect white diamond between his eyes and the little snip of white on the end of his nose, with ice pellets building up on his back and the top of his head, looking at me with those big green eyes? I named him Stanley for the number of relatives named Stanislaus on both sides of my family, but had to Americanize it so others not of East European ethnicity could spell it.

detail of painting
Detail of Stanley’s face

I look at the composition now with so much of the background in it, and realize I loved the light in the background as much as the light on the subject. The walls are white, yet the reflected sun casts many, many colors on them.

detail of painting
Detail of the wall.

And I always laugh and say “that’s why we have art” when I think of how much household stuff I removed from the original to get to the essence of the scene.

tabby cat on the table
Stanley on the table, the reference photo for “After Dinner Nap”.

He suffered from male cat urinary tract disorders and blocked several times, having a lot of difficulty and pain in between, in the years before much was available for care. It was obvious he’d been literally kicked and repeated the memory of the trauma whenever his condition flared up. He actually bit my wrist pretty badly during one incident, and he marked everything in my home all 21 years he was with me, walls, furniture, computers, everything, but I just moved things and covered other things and tried every medication and flower essence and alternative treatment I could find.

Because most of his moments were wonderful. In this scene, the after dinner nap he enjoyed just about every day, I found that part of him, and that part of me, and got it onto the paper. It’s been magic since then with my art, not just with my portraits and other animal artwork, but with all my artwork. I may have arrived at that point as an artist eventually, but it was my deep feeling for Stanley that delivered me to the door, which I had only to open.

Where to find this artwork

pastel painting of cat in sun
“After Dinner Nap”, pastel, 1996, 12″ x 10″ © B.E. Kazmarski

I offer giclée, digital and canvas prints of this painting, 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.

This image is also available in my set of Feline Greetings Art Cards. 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.

Click the links below to find more.

Prints of “After Dinner Nap”

Greeting cards of “After Dinner Nap

Feline Greetings Fine Art Cards

Merchandise featuring “After Dinner Nap


Read more posts about Stanley, and art and photos featuring him.

Read other articles in the category The Artist’s Life.

Browse some rescued cats and kittens!


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.

© 2016 | | 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: Bok 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!



Inspire Me Monday


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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