Sunday, July 21, 2024
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Buddy and Tibbie, Portraits With Stories

portrait of black lab
“Buddy”, pastel, 15.5″ x 23″ © B.E. Kazmarski

This was one of my first posts way back in February 2009, and a portrait I’d done for old friends and former portrait customers about ten years after I’d painted their cat, Tibbie.

Buddy’s people loved his portrait, and told me the story of how Buddy came to be a part of their lives. Hearing the story, and knowing a painting of a black lab chewing on a stick in the back yard is something most lab owners can relate to, I asked Buddy’s people if I could have prints made of the portrait to sell to others. They were thrilled! The prints are being prepared now, and the information is on my website under “commissioned dogs“, with Buddy on the top.

black lab on Oriental rug
Our first choice for a portrait pose; see “Tibbie” below…

Buddy’s story
Even though Buddy was a gift to his mom and this is her story, he hangs out with his dad, too, especially sprawled on the floor next to the favorite recliner see at right. In Buddy’s mom’s own words…

“When I was age 10 and having a particularly rough time of it, as children will do, my parents surprised me with a black lab puppy who I named Buttons. He continued to be a source of joy, and my very best buddy, until his death at age 11 ½.

“After Jack and I married at age 24, I always pointed to black labs and sighed over missing my old one, and always wanted another, but because of the usual hectic life schedule with overtime at work, etc., we never adopted another lab.

“Jack went yearly to a fund raiser banquet for Ducks Unlimited. They raffled or auctioned off decoys, prints, ceramics, etc. of water fowl, dogs, and outdoor scenes. These always included various Labrador dog items and on occasion, a live Labrador Retriever pup. The first time Jack went to the banquet, he came home and told me he got me a lab. I was beside myself, and hurried to lock away our monster cat* before he brought the dog into the house. Well, he went back out to the car and came back in with a lab print! So after that, every year our standing joke was that I asked Jack to get me a lab when he went to the banquet. Sure enough, every year, he would come home and say he had my lab. And he always brought me a lab print.

“Fast forward to our fifties, and I was having a particularly sad time of it, again. My Dad had serious health problems, and had just been in the hospital 14 times in 4 months.

detail of portrait
Detail of Buddy, pastel

“So Jack went off to his yearly banquet, and once again, I asked him to bring me a black lab. He came home early that night, and I was very surprised. So he said that there was nothing more he was interested in bidding on. When I asked if he bought anything, he just handed me AKC papers. I, literally, couldn’t stand up, and sunk to the floor crying. Jack brought the pup in, and the poor pup must have thought I was crazy. I sat on the floor, with my arms around him, crying for 30 minutes, with happiness. My dear husband wanted to cheer me up, and he couldn’t have done it better. I wanted to name the pup Buttons after my first black lab. But the pup was too big for a Buttons. He was 13 ½ weeks old and was 32 pounds. He was named the next closest thing—Buddy.

“A postscript to this story: I always prayed that when I ever did get my new lab, that he would not have some very bad habits that Buttons had. I didn’t want him to bark outside, nor to bite people in an attempt to protect me. Well, our Buddy lives up to those virtues. He can walk past the neighbors’ dogs when they are tied up, barking and growling, and he doesn’t even look over. Nothing fazes him (except food!). I would like to add, that I know Buddy really is Buttons come back to me.”

Another postscript, this time from me…painting Buddy’s portrait was a gift from friends of Buddy’s people who are also portrait customers of mine, and who recognized at Buddy’s advanced age and advancing diabetes that he may not live too much longer. They did lose Buddy a short time after this portrait was done and hanging in their home and I am glad they have this happy memory of Buddy to keep forever.

Now for that Monster Cat

People look at this portrait in all its detailed glory and ask, “Why all the books and rug…?” Well, they wanted everything that was meaningful to them in their portrait, most of all Tibbie, the Himalayan kitty who was at that time 18 years old, and the Oriental rug, the leather-bound books, the hardwood floors; Tibbie had shared this elegant room and these things with them, and they wanted to remember him that way.

portrait of Himalayan cat
Tibbie, pastel, 15″ x 23″ © B.E. Kazmarski

Tibbie was as he appears, more than a little forbidding and more than once sending one of his people and a guest to the hospital with a bite wound for attempting to pet him. Despite his attitude, they loved him fiercely and cared for him through advanced age illnesses and he permitted them to handle him, no doubt understanding how they felt about him.

detail of portrait
Detail of Tibbie

They had initially adopted Tibbie on meeting a friends’ cat, and since the two worked long hours and traveled and both wanted pets they decided a cat sounded ideal. Tibbie’s personality precluded the adoption of any other cats to keep him company, though, except for a black cat they named Chelsea who showed up on their deck one spring and who they took in for the next ten years, overlapping with Buddy. We’ll get to Chelsea one of these days.

This portrait was one of the reasons for initially including the carpet and hard wood in the portrait of Buddy, above, because the portraits were intended to, and do, hang together; we later changed our minds when they found the photo of Buddy with the stick.

It’s a joy for me when I can have a long-term relationship with portrait customers—we began by sharing animal stories in order to produce their portrait, and so we generally continue sharing stories about the subjects and about subsequent adoptions and losses, and about all the other animals we know. How many other professions allow you to talk incessantly about your pets as part of the job?


Read about other recent commissioned portraits here on The Creative Cat.
Read about how I create commissioned 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.

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 purchasing one as a print, or to use in a print or internet publication.


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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