Baylee’s portrait is not so much a portrait of her as it is a record of many happy memories with her, in her element, chasing sticks and running around in the stream in one of her person’s favorite places from the time she herself was a child.
At my Seasons Along the Panhandle Trail exhibit last year a customer looked over my canvas prints of paintings from the show. She’d grown up there and even before the trail was a trail, when it was still an active railroad hauling freight and sometimes people and the quarry was producing, she and her friends would collect there. In the present day she visited the trail almost daily with her Great Dane Baylee. She had many memories from the area all through her life, and I was touched that my paintings illustrated that for her. It’s just the reason I’d decided to do this exhibit, not just for me, but for all the others who’d loved the place even longer than I had.
She couldn’t make up her mind so we decided she would visit my house a couple of weeks later to look them over. When she arrived she’d had time to look around her house and decide on places for 11 x 14 canvases individually and in pairs. She shared many stories of growing up with what is now the trail area as her playground, the valley, the woods, the stream, the quarry and its ponds, all the seasons, and she chose prints of these four paintings:
And then she mentioned a special project she had in mind just for her, a commissioned painting of Baylee. But just as the images she’d chosen described how she felt about the places and her memories within them, she didn’t want so much a typical portrait of Baylee as a memory of her times there with Baylee. She had adopted the Great Dane at a very sad time in her life and Baylee had been her constant companion not only for those daily walks but for travels as well—the two of them had a goal to visit all the state parks in Pennsylvania, and even took selfies there. Already nearly six years old, she was aware that Great Danes have a shorter life span and wanted to capture Baylee on the perfect sunny day, chasing sticks in Robinson Run. The scene would be just as important as Baylee.
Painting a companion animal in nature, what could be better? She liked the look of the canvas prints, the size and unframed, and that was what she had in mind so we’d plan for something that fit the size and style. Typically I paint portraits in pastel, but I’d been playing around with acrylics for other artwork in the occasional painting challenges, and I thought I’d like to try this commission in acrylic.
We discussed what she had in mind, her photos of Baylee, my photos of the area, and how we’d put it together. I could start with her photos and take more photos of Baylee and do a few layouts as I do nearly all the time with commissioned portraits. And just as quickly we decided instead to do a photo shoot instead of all that. September is still very sunny and green but turning gold with a few yellow and orange leaves around Robinson Run, it was still warm enough to hang out in the water, and we’d get photos for the artwork as well as photos that she might want to keep as prints. We’d meet in one of our favorite places so I could see Baylee in action, and I could have a field trip and also get photos of the trail, stream and woods at that time of year.
Even though it was the end of September it was unusually hot and we were dressed for summer. Baylee came to greet me, and I knew we’d have fun.
I asked her to just go and play with Baylee so I could watch and get a feel for the best shots, and we spent almost an hour in the stream. I walked through it with them and up on the banks and on the bridge, took a lot of candid shots and a some posed shots too. Baylee was an incredible model, and what a joy to see the happy relationship between these two.
A few gigabytes of photos later we had to decide which image to use, which pose, activity, background. We looked over photos on my computer, and I put them in a Dropbox folder for her to browse. For composition, I liked the first and last in the gallery above, and may someday paint those just for fun. We had originally discussed maybe having them both in the painting, but those will probably be prints that she will keep.
I really wanted to get to the painting soon so that I could hold onto the feeling of that day, and I knew I could do it in pastel, but I really wanted to work on my skills in acrylic because I like the feeling of those paintings too. That meant patience because I really didn’t feel my skills were quite up to it yet, and I needed some practice. Last autumn my car was being inspected and repaired for two full months and I scrambled to get things done while walking a lot and riding my bike, asking for rides and riding the bus all taking extra time, then the holidays were here and I planned sales and events. At the beginning of the new year there was a cat show and I spent a month restocking after holiday sales and making new things. I didn’t get a chance to do any acrylics during the painting challenge in February.
It was all the way to March before I could sit down and focus on Baylee’s portrait. Even though we had discussed several other images and kind of wanted one with a stick in her mouth, I had been visualizing the scene I ended up painting. We had both liked this one, her splashing through the water, the ears, how happy she was, even the background. I looked at the ones where she had a stick and decided, at the size she’d be, the stick just got in the way if she was holding it.
I thought at first I’d paint a landscape or two, but I’d been visualizing this long enough and I decided just to start painting. If this one didn’t work out I’d have lots of other chances because I had lots of photos. I began with a sketch, filled in with washes to block things out, then started painting. I got most of it done quickly and just needed detail on Baylee, and I wasn’t really happy with the water, but I thought my customer should see it before I went any farther. Here is just Baylee.
It wasn’t until just last weekend that she and I got together though, with all my events and her schedule. And after all that time I suddenly decided, the day before she was to visit, that I didn’t like the water at all, and completely changed that area of the painting. It was still a little damp when she got here. And she had never seen it at all, and I really wasn’t sure this was what she wanted. I kept thinking I should have made Baylee bigger and shown more detail and minimized the background, and…and…. She said it was just what she’d had in mind, this wasn’t so much a portrait as it was a painting of a special place with Baylee in it so she could remember. Focusing on a typical portrait I had nearly forgotten that.
Even after that I still wanted to make a few last changes after I’d had a day or two to let it sit, and because it is a stretched canvas I also wanted to paint around the edges. So that is done now. This year has been just as horribly hot as it was last year and it so much reminded me of the day we met for photos. We’re going to do it again though the weather is to change, but I still look forward to playing with Baylee again.
Last year when we met I asked her to take a photo of me in action, because I’m always the photographer and have no photos of myself playing in the woods and water. Last year and the years before I hadn’t had much of a chance to get out, my bike needed to be repaired, I had side work and paperwork that kept me inside. This year that is done and I’ve had all year to get outdoors, on the trail, in my yard, and I have a tan again and easily dropped some of that weight, despite my sciatica. When we meet I hope to have her take another photo of me, just for me, though if it’s 55 degrees as it’s forecast I’m not sure I’ll be standing in the water.
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 on The Creative Cat featuring current and past commissioned portraits.
Read about how I create commissioned portraits.
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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 $50.00, which is the basic cost of a small monochromatic portrait.
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.
Certificates are good for up to one year after issue.
You can purchase gift certificates here or from Portraits of Animals if you are also purchasing other animal-inspired merchandise.
I prefer to look over the work and price the portrait according to how much work will go into it, as described above, but you can either set a budget or get started by purchasing a certificate for yourself or as a gift.
How to Order
- “Certificate A” is for a minimum-size 8 x 10 black and white or monochromatic portrait with one subject.
- “Certificate B” is for a minimum-size 8 x 10 color portrait with one subject.
- Choose “A” or “B” depending on whether your portrait is black and white or color.
- If your portrait will be larger or have more subjects, add $50 or $100 or more to your certificate value with the drop-down below.
CERTIFICATE A $50.00
- Size: 8 x 10
- Subjects: One
- Color: black and white media such as charcoal, pencil, ink, or monochromatic media such as one color of pastel, watercolor, colored pencil, etc.
- Background or objects: none but shading or colored paper
CERTIFICATE B $100.00
- Size: 8 x 10
- Subjects: One
- Color: full color media such as pastel, watercolor, colored pencil, etc.
- Background or objects: none but a color or colored paper
Add to your certificate purchase
You can use the second drop down to add $50.00 or $100.00. For amounts over this we’d probably have a conversation and I can set up a custom certificate for your purchase.
You only need to enter an address if it is different from the address I’ll receive when you order. These are often surprise gifts and need to be shipped away from the home address to make sure they are a surprise.
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.
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Weekly schedule of features:
Tuesday: Rescue Stories
Thursday: New Merchandise
And sometimes, I just throw my hands in the air and have fun!