Thursday, February 22, 2024
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Commissioned Portrait: Family of Seven, in Pencil

Igor, Matthew, Zoe, Biscotti, Angel, Noah and Toast, 18 x 24, pencil, 2005 © Bernadette E. Kazmarski
Igor, Matthew, Zoe, Biscotti, Angel, Noah and Toast, 18 x 24, pencil, 2005 © Bernadette E. Kazmarski

A portrait of seven cats all in the same image, in a composition that makes sense for all of them and shows all their individual best remembered features, is a challenge, but a fun one. The request from the beginning was that they be in pencil because several of the cats were gray tabbies and only the two torbies had any color. The couple who lived with them wanted something different and they liked artwork in pencil, and I was referred to them by a friend and I’m known for my work in pencil, so we were all in the same room, literally and figuratively, from the beginning with six in pencil. Visualizing each of them from life, and from the specific photos their people gave me, were clear in detail.

Igor and Matthew, detail.
Igor and Matthew, detail.

But how to fit them all together so that we could see Igor’s crossed paws, and the size difference between him and Matthew, and Matthew’s tail curled up to point at the ceiling? And Zoe’s spots and her toes, and her tiny glasses (which she didn’t actually wear, but should have according to her people)? Plump little angel at her plumpest, and the dark spot in her right eye? And Noah looking a little nervous with his front claws curled into whatever was beneath his paws? And sisters Toast and Biscotti, with Toast’s calm demeanor next to Noah and Biscotti’s devilish eye looking for trouble?

Zoe, detail.
Zoe, detail.

Igor and Matthew, Zoe and Biscotti, Angel, Toast and Noah (in the portrait from bottom front to top) were a “current” family who all lived together so I did get to see them interact, and in different areas of the house. The human’s style was very neat and nicely furnished but different in each room, varied original art on the walls, a sense of the unique and a contrast of styles and colors. The cats were permitted anywhere they wanted to go. Each one had been adopted from shelters, and each one was beloved by the couple. I felt free to imagine.

Biscotti, detail.
Biscotti, detail.

The first few portraits I’d done with four or more cats had them all lined up on one level, like my very first portrait, but I’d since worked out a few where the subjects were on different levels and grouped rather than lined up. Watching the cats around the house I looked for places they liked to be, looking for interesting furniture as well, thinking I could bring in a variety of items as well to accommodate the cats. There was a day bed, a few hassocks and stepstools, and the chaise, actually a chair with a footstool, that’s in the portrait. I designed three layouts, but the one that worked best is the one in the portrait because I could work it into three levels instead of only two since Zoe and Biscotti could be far enough behind the boys that their faces are on different levels.

Angle, detail.
Angle, detail.

Each of the cats was created from two or more photos for position, face, paws, tails and so on. Then each was placed in the layout and settled into place. I chose to use cream colored cotton illustration board for the portrait because it add just a little dimension to a pencil drawing. I did also add a little bit of shadow below the chair and around each of the cats, but it muddied when I worked with the images and looked like smears so I deleted it entirely.

Noah and Toast, detail.
Noah and Toast, detail.

Pencil is difficult to photograph because without studio lighting there is varied light and shadow across the solid background. This portrait was 18 x 24 and even outdoors I couldn’t get it evenly lit so in the main image I deleted everything from the background and toned it as the illustration board. In the end the clearest photos were from my little 2MP digital camera, though the resolution isn’t very high so I can’t share details of faces, but the individual and couple images are still nice, though not entirely accurate for lighting.

Read about other current 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 on The Creative Cat featuring current and past commissioned portraits.

Read about how I create commissioned portraits.

Commissioned Cat Portraits

portrait of black cat on wicker chair
Samantha, pastel, 1994 © B.E. Kazmarski
Commissioned Dog Portraits

portrait of two dogs
Sophie and Ellie, pastel, 2009 © B.E. Kazmarski
Portraits of
My Cats

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

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

cover of brochure
My Portraits 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

Sample Commissioned Portrait Certificate
Sample Commissioned Portrait 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.


  • 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


  • 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.

Art and Gifts featuring cats you know! Visit Portraits of Animals



Give the gift of art, and a portrait of a beloved pet

Sample Commissioned Portrait Certificate

Is there an animal lover on your list who has every cat or dog-themed t-shirt and handbag, and even their pets have every toy they can use for the rest of their natural lives? Consider a Commissioned Portrait Gift Certificate. Whether it’s for someone else or yourself, a custom portrait is different from a professional photograph because we can create the scene that you remember even if you never had the chance to photograph it. Your household of animal companions can be grouped in a natural setting even if their lives didn’t overlap. Purchase a certificate here or on Portraits of Animals.


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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© 2022 | | 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!




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.

2 thoughts on “Commissioned Portrait: Family of Seven, in Pencil

    • Thank you! I wish I could have gotten a better scan at the time for all the details, but overall it looks good.


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