Commissioned Portrait: General Keisha

    "General Keisha (in progress 2)", dry and wet watercolor pencils on textured watercolor paper, 14" x 11" © Bernadette E. Kazmarski
“General Keisha (in progress 2)”, dry and wet watercolor pencils on textured watercolor paper, 14″ x 11″ © Bernadette E. Kazmarski

My current portrait is a dilute calico named Keisha, or more properly “General” Keisha, who managed a large household of cats and a few humans years ago. She now  lives in memory, and those memories are pretty fond of the big girl who was the boss. This portrait is for friend and fellow cat writer Tammy Banks, author of the award-winning book CatSong and feline-themed books Houdini, Souleiado and others as well as a book about humans, A Time for Shadows. She is also a long-time cat rescuer with a large household of rescued felines, and years ago and recently a very responsible breeder of Abyssinian cats. Keisha, nonetheless, ruled the feline roost for a long time.

When we discussed the portrait Keisha’s person said she’d like to have Keisha in the garden among flowers, and other than that I could choose from one of the photos in the envelope she’d sent, full of photos of Keisha in all her activities around the house. I laid out a composite made of all the photos I thought described Keisha and the garden.

There was one photo I’d particularly liked of Keisha rolling on the bed; I simply felt it described her well, a confident cat unafraid of being vulnerable.

Keisha with the background taken away.
Keisha with the background taken away.

Though I’d planned on her sitting up as the easiest way to show her in the garden full of flowers, I also had a photo of a stone garden bench from my friend Judi‘s garden that had the same feel as and could use the reclining photo, including the fact her elderly gray cat Houdini had been having a really good old cat nap on the bench.

The stone bench in Judi's garden with Houdini napping.
The stone bench in Judi’s garden with Houdini napping.

I combined flower photos my customer had given me with photos I had from my own garden.

Liatris from the garden.
Liatris from the garden.
Bee balm and yarrow from the garden.
Bee balm and yarrow from the garden.

Here is the final composite created in Photoshop.

Composite of Keisha's portrait.
Composite of Keisha’s portrait.

After working out all the details and getting to know Keisha through her photos, I decided on a somewhat informal watercolor portrait using watercolor pencils, which are much like colored pencils in size and waxy nature, but in contact with water will dissolve partially or completely allowing a range of effects of smooth color, brushwork and pencil lines. I laid down the color and then blend it with water using a watercolor brush, kind of a backward way of painting by putting the paint on the paper and then adding water to blend and soften rather than painting it right on the paper. I used my light table and lightly outlined all the major areas, then filled in areas with the watercolor pencil, blending dry as I went. Finally I began brushing water over them for the first draft, below.

    "General Keisha (in progress)", dry and wet watercolor pencils on textured watercolor paper, 14" x 11" © Bernadette E. Kazmarski
“General Keisha (in progress)”, dry and wet watercolor pencils on textured watercolor paper, 14″ x 11″ © Bernadette E. Kazmarski

I like the versatility of the watercolor pencils because it lays down the color much faster, and later I can still draw on the blended areas in various ways: by brushing on water so it’s very wet and the lines tend to dissolve right away, by wetting the pencil and drawing so the lines are softened, and also by sketching into the painting and leaving the lines as part of the work. Here is an archive of articles about other works I’ve done using watercolor pencil.

With good light I can now move to my “summer studio” and I’ve had the pleasure of working outdoors on my most recent portraits and other works. Of course, I am not without feline supervision, even on the deck.

Mimi kept a close watch on my work.
Mimi kept a close watch on my work.

I’ve been enjoying the progress and the portrait will soon be finished. I’ll be sure to finish the rest of the portrait and a little more about Keisha.


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 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 $125.00, which is the basic cost of a portrait; the recipient is responsible for any amount the portrait costs over $125.00.

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.

Portrait certificates are a minimum of $125.00 because that is the minimum cost of a portrait.

Certificates are good for up to one year after issue.

You can purchase gift certificates here or from my Etsy shop if you are also purchasing other animal-inspired merchandise.

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You only need to enter an address if it is different from the address I’ll receive through PayPal. These are often surprise gifts and need to be shipped away from the home address to make sure they are a surprise.

Also browse 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.

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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.

© 2015 | | 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.

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