Commissioned Portrait: Gypsy

pastel portrait of calico cat
“Gypsy”, pastel on canson mi-tientes paper, 17″ x 13″, 1996 © B.E. Kazmarski

Gypsy was just about to turn 21 when I met her, and the challenge was for her human to choose one position out of all those years of companionship by which to represent her. She chose Gypsy’s favorite nap spot, right where the sheers come together at the sliding glass door, holding one side of the sheers open so she could glance outside now and then. She had no pictures of this position, and of course Gypsy did not cooperate by posing, so we pieced it together with other pictures of Gypsy plus a picture of a pillow placed in this spot behind the curtains.

At the time my oldest cat was 15, but I know now that when you live with a cat this long, or any animal or person, they tend to find a fixed place in your memory at a certain time in their life, and when you think of them, that place in time is the face, posture, even time of day and season you visualize. Longer-lived loved ones may change their place as time goes on, but we always have that moment to reference. So it was with Gypsy, and we decided to soften the signs of her age, the deep-set eyes in a gaunt face, slightly matted fur, apparent stiffness and brought her back a few years into her teens or maybe a few years younger.

detail of portrait
Detail of Gypsy.

I remember working very hard to get Gypsy’s calico spots, and how they all blended together, correct, and going back and forth over the edges until it looked like fur and not just stray lines, and the little area on her hip where her fur parted with the curve of her body.

After she lost Gypsy to a brain tumor not long after we finished, her companion told me that she had hung the portrait by the door and every morning she said goodbye to the portrait and greeted it every day when she came home. I was glad to know that something I had done had brought comfort to someone in time of need.

Gypsy’s portrait has always quietly been one of my favorites. The pretty calico, the simple scene, the typical feline habit, were all just so real to me right then, and through the years I honored this by including her portrait in my brochure and using little thumbnails of her image to as navigation buttons and welcome images on various versions of my websites, knowing other people would like Gypsy too. This is one of the older portraits for which I only have basic photos for, and sadly I can’t find Gypsy’s companion to catch up on the news and photograph her portrait again. But I’m so glad to have preserved a moment for Gypsy and her person, and for the lesson I learned about finding a place in time to remember.

This portrait is drawn with my first set of Rembrandt soft pastels and Conté pastel pencils on Canson mi-tientes paper, on the smooth side. Looking back on it, I don’t know how I managed to capture the level of detail but I guess visualizing your finished piece helps give you a goal in figuring out how to make what’s on your paper look like what’s in your head!

If you’d like to read more about artwork as I develop it, about my current portraits and at assignments and even historic portraits and paintings, each week I feature a piece of artwork on Wednesday and a new product on Thursday. Choose the category for featured artwork.


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 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.

Enter the recipient’s name
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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.

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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.

© 2013 | | Published by Bernadette E. Kazmarski



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: Gypsy

  • August 21, 2013 at 6:56 pm

    You are a treasure Bernadette..your gift gives comfort and happy memories to those who have lost their dear little loves..what a wonderful thing to do my dear..and Gypsy was a beauty indeed!

    • August 21, 2013 at 7:15 pm

      Thank you, Nancy. Knowing I’ve given someone a treasure and a memory is more of a success to me than creating the art itself.


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