Friday, July 12, 2024
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Commissioned Portrait: Sheena, Casey, Madison, Apollo and Ginger

Sheena, Casey, Madison, Apollo and Ginger, 12 x 18, pastel © Bernadette E. Kazmarski
Sheena, Casey, Madison, Apollo and Ginger, 12 x 18, pastel © Bernadette E. Kazmarski

Meet a family of dogs over time, the five dogs this couple has shared and loved. I did get to meet Madison and Apollo, but the other have long since gone to spirit. This is a fairly big portrait, five subjects with a landscape background and this version, 12″ x 18″.

It also has a fairly big story attached.

This is a draft, and I want to get the details on the dogs worked out before I finalize the leaves in the background and finalize the highlights. I’ve been working on this portrait for…a few years. Since 2014, to be exact. The couple who commissioned this are friends of mine, and when my old Escort literally fell apart in a parking lot and I had to buy a new car, they commissioned me for a portrait of all their dogs to help me pay for my new car. I am very grateful for friends who find ways like this to help me deal with unexpected expenses. The portrait was to be of all five dogs, we knew that, and fairly big, too, plus they wanted either a portrait and a full-size print, or two actual originals to hang in two different places.

They gave me photos to start with, but couldn’t really decide on a final size, or any idea of a layout, and there we stayed for a year while I did little sketches of layouts. One of my favorite ideas included a bust of each dog, chest and face only, lined up, so their facial features could be big enough to see details. I also arranged them in a staggered group of five, three on top, two on the bottom as bust only to still focus on their faces, and in a circle in more of a collage layout. Then using their full images I arranged them sitting and standing, symmetrical, off center, all sorts of ways. These ideas were rough sketches only to avoid spending all my time on creating composites. Getting three of us together for a consensus physically or metaphorically was very difficult so each idea took some time.

In autumn 2015 I went for a walk with them and two of the dogs, Madison and Apollo, to get photos of them and possibly some inspiration from the trail we visited. I got lots of inspiration from the landscape and from Madison and Apollo, and captured one photo that gave me an idea I loved.

Madison and Apollo on the trail.
Madison and Apollo on the trail.

I could eliminate the leashes and just use the background, organizing the dogs as they worked best together. Sheena and Casey lived at the same time, and Madison and Apollo still do, Ginger was a first dog and was an only dog at that time. Because Casey was so much bigger than all the others I wanted to find a way to adjust his size so he didn’t draw all the attention. I liked the idea of him sitting down…

Draft 1.

…but I also did a layout with him standing up.

Draft 2

After changing out a few images here is the final layout.

Final composite.
Final composite.

That moved us to 2017. Yes, things still took time. While I usually do my best to move customers along, I had to drop it now and then before getting back to them.

One of the other things I’d wanted was to do this portrait as an acrylic painting because that was really what they had in mind, and I was ready to accept that challenge. I’d been wanting to work up my skills in acrylic, and for a few of the painting challenges in the past few years I included acrylic paintings in my choices.

I just wasn’t ready for an acrylic painting this big. I set it up in pastel and prepared paper for it so that I would at least get something done and began the draft. Then I worked on Baylee’s portrait in acrylic and felt a lot more confident. As I work out the details in pastel, I am also visualizing it in acrylic.

I decided then that I would actually paint two portraits, one in pastel, one in acrylic. This couple did help me with my car, but not to the tune of two portraits this big, but if you read about my plumbing issue yesterday, Bill is one half of this couple and he’s the one who did hundreds of dollars of plumbing and construction work yesterday, and he’s also helped me with other household projects in the past year. In return for their kindness in helping me buy the car, and because they are always willing to help me in other ways, that’s worth at least two portraits. And I’m so happy we finally came to an agreement and I can finally get the portraits done. You’ll see them as I move forward.

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.

Gifts featuring cats you know! Visit Portraits of Animals


Fine ArtPhotographyGiftsGreeting CardsBooksCommissioned Portraits & Artwork

Great Rescues Day Book:
Portraits, Rescue Stories, Holidays and Events, Essential Feline Information, All in One Book

day book with cat portraits
Great Rescues Day 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.

Read more and order.


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: Sheena, Casey, Madison, Apollo and Ginger

    • Thanks, Tabbies–and it’s not done yet. The fun part–the details are still to be done. And then the acrylic version!


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