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Commissioned Portraits: A Quartet of (Almost) Monochromatic Sketches

Composite of all four sketches.
A quartet of almost monochromatic sketches.

I had a wonderful little “family of pets” commission a few years ago and it’s a great sample of how to present portrait subjects as a set of individual pieces, and in a simpler style as an alternative to a bigger, full-color painting. Their person wanted four simple monochromatic sketches that she could frame in similar frames and hang as a grouping. With their coloring she chose a series of four small charcoal/pencil sketches of three long-haired black cats and one long-haired silver tabby. I rarely get the chance to create a simple sketch as a portrait and the idea of creating four was exciting.

We decided they would be in charcoal except the silver tabby who would be pencil because pencil carries silver tabbies so well, and we’d add color to each of their eyes. Each would fit in an 8″ x 10″ opening in a mat or frame though each was in a different posture.

For the charcoal sketches I used HB, 2B, 4B and 6B charcoal pencils, blending the softer ones into the paper with my fingers, and a combination of a kneaded eraser to remove charcoal for light areas and an HB white charcoal pencil to add the highlights. For the eye color I used pastel pencils. I used my smooth multi-media paper for each of them.

I love the sensitivity of charcoal and pencil and the way the contrast between the absolute black and the white paper demands attention, and this simple style with a white background focuses on the subject in their best form as their person chose the pose she liked best for each of them.

I really enjoyed the little sketches and getting to know this family. Below are each of the individual portraits.


"Princess", charcoal pencils, 8" x 10", 2014 © Bernadette E. Kazmarski
“Princess”, charcoal pencils, 8″ x 10″, 2014 © Bernadette E. Kazmarski

Princess was the woman, lead kitty. Yes, she’s pretty round but that’s how she is, a big fluffy girl with an imperious expression.

The challenge with black cats is always finding the highlights and with three of the cats with long black fur they might all look the same, but my black cats don’t all look the same, nor do the longhairs. There is always a difference in texture, fur length, even tone, and that’s what I looked for in the reference photos along with things like the shapes of their ears, and the silhouette of the top of their head between their ears. All cats are different in this area, but nowhere is it more apparent than with black cats. Princess had the fluffiest fur, so she had the fewest highlights.

And I can’t show all the reference photos for all of the portraits, but I have to share this one, a baby Princess, because she’s so darned cute. And her person wanted me to use this baby picture for Princess’s posture in her portrait.

Princess's baby picture
Princess’s baby picture


"Bear", charcoal pencils, 8" x 10", 2014 © Bernadette E. Kazmarski
“Bear”, charcoal pencils, 8″ x 10″, 2014 © Bernadette E. Kazmarski

Bear is a big guy too, as his name might suggest, but he had sleeker long fur, more of an Angora influence, and his person compared his tail to a peacock feather. This type of fur lies flat along the back and shoulders for lots of defining highlights. I like his position, tail up and walking toward you, coming to say hello.


"Hershey", charcoal pencils, 8" x 10", 2014 © Bernadette E. Kazmarski
“Hershey”, charcoal pencils, 8″ x 10″, 2014 © Bernadette E. Kazmarski

Hershey is a little more shy, so she chose a pose of him facing away, but looking back over his shoulder. He has fuzzier fur and a dense tail, so he has fewer highlights, but his posture defines his shape well.


"Jackson", pencil, 8" x 10", 2014 © Bernadette E. Kazmarski
“Jackson”, pencil, 8″ x 10″, 2014 © Bernadette E. Kazmarski

As the odd kitty in this group of house panthers, Jackson not only looks completely different but we also have him in a different posture, one where we can see plenty of his stripes and his big thick tail. Unlike the softness of the charcoal, I liked mixing the blended and softened pencil with some hard lines in his fur to define his stripes and those stray furs.

Considering monochromatic sketches

Obviously, monochromatic sketches need a particular type of image and setting to work. Most people include color as part of their memory so most of my portraits are composed with color. People also choose a scene rather than a subject. If color is necessary to define the subject then you’ll need more than one color, and if the pose depends on items in the background or foreground those can be added but it all has to make visual sense without a full background. Also, monochromatic doesn’t mean black, it only means “one color,” and drawing paper comes in many colors that can be used with black and white charcoal. But the finish is that wonderful focus on just the subject.

A Discount on Commissioned Portraits

Now, at the beginning of November, I have just enough time to order a portrait for yourself or a family member or friend for the holidays, and plenty of time to order a portrait certificate—read the details of my 25% discount on commissioned portraits and artwork.

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.

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