Friday, February 23, 2024
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Commissioned Portraits: Chief Smithers, and Mr. Peterson

"Chief Smithers", pastel, 11" x 13", 2015 © Bernadette E. Kazmarski
“Chief Smithers”, pastel, 11″ x 13″, 2015 © Bernadette E. Kazmarski

I recently received an email about a commissioned portrait from a name I recognized from years before. Back in 2001 I’d done a portrait of a little tabby cat named Mr. Peterson, who is featured below. Now they wanted a special portrait of another kitty who’d followed Mr. Peterson named Chief Smithers. The portrait would be a memorial as the Chief had recently passed, and it would be a gift to their daughter.

They knew how my portraits worked from the one of Mr. Peterson and sent a few photos though they weren’t quite enough to capture Chief, but thanks to sharing photos on social networking this wonderful photo was available and was the perfect memory of him. The little bit with him is a calico kitten the daughter had rescued and bottle fed, and obviously, as tiny as she was, she was already well schooled by the big guy on how to sit on a windowsill.

Reference photo of Chief Smithers with his little protegé.
Reference photo of Chief Smithers with his little protegé.

I referenced all the photos they sent for details, but one especially for his green, green eyes, a very touching photo. His posture, his appearance, the look in his eyes, I knew this was probably one of the last photos taken of him, and he looked like so many other cats I’ve cared for at those moments when they know…and that was confirmed when they came to pick up the portrait, so a little bit of Kennedy and Emeraude and Kublai and even Peaches and Cookie and a lot of other kitties who aren’t black went into this one.

Reference photo of Chief Smithers for his eye color.
Reference photo of Chief Smithers for his eye color.

Of course, I was thrilled to see that Chief Smithers was a house panther, and typically I know just where to start in building the density of furs in a black cat so they don’t just look like a silhouette. However, the sanded pastel drawing paper I’ve used for portraits for 20 years is technically not available right now—they’ve had troubles with manufacturing for the past year or so—and I’ve used up all the last scraps of it that I have left. I’ve been working on other media in the meantime, trying to get a feel for the textures and colors. I cast about with various others until I finally settled on a piece of textured black drawing board that I really didn’t like but which worked okay. In the detail image below the finish looks as if the surface is grainy, which it’s not, but neither a scan nor a photo could capture the finish as it actually was.

Detail of Chief Smithers.
Detail of Chief Smithers.

Because of the surface I never did manage to build up enough pastel to lighten up the walls and woodwork, which were white, but they work well enough. I did enjoy the greenery outside the window though.

Also, they had asked to keep his collar and tags in his portrait. I always ask this question as some people don’t want to forever remember these things that may have changed all their lives and may have been considered an annoyance, but sometimes it’s an important part of the memory of an animal companion from the sound they make and the memory that invokes to the color and shape and just the familiarity.

It was a pleasure to spend some time getting to know the Chief.

. . . . . . .

Mr. Peterson

"Mr. Peterson", pastel, 12" X 10", 2001 © Bernadette E. Kazmarski
“Mr. Peterson”, pastel, 12″ X 10″, 2001 © Bernadette E. Kazmarski

Way back in 2001 I received a request for a portrait of a little tabby cat. In my notes I wrote that this was a memorial, and they had only one photo of him that was good enough to show his features, when he’d just awakened from a nap. I don’t often work from just one photo, but if that’s what we have, then that’s how it is, and though you couldn’t see too much of him his expression and one outstretched paw were a classic.

He had all those wonderful characteristics that I love from tabby cats—lots of eyeliner and lots of black on the bottoms of his paws and up between his toes, not to mention the individualized stripes, the warm copper on his nose. And that resigned expression, “Okay, human, take my picture if it makes you happy.”

Reference photo for Mr. Peterson.
Reference photo for Mr. Peterson.

This portrait was painted on my preferred surface, which is Wallis sanded pastel paper in a color called Belgian mist, a mid-tone warm gray that’s easy to work up to highlights and down to deep shadows, and to blend and layer colors of pastel as well as capture details. These photos of Mr. Peterson’s portrait were from film and aren’t as sharp as they could be, though I only scanned the prints. When I eventually get a negative scanner I should catch more details.

Detail of Mr. Peterson.
Detail of Mr. Peterson.

It was a pleasure to meet this family again 14 years later, and have the honor of helping to remember two very special felines who shared their lives.


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

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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.

2 thoughts on “Commissioned Portraits: Chief Smithers, and Mr. Peterson

    • Thanks, Tabbies, and I do order from Blick, but it’s been on back order since last year! Some other pastellists have mentioned small amounts of it are being released to other dealers, so I’m keeping a lookout.


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