Wednesday, May 29, 2024
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Daily Featured Artwork: Warm Winter Sun

oil pastel painting of cat
“Warm Winter Sun”, oil pastel, 2000, 10″ x 8 © Bernadette E. Kazmarski

I’ve been enjoying the long streaks of sunlight into the house now that the leaves have fallen, and at its low winter angle we have more sun in this house now through early March than we do any other time of year. And, of course, this is when it’s most welcome, as the days grow shorter and the temperatures drop. I decided this is the best example for right now, “Warm Winter Sun”, where a long stretch of sunlight reaches all the way under the deck roof, into the back door and the whole width of the house to the opposite wall, to touch Namir.

Some of my cats have inspired several paintings, others in the planning stages, others, no paintings yet, sometimes it’s all up to how much time I have to work. But some of my cats have inspired more paintings than others, and Namir was one of them. Something about his demeanor and deportment, his confident self-possession, made every move seem like a performance and every rest seem like a carefully arranged pose. Although he was gray tabby and white, his profile and features showed he had much of an Oriental influence in his lineage, and these lithe and graceful cats tend to be very self-aware. I’ve featured Darling Clementine, a similar theme to Warm Winter Sun, and I also have a number of pencil sketches of him and dozens of photos here.

Below is a detail of the most interesting area, Namir and the rocker with the brilliant winter sunlight reflected from the tile floor. I love reflected light, it’s a different color from direct light and helps to give a subject shape, and can also pull just enough detail of an object from a light or dark area that you sense its presence but know it’s not part of the main image. The rocker is defined this way. But Namir is also reflecting light back onto the tile, both in the sunlight area and in the shadows around him from his areas of white fur on chest and shoulders which form all the little pools of light around him.

oil pastel painting of cat
Detail of Namir and rocker with direct and reflected light.

This painting is in oil pastel, and painted in 2000. I was curious about oil pastel through the years and though my first experiments looked like crayon drawings. I waited until I could fully visualize a painting in oil pastel and through that came to find some control in applying it to the paper and blending colors, and using textured paper. Where, with my regular pastels, I layer colors atop one another and blend them as necessary, drawing hard details on top, layering in oil pastel often involved scraping away some or all of a color I’d applied and adding another in that space, and blending seemed to best be done by simply running another color repeatedly over top of another, then scraping away an area where a detail needs to appear.

oil pastel painting of cat
Detail of just Namir.

Namir is in that blissful feline “don’t bother me while I’m in my sun puddle” state, which is exactly what I wanted to capture. In order to describe him, I show his reaction, the crouched resting pose, everything tucked in, face resting, ears lowered a bit; he is not asleep, and will not sleep in this position, but is actively enjoying his sun puddle in the way that cats do, just being in that moment with warm sun streaming over him. It’s something we should all practice.

oil pastel painting of cat
Detail of books in bookshelf.

But Namir wasn’t the only inspiration in this painting—in fact, what convinced me to paint it that particular morning was my colorful gardening books on the bottom shelf of the book case and their reflection on the floor as well. It’s full of brown earth tones which alone might be interesting but not exciting. Those bright flower colors are exciting, but still allow the subject attention, and together they make a nice composition.

oil pastel painting of cat
Detail of shadow and reflections on tile floor .

I not only love reflected light, I love reflections whether they be on water or on a glossy surface, and these reflections look simple but are just as complicated as the ones around Namir.

This painting was technically a “daily sketch”, but I only got a start on it in that moment. It was a Sunday morning and I was full of rest and confidence, and felt I could jump into using oil pastels for a quick sketch, a bold move considering I really didn’t know much yet. I didn’t get too far into it, but took a photo—and that being the days of prints I had to wait for it to come back to finish the painting. But if the inspiration is there it stays with you, and I only needed to reference the photo for color in order to finish.

oil pastel painting of cat
“Warm Winter Sun” with rough edges.

But one thing that marks this painting as being a part of my personal portfolio is the one thing that’s inspired me from the beginning with my cats—it’s a cat in the sun. The wonderful contrast of bright sun and shadow is inspiring no matter the subject or medium all through my art and photography, and as I’d said with my first set of color note cards printed from four of my cat paintings up to that point, “Bright sunshine on anything will inspire me, especially when it’s illuminating one of my cats.”

I was also honored that this painting won the award for Best Pastel in the South Hills Art League’s 2000 Annual Juried Show, and I got the chance to talk about what inspired me to paint it. In brief, it was just a beautiful moment.

Oil pastels and chalk pastels

I frequently work in chalk pastel, especially for commissioned portraits, because of its versatility in application and range of colors from delicate to vibrant to deep. Chalk pastels are made from pure pigment in a binder ranging from fine clay to gum arabic or cellulose to form a shape to be held in hand to draw and are, as the term “chalk” would describe, a dry medium.

Oil pastels may have a similar name but that’s about the end of the similarity. A relatively new medium at less than 100 years old, the pigment is combined with a non-drying oil and wax which makes it more like a soft crayon, and that was exactly what it felt like when I first began to work with it years ago, a crayon! I put it aside, disliking the feel of it and my lack of control, but when I worked in an art supply store and frame shop, I framed an oil pastel drawing that absolutely fascinated me with how it had been applied with abandon, layered, and even had areas carved out of it nearly down to the paper to create visual and physical texture.

Where chalk pastel is blended like a powder, oil pastel is much more difficult to blend but may be done by drawing one color atop the other, using a burnishing tool or paper stomp or even using a solvent medium like linseed oil or turpentine, so I put all the techniques to use as I continued to use oil pastel.

Where to find this artwork

The original is still available, see the framed version below, and right now all original artwork is 25% off (see more on that below). You can also find “Warm Winter Sun” as part of my Feline Fine Art Cards series of cat-themed art cards.


"Warm Winter Sun" framed.
“Warm Winter Sun” framed.



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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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