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Daily Sketch Reprise: The Cat Mountains, 2013

pastel sketch of three cats sleeping
“Cat Mountains”, pastel on pastello paper, 12″ x 9″ © Bernadette E. Kazmarski (adjusted version)

When I posted this yesterday I was unhappy with the results of the scan, finding it too contrasty, and mentioned I’d photograph it again in daylight, which I did. This is what you see, above, and it’s far more accurate for color and contrast, while the original scan is below. Read below for my extra insights into the design as well! I may do another photo or scan of it yet; the colors and blending are subtle, and difficult to capture. Such is art! C’est l’art!

Three cats asleep, just like mountains in the dark.

This was purely a visual inspiration, looking at Mimi and Bean and Mewsette all curled into one another, all the ears and backs and peaks and valleys looked like a mountain range to me, so I decided to do a more finished drawing with that idea.

In order to make it convincing to anyone else but me, I had to put the moment into context. Where were these mountains? I thought. And what time of day was it? I decided because they were dark and the highlights were one of the very most inspiring things about them that it had to be night. I added stars to the night sky after I’d let it sit for a while; I didn’t want to, it seemed cliché, but in the end it drew attention away from the cat figures long enough that they did, at first, look like mountains in the darkness.

Where are they? Because they were actually sleeping on my nice flat and level work table, I decided they might be mountains near the desert.

I’ve never seen mountains in the desert under a dark and starry sky. That part is pretty much made up from some photos probably in National Geographic and some creative visualization.

They are worked in pastel on black pastello paper, though unlike yesterday’s sketch I didn’t leave the black open, instead I drew in the darkest areas with black pastel and didn’t leave anything uncovered. And this is one that might do better being photographed because the actual finish is blended, but in the black areas you can see my sketchy lines. I may photograph tomorrow in daylight.

. . . . . . .

Below is the original scan of the art—I did photograph it and could adjust it with less contrast, which is what you see, above.

. . . . . . .

Morning, June 30: after looking at this again this morning I have a few more insights to add to the design. What I was trying to capture was the sense that they rose up organically from the surface, much as mountains in the desert seem to do, and convey both the strength of mountains and the quiet peace of a mountain scene at night under a starry sky. It’s not just an interesting visualization, it’s also descriptive of what I intuitively sense from cats themselves, and especially this particular group of five when they get together in cat piles, that quiet tranquility, yet the strength of their structure evident even as they rest.

I’d mentioned earlier that I typically ignore their color, using their silhouettes as a starting point for new designs, but this time their solid blackness is an important part of this idea, imparting the idea of solid strength. Their mahogany mid-highlights and their blue top highlights were part of the inspiration as well, seeming to describe the slopes and peaks of a mountain. I’m not sure I would have seen this visualization that led to this if they’d been striped or spotted.

And while typically my daily sketches are quick and undetailed studies and a pretty literal interpretation of what I see, this is an example of some of the ideas I have on a regular basis, and which I’ll pursue in between other things.

pastel sketch of cats sleeping
“Cat Mountains”, pastel on pastello paper, 12″ x 9″ © Bernadette E. Kazmarski

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2 thoughts on “Daily Sketch Reprise: The Cat Mountains, 2013

  • Anne Slevin

    Bernadette, Your daily sketch reprise,”The Cat Mountains” reminds me very much of the series of posters Milton Glaser was commissioned to do for the Catskill Mountains tourism board in the 1990s. He is a lover of cats and it shows. They were never reprinted and the posters fetch quite a sum today. You probably know of his work (The famous Bob Dylan poster) already, he’s been around for a long time. I just was taken by your rendition and it brought back memories of the “Catskill Cats”as this is where I hail from. Thank You.

    • Anne, of course I know Milton Glaser–every artist of a certain age I’m sure was influenced by his work! I had never seen the posters but just found them in shops on Etsy, and yes, quite valuable, and very interesting. I associate him more with a decidedly graphic shape and color style, like screen printing, and I clearly remember his nude from his exhibit at Musée Royaux, an image that still influences me, as well as his I <3 NY, influencing me as a graphic designer. I'll have to study these! Thanks for sharing your thoughts!


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