This was the painting I looked at and said to myself, “I think I can really do this.”
I’m going all the way back to my beginnings with this painting from 1989, one of the first I ever completed in pastel and the very first in that deeply realistic style I’ve used for many portraits for the past 30 years.
I featured this painting as a desktop calendar in November 2013, but I’m moved for many reasons to share Fawn, and this very first cat portrait I ever painted, again. Though the reference photos were taken in January, the soft umbers and golds are reminiscent of a November palette for me, and the little kitten peeking out from under the bed is a perennial favorite.
Fawn’s presence in my life reaches back to my beginnings as a cat rescuer. You can read about Fawn’s “rescue” and birth in the story “My First Litter, Part One” and “My First Litter, Part Two” and a very special story about Fawn in “The Balloon”. The two-part series “My First Litter” won a Certificate of Excellence in the 2013 Cat Writers’ Association annual communications contest. You can read more about these awards and others I’ve won on this page. As always, I have my cats to thank for these inspirations and opportunities.
About the painting
One night in early April, 1988, still with patches of snow on the frozen earth, a very small, very pregnant cat sang a little song to me out in the alley, politely but confidently asking if she could come into my home to give birth to her kittens. Of course, I said “yes”, and ten days later I witnessed the entrance to life of four independent and individualistic progeny. The last one born stayed with me after the others were adopted; the “runt of the litter”, the little cat with the big attitude, a torbie who loved only me, my Fawn.
This was my first full-color portrait of one of my cats, and she led the way to all the other commissioned portraits of animal companions I’ve done in the past 20 years.
This is Fawn’s story in Great Rescues Day Book.
Creating the portrait, this first one just for me
And so it was, though I had no idea at the time that I was launching a new career. And looking at this painting even today, I have no idea how I did it then. I didn’t have the skill, insight, ability to visualize or any of the ephemeral abilities I have now, but I managed to see the essential details and put them on paper.
But I didn’t set out to create a portrait—that was all in the future—and, for this last time, with the knowledge that I never needed to show it to anyone, ever, if I didn’t think it was acceptable.
I painted this in 1989, just about three years after I began seriously working my way through learning to draw simply by drawing all the time, after work at night and on the weekend—and of course, I was painting my cats. It is painted in pastel, but when I began I hadn’t even purchased real pastels yet, I was still working largely in colored chalk. I purchased an inexpensive student set of pastels and continued working with the new colors, then purchased individual pastels and pastel pencils, then just got a part time job at the art store because everything was so darned expensive and I was hooked.
Vintage Photo: Little Fawn, Just Before, 1988
The little torbie kitten is my “yiddle” Fawn, chasing one of her rolled up balls of paper around my bedroom floor. That’s not so remarkable, that was Fawn’s favorite game, and kittens do that sort of thing all the time, but she’s still as cute as cute can be.
And that was why I took the photo in the first place, enjoying the wash of light over her head and paws, speckles on the rug, thinking of a painting. But just moments later, when she looked up from her little game and saw her human and raced under the bed for her favorite game and…
I remember looking at the photo when I got it back and thinking “that would make a nice painting”—so funny to think of now as I look at other photos every day and think the same thing, all these years later, but then I’d hardly even have called myself a beginner. The nerve of me! Of course, I adored Fawn being excessively cute when she ran under the bed and peeked out, waiting for me to walk by so she could pop out and grab my ankle, and my inspiration was just as much to share her and her antics as it was to produce a good painting. Really, that hasn’t changed in all these years.
But I was also intrigued by the “white” dust ruffle, seeing for perhaps the first time all the colors that make up a true white object in a painting. I really, really wanted to paint this, fairly large, and in color. I wasn’t visualizing it as realistic as it is, more impressionistic was the style I had in mind. I can see the influence of Mimi Vang Olsen, and Lowell Herrero, two artists whose feline images were very popular then, appearing on many gift items I received, and I was influenced by the flattening of some angles and simplification of pattern.
At that time I found it difficult to loosen up my style. I had worked on my skills just in basic drawing to the point where I felt I had a good bit of control over what my hands were doing and the image I produced no longer looked stiff or forced, at least most of the time. But I loved the Impressionists, and I wanted to paint like that!
It wasn’t to be for this painting, and in many ways I’m glad. This painting took me months, in part because I was intent on matching the shade of yellow in the gingham bedspread and also quibbling with myself about all the details that weren’t “perfect”, such as the nicks and scratches on the bedpost, the wrinkle in the rug, and, of course, the wrinkles in the dust ruffle and bedspread. I was embarrassed at my housekeeping, but an artist friend of mine convinced me that those were the things that added interest and character to the painting. I learned so much more in the art of painting about what I actually visualize rather than what I know, and adding what I feel.
After all the time spent on other details, Fawn the kitten was sketched in there in probably just a few hours! And while I do like the simplicity of her face I sometimes wish I had made Fawn’s eye as round as it actually is because it adds that essence of excitement to her look that truly makes it a cute kitten, and Fawn.
In the end, this was the painting I looked at and said to myself, “I think I can really do this,” and the painting others looked at and asked, “Can you paint my cat too?” The rest is all in my portfolio, and for this reason, Fawn’s portrait is the first portrait in my first Great Rescues Day Book, a tribute to the kitten who led me to that part of myself that could find the essence of my animal portrait subject and bring my portraits to life.
I hope you enjoy looking at Fawn as well as the details of my mother’s handmade braided rug, the somewhat wrinkled bedspread and dust ruffle and the slightly nicked up bedpost, all a clear memory for me of that moment of inspiration to capture the lifelong habit of a feline who shared my life. Those floors were painted battleship gray, the baseboards forest green and the walls vanity yellow. The cedar chest in the background is at the foot of my bed today. That poster bed is the same one seen in all the photos in my bedroom. I still have most of the things too, though not all together any more. My mother made the rug right after WWII and when the rug’s threads began letting loose a few years ago I couldn’t keep up with it unraveling, so I packed it away until I have time to rethread all the rounds. I gave the yellow gingham bedspread to a friend when she moved years ago, but every once in a while I still use the white dust ruffle, because I stash a lot of stuff under that bed and so that kitties can hide behind it to leap out and attack my ankles. Fawn continued slipping under the dust ruffle even after we moved here, all her life, and every so often I look into my bedroom at that corner of the bed and I can just picture her there.
Where to find this artwork
A New Member Thank You
Register for an account on Portraits of Animals and get a free matted print of “Waiting for Mom” or choose from several other sketches, paintings or photos of cats and other subjects.
The New Member print is a signed digital print of my pastel “Waiting for Mom”. This print is 8″ x 11″ and is matted to fit an 11 x 14 frame.
This print is only available as a new member gift during this month while it’s the featured artwork and desktop calendar, so make sure you sign up before the end of the month!
Or purchase another size print or greeting card
Choose another style or size of print of “Waiting for Mom” on the product listing. I offer prints as:
- digital prints on matte-finish art paper
- giclees on art paper
- on canvas in standard sizes
- as framed prints, as shown, and custom framing is available
This painting is also available as a 5 x 7 greeting card or a 4.25 x 5.5 note card, and it’s in the Feline Fine Art collection of all-purpose greeting cards.
And also find this image on several gift items
This month’s desktop calendar
I’ve worked this image into a desktop calendar for you to enjoy and use for the entire month.
If these sizes don’t work for your device, or if you have problems, please let me know. Often I can troubleshoot the reason an image won’t download or won’t load on your device, but if I just can’t figure it out I can just email it to you and hope that works.
How to download and use your desktop calendar
- Click on one of the images below that matches the dimensions of your monitor to open the image in a new page.
- For desktop computers and laptops, right-click on that image and on a desktop computer choose “save as desktop wallpaper” or “save as background” or whichever option your operating system gives you to be able to do this. You may also simply save it to your hard drive and set it as your background from there.
- For mobile devices, download the image to your gallery then choose it as your wallpaper—this is slightly different on all devices.
Horizontal and HD monitors and screens
. . .
Square monitors and screens
. . .
Small Mobile Devices and Tablets
. . .
Cell Phones and Smartphones
Take a look at other featured artwork and desktop calendar posts.
Each month I feature a piece of feline artwork from the archives to the present day, discuss its history and process, and set it up as a free downloadable desktop calendar for just about every electronic device available.
click here to see other artwork featured on The Creative Cat
or visit Feline Artwork on my main website.
If you are interested in a print of this image, check 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.
Gifts featuring cats you know! Visit Portraits of Animals
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.
Subscribe to my e-newsletter
Subscribe to The Creative Cat Preview E-newsletter.
Weekly schedule of features:
Tuesday: Rescue Stories
Thursday: New Merchandise
And sometimes, I just throw my hands in the air and have fun!