Tuesday, July 16, 2024
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Featured Artwork: Are You Looking At Me?

portrait of black cat on floor
Are You Looking At Me? pastel, 17″ x 22″, 2005 © B.E. Kazmarski

As a cat lover and animal lover I always say I care more for what’s under the fur than the fur itself and I’m sure most of would say that. As an artist I also love all varieties and types of fur on all my animal subjects, and in the animals I live with I have always enjoyed a variety of color and pattern and solid.

But just a glance at The Creative Cat will tell you that we find black cats to be very special, especially since those of us here who are not black cats are greatly outnumbered! Here’s the portrait of the black cat who started it all for me.

About the inspiration of black cats

Before I had a cat of my own, I loved black cats. Each summer when the neighbors’ cats had kittens, back in the days before regular spay and neuter, I loved the dark tabby swirls and stripes and the creamsicle orange and whites and the shimmering solid grays. But the fuzzy black kittens, the sleek black adults, appealed to a visual style that I still love today—the clear silhouette, the contrast of eyes, no matter the color, in dark fur, the play of light on physical structure, finding the graceful curves of cheekbone and hip as if their highlighted dark fur made them somehow transparent. I had no idea then what was developing in my young aesthetic sensibilities, but it is still with me today as I look at these five, still a surprise to see a highlight gracefully trace the spine to the tail, or see whiskers emerge from the darkness of a muzzle tucked in sleep. And all the colors that emerge from black fur in different light…I could go on and on, but you see it nearly every day in my sketches and in the art I present.

portrait of black cat on floor detail
Detail of face and paws.

About Kublai

And long before Mimi and the Fantastic Four, before most of the cats who shared my life, in fact, was the first black cat, the first cat I adopted as an adult. He rescued me while I was in college and became my feline muse even then, before I was even working as an artist, and continued to guide and inspire me, to both art and to rescue—his rescue and the way I came to feel for him was the reason I began rescuing years ago.

And even as I began sketching, drawing, painting, and developed my techniques with animal portraiture, he remained an inspiration, but never a model. He died in 1996, but it wasn’t until 2005 that I finally painted his portrait. In part this was because I had so few photos of him, and not for the lack of a camera but because he was always on me somewhere, draped around my neck under my hair, hanging with his paws around my neck and nestled in my elbow, on my lap, on the back of my chair. Even with studying him all the years he was with me, I still needed reference photos to be certain I had the details right.

portrait of black cat on floor detail
Don’t you just want to dig your fingers in that fur?

About this portrait

But he was also a very complex cat, we had been through quite a lot, and for years I simply could not decide what pose would be best to capture him, I could visualize him in so many ways and while I considered the idea of painting a series of portraits of him, I knew I just needed to wait, and it would come to me.

And it did one morning when I turned around and saw the winter sun shining brilliantly on the bare wooden floor of the landing and I remembered watching him rolling around there in the way he did, acting silly, often in apology for something he’d done that I didn’t particularly care for like opening the refrigerator and pulling food out.

But I knew what I was remembering was a moment when he was acting as feline therapist, because I was having a bad day as I sometimes did and he knew it and was doing his best to get me past my dark mood, not just with being adorable and irresistible but also with letting the sun play across his fur, pulling all those wonderful mahogany and blue-purple shades from within it, his pale green eyes contrasting with the depth of his face, his velvety paws waving aimlessly. After years of living with cats and being aware of how they react to me as I go about my business and work on my art I’m absolutely certain they know what’s going on in my head, and that my who being changes when I’m feeling the inspiration to something I find visually inspiring. That’s why so many of the photos of them I publish are in my studio because my cats have always loved to be with me when I’m in that “alpha state of mind”, and I’m convinced that my success of fostering has been in part because these new cats always spent their first weeks with me in my studio. I think animals know us best when we’re in this place beyond verbal communication, and I’m sure they could see the lovely images playing in my head and feel the peace that steals over me as I visualize.

So as I looked at the shadows falling crisp in the sun and soft in light reflected off the doors and walls, pulling the details from the old wood boards, each one different, I could see him there and knew that was the moment.

Then, his expression, direct, “Are you looking at me?” Not only for attention for himself, but for my own distraction. It worked every time.

All the lights came on for me and I saw this portrait in that moment. I found the few reference photos I had and began immediately. Dark mood? He could still dispel it nearly ten years later.

portrait of black cat on floor detail
Detail of “de tail” and wood floor.

This painting was done in a variety of different brands of pastels and pastel pencils on Wallis sanded paper. I have full-size and half-size 11″ x 17″  giclées of this print as well as11″ x 17″ and 8″ x 10″ digital prints, and I also offer it as a greeting card it is included in my “Feline Greetings Art Cards” collection.


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

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 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.

Enter the recipient’s name
Enter shipping address

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.

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Browse some rescued cats and kittens!

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Petties-Cat_Blog (2)
Read more about the Petties in this post.

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.

© 2013 | www.TheCreativeCat.net | Published by Bernadette E. Kazmarski



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.

8 thoughts on “Featured Artwork: Are You Looking At Me?

  • I love the portrait, Bernadette, but I also love what you said about animals knowing us best “when we’re in this place beyond verbal communication.” That has been true for me, too, whether I’m writing or gardening. That’s when time stops, and we move between worlds. Cats, of course, have always known how to do this, so they’re able to guide us.

    • Tammy, I’ve been exploring that concept now that I’m spending more time in the studio and without the distractions of other activities. They are totally different from how they are on my desk in my office. I love to go to that world–that’s my vacation.

  • What a lovely portrait of Kubai – Mum was owned by an all black cat called Max before we came along. He often used to bring her a mouse (live of course) and drop it on the floor in front of her so she got lots of exercise trying to catch it and it kept her very fit!!
    Luv Hannah and Lucy xx xx

    • Hannah and Lucy, my Kublai was totally domestic and kept me fit by opening the refrigerator and pulling something out to run away with it! Thanks for visiting.

  • What a beautiful portrait of Kublai! He was so handsome! Being owned by a black cat myself, I can totally relate to their beauty! The black fur just glistens in the sunlight…and sometimes looks like velvet.

    Island Cats’ mom

    • Island Cats’ Mom, he was wonderful to study and taught me so much about how to work with highlights in fur, even before I painted his portrait–I used it for other black cats. Now I am owned by five of them…

  • Nancy Blue Moon

    What a handsome guy he was..you did the right thing by waiting for the inspiration..I don’t have an all black kitty but I do have a big tuxedo boy..I just love the way the light shines on his black fur..he is awesome..Thanks for sharing..they are never gone as long as we have our beautiful memories..

    • Nancy, I can’t even start to draw or paint or anything until I have a good idea, visual or otherwise, and not having one upset me because it seemed disrespectful! I never would have done this in the beginning, though, and I’m glad I waited too.


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