Wednesday, June 19, 2024
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Featured Artwork for Feral Cat Day: The TNR Story Print or Poster

marker illustration of 63 cats
“The TNR Story”, 8″ x 14″, Sharpie markers © Bernadette E. Kazmarski

“The TNR Story”

63 spayed and neutered cats in two paragraphs of cat shapes

“and no one ever had any more kittens, and they all lived happily ever after.”


This art was inspired by working in post op at the May 25, 2014 Homeless Cat Management Team TNR clinic.

I study cats all the time but it’s not too often I get to handle that many cats in one day, especially when they are still pretty much under anesthetic, aside from a few ambitious ones. Cat after cat, large and small, male and female, solid, striped, spotted, I cleaned ears and checked toes and combed fur for fleas and other parasites and finished off their ear tips, applied flea treatment and in passing studied their fur and their markings.

In that state they all look pretty much the same as far as where they came from and where they will be returned, whether it’s to a human and a loving home or to a human and a parking lot where they’ll be fed and watched over by a colony caretaker, regardless of whether their paperwork says they are stray or feral or owned by a caring human, at that moment, as I always say, they are all just cats.

All the fur colors and patterns and textures, the way they felt as I handled them, each of them soft and warm and relaxed, and then later as they awoke in recovery and began to get up and bathe a little and find a comfortable spot and position in their carrier or trap, stayed with me and I envisioned this artwork as I drove home, all those cat shapes together in simple marker sketches, simple colors, clearly visual, telling the story of TNR.

I began to plan it out that evening, but especially since it’s far from my usual daily sketch I knew it would take extra time. The idea stayed with me and each day after I worked out in my mind a few more details of medium, style, the actual shapes of all the kitties and how I’d represent their spots.

I decided I’d do it for “Just One Day” day, June 11, when shelters are encouraged to stop any voluntary euthanasia for just one day and instead photograph and actively promote the animals in their care for adoption, making the United States a no-kill nation for just that one day. Spaying and neutering companion animals regardless of whether or not they are actually a pet is a big part of reducing the amount of killing that happens in shelters, both by reducing populations being born and populations living on the streets by removing kittens and rescuing friendly cats for adoption, and by keeping these cats, considered unadoptable, out of shelters altogether.

We served 63 cats at the May 25 clinic, so there are 63 little cats in the art. I don’t know if the balance of coat colors and patterns and fur types and sizes represent what was actually there, but I let the choices rise from my subconscious so it’s no doubt in part from memory and in part from my design sense of a visually interesting layout of colors and shapes. I tried to capture each cat in a very simple representation so they were seen as a group, the way I remembered them all.

"TNR Story" detail.
“TNR Story” detail.

I also intentionally kept the colors limited. In part that’s the way I visualized it and I honor those visualizations. Each cat is outlined in black and the coat patterns and colors, built from a light orange and a dark orange and a gray to shade the black. As I continued to visualize I decided it could also easily be reproduced by screen printing so I planned it out with clear edges that could be easily color separated.

I had planned how I would draw the grid of cat shapes and laid out a physical grid in pencil on a piece of semi-transparent layout bond way back on clinic day, leaving space top and bottom for the text, then spent the intervening time thinking about cat shapes and how I’d represent the stripes and spots and such, letting the layout of colors and patterns work itself out in my mind. I watched my cats in sleep and at rest to derive the positions of the cats and drew a little cat shape in pencil inside each of the blocks where a cat would appear. I then laid another sheet of the layout bond over top and began coloring them in starting with the lighter orange and determining which would stay solid light orange and which would have stripes and which would have spots—and which would become dilute calico and dilute tortoiseshell—then moving to the light blue to represent the gray and dilute kitties, adding black stripes to some and building tuxedo cats and cow spotted cats and tortoiseshell cats and even a few Siamese-patterned cats, outlining them after finishing each coat pattern.

I actually used my set of colored Sharpie markers for this because it gave me the line quality I wanted, but I didn’t have a gray marker the right shade in any of my marker sets. I used a light blue intending to desaturate it in Photoshop after I’d scanned the art so that the blue appeared gray, which I did but I decided I really liked it better with the original light blue. Gray cats do have a bluish cast, and it simply looks more colorful and eye-catching with the blue, plus blue and orange are color complements and I think that visual is at work here as well.

CWA Certificate of Excellence badge.
CWA Certificate of Excellence badge.

I’m pleased to say that it won a Certificate of Excellence for Illustration in the 2014 Cat Writers’ Association annual communications contest!

I’d love to screen print this art just for the sake of screen printing, but for now I am offering this print as an archival digital print and as a poster on a lighter weight non-archival card stock. I was glad to share this inspiration for Just One Day” and now for Feral Cat Day we can still work to reduce the numbers of animals killed in shelters every day.

Where to find this artwork

You can find prints of this poster for $15.00 on Portraits of Animals, and each purchase makes a donation of $5.00 to the TNR organization I work with, mentioned above, the Homeless Cat Management Team.

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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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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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