Many years ago a certain black kitty who rescued me while I was in college inspired me to many things aside from loving him and the practice of rescuing cats. Cats in general, and he in particular, began appearing in my creative efforts as I moved through my classes in college.
It was something about the flowing curved shape he made as he swung around to begin washing his shoulder and hip, from his nose up over his forehead and around and over his back, and continuing around and around to the very tip of his tail. Of all the things he did I seemed to love this best, this twirling juggernaut of happy feline energy and all the other minor curves and rounded shapes of the posture, the rounded torso balanced lightly on the surface, the tail curled in a circle, the triangular face, the ears pulled back. I continually sketched this shape trying to catch just that line of energy, thereby developing a minimalistic style rendered in black on white, later for a sculpture class did my best to translate that minimalism into a 3-D composition in The Artist’s Life: The Inspiration of a Certain Black Kitty.
I framed two pages from sketchbooks at that time, dated 4-1981, containing similar minimalist pencil sketches of Kublai at his daily tasks of being a cat: playing, sitting, rubbing his face on a corner, napping. They’ve been on the wall in my studio nearly as long as I’ve lived here. Considering my featured artwork article each week I glance up at them, then decide I don’t have the time to open up the frames and scan them, then put it all back together. In 2012, when I began to use a brush marker during my run of daily cat sketches, I looked up at those pages and found inspiration again to create a similar brush pen style. Lately I’ve also been looking up at them and considering how they’d make nice rubber stamps. It was time to scan as many as I could—the pencil lines on some sketches are very faint as I found my shapes, then in the ones I have reproduced here I had sketched over those light lines with a heavier stroke to finalize the design.
Below, I loved how his face pulled against the wall as he rubbed the corner, and his ears swung back made his face look more triangular.
I have known many cats in my life but none as simply graceful as him. Perhaps because he was my awakening to feline fluidity or perhaps it came at a time when my visual senses were awakening. I found myself then trying to describe his grace in even the simplest of movements in words and image, a short story, a poem, an animated film, then a sculpture. Through that exercise, through him, I learned ways of managing lines on paper and putting words in a certain order that could efficiently describe what I was visualizing. What a number of gifts for one cat to give.
Completely stretched out, I always said he looked as if someone had poured black paint on the floor. From this angle, his nose was always just a button.
He’s got to get that spot on his shoulder blades! All kitties have trouble with that spot. The curves, the shapes embedded in his main shape, the flow of action, I’ve never seen anything so graceful as a cat. Even though it was about 1987 that I really sat down and got serious about my visual art, I know my senses were awakened as early as this time, several years before that.
And as I keep every artifact from everything I do—because I find I use these things later—here is the original sketch on a little slip of paper, drawn in water-based magic marker way, way back. It’s nearly all faded now, but long ago I had made a copy of it and converted it into the line art you see above. It’s one of many sketches that I did and tossed until I came to this one and decided I’d finally gotten it right.
I had it taped to things around my desk for years, on my phone, on a bookshelf, on the front of a drawer, and more recently on my computer monitor. It’s got coffee and water and, knowing my Stanley, probably a little cat pee on it, and a good sample of various cat hairs through the years stuck on the tape. But for all that and for its origin, I just can’t give it up, though now I keep it in an envelope in my desk drawer.
After this, and as I started sketching in pencil, I worked on this shape and other minimal cat sketches. I have them framed for protection and one of these days I’ll take them out of the frames and scan them so I can share them here. One of those two sketchbook pages has a marker sketch in addition to the pencil, and it’s barely visible now.
From 2013, and another housepanther, Mr. Sunshine, “Sneaking”, in brush marker.
And Bella, “Back to Front” in brush pen.
I frequently revisit my beginnings, and always find something in them, either something I hadn’t seen or realized before, or a new idea based that the original, so long ago.
Thanks to all of you cats, beginning with Kublai, for giving me the creative life I have today. It was there before I met them, but they certainly gave me my voice.
I also feature artwork which was not commissioned, especially my paintings of my own cats. If you’d like to read more about artwork as I develop it, about my current portraits and art assignments and even historic portraits and paintings, I feature commissioned portrait or other piece of artwork on Wednesday. Choose the categories featured artwork. and commissioned portraits.
Gifts featuring cats you know! Visit Portraits of Animals
This small pendant is made of polymer clay with a stamp of my sketch “Back to Front” impressed in the clay. It comes in four different shapes with a little variation in size from 1″ to 1.5″ and about 1/8″ thick, and comes with an 18″ black flocked cord. Read more here.
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!