Featured Artwork: The Sixth Grade Batik

"Smiling Orange Kitty", batik, 1972 © Bernadette E. Kazmarski
“Smiling Orange Kitty”, batik, 1972 © Bernadette E. Kazmarski

When you are a “cat person”, it seems to begin with day one and work its way all through your life to the end, with cats intertwined with everything in between. And I’ve been looking at this batik I did in sixth grade and thinking how cool it would be to batik again…

In 2011, when I cleaned out, renovated and organized my spare bedroom into my studio I unearthed a number of works I’d had stored away in a portfolio for safe keeping when I ran out of room on my walls. That included this batik which I’d stretched but never framed, and seeing it again I was actually pretty impressed both with what I had accomplished as a 12-year-old in a media totally new to me as well as how I rendered the colors and stripe patterns on an orange tabby cat when my cat at the time was gray and white. I’d used my cat and cat themes in several art projects at that time and it seems I was determined to render my cats and cats in general in artwork even back then.

I clearly remember watching the teacher show us the batik process of painting melted wax onto the cloth and letting the wax harden and then dipping it in dye baths, using successively darker dyes with more wax coatings in between to resist the new color in those areas. I grew up watching people make pysanky, the highly patterned and multi-colored Ukrainian Easter eggs. I had made a few myself by that time and it was the same principle of covering an area with wax and then dipping it in dye. I actually remember painting the wax on the fabric in the correct areas and dipping the fabric into the dye, then later ironing it out onto newspaper.

Detail of the face.
Detail of the face.

But my kitty was gray and white, and to my knowledge I didn’t know an orange kitty of anyone else’s very well at all, though I’m sure, knowing all the cats I encountered around our neighborhood, there was likely more than one tabby I encountered. I have no idea where the idea began, or even if I had a reference photo. I don’t remember actually visualizing the orange kitty with its paws rolled under and an orange kitty smile, like they do, but I remember sketching kitties in this shape at that time.

Since this process depended on the use of color, then, I chose the color of a cat I was sure I had seen, an orange cat; I loved bright colors then as now, and was particularly into pinks and oranges, especially fluorescent colors. Well, it was the early 70s. Well, the whole thing is kind of reminiscent of an early 70s style. And I realize how many things stay with us through the years as I recognize that influence still appears in what I do today.

Detail of the chest and paws.
Detail of the chest and paws.

But it also has echoes of The Cheshire Cat from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, long one of my favorite stories, and being an early cat person The Cheshire Cat was a favorite right away, along with The White Kitten.

Now that I look at it from the perspective of 25 years of drawing cats, I’m amazed at my 12-year-old’s observation skills and ability to visualize. How did I know where and how the stripes fell, how they were shaped, how they curved around the hip, and how some actually came up from the bottom rather than down from the top? And the subtle tone-on-tone orange, and the white bib? Perhaps the white bib was inspired by Bootsie’s white bib. What took me so long to get around to painting cats, like, 20 years later?

Detail of stripes.
Detail of stripes.

This had hung high up on the wall in my studio for several years, but as I added height to the shelves I took it down and packed it away because it had become covered where it was hanging. The memory of it barely entered my consciousness until I discovered it. What luck! I’ve stretched and framed this behind glass so that it doesn’t get any dirtier. I can’t wait to batik again, but it’s proved a little tricky in this house with these particular cats.

This also reminds me it’s been years since I had an orange kitty in my “permanent collection” of cats, a few fosters, but not one who stayed since Allegro passed in 1996. Finally, his portrait is on my list of new paintings…

You can read more about “Early Feline Influences and Memories” in another article including several works through the years which I found while sorting paperwork and boxes.

Read about other Featured Artwork

Each Wednesday I feature a piece of artwork: commissioned artwork, portraits in progress, paintings of my own cats, feline-themed commercial works, creating a product from my artwork and artwork from my archives. Choose the categories featured artwork.


Subscribe to my e-newsletter

Subscribe to The Creative Cat Preview E-newsletter.

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.

© 2015 | www.TheCreativeCat.net | Published by Bernadette E. Kazmarski

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!



Friendship Friday on Create With Joy

Friendship Friday.
Friendship Friday.


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.

4 thoughts on “Featured Artwork: The Sixth Grade Batik

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: