In the middle of the night during a July thunderstorm many years ago a couple awoke to hear what sounded like a baby crying outside, and noticed their two cats Percy and Ebi on the windowsill intently watching something. They knew it had to be a cat, but on investigation outdoors that night and the next morning, no cat was found.
A week later on August 1, the husband, working outside in the summer afternoon, suddenly ran inside yelling to his wife, “There’s a kitten out here!”
The kitten, frightened, had run up into a neighbor’s truck and they and the neighbor tried all they could think of to lure her out, and then to gently prod her from her hiding place. Eventually it took a golf club to push her out of her spot and she jumped out, to be caught by the husband and wife and quickly taken to their home.
“She was so thin, and tiny, very tiny,” the woman said, “I thought she was maybe six weeks old, and she was covered with fleas.” The new kitten was bathed and fed and coddled, but went into a kennel in a separate room until she had an appointment for the veterinarian. Magically, in that time, she went from being a fostered rescued kitten to a member of the household. Rescued kittens have a way of doing that.
“The vet asked me what I was going to do with her and I said, ‘I’m keeping her!’, like, are you kidding?” she said. “I just loved her from the beginning.”
After all, she already had a name, their little August 1 surprise, as her rescuers had begun to call her Augie.
Augie remained tiny but was a whirlwind of play and affection, and she got along fine with her calico feline sisters, the elegant Percy and exacting Ebi. And Augie not only loved her feline sisters and her humans, she loved everyone who visited, and they all loved her. She sat on everyone’s lap, and purred in complete happiness.
“She was feisty—the Christmas tree was apparently set up for her!” Augie’s mom said. “Needless to say, we left the decorations off that first year.” Nobody minded—the tree had a very special decoration.
But underlying Augie’s small size was a serious heart condition no one had suspected. “The only sign I saw, in hindsight, was that sometimes after running up the steps her breathing would be labored,” her rescuer said, “but then she would be okay. And she was so active all the time and otherwise showed no symptoms at all.”
When Augie had been with them for two years, while they were at work during the day, she tragically suffered a blood clot that paralyzed her hind legs and left her in horrible pain.
“We ran her to the vet, but there was nothing they could do and she was in such pain…” her person trailed off.
“We were due to leave for Mexico the next day,” she added, leaving unspoken the implications of what might have happened if they had been away with a pet sitter caring for the cats when it happened. They did leave for the vacation, with their sadness and tears. “And a bird at the resort was screaming, I still remember that,” she finished.
Augie was only about two years old, but she had fit all she could into her brief time. And she had certainly found the right truck to get stuck in.
Remembering Augie, and a portrait
Soon after they’d lost Augie they decided to have a portrait done of the two calico girls and Augie, in memory, and in 2002 when I met them I could still see the lingering sadness at their loss. We’ve remained friends through the years and I’ve painted a few other portraits for the couple, but when she recounted that time again years later I could see the grief was still with her.
We talked about how sometimes, cats who need to be rescued choose the right people to find them, and those who end up having a very short life seem to make the most of the brief time they have, and leave the biggest pawprints on your heart. Certainly Augie did.
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A Great Rescue and Commissioned Portrait: Percy, Augie and Ebi
SOMETIMES THE SHORTEST lives and the smallest cats leave the biggest pawprints on your heart, and the generosity of people who adopt from shelters and rescue cats off the street is a lifetime habit.
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A couple headed for the Animal Rescue League in Pittsburgh intending to adopt at least one cat, the husband finding the elegant Percy and the wife, seeing that all Ebi’s siblings had been adopted but not her, decided to adopt her as well, and the two calicos and two people lived happily for several years. In the middle of the night during a July thunderstorm a few years later they awoke to hear what sounded like a baby crying outside, Percy and Ebi on the windowsill, but no cat was found. A week later the husband ran inside—“There’s a kitten out here!”—and together they ran to the neighbor’s truck, eventually using a golf club to get the tiny terrified kitten out from inside the chassis. They took her home, bathed her and cleaned up the fleas, simply becoming attached to their little August 1 surprise who they named Augie.
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Yesterday I told the rescue story of little Augie, the kitty in the center of this portrait, and a little about her sisters, Percy and Ebi. Today I’ll tell you more about them, and about their portrait.
The initial reason for wanting a portrait was to remember Augie, her brief life and the impact on her household, and in this of course they wanted to include their original girls Percy and Ebi, unrelated but adopted together from the Animal Rescue League in Pittsburgh. While the three girls were friends, especially Percy and Ebi, there were no photos of them all together so—twist my arm—I had to visit and we had to look at cat pictures to find the ones we wanted to use, and then I could take others of Percy and Ebi for the details I’d need.
One of the challenges with creating a grouping of three or more, especially when they are calicoes or torties or spotted or some coat pattern that is not symmetrical, is to determine the features you most want to remember, like tails or unique markings, and make sure to include them in the painting. And you have to get all those spots in the right places!
But you also have to position the subjects logically—if two cats really didn’t like each other or didn’t cuddle, it might feel wrong that they were tucked up together in their portrait. Of course, their humans may also want to imagine the moment they might have cuddled, it’s really all up to the humans there. Balancing their physical appearance with their positioning, especially with more than two, can be like a virtual Rubik’s Cube of juggling cats and details that is also pleasing to look at. In the end, we find a composition.
In this case, I am eternally glad for Photoshop, where I can scan the images, trim them out, and even add tails that weren’t in the original photos, change out facial expressions, move paws around, all sorts of neat things, and often provide as many ideas for my customer as necessary.
But M. and S., the kitties’ humans, had a few lovely and clear photos of Percy and Ebi, especially one with the position we decided we wanted to use. The girls were young here, so they also provided a photo of Ebi closer the age we wanted to depict her; Percy I knew I could work out her age from the photo I was given. And because tails are often the casualty in photography, either out of the picture or just not in view, as here, I also took photos of the girls’ tails when I visited, because, you know, it was very important to get that unique little orange spot on the end of Ebi’s tail, and Percy’s tail was just glorious, as most long-haired cats’ tails are, adding the random multiple colors.
That image also easily accommodated adding Augie. We couldn’t have her lying down because she was so small in comparison to the other girls, but there were two good photos of her sitting upright. We did like the left-hand one because it showed her stripy side and her tail with the little white spot on the end. However, it was the expression in the other photo that was the most important, so typical, but impossible to work into her posture in the side view. It meant not showing too much of her in the portrait but she was tucked between her sisters and her most important feature, that little face, would be prominent.
And I had to be sure to maintain Percy’s dreamy expression (“she’s the ‘Queen Bee’ and we kind of compare her to Cindy Crawford” her mom said), and Ebi’s extremely alert expression as the little clown. We didn’t want a scenic background, just the cats, so I chose a neutral tone to match the tones in her home, and added in a number of other muted colors to give it interest, especially shades of green to enhance the reds in their coat colors.
Below is a detail image of the three faces and some of the background.
And just for good measure, here are detail images of just their faces, Augie, Percy and Ebi.
I not only love to get to know the stories of my subjects, I need to in order to be able to create a portrait I feel is accurate. Even if I meet them in person and take my own reference photos, I need to hear their person describe them. I want to capture not only the image, but also the relationship between the two. How else could I paint those faces? And I meet some truly wonderful people.
I also painted another portrait for this couple in 2003 of a dog they had adopted, Nelli. They had initially wanted to adopt both a dog and a cat but with their schedules didn’t feel a dog would be happy and so adopted Percy and Ebi. After losing Augie they felt the need for another animal companion and decided they could probably work with a dog. A friend was a registered breeder of English Labradors, only breeding her females three times before retiring them, spaying them and offering them for adoption. Nelli had a perfect personality for living with two cats who ruled the house, and for hanging out with humans. Nelli will have her own article some time, but for now, here is her portrait.
Also, last year I painted a portrait to be given as a gift to the rescuer’s sister, “Paige”. Her portrait is below, and you can read more about Paige in this post.
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Here is Percy, Augie and Ebi’s page in Great Rescues Day Book
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And here is the quote for August:
A home without a cat—and a well-fed, well-petted and properly revered cat—may be a perfect home, perhaps, but how can it prove title?
~ Mark Twain, The Tragedy of Pudd’nhead Wilson, chap. 1
Read other stories in my Rescue Stories series.
I also feature artwork which has not been 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.
Take a look at other portraits and read other stories
Read articles on The Creative Cat featuring current and past commissioned portraits.
Read about how I create commissioned portraits.
|Commissioned Cat Portraits
|Commissioned Dog Portraits
|Portraits of My Cats
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
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
I offer gift certificates for portraits in any denomination beginning at $50.00, which is the basic cost of a small monochromatic portrait.
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.
Certificates are good for up to one year after issue.
You can purchase gift certificates here or from Portraits of Animals if you are also purchasing other animal-inspired merchandise.
I prefer to look over the work and price the portrait according to how much work will go into it, as described above, but you can either set a budget or get started by purchasing a certificate for yourself or as a gift.
How to Order
- “Certificate A” is for a minimum-size 8 x 10 black and white or monochromatic portrait with one subject.
- “Certificate B” is for a minimum-size 8 x 10 color portrait with one subject.
- Choose “A” or “B” depending on whether your portrait is black and white or color.
- If your portrait will be larger or have more subjects, add $50 or $100 or more to your certificate value with the drop-down below.
CERTIFICATE A $50.00
- Size: 8 x 10
- Subjects: One
- Color: black and white media such as charcoal, pencil, ink, or monochromatic media such as one color of pastel, watercolor, colored pencil, etc.
- Background or objects: none but shading or colored paper
CERTIFICATE B $100.00
- Size: 8 x 10
- Subjects: One
- Color: full color media such as pastel, watercolor, colored pencil, etc.
- Background or objects: none but a color or colored paper
Add to your certificate purchase
You can use the second drop down to add $50.00 or $100.00. For amounts over this we’d probably have a conversation and I can set up a custom certificate for your purchase.
You only need to enter an address if it is different from the address I’ll receive when you order. These are often surprise gifts and need to be shipped away from the home address to make sure they are a surprise.
Gifts featuring cats you know! Visit Portraits of Animals
Great Rescues Day Book:
Portraits, Rescue Stories, Holidays and Events, Essential Feline Information, All in One Book
Each month features one of my commissioned portraits of a feline or felines and their rescue story along with a kitty quote on the left page, and on the right page the month name with enough lines for all possible dates, with standard holidays and animal-themed observances and events. Great Rescues also includes a mini cat-care book illustrated with my drawings including information on finding strays or orphaned kittens, adopting for the first time or caring for a geriatric cat, a list of household toxins and toxic plants, or helping stray and feral cats and beginning with TNR.
Each book includes also 10 sheets of my “22 Cats” decorative notepaper with a collage of all the portraits in black and white so you can make your own notes or write special notes to friends.
The portraits in this book, collected as a series, won both a Certificate of Excellence and a Muse Medallion in the 2011 Cat Writers’ Association Annual Communication Contest, as well as the 22 Cats Notepaper mentioned below.
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:
Tuesday: Rescue Stories
Thursday: New Merchandise
And sometimes, I just throw my hands in the air and have fun!