Thursday, May 23, 2024
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A Great Rescue and a Commissioned Portrait: Bandit Stole His Daddy’s Heart

"Bandit", pastel, 18" x 14", 2004 © Bernadette E. Kazmarski
“Bandit”, pastel, 18″ x 14″, 2004 © Bernadette E. Kazmarski

SOMETIMES WE DON’T realize until years later that a series of odd circumstances has an intention beyond our control; often this involves the entry of one of our most cherished animal companions into the sphere of our life, and our entry into theirs.

. . . . . . .

One of the Great Rescues families, Bandit is the February cat for Valentine’s Day, as it truly is a story of love at first sight between a man and a cat.

Bandit’s story from Great Rescues:

Bandit’s dad arrived home early from vacation and decided to visit the gym. Exiting the building after his workout he saw in the parking lot two women trying to coax a small black and white cat, four to six months old, from under the front of a car with offerings of tuna. The famished kitten finished his second plate but went back up into the wheel well where he was seeking sanctuary. When they left, Bandit’s dad went around to the side of the car. Bandit came down from the engine compartment, covered in grease and oil, looked his future human companion in the eye and let the man pick him up, trembling in his hands. “He needed a friend and I gained one of my best.”

I never had the chance to meet Bandit; his portrait was a gift from Bandit’s mom to his dad after Bandit had passed. Bandit and his dad were very closely bonded, and both people told me that while his dad was very upset when Bandit was near his end, Bandit was just as concerned about him, trying to comfort him. Cats are very sensitive and compassionate creatures, but I could tell Bandit was one of those souls who had a definite wisdom beyond the typical cat. His rescuer knew this too.


About the Portrait

portrait of black and white cat
Detail of Bandit’s face.

Bandit also predated the woman who commissioned me to do his portrait as well, Bandit having spent most of his life with his human rescuer as a couple of bachelors. Because the portrait was a gift we weren’t sure what type of a pose his person would want, but I liked one of the photos I saw in her stack, the light and the feeling of space, the details of their home that was obviously so dear to them, plus the commanding way Bandit is reclining surrounded by plants give it visual depth; sometimes an image that is fully from that time and place, houseplants and all, is simply the best way to remember a moment. She readily agreed, and I knew it was right.

pastel portrait of black and white cat
Detail of portrait, paws and plant

I remember looking at both the cat and those croton plants, just waiting to dig into both subjects. Building the whole scene was a joy, the rich red of the radiator cushion, the simple familiarity of the plant stand and woven basket and the painted windowsill as well as the main subject.

When I felt the portrait was finished I was so excited about contacting the woman who’d commissioned me; I’d updated her with progress photos, now it felt finished but I always let my customers have the last say on that—this is their artwork, forever, and I want it to feel as if they are not only looking at their animal companion, but in the space with them.

Still, I always let the portrait sit for a day or two, and let the glow wear off, even ignore it, so that I can get a perspective. I was still working downstairs by the big window so that I could look at my art in progress all the time, but this one I covered up for a couple of days. After I’d removed the paper covering and walked into the room forgetting it was there, a glance past it caught the full impact and it took my breath away for a moment; it looked like a window into another world. I couldn’t do a single thing to it anywhere, and my customer agreed. I still feel that way when I look at it.

Years later when I was putting together Great Rescues I realized this was one of the portraits that looked okay on my computer but would not work for print. I would be contacting Bandit’s people to ask if they minded me including Bandit in my project; I always like to be careful with the hearts and memories of people I’ve worked with.  They were thrilled and they didn’t mind at all if I came over to photograph the portrait. I have a technique I use to photograph through the glass and most of the time it works fine, but with Bandit there was a bit of a glare on the glass that I didn’t manage to eliminate with all my fancy PhotoShop tools. This only affects the closeups, but the overall portrait is what’s important. And, in fact, when I met with them to photograph the portrait they were so happy with to share Bandit and his story that they permitted me to sell prints and greeting cards bearing Bandit’s image, and he’s become quite a popular image in a cabochon.

Here is February with Bandit’s portrait and rescue story in Great Rescues Day Book:

cat portrait, story and calendar page
February in Great Rescues Day Book.

. . . . . . .

And here is the quote for Bandit:

Cats are intended to teach us that not everything in nature has a purpose. ~ Garrison Keillor

. . . . . . .

About Great Rescues Calendar and Gift Book and Great Rescues Day Book

day book with cat portraits
Great Rescues Day Book

Bandit is one of the rescued cats in my Great Rescues Day Book, an undated monthly journal to record the dates of birthdays, anniversaries and events featuring sixteen of my commissioned portraits of rescued cats along with their rescue stories.

This book is built from Great Rescues Calendar and Gift Book, the original 16-month calendar published in 2011 to inaugurate my series of rescue stories related to the portraits I’ve painted over the years.

Click here or on the image of the book at left, or either of the links above to read more.

Also, read more about Great Rescues families, those who appear in each of the two volumes so far. I’ll be featuring one story each month corresponding with the portrait that appears in the book for that month. That means there are four extra, and I’ll slip those in when the story itself feels appropriate.

And click here to see the whole year of monthly posts of featured portraits!

Read other stories in my Rescue Stories series.


Read about other current Commissioned Portraits and Featured Artwork

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

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 Commissioned Portrait Certificate
Sample Commissioned Portrait 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.


  • 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


  • 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


Fine ArtPhotographyGiftsGreeting CardsBooksCommissioned Portraits & Artwork

Great Rescues Day Book:
Portraits, Rescue Stories, Holidays and Events, Essential Feline Information, All in One Book

day book with cat portraits
Great Rescues Day 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.

Read more and order.


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.

Subscribe to my e-newsletter

Subscribe to The Creative Cat Preview E-newsletter.

© 2022 | | 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!




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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