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A Great Rescue and Commissioned Portrait: “Sooty”

"Sooty", 1997, pastel, 11" x 7" © Bernadette E. Kazmarski
“Sooty”, 1997, pastel, 11″ x 7″ © Bernadette E. Kazmarski

SOMETIMES IT DOESN’T MATTER how much sentiment is attached to adopting a cat, how much people pay for a cat, or how beautiful or sweet it is, that cat is out the door when they no longer want it; sometimes, like Sooty, it is actually headed for its loving forever home and the people who will truly cherish it forever.

. . . . . . .

Here is Sooty’s rescue story:

Sooty was a full-bred Chinchilla-point Persian but didn’t come to his forever home directly from his breeder.

Adopted by a newly-engaged couple as a wedding gift to the bride-to-be, the couple subsequently broke up and Sooty was homeless. Passed along from one unloving home to another, finally housed in a detached garage with the door left open in the hope that he would run into the street…a neighbor kept watch, talked to the family, and finally convinced them to give Sooty to her. She asked her sister-in-law to foster him.

Though her sister-in-law had no pets then, she had always had a cat and a dog growing up. When her mother passed away her father came to live with her along with his dog and cat. They lost the pets and her father passed away soon after and she vowed “no more pets.” She made it clear that she would have Sooty neutered, given all his shots and shaved because he was filthy and had such large hair balls under each limb, but he was a foster, not an adoption.

He arrived in a cage, “frightened to death” and would not come out; she and her husband left the room and pretty soon Sooty came out of his cage and disappeared. Looking everywhere, she finally found him in her father’s old room, all curled up like he belonged there. “That did it,” and he stayed.

Animals always know, whether it’s Oscar, the prognosticating cat in the nursing home, or a cat who walked into your home and seemed to have been acquainted with it already, where they are needed most.

I’ve known people who would have taken in Sooty, even as a foster, and rejected him for his distant personality, not understanding that he’d never had a real home, not given him the space to learn to trust. But it’s also a truly wonderful thing to know that a cat came along at just the right time for people who needed him as much as he needed them, as Sooty immediately recognized the place of loss and moved to fill it in the best way he could.

Sooty had been deeply hurt by his own experiences. It was months before he would even go upstairs to the bedrooms, let alone sleep on the bed, or even the couch; sadly it was clear he’d been taught those places were not for cats. But he never lost a drop of his natural quiet sweetness, and in time his forever family welcomed him to cuddle up next to them or sleep on their lap.

About the Portrait

Detail of portrait: Sooty's face.
Detail of portrait: Sooty’s face.

I’ve always loved the way Sooty’s portrait looked, the horizontal layout and simple composition, clear and contrasting colors. In my portfolio of portraits Sooty’s was admired by many, and when I had visualized the Great Rescues calendar and day book series over ten years ago, Sooty’s portrait was one of the first that came to mind.

When I met with the couple who owned him, we looked at a few photos, but this one of Sooty, both his posture and demeanor, was perfect and the three of us knew it, even as Sooty quietly observed our process in much the same position. He was so calm and relaxed I managed to get detail shots of his face, especially his blue-green eyes.

Sooty was in his teens when I met him in the 90s, and he’d been bred so long ago that his Persian face looks little like the Persian cats I meet today. His nose is shorter than the usual cat nose, but not as deep-set as that of modern Persians.

I love the hair between long-haired cats’ toes, but Sooty’s was exceptional—it was so long his paws looked like little dust mops and I remember us joking about it, but when I was painting the portrait I remember questioning myself even though I’d seen it right there on his paws and taken the photos. It wasn’t helped by the contrast between pale silver fur and deep charcoal gray fur that made it look as if it had been attached.

Detail of portrait: toes.
Detail of portrait: toes.

His fur itself was beautifully unique, each long guard hair ending in a short black tip which gave him the ashy sort of look that led to his name. He had wonderful eyeliner and even his nose was outlined, and most endearing of all his whiskers were black. But that field of fur along his sides and back had so much detail that I got all lost in drawing it.

The background in a portrait like this is a style I developed myself over the years for portraits where there was just a color and no particular object or surface. I base the predominant color on one that complements the subject well and is possibly a color in the subject itself; see Nick where I used the blue from his eyes. In Sooty’s case I looked around the room where the portrait would hang and at Sooty’s cool silver fur, and then at his terra cotta nose and knew that was the color. As you can see in front of him I’ve added a few “wrinkles” as if the background is a cloth, but you can see in the upper left that I’ve mimicked the entrance of a light source from the left and used an olive green shading lighter to a yellowish shade as if it’s sunlight on a wall.

Detail of background and fur.
Detail of background and fur.

I usually frame my portraits in custom mats and molding per my customer. To finish it off, I used white top and bottom mats that had a soft terra cotta core, and a simple wood frame with a brushed silver finish and charcoal edge that captured his fur. You can tell his portrait is still one of my favorites even 25 years later. Sooty is even included in the brochure I designed and still use today; click the link below. For some reason I’ve been thinking about Sooty’s portrait as well as Sooty’s story lately, so I thought I’d share him again.

Here is Sooty’s page in Great Rescues:

great rescues day book
Great Rescues Day Book, January featured portrait and day book page.

. . . . . . .

And here is the quote for Sooty:

The problem with cats is that they get the same exact look whether they see a moth or an axe murderer. ~ Paula Poundstone

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.

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© 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.

2 thoughts on “A Great Rescue and Commissioned Portrait: “Sooty”

  • dood….ewe waz one awesum N handsum cat and we iz buzzed happee that after a veree loooong time; ewe final lee finded yur foreverz….♥♥♥

    • He was on a mission. I’m so happy it worked out this way for him.


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