Saturday, September 30, 2023
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I’m Not Sure I Can Do This

halloween garden flag with four black cats
An inspiring memory and a popular design.

I love how my daily sketches of my cats, because of my level of focus and intent in that moment, bring the moment right back to me. I always knew that might be a painful experience now and then.

This past weekend I prepared for the first farmers market I’ve attended since the end of July. Typically in September I bring out all the holiday stuff—greeting cards, garden flags, placemats, votives, and any other items I was inspired to make for Halloween, Thanksgiving and the December holidays.

This year was obviously a challenge because I usually begin on that process at the end of August, right after Rock the Quarry. This year, even though the renovations were finished the day before RTQ and I managed to prepare framed artwork and prints for that I still had a mess in my workspace in the basement, mostly because my kitchen is still stored down there and taking up quite a bit of space. It just slows me down, but I’ve also found some damaged materials from being moved around or out in the tent, plaster and concrete dust and even water damage from before this all happened necessitating a number of errands to quickly get replacement materials. My printers and heat press needed a thorough cleaning before they functioned properly. And the big pile of kitchen meant that I didn’t have the storage space for my materials, and that meant the need to move things around each time I began another project. All very time-consuming. All giving me more time to think about some things.

This flag kept appearing

As I moved things around, I kept encountering the garden flag you see at the top, clothespinned to the clothesline. It’s the one I screen printed a few years ago. For some reasons it showed up as I moved things out, as I moved them back in, as I’ve been unpacking and moving things around, it slips off the top of a stack of boxes, it shows up in my box of fabrics in the basement. I didn’t want it to be damaged so I pinned it to the clotheslines in the basement, where it’s the first thing I see when I go downstairs. I needed all the clotheslines for something so I took it down and draped it over a large piece of cardboard by my worktable, and the headline fell over the back and it was just the four of them with the pumpkin.

No doubt you are familiar with my “Happy Meowloween” design on greeting cards and garden flags and placemats and a few other things over the years. I sketched them on Halloween night as trick-or-treaters knocked on the door and then I went outside, then mulled over what to do with that sketch until the following October when the greeting card and garden flag debuted.

As an artist I turn to my surroundings for creative output, and what better to do with a family of five black cats during the festive Halloween season?

You may recognize the design above from this month’s featured artwork and desktop calendar—yes, the cards are in, the garden flags are on their way! This sketch from Halloween night in 2012 as I handed out my candy and all the knocking got to be a bit much for these four was destined to be a Halloween design. I put together my desktop calendars, but when I designed the card the sketch needed a little something extra so I drew a pumpkin to add to the design.

I will remark that I don’t like to associate black cats with Halloween for various reasons, but I didn’t pose a single one—they obligingly posed, and it was Halloween. And they don’t look like scary traditional Halloween cats with big teeth and wild eyes, they just look like everyday cats who happen to be black, so maybe that can shift the paradigm a bit.

Below is the original sketch, actually done on Halloween evening 2012 as I handed out candy on the porch and The Four Housecats of the Apocalypse hovered inside, by turns curious and uncertain.

ink sketch of four black cats
“Spooked on Halloween”, brush marker, 5.5″ x 5″ © B.E. Kazmarski

What I posted with the original sketch on October 31, 2012:

“Who are they and what do they want?”

Indeed the Fantastic Four were spooked on Halloween night as Trick-or-Treaters knocked on the door and I handed out candy. They love guests, it was all that knocking they weren’t sure about, plus the occasional police cruiser, ambulance or fire truck with flashing lights just slowly cruising by to keep the streets safe. And I was outdoors, what was I doing out there? It was all so strange.

When in doubt, stick together. And make sure your eyes are really big so I can count how many are there.

The plan for this design

I like the garden flags I make today with the fabric transfers printed on cotton duck canvas, but I really liked the screenprinted ones better when they could be screened. I think the manual process, like creating the sketch in the first place, brings me closer to what I do. I also liked the color of the ripstop nylon, and the way it waved more freely in the breeze. I can’t remember if it was 2018 or 2019 that I made the screens and found the fabric and experimented with printing; I experimented with screen printing “Star of Wonder” at the same time. I used traditional inks, which don’t last on nylon, peeling off in time, so I’d need to get the correct kind of inks before I moved forward. In the end it was complicated enough as I moved into my hip replacement and then Covid that I never carried that out.

Last year I found it again as I moved the fabrics from upstairs to downstairs and the one flag I’d printed was folded with it. I had considered pulling the screen printed idea back out, thinking I could also make a larger house flag because I wouldn’t be constrained by the size of the fabric transfer. Feline health issues were more pressing. Earlier this year when I thought everyone would be okay after dentals and any other treatments, I considered it again as a ten-year anniversary. That’s probably why the flag was literally on top of things, but to keep jumping off of shelves and stacks of boxes?

So even though I’m still deeply grieving I decided I’d do the screen printing as a dedication to all they gave me as an incredible quartet of felines.

I’m not sure I can do this.

But when the time came to get the inks together and carry it out, in time for this weekend’s market, I found I could hardly even look at the design.

The four of them, all looking at me. Most sketches, I wasn’t trying too hard to capture their identities, but in this one I was. And I did. I still see each of them in this sketch, I remember where they were in the room, positioned on the steps leading up to the landing, I was at the door doing my best to catch them before they moved positions, later relying on the quick photo I’d taken to finish it off. There they were, all four, young and alive and healthy, Mewsette on the left with Mr. Sunshine in front of her, Jelly Bean behind him and Giuseppe on the right. Their eyes are so bright, the way I saw them every day when the four of them would be together and look at me, and it just makes me cry. I will never see that again. Ever.

Who knows what their situation will be next year at this time?

I’m not even sure I want to pull out the Halloween cards because these guys are all over them, especially Mewsette.

I thought I ought to go ahead and work my way through this, maybe not for this past weekend, but for next weekend, or just to sell from my website. Not just power my way through it, but ease my way into it. I’m still considering that. I just have to keep going to the basement, which I do frequently enough each day, and looking at the design. If it starts to feel less painful to look at it, I just might be able to. I guess we’ll see.

Read more articles and Pet Loss and other Essays on The Creative Cat.

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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.

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