The Artist’s Life: Sunday Morning
A Formerly Feral Kitty Finds Her Place: Sunday Morning
Moses made it back upstairs after breakfast before I had a chance to make the bed, and I didn’t have the heart to move her. So I got a sheet of drawing paper and my pastels and did a quick sketch of the scene, finishing it later from a photograph.
It was a pleasure to work in a looser style and just to catch the mood and all that wonderful winter light filling the ruffled batiste curtains through the east and south facing windows, sweet Moses being bold out in the open on the bed. I painted this on a Sunday morning very like today, early January, overcast with cool, diffuse snow light filling the upstairs rooms.
Look at the date: 1989, very early on in my career. I knew of one kind of pastel drawing paper and had cheap pastels and colored chalk, not sure whether I should make the investment in “real” pastels, and I had my cats. I guess that was all I needed. Now, years later, it’s a marvel to look at what I did with so little experience—if I did this as a daily sketch today I’d be glowing with pride and thrilled to share it. I actually sketched it “en plein air” as it were because I did most of it standing right there looking at Moses, and that was entirely new for me.
But in this painting I also have this memory of a house I moved from long ago, and a happy scene with gentle little Moses that conveys more than the photograph ever could. Though no one but me would recognize her, I know this signifies a new confidence Moses had grown to feel that year, two years after she’d come to me, and that would grow slowly, slowly over the next 17 years.
Though I have the photos from that day and others they don’t bring back the depth of memory my painting does. At that time in my life, Sunday was the only possible day of the week I would have had the time to feed cats and have coffee and make the bed later in the morning, and do a sketch without worrying about being somewhere, and that’s why it’s titled “Sunday Morning”, for all it conveys to me. When I look at the painting I remember that moment I went upstairs and walked toward the bedroom to make the bed, of seeing Moses tucked into the covers, feeling very safe and warm, and that thrill of happiness for me that she felt so secure. I remember looking at her and thinking about her, but because a human looking at her for any length of time still frightened her I let my eyes wander around the room, looking at the light and the colors, and then the magic happened and I saw this sketch.
I crept quietly away so that I wouldn’t disturb her and cause her to move in any way before I could photograph her with my old fully manual Pentax film camera. I kept my camera and most of my art materials in the other bedroom right next door, got the camera and tiptoed back for a photo or two, and though that was often enough to make Moses suspicious her raised eyebrows and slightly opened eyes seemed amused instead.
I had already worked myself to deeply realistic skill with “Waiting for Mom”, and was then relaxing a little and experimenting with a looser style. As I had worked my way through media from pencil to ink to acrylic, oil and pastel, I had often adopted this “outline” style, and for the longest time no sketch or painting looked finished to me without it. When I began to sketch, then paint, my cats, I actively worked to break away from it and finally did.
But to that point, all my work had been done from photos, any attempts to draw from a live subject were pretty disappointing. Yet the inspiration was so strong, and my art materials just a few feet away, it was Sunday morning and I had the whole day…
Again I tiptoed away and quietly gathered materials. If I could just get the charcoal outlines on the paper I’d be happy. Also hoping I wouldn’t attract the attention of the other cats so I could focus on just this scene and Moses I didn’t even set up an easel but leaned back against the banister outside the bedroom door, held my drawing board against my hip and quickly got the lines lightly down on the paper. Though they weren’t neat and proportional or really representative of the scene, I continued. I had gotten the basic pastel colors on the paper and corrected a few of the lines before Kublai found me, walking along the banister toward me and wanting to step on my drawing but climbing onto my shoulders instead. The other cats had followed and likely Sally jumped on the bed for her daily nap and disturbed Moses, Stanley and Allegro milled around and Fawn had to have a play session, also likely on the bed.
The moment was over, and my memory might not be entirely accurate, but somehow for me the act of creating a painting, which I didn’t realize at that early point in my career, tunes all my senses to their peak ability and I remember more than I usually would. Whether I actually saw stocky tabby and white Stanley and leggy, rangy orange and white Allegro walking around my feet on the pumpkin-colored carpet as I’ve always visualized I’m not sure, and whether I’m remembering Fawn in one of her endless play sessions on the braided rug and Sally through years of hopping up onto the bed in the afternoon to wash her long white fur and have a long, deep nap in her deafness I can’t tell, but those are also the memories that come to me when I look at this painting. Not just that moment, but many moments, my feline family, my home, a Sunday morning.
And when I got the photos back some time later to finish the painting, I was shocked to see them. They were nothing like what I’d sketched in the draft of the painting, and nothing like my memories. For myself, I captured something much deeper and more real. But, as I always say, that’s why we have art, so we can keep what is real to us in a tangible form.
About the art
I used the texture of the Canson paper to blend my colors into and onto, letting the texture build the midrange tones where two colors mix together, yet leaving the edges soft in the sketch and giving them a soft definition with black vine charcoal. I’ve done this in some of my daily sketches as well, and also used colors other than black to define the edges.
Moses watches over my easel in the corner of my studio, and I continue to draw inspiration from her, the moment and the style, with all the work I do.
Where to find this art
The framed original of “Sunday Morning” is available and I also have a wide variety of print styles and sizes as giclee, digital or canvas print on Portraits of Animals.
This image is also available as a greeting card in my “Feline Art Cards” collection and as part of my “Winter Cats” series.
I also occasionally use this image on other gift items. To find all the items on my site bearing this image, use the search box on www.PortraitsOfAnimals.net to search for “Sunday morning”.
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And sometimes, I just throw my hands in the air and have fun!
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