Wednesday, May 22, 2024
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Vintage Photo Becomes Art: Early 1984 and Sometime in 1988

Puck at the window, the original photo.
Puck at the window, the original photo.

I took this photo early in 1984, just a few months after I’d gotten my Pentax K-1000 and was still working in black and white. I remember seeing my roommate’s cat, Puck, sitting on the hamper in front of one of the windows in the big bay window in our apartment pretty regularly. Apparently the side yard held a lot of interest, and once I’d started taking photos and grew accustomed to visually framing things and composing I knew I wanted to capture him at the window. One afternoon in winter there he was, looking out at the snow, either falling or just being bright outside. The light made it darker inside with a lot of contrast, and I did my best to compensate, with my limited knowledge and no way of knowing until I had the film and prints developed, if I’d guessed correctly to get the details I wanted.

I did want to record the scene and knew it would be a lovely silhouette and really loved all that contrast, but I also knew the scene would make a nice piece of artwork, someday, likely pencil, so the details I wanted were also things I might need for a sketch and shot “light” to overexpose the image. And I remember, remembering this photo, and itching to do something with the idea.

In the mid 80s I began working as a typesetter for a direct mail company and was suddenly surrounded with black and white clip art, and I loved it. All the different styles imprinted on my visualizations, but I wasn’t yet drawing anything much, mostly working in more forgiving pencil and intimidated by the clear and definite ink lines that I so admired.

In the late 80s, in response to a request to design some notecards that could be used for professional correspondence by the veterinary hospital I went to then, I finally found my reason to bravely give ink drawing a try. In those days, before color printing technology became easily affordable, line art printed in one color was the way to go for an inexpensive, versatile note card. I had always admired cards that were printed on natural paper with a mild texture that resembled watercolor paper, and I knew enough about quoting printed materials then so I talked to a few of the printers I knew and got some prices and sizes. I could “shoot photostats” (who else remembers that term?) of them and set a few lines of type at my day job and provide them camera-ready to the printer.

I’d been noodling around with various pens and inks and papers and planned two cat and two dog cards, researched images, took some photos and collected photos from friends, and planned out the sketches, then got started. I used my Rapidograph pens I’d used in college along with a few fine point markers I’d found knowing those clear ink lines would reproduce well with clean edges and no “feathering”. I loved experimenting with the “dots” to create tones and shadows and shapes without shading—I’d been so accustomed to drawing in pencil—and the hard lines of a high-contrast illustration. I learned well with early sketches but most were on tracing paper because I was so insecure about my ability to stay with the sketch, I had to see the original underneath as I worked.

The original sketch with all the extras.
The original sketch with all the extras.

I remember comparing the styles in the line art I loved and paring down the photo to just the essential shapes, leaving off the detail in the top of the hamper, reducing the window frame to just a few simple narrow lines around the window itself. I worked it out in pencil first with just Puck’s shape in the window and it looked so stark—that was the look I was looking for, but it needed a little something to soften up the geometry. I introduced the spatter of leaves in the upper right to give the scene a little visual warmth in addition to the shape of the cat, just the upper plant, not the lower one, and that worked for me. Above is the original full sketch with all the extra black around it. Below is the cropped sketch.

Puck at the window.
Puck at the window.

That sympathy note card project never finalized, but I had the line drawings just waiting for something and had done well more than what was needed. I’d started offering my commissioned portraits in 1992 and set up at cat and dog shows, but with only portraits on display I felt a little left out with all the sales. I decided, in addition to my brochure and business cards, I needed a product to sell, and I’d print a set of note cards. I chose a few sketches and after trying to pursue selling or licensing my images to greeting card printers decided to print them for myself. That set of notecards is “Kitties Being Kitties”.

I didn’t use this image, or a few others, like Sally’s Pr0file, but knew the time would come when I would use these images. You may see this as a card, but I’m also visualizing a glass votive with this image, and the light just shining through the open areas. I guess we’ll see. But nearly 40 years later, those cats are still inspiring me!

Photos From the Archives and Vintage Photos

Photos pulled “From the Archives” were taken by one or another digital camera of mine between 2002 and, well, yesterday, but usually they are older than that, and I had never had the chance to feature them. Vintage Photos are from my film archives back to 1983 when I purchased my Pentax K-1000 camera. They’re a fun way to “introduce” other members of my feline family who came and went before I began blogging, and to illustrate my feline family in general from days gone by.

Art and Gifts featuring cats you know! Visit Portraits of Animals


Feline Greeting Cards from Portraits of Animals!

notecards with cats
“Kitties Being Kitties”, four simple sketches in black and white.

Sometimes the simplicity of a single color line or tone on a beautiful paper stock tells the story more expressively than a full-color, scenic rendering. The expressions, coat patterns and close-cropped scenes of cats just being the individuals they are inspired me to create these little cameos. Read more, and purchase.


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:

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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