The little torbie kitten is my “yiddle” Fawn, chasing one of her rolled up balls of paper around my bedroom floor. That’s not so remarkable, that was Fawn’s favorite game, and kittens do that sort of thing all the time, but she’s still as cute as cute can be.
And that was why I took the photo in the first place, enjoying the wash of light over her head and paws, speckles on the rug, thinking of a painting. But just moments later, when she looked up from her little game and saw her human and raced under the bed for her favorite game and…
…which, the next year, became…
…my “first” pastel cat portrait, in 1989. It just happened to be a day like today in October that I saw Fawn at play. Those floors were painted battleship gray, the baseboards forest green and the walls vanity yellow. The cedar chest in the background is at the foot of my bed today.
I still have the bed and the bedspread and the dust ruffle and the rug, though not all together any more. My mother made the rug right after WWII and when the rug’s threads began letting loose a few years ago I couldn’t keep up with it unraveling, so I packed it away until I have time to rethread all the rounds. I gave the yellow gingham bedspread to a friend when she moved years ago, but every once in a while I still use the white dust ruffle, expressly so that kitties can hide behind it to leap out and attack my ankles. I just have a long bedspread on the bed right now, but Smokie and Bella have been having a ball doing just that.
But that poster bed is the same one seen in all the photos in my bedroom. Fawn continued slipping under the dust ruffle even after we moved here, all her life, and every so often I look into my bedroom at that corner of the bed and I can just picture her there.
At the new year I had planned to post my vintage and archive photos on Fridays, posting a new photo and then including other ones I’d shared in years past. I have not done that once, so I’m starting on it this week…except that it’s early Saturday morning. Fridays are often really busy days as customers want to clean of their desks (and so do I), and I often have an event Friday night and I end up not posting at all. But now that I’ve got a number of photos lined up from “vintage” archives this should be easy enough to plan ahead.
So here we go with a collection of photos I’ve already shared, but this post will include pretty much all vintage photos from late winter. Next week I have several that include Cookie and Kelly, and then one that features Lucy. I’m actually surprised that several of the upcoming images became paintings, just like one from the same day as Fawn’s photo.
Vintage Photo: Dinnertime for Nine, 1994
My entire household of nine resident cats—and one is just out of range of this photo but you’ll see her below—enjoying dinner on the kitchen floor in February 1994.
From the top right, the tabby cat with white paws is Stanley, 12.
To the left of him the gray tabby is Moses, 7.
Directly below Moses the long-haired tabby and white is Sophie, 4.
To the right of Sophie the orange and white cat is Allegro, 8.
To the left of Sophie the long-haired white cat is Sally, 11.
Directly below Sally the black cat is Kublai, 13.
To the left of Kublai’s tail the tortie is Cookie, 2 (2!).
To the right of Kublai’s tail the torbie is Fawn, 6.
In the photo below, the dilute tortie at the very top of the photo, on top of the half-wall, is Nikka, 6. Fawn and Nikka were sisters, but Nikka had been adopted and had just come back to my household the previous year.
We all photograph our cats while they’re eating don’t we? I have always loved to feed my cats, plan their meals, hand out their food and watch them eat, it makes me happy that they are happy. I wanted to record that moment and that memory. They chose their spots and stood waiting for me to put the dish down, just as they do today. My kitchen had once been two small rooms, a kitchen and dining room. When I moved in here in 1990 someone had removed the upper part of the walls leaving half walls on either side of what had been the doorway. Nine cats were just too crowded in that small space and I could not convince anyone to move on the other side of the wall.
This group of nine cats, my first rescues, were my treasures. They were who I came home to after some work days at my day job that were 16 to 18 hours long, and kept me going through my part-time weekend jobs at the same time. We rarely had a chance to sleep in until I started seriously freelancing, and then they were there to stay up all night with me while I got design jobs done and worked on paintings—paintings of them, at this point in time, and just beginning to seriously photograph them and look around for art exhibits. We fostered plenty of homeless adult cats and socialized a lot of kittens too.
Below, Sally wonders what the heck I’m doing creeping around with that big black thing. Some things never change.
My Studio Window, March 1995
My first black cat, Kublai, sits on the windowsill in the sun in my studio, watching me work, sometime in March 1995.
Seeing my cats on the windowsill of the room I designated as my studio has been a view I’ve enjoyed since I moved in here. It’s my spare bedroom, and though it hasn’t always been completely an art studio as it is now for all that time, it was always my room for creative work. And my cats have always been available for supervisory duties. And as we know, seeing my cats in the sun has also inspired a lot of artwork.
It’s also one of the sunniest rooms in the house, especially when I first moved in and hadn’t planted my river birches near the corner of the house to give light shade to the room. My spruce, just outside, was then, as now, an avian high-rise, but was young enough to have green branches all around where now a good bit of the shaded sides are bare of needles.
But watching my cats sunbathe was always one of my favorite things to see, as I looked up from whatever I was doing to see one or more on the windowsill. I have very few photos of Kublai because he was usually riding around on my shoulders or he sat next to me in whatever I was doing, so these good photos are precious. And on this date not only did I have my heart cat there to observe, but in the photo above you’ll see there is another cat to the right of him.
Never far from me then or any time later in all the 20 years she was with me, Cookie, always near. And both still near, in my heart.
Vintage Photo: Snow Cat, 1996
Kublai is giving me instructions on how to be a better snow shoveler.
Even though Kublai wasn’t well that winter, nothing dulled his love for snow, and it was also the first time I discovered how a little supervised sojourn to the back yard could perk up a kitty’s appetite and attitude. He was my first garden cat and visited the yard in summer as well. That winter was snowy and each day I went out to fill the bird feeders before I went to work. I thought I’d actually taken some photos of him plowing his way through deep snow and I may find them eventually, but these two were taken the same day as one of the photos from today’s post. Below he runs through the maze of paths around the yard that go from one feeder to another.
From the Archives: The Semi-psychedelic Catnip Experience, 2003
This is Moses, who you’ve heretofore seen only quietly curled on the floor, trying to take up as little space as possible and happy with what she had. At all other times in her life that was truly Moses, formerly feral, non-vocal, shy, humble, her hobbled hind legs always protectively curled when lying down or soundlessly padding while walking slowly through a room, behind the furniture if she could fit, right next to it if not.
Until we had a catnip party, and not just any catnip, but the fresh stuff. It’s a native wildflower in most of the US, very frequent in my area of southwestern Pennsylvania, and as a mint it’s tough as nails unless a lot of neighborhood kitties visit your yard; sadly I can’t grow it. But it sprouted all around my mother’s yard and each time I visited while she still lived at home I would bring back a fresh branch for each of the kitties who lived with me then. Moses began with the leaves, then enjoyed her twig through the rest of the day, eating another leaf or two now and then and finishing up with the semi-woody stem. During the experience she was known to roll all over the floor, actually showing her belly, even taking a wild swat at one of the other cats, none of whom ever took her seriously, stoned as they were, though she flattened her ears and squinted at them. Needless to say, I was so glad to see her enjoying herself. She was 16 in this photo.
We had a little catnip party here today to finish off our claw-trimming party, and of course in mid-winter it was the dried stuff, not fresh, but these five purr a lot and are really mellow and now they are all fast asleep. I miss those wild catnip party days. See more photos and stories about Moses.
Also, see other Vintage Photos of my household of cats from days gone by, and taken on film with my Pentax K-1000.
Gifts Featuring Cats You Know!
Originals and Prints from Portraits of Animals!
I painted this in 1989, just about three years after I began seriously working my way through learning to draw simply by drawing all the time, after work at night and on the weekend—and of course, I was painting my cats. It is painted in pastel, but when I began I hadn’t even purchased real pastels yet, I was still working largely in colored chalk. 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!