I still enjoyed using black and white film about 18 months after I’d bought my camera, especially with two black cats, one white cat, and one gray and white cat between my roommate and I. I was working at a scientific products company named Fisher Scientific as a typesetter and they’d handed out balloons for some promotions, and what better to do than bring it home on the bus to your cats?
I had taken in Sally the previous May and she was still pretty hyperactive/overactive/reactive after being adopted at six weeks, and being deaf and living completely alone for the next year. She was famous for bouncing off the walls with energy and constantly wanting to interact with the other cats with really physical play, and in this little apartment she was overwhelming even to the humans. But by this time Kublai had helped her kind of focus her energy on playing with things in his unique way of managing the first of many fosters-turned-forever-cats to come along. He would literally grab her and wrestle for a few seconds, then sit on her while she struggled, let her go after some interval only he understood and she’d run off to get away. She would come back just a little chastened and Kublai would play with toys and even swat some toys toward her. In the process she learned how to play with things and occasionally wrestle. She and Kublai remained best friends all their lives.
I also began learning about photographing black cats in this era, especially when I had a black cat and a white cat in the same photo! Poor Kublai, you can hardly see him, even when I did spot adjustments. I wasn’t good enough with manual controls yet, but this was when I really started to focus on learning how to make photos like these better.
In the background you’ll see my drafting table and an electric typewriter and the shelf from the desk. Those were the days, back in the beginnings for all of us!
Vintage photos from other years
Little Fawn, Just Before, 1988
I lost my “yittle Fawn” 20 years ago this past week, and I’m remembering her with this special moment in time, the little impromptu photo shoot of a cute kitten playing with my rug that led to my first finished pastel painting, ever, when she playfully ran under the bed and looked out at me. Thank you, Fawn.
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 and the circular pattern it made, 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. I remember looking at the photo and wondering why I’d taken a photo of my bed post. Then I saw the little face and knew, somehow, I’d have to paint this. I had no skills for something like this, but that didn’t stop me from planning and giving it a try because I wanted to share that moment with everyone.
And that included not only Fawn, but also the wrinkled rug, the bedspread and dust ruffle and nicked bed post. I loved the detailed photorealistic paintings I’d seen of cats, but I also wanted to share the incredible variety of colors I saw in the white dust ruffle, and shapes I saw in the bedspread. This was my cat and my room, and I’m sure many people could relate to that. And over the years they have. It’s interesting to see the divide among those who live with cats and those who don’t: people who don’t live with cats don’t see the cat, only the fixtures, while people with cats see only the cat, no wrinkles, no nicks.
This image hit me at the perfect moment in my creative life, and my success in painting what I visualized moved my career as nothing else could have. I really did it. I really did the painting. I would never have spent that much time painting something without a cat in it. But I spent easily six months on this painting, because of Fawn.
I still sleep in that bed. The cedar chest in the background is at the foot of my bed today. 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 still, all the items in the painting bring back memories.
The poster bed was in my bedroom in the house I rented before I moved here. Fawn continued leaping 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.
Rather than starting to paste article content here and making this post entirely too long, I have links to the articles I’d like you to read.
Read about the painting “Waiting for Mom”, how I painted it, and what it meant for my career in “The Portrait That Started It All”.
Read about how Fawn came to me in “My First Litter”.
Read about Fawn’s illness, and the miracle happening after I’d lost her in “The Balloon”.
Gifts Featuring Cats You Know!
Originals and Prints from Portraits of Animals!
“Awakening” is alinoleum block print inspired by my close companions Kublai and Sally who ran the household together for about 12 years and who actually slept curled like this. 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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And sometimes, I just throw my hands in the air and have fun!