A wistful Kublai waits at the sunny back door in the morning, then again in the evening, just like Mimi, and Cookie, and Namir, and Moses, and…. It must have been a weekend because at this time of the year in 1994 I was on sabbatical from my day job, working a second shift job and starting up my art and design business during the day, so I came home about 10:00 at night. All the more reason for Kublai to sigh at the back door.
Kublai was my first backyard cat. He would have waited at that door for us to go outside no matter the weather. Last week’s vintage photo shows him running through the snow. On this weekend day, I may have spent the day out in the garden on a Saturday and he would have been with me, and possibly Allegro and Stanley may have taken a turn on leashes outside as well, and even Sally and Cookie if the weather was nice enough too. Moses wasn’t a daily sunbather yet, not until about 1997. If it was a Sunday, I probably would have gone out hiking locally or even biking on the trail if it was warm enough.
I remember those times with Kublai out in our yard. I had to keep an eye on him and put him back inside for periods or use a leash because he would take off after a while when I started working in the garden, but he hung out with me when I was photographing or wandering around doing this and that.
But as the evening outside deepens, there’s not much chance of that.
These photos are on the same roll as Dinnertime for Nine and What? This clearly looks like later in March, however, where those are earlier on the roll and I saw snow in another photo. It’s hard to tell with these older photos, but fun to guess. I also like to see how neat the tile on my floor looks at the door when I had just finished it a couple years before…
Vintage photos from other years
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.
This evening I handed over a finished portrait of another person’s house panther, in memory, sitting on another windowsill, and I’ve been thinking about these photos since I began that portrait. I’ll feature Chief Smithers next week.
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”.
Fawn in the Studio, March 1996
In the same package as the photos of Sun-Ra were a series of photos of Fawn rolling around on the rocker next to the work table in my studio. My little torbie was quite the talkative one, always full of stories. When she wasn’t rolling around on something as she was here, she was wrapping her slight and slender self around something and her extra long tail straight up in the air, dark tabby-striped but for the last two inches which were clearly ginger and bent at an angle like a little flag, quivering, like a rattlesnake tail. She was my yittle girl.
I didn’t name her Fawn because she resembled or was marked like a baby white-tailed deer. Rather, I was listening to the Iran-Contra hearings when she and her siblings were tiny kittens. I’ll let you look up the subject but one of the persons involved in the political misdeeds was the secretary to Col. Oliver North named Fawn Hall who apparently shredded so many papers regarding the issue that the shredder jammed, which became a subject for discussion in the hearings. When I fostered kittens at that time I used shredded paper in the litter box as the safest thing for them to use, and the little torbie spent a lot of her days shredding it even more and telling me all about it, so I named her Fawn Hall.
My memories of that early studio setup in this house are dear. I was building my career as an artist from the ground up, and could hardly believe it was happening. At the same time I was rescuing and fostering cats in that room, and learning so much about their care and personality with each new rescue. All my cats were a part of that exciting time, the regulars and the rescues.
Each room in my house had a rocker, and most still do. I bought them at yard sales and even pulled them from trash piles, as I did this one, its dark red, navy and green-striped seat setting the colors for my studio at the time. I sat in that rocker watching plenty of rescues cautiously creep over to study my toes, watched some kittens being born, and I sat there with very ill cats on my lap, sometimes all through the night.
This photo was special for Fawn’s behavior because I’d finally gotten a photo of her talking. It was also the one I carried back and forth with me in the story “The Balloon” both before and after she died because it was the best photo of the Fawn I wanted to remember. It’s still in a frame on my sewing machine in my bedroom.
It’s apparent a good bit was happening in my studio at that time, and 20 years later it’s good to take time to collect the memories.
. . . . . . .
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!
This is the guy who started it all–and nearly the last one to have his portrait done! He fostered every stray kitten and cat I ever brought into my home, and shepherded me through the ups and downs of the fifteen years he was with me. 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!
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