Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Painting a Cat

 With apologies to Stephen Sondheim
("Finishing the Hat" from "Sunday in the Park with George")

Finishing the cat
How you have to finish the cat
How you watch the rest of the world
From a window
While you finish the cat
Mapping out the fur
What you feel like, planning the fur
How you feel when voices that come    
Through the window, go
But you still endure
Until there's nothing but fur.

Let's just say that this is not my happy place. It's one thing to practice painting your own cat -- with varying results.

It's another thing when a very nice woman says "Would you please paint my son's dead cat?" (It was more graciously phrased, but that was the gist of it.) I said, "I'll try." And I've been trying.  Because you can't mess up when it's someone's departed pet. You just can't.

Here's the first try.

And the second.

And the third.

So, I started with the photo and made it the size we were going for. I printed it out and turned it over and marked the back with dark pencil as thoroughly as I could.

Then I turned it back and traced with a pen over the main markings.

Voila! Basic sketch.

I have learned from several that when painting an animal, start with the eyes, because if you mess those up, you may as well start over. There's no going back. Then I did the area around the face.

Trust me, this cat is tough. There's no color to it, apart from the face and a bit of peach. Consequently, white paper and white cat aren't working together right. It looks wrong without pigment on the paper and my white doesn't show.

So, back to it.

This time I left white areas on the paper and made the gray bits much more like the fur shadowing.

And I think the eyes and face are much better. They have more soul than the other attempts.

And the good news is -- she liked it! A lot! And that just put a big old smile on my face because I'm not sure I could have done it better. First commission -- done!

And after having manipulated poor Stephen Sondheim's wonderful song, I thought I'd share the link from the wonderful "Sunday in the Park with George," with Mandy Patinkin as artist Georges Seurat, hard at work on a painting.

Look, I made a cat. Where there was never a cat.

Today's post is shared with Share Your Cup and Pink Saturday. Check out this site for lots of inspiring creative links. 


Joanne Huffman said...

And, you made a wonderful cat!

Deb said...

Bravo! It's wonderful. I'm sure she was very pleased. You may have opened the flood-gate to all your cat-lovin' friends.

Net - "It's a Wonderful Movie" said...

It turned out absolutely beautifully! What a creative gift you have! The eyes, the fur, all the detail, including that little peach fur was precisely preciously perfect! I recently lost my own dear kitty cat, so I can understand what a treasure this must be for them.

Bless you - for blessing others!!! Net

Lisa from Lisa's Yarns said...

You did a great job! I imagine it's extra tough to work on something when it is at the request of another person - and extra hard when you are working on the likeness of a beloved pet. You did a wonderful job, though! I'm not surprised that the requester was very happy with the results. Those eyes - so beautiful!

Jenny Woolf said...

I can't believe that is your first commission, it's great. I am not surprised she liked it! Well done Jeanie!

Valerie-Jael said...

Wonderful painting, the eyes really drew me in. Glad your friend liked it! Love the alteration of the verse, too. Have good day, hugs, Valerie

Linda @ A La Carte said...

Well done! I have a watercolor of Charlie that a blog friend sent me and I cherish it! You are my inspiration to getting my brush wet and trying to learn to watercolor! Love seeing how you work. I know it isn't easy but you really do great work! Hugs! I'm ordering a pan of Prima watercolors, the classics to start with upon your recommendation. Amazon has a good price for it.

Sandra Cox said...

What a beautiful memento. She will treasurer it always.
You know my white cat icon... I asked my daughter to paint my cat after he passed and she did. It meant so much to me.

~Lavender Dreamer~ said...

Wow! you are very talented and you really made the cat's eyes able to see! How do you do that? I'm not an artist so you can say Magic....if you want to! Time for a snack. Did you find your bananas? heeheehee! Hugs!

Tina Fariss Barbour said...

You captured her eyes perfectly! I can imagine the pressure you felt to get it "just right." After Chase Bird died, a friend ordered a candle holder from a mutual Facebook friend who paints glass. She did a wonderful job with Chase Bird. And I think the eyes are what did it. She captured his eyes.

La Table De Nana said...

I love it Jeanie..and the background you chose highlights the kitty beautifully.:)

Anonymous said...

I loved seeing the transitions. I can see why she's happy with it. You're right about the eyes. Beautiful!

My name is Erika. said...

Oh the pressure! You just can't fail on this one is so true. But how smart to trace, and I will say, I think you got it. :) That cat has gorgeous blue eyes. Wow. I have never seen that before. Hugs-Erika

Bleubeard and Elizabeth said...

This is remarkable, Jeanie. I would have given up after the third try, even though you had been commissioned to paint it. You ended up creating a fantastic likeness, and I especially like the close-up of the face. I can see why she liked it so much. It's a wonderful memento.

Angelsdoor * Penny said...

BRAVO, Jeanie! You have done a beautiful job.. I love your persistence.
I always start with the eyes. If I have learned nothing else over the years, for me anyway, painting peoples beloved pets are the most challenging. Congratulations on your 1st commission!

Daniela said...

My Dearest,
you've caught his deep glance so perfectly, he seems still alive, you've truly done a wonderful work !

Wishing you a joyous day, today,
and wonderful days to come,
with much thankfulness also for your so lovely thought for my Birthday !

XX Dany

coffeeontheporchwithme said...

Yes, I agree. You captured the eyes in the final one! I suspect it was more difficult with all the various shades of white that were going on. -Jenn

Roz . Russell said...

Oh my, how clever you are to be able to re-create such a beautiful thing, I really do envy you your wonderful talent, I wish I had paid more notice in art when at school but I was a bit of a tomboy so it didnt fit my image at the time x

The French Hutch said...

Jeanie, what stress to paint someone's beloved pet! What a wonderful cat, you sure did a beautiful job. Love the background and those eyes, wow. And, the the background lets the beautiful cat shine. I'm sure everyone was pleased. Bravo Jeanie on your first commission ..

Julia - Vintage with Laces said...

That wasn't an easy task and you did very well, Jeanie! Your cat picture turned out great and it's wonderful that the cat owner's Mom loves it. I'm sure she'll treasure it.
xo Julia

Victoria Zigler said...


I'm glad you were eventually able to do it well enough that you and the person it was for were pleased.

Mary Rose's said...

Truly a superb cat!
You really got the eyes, and the beautiful.
Challenge completed!
There's no end, no limits to your talent, woman!

Anonymous said...

What a beautiful painting! You did an awesome job!!

Jean | said...

Jeanie, you captured him! I knew the painting "secret" about the eyes, and that was where I was focusing, and you did it! Wonderful! So glad you shared the process as well as the finished product with us.

Jemma@athomewithjemma said...

This was an intense project and you did fabulous! What a beauty and with just the right amount of detail too!

Shelia said...

Oh, Jeanie, the commission of the cat turned out beautifully! How smart to get the basic features with the transfer! You're so smart and so talented! I would have known she would love it. Thanks for popping in to see my teeny little kitchen.
Be a sweetie,
Shelia ;)

carol@The Red Painted Cottage said...

Jeanie, Your watercolors of your cat are really great. I'm really going to try painting more this year and I'm been wanting to do a painting of our dog, Molly. You've inspired me! I really love your blog and signed up to follow you. If you go to my Blogger profile, The Red Painted Cottage is listed down on the list, but I can't seem to get it up by my name. I had Blogger once, but now I'm with WordPress. Hope to see more of what you're up to.

Castles Crowns and Cottages said...

There is nothing like revision and editing. Nothing. It's the only way to find what you're looking for. I'm learning that with my photography and have learned that through poetry writing. But after many attempts, the shape starts to come, and all the work is worth it. BRAVE YOU! Cats are NOT easy to draw, and you are getting there, Jeanie!!!

Tracy said...

WOW... you did a WONDERFUL job, Jeanie! And your FIRST commission--and not last, for sure! I think you rendered the cat beautifully--so well done. And fun to see how you went about this. Goodness, but those blue eyes are some of those amazing! And so are YOU!! :))) ((HUGS))

Katie Clooney said...

Oooooh Jeanie!! How gorgeous. You really captured the beautiful kitty's expression in her beautiful blue eyes. You are soooo talented! Have a wonderful weekend!

Jody Gabara said...

Jeanie, Your painting is just awesome! I love how you shared all the processes of the drawing and painting! You are a true artist!
♥Hugs, Jody

Eilis said...

You sure tried, tried again, and succeeded. Love the eyes in your final portrait. I'm sure the lady who requested it, was delighted with your work.
Have a wonderful weekend.

Laura said...

I think you did great, it is hard to do someone .
Happy valentines

Red Rose Alley said...

Jeanie, your painting is fantastic! You did a great job on it! The final painting turned out really nice, and it looks so real. Love the deep blue eyes. You really are quite talented, Jeanie.

Thank you for your comment today. You have a beautiful heart, and I wish many blessings come your way, my friend.


The Artful Diva said...

Those eyes, those eyes, they mesmerize!

shoreacres said...

I'm so not an artist that it took me forever -- well, about six reads -- to understand what you were doing with the photo and the pencil and the tracing. When I finally got it through my head, it was, "Oh! Look at that clever woman!"

The portrait is wonderful. And you're right about the eyes. Fur is just an adornment, but the eyes communicate the spirit, and they do have to be right. You certainly got them right with this piece!

I need orange said...

Nice work, Jeanie! I like the way you broke it down into different areas of thinking, and the way you persisted....

I think you got better and better with each one, and if I'd painted your pictures, I'd have been a very happy painter! That last one -- the eyes, the whiskers.... So nice!

It's so inspiring to read about your process, and to see the results. Thank you for sharing all of this with us.

Jann Olson said...

Well, I think you nailed it! And yes, I think it would be very difficult. Sure makes sense about the eyes, but I love them. When I looked into them I felt like I was looking into the pretty cats soul! Thanks for sharing with SYC.

Paulita said...

Jeannie, I'm impressed at your determination and the end product is beautiful. I had no idea that you were an artist.

Carola Bartz said...

Your watercolor turned out beautifully! I really like it - yes, the eyes are soulfull. When I paint, not matter whether it's animals or people, I also always start out with the eyes. They take the most time and concentration. If you mess up somewhere else there usually is a way to fix it, but with the eyes - no. Beautiful cat.

Marilyn Miller said...

Your cat is amazing! Good job! I am trying to read When Wanderers Cease to Roam and being inspired to pick up my water colors. Yikes! I am so out of practice. I want to do an illustration for my blog, but I am struggling. One of these days!

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