Igor, Matthew, Zoe, Biscotti, Angel, Noah and Toast, 18 x 24, pencil, 2005 © Bernadette E. Kazmarski

Commissioned Pet Portrait: Family of Seven, in Pencil

Igor, Matthew, Zoe, Biscotti, Angel, Noah and Toast, 18 x 24, pencil, 2005 © Bernadette E. Kazmarski

Igor, Matthew, Zoe, Biscotti, Angel, Noah and Toast, 18 x 24, pencil, 2005 © Bernadette E. Kazmarski

A portrait of seven cats all in the same image, in a composition that makes sense for all of them and shows all their individual best remembered features, is a challenge, but a fun one. The request from the beginning was that they be in pencil because several of the cats were gray tabbies and only the two torbies had any color. The couple who lived with them wanted something different and they liked artwork in pencil, and I was referred to them by a friend and I’m known for my work in pencil, so we were all in the same room, literally and figuratively, from the beginning with seven in pencil. Visualizing each of them from life, and from the specific photos their people gave me, were clear in detail.

Igor and Matthew, detail.

Igor and Matthew, detail.

But how to fit them all together so that we could see Igor’s crossed paws, and the size difference between him and Matthew, and Matthew’s tail curled up to point at the ceiling? And Zoe’s spots and her toes, and her tiny glasses (which she didn’t actually wear, but should have according to her people)? Plump little angel at her plumpest, and the dark spot in her right eye? And Noah looking a little nervous with his front claws curled into whatever was beneath his paws? And sisters Toast and Biscotti, with Toast’s calm demeanor next to Noah and Biscotti’s devilish eye looking for trouble?

Zoe, detail.

Zoe, detail.

Igor and Matthew, Zoe and Biscotti, Angel, Toast and Noah (in the portrait from bottom front to top) were a “current” family who all lived together so I did get to see them interact, and in different areas of the house. The human’s style was very neat and nicely furnished but different in each room, varied original art on the walls, a sense of the unique and a contrast of styles and colors. The cats were permitted anywhere they wanted to go. Each one had been adopted from shelters, and each one was beloved by the couple. I felt free to imagine.

Biscotti, detail.

Biscotti, detail.

The first few portraits I’d done with four or more cats had them all lined up on one level, like my very first portrait, but I’d since worked out a few where the subjects were on different levels and grouped rather than lined up. Watching the cats around the house I looked for places they liked to be, looking for interesting furniture as well, thinking I could bring in a variety of items as well to accommodate the cats. There was a day bed, a few hassocks and stepstools, and the chaise, actually a chair with a footstool, that’s in the portrait. I designed three layouts, but the one that worked best is the one in the portrait because I could work it into three levels instead of only two since Zoe and Biscotti could be far enough behind the boys that their faces are on different levels.

Angle, detail.

Angle, detail.

Each of the cats was created from two or more photos for position, face, paws, tails and so on. Then each was placed in the layout and settled into place. I chose to use cream colored cotton illustration board for the portrait because it add just a little dimension to a pencil drawing. I did also add a little bit of shadow below the chair and around each of the cats, but it muddied when I worked with the images and looked like smears so I deleted it entirely.

Noah and Toast, detail.

Noah and Toast, detail.

Pencil is difficult to photograph because without studio lighting there is varied light and shadow across the solid background. This portrait was 18 x 24 and even outdoors I couldn’t get it evenly lit so in the main image I deleted everything from the background and toned it as the illustration board. In the end the clearest photos were from my little 2MP digital camera, though the resolution isn’t very high so I can’t share details of faces, but the individual and couple images are still nice, though not entirely accurate for lighting.


Take a look at other portraits and read other stories

Read articles on The Creative Cat featuring current and past commissioned portraits.

Read about how I create commissioned portraits.

Commissioned Cat Portraits

portrait of black cat on wicker chair

Samantha, pastel, 1994 © B.E. Kazmarski

Commissioned Dog Portraits

portrait of two dogs

Sophie and Ellie, pastel, 2009 © B.E. Kazmarski

Portraits of
My Cats

pastel painting of cat on table

After Dinner Nap, pastel, 1996 © B.E. Kazmarski

Visit my website to see portraits of my cats, commissioned cats, commissioned dogs, people and a demonstration of how I put a portrait together from photos.


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  • “Certificate A” is for a minimum-size 8 x 10 black and white or monochromatic portrait with one subject.
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CERTIFICATE A $50.00

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