A Portrait of an Old Cat: Afternoon Nap
An old cat, a gentleman,
he has found a quiet spot, upstairs in the afternoon,
and has so perfectly placed himself a little off-center
on the expanse of white bedspread,
illuminated by stark winter light through the window.
(Stanley finds all the best places.)
Doesn’t every cat deserve to life in his forever home to a ripe old age, and take long afternoon winter naps on a nice soft bed? Stanley came to me as an adult in 1986, simply arriving in my yard and on my porch, surprised that I didn’t just open the door for him. When I couldn’t find an owner and finally did just let him in I found this handsome and joyously friendly and affectionate cat had a serious urinary tract issue, blocking easily and frequently and just as frequently missing the litterbox. He also went on the defensive for no apparent reason, more than once attacking my other cats and biting me, though over the years we pieced together the pain and discomfort from his FLUTD and likely physical abuse for his related activities. and that probably that was why he ended up out on the street looking for a home. Stanley really deserved to live to a ripe old age in a safe and loving home after that, and he really did, living to about 25 years old if he was between three and five when he came to me. Stanley appears in plenty of other images, such as “After Dinner Nap” and “Stanley With Geraniums”, but this quick little sketch captures a moment that still makes me a little misty.
One of the things that’s always on my grown-up Christmas list is that all homeless animals will find homes for the holidays, and live there forever, and there will be no more homeless pets. I let Stanley in the door on December 2, 1986, and his wish came true. He’s one of the reasons why I rescue. Let’s help that happen for as many other animals as we can this holiday season.
Painting, or sketch?
You know those moments where you walk upon a scene of your cats doing something that you always want to remember, whether it’s a regular habit or a one-time thing? This scene was one of Stanley’s regular habits during his last few years; every afternoon he’d head upstairs with intent and I’d find him curled in the same spot on the bed.
All of my art begins with a moment, be the subject my cats or nature or even a more abstract visual theme. It’s where I go from that moment of inspiration that differs from one work to the next. Sometimes I’ll decide on a more formal portrait, more detailed, more planned, to capture a moment. I’ll take photos and write a few notes and keep it in my files for the day when I have time to follow up, and often this is determined by how often and how clearly my original image appears in my conscious mind—sometimes a painting really wants to be done and I find myself visualizing it all the time, other times it leaves and comes back at a moment that is meaningful. But sometimes I’ll do a quick sketch and leave it at that. The image is simple, it works best small, I only want to capture the mood, and there isn’t enough essential detail to warrant a larger, more detailed piece.
But sometimes I’ll do a quick sketch and leave it at that. The image is simple, it works best small, I only want to capture the mood, and there isn’t enough essential detail to warrant a larger, more detailed piece.
With “Afternoon Nap” I decided I wanted that moment. I’d already taken a few photos of him just to preserve the moment and was considering this sort of a scene as a more formal portrait. At his age he slept pretty soundly but I still tiptoed out of the room and ran down the stairs for my stuff. I grabbed my small box of pastels and a piece of my “experimental” drawing paper, choosing a heavy drawing paper to which I’d applied marble dust mixed with gesso and just a little bit of fine fine grit pastel medium, applying it with a brush to have just a bit of texture. I got to work, standing at the foot of the bed to quickly capture the essence of the scene I visualized in that instant: all the shades of shadow and highlight in the white bedspread, the fold under the pillows and the curve of the mahogany headboard just giving enough detail to know it was a bed, and the pastel winter light full of sun and just a bit of green reflected from the ivy on the tree outside the window. Instead of drawing with the ends of the pastels I dragged them over the surface in layers to get the depth of color and shadows, Stanley himself just in simple tonal colors, the only solid detail in his white paw.
On this day I went upstairs for something and saw Stanley on the bed. As usual I had my little digital camera with me, the old original 2MP that captured surprisingly good photos. I took the photo below, but in standing there and studying the image I decided I wanted the light, the delicate colors, just a hint of the objects and the sketch began to materialize. I hurried to get my art stuff for the sketch I was visualizing.
At his age he slept pretty soundly but I still tiptoed out of the room and ran down the stairs for my stuff. I grabbed my small box of pastels and a piece of my “experimental” drawing paper, choosing a heavy drawing paper to which I’d applied marble dust mixed with gesso and just a little bit of fine fine grit pastel medium, applying it with a brush to have just a bit of texture. I got to work, standing at the foot of the bed to quickly capture the essence of the scene I visualized in that instant: all the shades of shadow and highlight in the white bedspread, the fold under the pillows and the curve of the mahogany headboard just giving enough detail to know it was a bed, and the pastel winter light full of sun and just a bit of green reflected from the ivy on the tree outside the window. Instead of drawing with the ends of the pastels I dragged them over the surface in layers to get the depth of color and shadows, Stanley himself just in simple tonal colors, the only solid detail in his white paw.
It was all over in about ten minutes, and though I’d taken the reference photo I never made any changes from that initial inspired session. In its frame, I have allowed the edges to show, mounting it on deep burgundy mat board. I still have this painting, treasure it for its memory of Stanley as he watches over my office, and use it as inspiration for other similar sketches.
You’re probably familiar with “After Dinner Nap”, another memorable and inspirational moment. This image could have gone either way, painting or sketch, but in this case I was intent on capturing all the subtle details in his face, and all that wonderful direct and reflected light.
I decided to try something new when I framed this piece, and instead of covering the edges with a mat I cut the mat to fit around it and mounted it on a piece of mat board. I like it still today. See below.
Where to find this artwork
“Afternoon Nap” is one in a set I call “Winter Cats”, four loose sketches of cats capturing a simple moment of peace in that wonderful winter light.
- The original is still available as well as prints on Portraits of Animals.
- In my “Winter Cats” holiday cards set.
- In my set of twelve “Feline Greetings Art Cards”
- Individual cards are available on Portraits of Animals as singles or in quantity.
And a New Member Thank You
You can get get a free matted print when you register for an account on Portraits of Animals.
Register for an account on Portraits of Animals and get a free matted print of this sketch or choose from several other sketches, paintings or photos of cats and other subjects.
I offer it as an 8″ x 11″ matted to fit an 11″ x 14″ frame.
This print is only available as a new member gift during this month while it’s the featured artwork and desktop calendar, so make sure you sign up before the end of the month!
This month’s desktop calendar
If these sizes don’t work for your device, or if you have problems, please let me know. Often I can troubleshoot the reason an image won’t download or won’t load on your device, but if I just can’t figure it out I can just email it to you and hope that works.
How to download and use your desktop calendar
- Click on one of the images below that matches the dimensions of your monitor to open the image in a new page.
- For desktop computers and laptops, right-click on that image and on a desktop computer choose “save as desktop wallpaper” or “save as background” or whichever option your operating system gives you to be able to do this. You may also simply save it to your hard drive and set it as your background from there.
- For mobile devices, download the image to your gallery then choose it as your wallpaper—this is slightly different on all devices.
Horizontal and HD monitors and screens
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Small Mobile Devices and Tablets
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Take a look at other featured artwork and desktop calendar posts.
Each month I feature a piece of feline artwork from the archives to the present day, discuss its history and process, and set it up as a free downloadable desktop calendar for just about every electronic device available.
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