The Tortie Girls

July Featured Artwork and Desktop Calendar: “Tortie Girls”

The Tortie Girls

The Tortie Girls

It’s summer and it’s time for Tortie Girls! The gold and orange and yellow of tortoiseshell cats may seem more of an autumn theme, but for me those bright colors always meant summer and sunshine so they are a purr-fect choice for a summer desktop calendar.

“The Goddess”
Well, everyone knows a fat cat who knows she’s beautiful, and Cookie would tell you that a woman with a round shape was once most desirable and an object of worship. That’s why I call her “The Goddess”.

From the time I first described this idea to someone, who chuckled at the idea of the image, I knew Cookie was a winner. And through the years she has continued to bring people and stories to my display no matter where I am—everyone knows a cat who looks like Cookie!

“The Roundest Eyes”
Sometimes when I look at Kelly the only feature I can distinguish in all those tortie markings is her extremely round eyes.

And then others tell me tales of their slender round-eyed torties!

How the designs came to be

As you know, I am unendingly inspired by my houseful of felines, especially my Tortie Girls. I initially designed these in 2001 because I wanted something I could print myself on a variety of things to offer inexpensively for sale and for donation; at the time high quality home printers and inexpensive digital printing were a few years in the future and all I had to offer was original art and expensive giclees.

Unlike many of the other prints I sell, I print these by hand from a hand-cut linoleum block, then each print is hand-painted in watercolor, and with the slight variations in the printing process and the individualized coloration each print is just as unique as torties themselves.

What enchanted me first about block prints years ago, and what I wanted most to see when I began creating with them, was the clarity of black ink on white rice paper. While I often use other colors of ink and types of paper, and when the image is my tortie girls, usually also tinted with oranges and yellows and green for their eyes, pink for nose as I had designed, the black on white is what I usually return to.

When I initially print these two they are that familiar black ink on white, and I watch the ink reveal all the cuts and trims I made on the surface of the block to create their image, it makes me smile as I remember designing the prints and cutting the blocks, and I remember my girls and the inspiration they gave me.

The Goddess

“The Goddess” came along first and I actually have photos of the process, but I knew right away she’d have to have a companion print.

I looked at Cookie on the kitchen floor, on her back with her toes curled, a defiant look on her face, and it happened—that moment of visualization. I could see a linoleum block print in black ink on white rice paper, hand-tinted with oranges and yellows for the patches in Cookie’s tortoiseshell fur and green for her eyes and pink for her nose. I would call the print “The Goddess” for the many women depicted with generous figures in sculpture and painting through the millennia.

Compare the photo and the print:

Cookie on her back.

Reference photo for “The Goddess”

"The Goddess," hand-tinted linoleum block print.

“The Goddess,” hand-tinted linoleum block print.

From the time I first described the idea to someone, who chuckled at the idea of the image, I knew Cookie was a winner. And through the years she has continued to bring people and stories to my display no matter where I am—everyone knows a cat who looks like Cookie!

Cookie inspired not only a design, but a particular style and technique and a new element to my creative life and my merchandise. With an inspiration that strong, I probably would have done it anyway, but I had other reasons as well. In the late 1990s having my sketches and paintings reproduced was still expensive and not always successful and I wanted artwork that I could reproduce easily and inexpensively myself so that I could have something more affordable than original artwork to sell in my displays.

linoleum block

Linoleum block for The Goddess, of course it’s in reverse.

I’d worked with small linoleum block prints for years and always enjoyed the medium, but this time I decided I wanted something larger and I might actually create a series—which led to “The Roundest Eyes” depicting my other tortie, Kelly, a few months later. Between the two, Cookie gets more notice and stories, but Kelly sells more t-shirts and prints…we just never let Cookie know that.

Capturing all Cookie’s freckles and spots and stripes was indeed a challenge, especially when I went to actually cut them out of the surface of the linoleum block.

Cookie’s face in closeup from the photo:

Cookie's face.

Cookie’s face.

Cookie’s face in the block:

detail of linoleum block.
Closeup of Cookie’s face in linoleum block; the light areas are the smooth surface that holds the ink.

And here is Cookie’s face, printed and colored!

block print of cat
Closeup of Cookie’s face from “The Goddess”.

The Roundest Eyes

"The Roundest Eyes," hand-tinted linoleum block print.

“The Roundest Eyes,” hand-tinted linoleum block print.

In designing the set, I didn’t have a signature photo of Kelly as I did Cookie lying on the floor, but I did know how I thought of Kelly—sitting at attention, paws and tail neatly placed, a little uncertain and with very round eyes. When I pictured her, this was what I saw.

I began with a few photos of Kelly sitting in this position—in the days before digitals so I had to wait for film to be developed—sketched it out, then filled in the details by observation. It was a real trick since Kelly never sits still for too long. And I actually wanted two different orientations so Cookie was the horizontal image and Kelly the vertical one.

The design of “The Roundest Eyes” doesn’t have a long and detailed story as does “The Goddess”, but between the two, while Cookie gets more notice and stories which I’ve collected over the years, Kelly sells more t-shirts and prints…we just never let Cookie know that. Last year a young couple just getting engaged purchased one of each shirt to wear in their engagement photos too!

A little bit about block printing

I really enjoy working in this medium and I can free myself from the traditional media and a greater realism in rendering. Linoleum block printing is a technique wherein the artist carves the surface of a piece of artist’s linoleum, leaving raised areas which will become the image. Ink is rolled onto these raised areas, then a piece of paper is pressed against the block and when it’s lifted away the ink remains, leaving the image on the paper.

Despite the fact I’ve been trying to video a little block print demonstration, all I have are a few photos taken as I was printing the “Tabbies” cards for Valentine’s Day. Here’s a brief slideshow:

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The resulting work isn’t a one-time thing, but meant to be printed multiple times–and I do, on just about anything I can think of. They all start out on paper, but they’ve been printed on t-shirts and dresses and aprons and curtains, to name a few things. I nearly always add color to The Tortie Girls with watercolor or dyes since that was part of the original design, and I’ll often add color to other designs to give them extra interest.

Because of the nature of the medium, each print is unique and ink coverage is not always perfect. Most artists consider this random activity to be part of the process of creating an individualized print, and along with the hand-painting makes a unique work of art.

The Tortie Girls Set

matted framed block prints.
The Tortie Girls set.

Each image is 9″ x 12″, with mat and frame outside dimensions are 16″ x 20″, but I also offer other frame sizes and the Tortie Girls designs on many other things.

Where to find the prints, tees, tote bags and more

Tortie Girls tableset, The Roundest Eyes tablecloth and place mats.

Tortie Girls tableset, The Roundest Eyes tablecloth and place mats.

You can read more about my girls printed on everything from tees to garden flags this post, or visit my Tortie Girls Linoleum Block Prints page on Portraits of Animals.

Current New Member Print

You might notice that my new website, Portraits of Animals, has gifts for those who sign up for an account. Right now Current New Member Gifts are all prints from all of my galleries.

As part of this program, the monthly featured artwork and desktop calendar is usually one of the choices, but the Tortie Girls prints are a little larger and more expensive than the usual new member gift, and I can’t print them smaller as I can other artwork. That means the current artwork, “Leaves and Shadows New Member Gift”, will still be available as one of the monthly prints through July 31—on August 1, that will be replaced with the August featured artwork—but I’m offering a 25% discount on all Tortie Girls things through July 31 with discount code TORTIEGIRLS25. Visit my Tortie Girls Linoleum Block Prints page on Portraits of Animals.

This month’s desktop calendar

I finally figured out how to use these images as desktop calendars. The calendars need to fit both horizontal and vertical orientation, and normally I’d use the same art for all of them, somehow modified. In this case I decided to use The Goddess for the two larger horizontal layouts, and The Roundest Eyes for the smaller vertical layouts. 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

  1. Click on one of the images below that matches the dimensions of your monitor to open the image in a new page.
  2. 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.
  3. 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

"The Goddess" desktop calendar 2560 x 1440 for HD and wide screens.

“The Goddess” desktop calendar 2560 x 1440 for HD and wide screens.

. . .

Square monitors and screens

“The Goddess” desktop calendar, 1280 x 1024 for square and laptop monitors.

“The Goddess” desktop calendar, 1280 x 1024 for square and laptop monitors.

. . .

Small Mobile Devices and Tablets

Click here to subscribe to The Creative Cat on your Kindle.

"The Roundest Eyes" desktop calendar, 600 x 800 for iPad, Kindle and other readers.

“The Roundest Eyes” desktop calendar, 600 x 800 for iPad, Kindle and other readers.

. . .

Cell Phones and Smartphones

"The Roundest Eyes" desktop calendar, for 400 x 712 for mobile phones.

“The Roundest Eyes” desktop calendar, for 400 x 712 for mobile phones.

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.

Click here to see daily sketches, click here to see daily photographs

click here to see other artwork featured on The Creative Cat

or visit Fine Art and Portraiture on my main website.


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© 2016 | | Published by Bernadette E. Kazmarski

All images used on this site are copyrighted to Bernadette E. Kazmarski unless otherwise noted and may not be used without my written permission. Please ask if you are interested in using one in a print or internet publication. If you are interested in purchasing a print of this image or a product including this image, check to see if I have it available already. If you don’t find it there, visit “purchasing” for availability and terms.

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