Each time I send out a single or a set of sympathy cards I remember the cat pictured on the front, so glad to have shared my life with them for a while.
I have the observation that every time I’ve lost a cat, I’ve gained something in my life. I’ve made decisions about my career, began working in a new medium and found new friends, all around the time of a loss. And I’ve created new art. Perhaps the trauma of the loss caused me to see things from a new perspective, or to break an old habit and begin reorganizing my life, or just gave me a new perspective on myself so my same old life felt new again. I really think it was a gift from them so I might be distracted from my grief.
It began with love
A few years out of college, at night after work, I chose to pick up a pencil and paper and put them together because I felt the need to start expressing myself in images.
Images of my cats kept appearing in my thoughts as pencil drawings and paintings and I decided to draw what I was envisioning. And while they may have looked like common garden variety cats to everyone else, I thought they were the most beautiful beings to ever walk the earth. I worked faithfully on learning my technique and sharpening my inner vision as I spent years painting my cats. Learning each new medium, technique or style has been based on a vision of one of my household residents before I moved off to another subject, flowers or landscapes, usually. With their guidance, I’ve mastered pencil, ink, chalk pastel, oil pastel, watercolor, acrylic, oil, collage, mixed media and photography.
It continued with loss
I realized with my first loss after beginning to sketch and paint the power of a portrait, and while they had started out as expressions of love, they became also expressions of remembrance, and as I lost that original family of muses that this was the greatest gift of all, giving them a sort of immortality.
Now Stanley watches over my studio in “After Dinner Nap,” Kublai forever rolls on the floor like a goof in “Are You Looking at Me?“, Fawn peeks out from under the dust ruffle waiting for me to walk by in “Waiting for Mom,” and there is also Moses and Sally and Sophie and Namir whose portraits I can smile and look at.
The animal sympathy cards
But there was one other project that had been waiting in the wings all these years, and with the loss of Namir I felt as if I had finally, somehow, come full circle and arrived at the point where I could put my grief in images and design the animal sympathy cards I had always planned to do, but kept putting off until the time was right. I think I wanted to make sure that I had enough experience and perspective so I wouldn’t design something I’d turn my back on later, thinking it was incomplete or immature. You can read more about the design of my set of sympathy cards in Perhaps the Storm is Finally Over.
Of all cats, Namir himself doesn’t appear here except for his pawprints in “I Will Always Walk With You”, based on an actual photo I took of our wet prints on my stone path not long before he died. But two years prior to his loss, in 2006 and 2007, I lost five cats in 18 months, four of my old friends, and Lucy who I lost at 15 months to FIP, months after Stanley, at age 25. I received so many cards, and so many apologies that they weren’t animals-specific, and didn’t really convey the givers’ feelings. I remembered that when I lost Namir and entered into these designs.
The cards are feline-centric because those are the images and ideas I began to work with, but there are several for non-feline losses including a dog I came to adore while working with her person and two that are not specific for species at all.
Each of the cats depicted here was or is one of mine and the dog is Tika, a therapy dog whose guardian, Karen Litzinger, I’d worked with on her pet loss CD and who I’d gotten to know well enough to feel comfortable at using her photo. I live with cats and have lots of feline material, but more than that I am careful with the images I use, not only that they are easily recognized and representative of our animal companions, but that I know the animal well enough to use its image for this purpose. They are conveying a heavy thought, and I don’t take the relationship with my subject matter lightly. Now that I have a comprehensive commercial website I can add the dogs I’ve met to these sympathy cards as well as other animals, a rather slow but happy process of contacting the owners of all the portraits I’ve painted and photos I’ve taken to be certain using their dog’s or other pet’s image is okay.
Animal professionals, wholesale, retail
I am so pleased that six veterinarians or veterinary hospitals now order their own personal mix of sympathy cards from me. Certain cards can be custom printed with a logo or custom sentiment on the inside as well. Information on wholesale ordering is available, and I have a discount for animal professionals who use these cards and other goods in the course of their business.
The original set of 12 designs
While I am a fine artist, I have actually earned my living as a graphic designer for most of my career. Designing everything from letterhead to websites every day, the task of designing these cards was second nature to me. I was glad, for once, to use my commercial art skills to create something for my offering of animal art, especially since my poor neglected cats could just expire all over my desk before I took my eyes off the computer.
I intentionally chose to use photos rather than paintings for most of the designs. I like the softness and little bit of fiction I can work into a painting, but somehow I felt the realism of a photo was needed when expressing deep and sincere emotions of these cards. I also wanted to offer a variety of cats because we all like to choose a cat similar to the one who has been lost.
And just as important as the image, I wrote the text for the front from my own thoughts before and after losing one of my cats and also from what I’d written to others at their losses. While I am heartbroken to lose a cat, I also celebrate the love and bond we had and all the special things about that cat and I included some words to remind us of happier times.
I’ve found, to my surprise, that these cards are sometimes purchased for the loss of a human, or even a “thinking of you” card for persons who like animals—I never considered this. Using the images of my own cats for these cards, especially ones who had passed, was a little frightening; if one of the designs was not at all popular it could feel like a rejection of that kitty, who I loved so much, but this has not come to be so. I am so glad I waited until my sentiments and designs were more universal, not so personal, to create these cards. Some are more popular than others, but I have reprinted all of them so no one has been left behind.
Several senior or hospice rescues I’ve fostered became members of our feline family, even if they were with us for a matter of weeks. Their life with us inspired sympathy cards, like Lakota, Emeraude and Kennedy. Also, as I browse 30 years of photos of my cats and others’ I find old memories that seem appropriate for sympathy.
You can read about each of the designs and purchase them on the Animal Sympathy Cards page on Portraits of Animals. Cards can be purchased individually or in sets, including your own selection of cards in a set of a half dozen or dozen.
Other images used for sympathy
And in addition to the intentionally-designed sympathy cards are the blank greeting and note cards I designed portraying a special moment of one of my cats I’ll always remember. Not only do individual customers purchase these for sympathy as well as greeting cards, but the veterinarians who purchase from me do as well. Sometimes the photograph is appropriate, and the sentiment is welcome, but sometimes just the soft image of a painting is best for a message. Even sometimes the smaller card is more appropriate, and even the pencil or ink images convey the feeling you have for the animal and the human recipient.
Feline Greetings Fine Art Cards
and Winter Cats
I’ve made cards from over a dozen of my paintings through the years and add to the options all the time. The cards have only an image on the front and are blank inside so you can add whatever sentiment you’d like. Below are three of the most popular images used for animal sympathy, but nearly all of them have at one time been used for this.
Another set made from my Feline Greetings cards is four paintings that feature what I call snow light, that winter light that illuminates a room at a lower angle when trees are bare. I sell these as holiday cards but their theme and composition and loose impressionist style sends a gentle message of sympathy.
My Cats in the Sun
This was my first full-color set of cards, made from those first four paintings of Stanley, Moses, Sally and Cookie that changed the course of my art career, named for a subject I find most inspiring, “My Cats in the Sun”.
“Bright sunshine on anything will inspire me, especially when it’s illuminating one of my cats…and so I’d like to share that inspiration with other feline fans. These four designs are printed from my original artwork, each of them cats who’ve shared my life past and present.”
These cards are a little smaller, A6 note card sized, 4.5″ x 6.25″ printed in full color on matte-finish cream stock with matching cream satin envelopes. They also have only the art on the front and are blank inside. You can find My Cats in the Sun cards on Portraits of Animals.
Kitties Being Kitties
Years ago the owner of the veterinary hospital I used suggested he’d like to have customized sympathy cards printed. The project never came to be but these cards were printed from the ink and monochrome drawings I did in working out ideas for those cards. Each of the cats depicted here was or is one of mine or a friend’s cat but I was working on a more general style so I added spots and shapes and such where I saw fit.
These drawings are printed in black on natural recyclable textured cotton 80 lb. cover stock and are blank inside. Cards are 4-1/2″ x 6-1/4″ with matching envelopes, packed in a clear-top white cardboard greeting card box. They are available on my website.
I also have a set of cards made of my “original” feline pencil sketches, my experiments and more finished sketches from years ago. This set includes nine images, and while the four below are popular as sympathy cards any of the designs could be used for sympathy.
These are smaller than the other cards as well at 4.25″ x 5.5″, printed in gray ink on cream cotton cover stock. These also feature the art on the outside and are blank inside, and convey a simple quiet message. I have a dozen designs in this set, and below are the three most often used for animal sympathy.
You can find Feline Sketches on my website.
Though these photos may look antique and sepia-toned, they are neither. My cats are perfect models and knew to pose in the bright yellow morning sun in front of my round antique mirror and the narrow casement window with the lace curtain.
I have many images of cats in deep contemplation, and that quiet contemplation is one of my favorite scenes. I designed these cards, manipulating and filtering each of the photos to be consistent, to convey a sense of peace and quiet reverie.
You can find Victoriana Cats on my website.
And a few other possibilities
Two Yellow Cats
This card was designed from one of my daily sketches and just lends itself to a variety of themes. I offer it as a Valentine or a “relationship” card, but I’d also designed a card without the heart for friendship, thinking of you and sympathy.
The message inside is simply “…purrrr….purrrrr…purrrrr…” in my own handwriting in an attempt to simulate the kitty purring on my lap at the time.
You can find this card on the Feline-themed Card Sets and Note Cards page on my website.
You can also browse these galleries of greeting cards and images. I am also building the galleries of canine art and photos and cards this year too.
We have each other to thank
I may have rescued my cats, but the story doesn’t end there. Animals give us so much in everyday life, but my cats have given me my career.
. . . . . . .
Ordering Single Cards
Often we don’t even think to have sympathy cards ahead of time, and usually we’ll purchase them when the need arises. You can purchase individual cards from any of my shops, and I will generally mail out singles the same day in first-class mail, unless I receive the order too late in the day to get to the post office, in a manila envelope so it’s easy to find in your mailbox. Bear in mind that some days I’m out on errands and may not be home if you order later in the afternoon.
All 5″ x 7″ cards can be mixed and matched for your own custom set. If you’d like a few regular sympathy cards and a few other cards to make your dozen, you can simply list them in the box in your shopping cart. You can choose cards from anywhere on Portraits of Animals.
Wholesale for Animal Professionals
Don’t miss any new items or opportunities!
“Follow” the Portraits of Animals blog with the link in the upper left. Sign up to receive posts in email, or in your favorite reader using the links in the right-hand column.
Sign up for e-newsletters
You can also sign up for my monthly e-newsletters to receive special discounts and find out where I’ll be with my artwork.
Click here for the Creative Cat Preview E-newsletter, for feline and animal-specific products and information.
Click here for the Art & Merchandise E-newsletter, for landscapes, nature, urban scenes and more.
For art, photos and writing as I develop it, visit my blogs.
See feline art and photos as they happen on The Creative Cat, along with feline news, health, welfare, rescue stories and more.
See daily photos as I post them on Today.
Read poetry, short stories, essays and more on Paths I Have Walked.
. . . . . . .
© 2020 | www.PortraitsOfAnimals.net | 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.