pastel portrait of boxer

Commissioned Portrait: “Annie”

pastel portrait of boxer

“Annie”, pastel, 11″ x 14″, 2016 © Bernadette E. Kazmarski

Meet Annie, a boxer mix whose portrait I recently finished. Her person won a portrait certificate I donated to Advocates 4 Animals in Xenia, Ohio, so though I only met Annie through photos and emails she looks so beguiling there on her rug and was a joy to paint I feel like I know her.

Annie’s portrait was fairly straightforward, and this was the reference photo her person chose as the pose she’d like for Annie.

Reference photo for Anni'es portrait.

Reference photo for Annie’s portrait.

A happy dog in front of a fireplace, what a wonderful pose! Her posture is perfectly composed—animals really do know how to pose—though the lighting is a little contrasty, often an issue with digital cameras. It’s a funny thing with digital photos too, they look great but often when you need clarity in details it just isn’t there. With the contrast in the photo the brightest highlights are washed out on her paws and the deepest shadows around her eyes and nose were filled in. I asked for a few closeups of her face just so I could see the structure in detail, even if they weren’t in the same angle or lighting as the reference photo. But that makes all the difference in creating an accurate portrait.

Detail of "Annie", pastel, 11" x 14", 2016 © Bernadette E. Kazmarski

Detail of “Annie”, pastel, 11″ x 14″, 2016 © Bernadette E. Kazmarski

And then too, because the portrait was to be 11″ x 14″ maximum, I decided to leave the fireplace out and just simplify the composition to focus on Annie. With a larger portrait I would have been happy to include it, and Annie would still have been large enough to see in detail, but smaller portraits don’t hold up well when you try to include too much of a background.

I did enjoy the wood and the rug as well. Painting patterns is fun because I get to study the object, the wood grain and the cotton chenille, and decide how to recognizably render it without drawing every last thread and wood fiber. I straightened out the parallax in the wood grain, where it changes angle across the image, because it would have been oddly noticeable in a smaller image—many things work fine in a photo, but not in a painting. I also straightened the slight foreshortening of Annie and the rug that happened from the angle of the photo, where her hindquarters look proportionally smaller than her chest and head and front paws.

And Annie’s simple little portrait is actually compositionally complex. The wood grain is on an angle in one direction and Annie on the rug crosses the wood grain, which balances everything just perfectly. Everything lined up with the edges of a painting can be classic or it can seem static and dull, and having subjects angled within a composition can be dynamic or a disaster. Both compositions have their benefits and challenges. I like how Annie’s portrait is simple but exciting to look at.

Because these portraits are typically smaller and simpler, they don’t have the story attached to some of my larger and more elaborate portraits, but they are special to their person and to me nonetheless—no one pays a good sum of money for a portrait of their pet, whether they bid on it at an auction or purchase directly from me, without a lot of deep feeling involved.

Take a look at other portraits and read other stories

Read articles here 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 or just browse a gallery of images and a demonstration of how I put a portrait together from photos.

Download a Brochure

cover of brochure

My Portraits Brochure

My brochure is an 8.5″ x 11″ two-page full-color PDF that half-folds when it’s all printed out, showing examples of portraits with an explanation of my process and basic costs.


Purchase a Gift Certificate

sample portrait certificateIs there an animal lover on your list who has every cat or dog-themed t-shirt and handbag, and even their pets have every toy they can use for the rest of their natural lives? Consider a gift certificate for a commissioned portrait. Whether it’s for someone else or yourself, a custom portrait is different from a professional photograph because we can create the scene that you remember even if you never had the chance to photograph it. Your household of animal companions can be grouped in a natural setting even if their lives didn’t overlap.

I offer gift certificates for portraits in any denomination beginning at $50.00, which is the basic cost of an 8″ x 10″ black and white portrait; the recipient is responsible for any amount the portrait costs over the amount you’ve paid.

The certificate itself is 8.5″ x 11″ and features a collage of portrait images with the recipient’s and giver’s names, printed on parchment cover stock. The whole thing is packaged in a pocket folder and includes a brochure, a letter from me to the recipient and several business cards. The certificate package can be easily mailed or wrapped as a gift and shipped directly to your recipient.

I can also make it downloadable if you’re in a hurry.

Certificates are good for up to one year after issue, but I’ll usually honor them whenever they come along. It just makes my accounting easier if it’s within the same year.

Certificate Prices

I prefer to look over the work and price the portrait according to how much work will go into it, as described above, but you can either set a budget or get started by purchasing a certificate for yourself or as a gift.

“Certificate A” and “Certificate B” look the same, but this is for ease of ordering. I will write the amount on the certificate.


  • Size: 8 x 10
  • Subjects: One
  • Color: black and white media such as charcoal, pencil, ink, or monochromatic media such as one color of pastel, watercolor, colored pencil, etc.
  • Background or objects: none but a color or colored paper


  • Size: 8 x 10
  • Subjects: One
  • Color: full color media such as pastel, watercolor, colored pencil, etc.
  • Background or objects: none but a color or colored paper

Add to your certificate purchase

You can use the second drop down to add $50.00 or $100.00. For amounts over this I’m working out the easiest way to give options so it’s not too confusing.

[ss_product id=’ee6d37ec-349a-11e6-a43c-0cc47a075d76′ ]Commissioned Portrait Certificate[/ss_product]

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


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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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