I was commissioned to do a portrait of a beloved family and community cat for the holidays—twice. Often I’ll make prints of a portrait to share with family and friends of the original recipient, but in this case my commissioner wanted to give one portrait to Henry’s family, and also have one for herself.
She had seen a charcoal portrait I’d done and decided two small charcoal sketches would be good, but if I had other ideas she’d love to see them. I had a number of images of Henry to choose from, and though others of Henry walking, lying down, looking right up at the camera, one with his lion cut would have been nice enough, I liked the angle of this one. Even the fact that he’s cut off on the right side, which I considered just filling in, makes it seem as if he’s peeking around a corner.
The portrait as also only 5″ x 7″, and if I added the extra portion of his back, he would have to be smaller. This way I could keep him as large as possible in the 5″ x 7″ space.
I created the first portrait entirely in black and white charcoal with a little amber pastel for his eyes. Because he was on gravel in the photo, which I liked, I decided to use a sheet of threaded, textured gray Pastello paper. Here is the full portrait, cropped to fit the mat size and uncropped so you can see the edges. I added the extra just for my eye to work out the dimensions and perspective, but I didn’t give it a complete finish.
I find it difficult to do the same thing twice because I let a lot of things just happen in a portrait, and the way they happen depends on where I’m when I do the portrait, other influences I may have seen, weather, lighting, preference. On the day I did the second portrait I was really visualizing all the colors in Henry’s black fur and wanted to use pastels. I sent a message and pastels were fine for the second one, on the cream-colored smooth cotton illustration board.
The purple, blue, green, bronze, are not realistic to the extent I’ve used them, but I feel they make the portrait come to life, the black areas a little livelier and more dimensional. Here is the full portrait, cropped to fit the mat size and uncropped so you can see the edges.
We may actually decide to frame the full second portrait instead of cutting off the right side, but it cuts really close on the left if we do.
In both cases, it was a joy to get to know Henry. Here’s his story.
The woman who commissioned me is a neighbor a few blocks away and also one of the cat rescuers in the neighborhood network. Peg rescued and fostered Holly and Molly and a number of other abandoned and stray cats on her street and feeds community cats on her front porch.
Henry belonged to a neighbor at the corner of her street. They’d come over from Italy with their daughter and her cat. When the daughter grew up and moved out, Henry – whose real name is “Kiki”, probably a child’s version of ‘kitty-kitty’, moved out onto the porch, where he had a comfortable cat-house and food dishes. (Her father was apparently not fond cats in the house.)
As a porch-dweller, Henry/Kiki began to explore his street, and eventually got to know the other porches that hold food, a total of four. Peg gave him the name “Henry” because he reminded her of Henri le Chat Noir of YouTube fame, and he became one of the regulars on “Kitty Korner”.
Not knowing who owned him, one of the feeders took it upon herself to have his long, matted fur shaved during the summer a couple times. She was tempted to keep him but already had four cats in her small house. Henry seemed a happy and healthy neighborhood cat for a number of years. Then one day in late 2015 he showed up limping badly. By this time yet another of the feeders had discovered Kiki’s mama was a co-worker of hers, and explained to her that her cat needed care, and Henry/Kiki was taken home to be cared for. He was taken to the vet, and his leg healed, but in the meantime the doctors discovered he had inoperable cancer. Peg and another feeder met with Kiki’s mama where it was decided he would continue living outdoors (it’s what he preferred) but would be looked after closely. All this attention also encouraged Papa to reconsider his feelings towards Kiki, and a real friendship grew in Kiki’s final months. The last time Peg saw Henry/Kiki on her porch was August 14 of last year. He crossed the rainbow bridge on August 30, 2016, sadly missed by his family.
It’s hard to understand why people would want such a nice and handsome a cat to live outdoors, but at least Henry had several people looking out for him.
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.
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I offer gift certificates for portraits in any denomination beginning at $125.00, which is the basic cost of a portrait; the recipient is responsible for any amount the portrait costs over $125.00.
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.
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Certificates are good for up to one year after issue.
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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.
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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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- If your portrait will be larger or have more subjects, add $50 or $100 or more to your certificate value with the drop-down below.
CERTIFICATE A $50.00
- 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 shading or colored paper
CERTIFICATE B $100.00
- 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
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