To be perfectly honest, I featured this painting as a monthly desktop calendar in January 2013. I’ve been thinking a lot about Namir lately and the time when I painted this watercolor. I decided that if you saw and downloaded this desktop calendar four years ago and still remember it, you probably like it, and if you’ve never seen it, then here’s your chance. I had it in mind to feature it last month since it’s all about “January light”, but I took the reference photos for it between January and March 2007 so February works just as well, and I really did want to feature “Snowy Morning” last month on the anniversary of the time I painted it.
January light is so beautiful, the sun still at a low angle streaming into windows and doors, the days often overcast and the brilliant warm yellow sunlight a respite, and this is what has Namir transfixed in the stream of sun that washes in the back door in winter—and probably a few birds bobbing about on the deck chasing stray bird seed.
The reference photo for this is above, one of many I took over the course of nearly three months of occasionally sunny mornings January through March 2007 when Namir would finish breakfast then go bathe, sit and nap in the sun. Namir’s posture and cattitude as well as items in the box and the box itself changed each day as it does in the course of my housekeeping; the angle of the sun changes as I took photos earlier and later and from different angles. I love them all and knew, as I had known with Peaches and Peonies, that I’d do a painting from this as well as having this series of photos.
But it wasn’t until the morning of Darling Clementines, as I call it in my own shorthand, sitting on the floor for this perfect angle with its mix of color, glass and Namir’s intent expression that my fingers got all twitchy as they do when they want to paint, and I immediately visualized a watercolor, clear and detailed, those clean edges and translucent colors carrying what I saw, better than my pastels. I pictured my palette, my fine liner brushes, applying the Prussian blue around the letters “D” and “A”, the clementine itself already painted in place, and then Namir’s profile, his rounded nose with its gray spots, his satellite-dish ears completely facing forward, the details of eyes and fur and whiskers I studied all the time. When I start watching myself paint something that’s not even begun, I know I have no choice but to paint the thing or it will be constantly in my vision like a song that won’t go away—but in this case, not an annoying one.
The desire to paint this painting and Namir was just as much for the experience of the close and careful study of everyday things, capturing the details, as it was for lovingly capturing a moment I loved about Namir. I’ve painted Namir a few times, sketched him plenty and photographed him lots, but this painting was an homage to how I loved every hair on his body, and all his wonderful habits.
Still, I knew another image I liked even more might come up since the lovely mornings continued, and rather than confuse the issue with starting one and seeing another I wanted to paint even more, I waited. And I also added things intentionally after that, baskets, other jars, jars of beans, my gardening clogs, you name it—even other cats, including Namir’s biggest admirer, not Kelly, but Lucy.
And as a part of our daily lives then, Stanley was still with us, 25 years old, enjoying what he could of each day until January 25 when he finally decided he was ready to transition to the next existence. We all surrounded ourselves with beauty for that month and afterward and I have a truly lovely series of photos infused with memories which I will share here through the spring, but still, “Darling Clementines” won.
I did have the opportunity to paint it fairly soon after, which is really not typical in my usual schedule but probably saved my sanity once it got a start. I gave myself a very light pencil outline of the main objects, then some of the details like the lettering, applied a few light washes of color to give myself a sense of direction. I was really looking forward to the lettering on the containers, the patterns in the wood, Namir’s ears and that lovely white area with highlight and shadow. I had a good feel for how I’d paint everything but those canning jars and figured I’d work it out when I got there. After a lot of visual study of other artists, that’s generally how I learn, just get the brush to the paper.
This type of a watercolor, for me, is very time-consuming, so I planned it smaller than many of my other extremely detailed works, only 12″ wide by 9″ high. After the initial sketch and washes I plan my work sessions for at least two hours, preferably four, and try to make them at the same time each day so that I am either working with daylight or my work lights and can keep my colors consistent. I also prefer to work on consecutive days until I’m done, but even every other day is okay; it’s difficult to stay consistent when too many days go by between sessions. Each session, I choose an area or an object to work on so that I keep the colors and style consistent, working on Namir’s face, for instance, then working my way back in successive sessions.
But how do you paint glass? You see through it, so…what do you paint? It’s one of the times when you apply the lesson of “painting what you see” instead of “painting what you know”. I know what glass looks like, what it feels like and other properties of it as an object, but I had to study the glass and “see” the effect of the jars on what was behind them in order to paint what was really there. That was easy once I grew accustomed to it, but the highlights on the glass really had me confused. With pastels I paint the area with a base color then work my highlights up to their relative brightness and apply the lightest highlights as one of the last things I paint. With watercolors, you usually leave your highlights open to show the color of the paper as the lightest area, and work down from that level to the relative colors around it. Many was the time I had to stop, study, visualize and then, finally, paint what I saw. I used this lesson again the next spring when I painted the vase in “Peaches and Peonies”.
I have often received gifts bearing cat art and kept them all, and as I moved through learning to draw and paint I studied everything that was available commercially, from calendars to coffee mugs to accent rugs for style and composition. I still have my day book featuring paintings of Lesley Anne Ivory with her lovely furballs on highly decorative and patterned backgrounds, which worked their way into portraits such as “Tibbie” with its Oriental rug and leather-bound books. When I began framing I discovered Charles Wysocki through framing limited-edition prints of “Ethel the Gourmet” and “Frederick the Literate”. And years ago I studied the art of a feline artist Wendy Christensen whose images on Christmas cards I kept through the years to study (and still have), only to find years later that she is a fellow Cat Writers’ Association member and who I’ve since had the chance to meet. What a thrill to meet one of my idols and have her compliment me!
You can read more about Namir in “Who Was That Namir, Anyway?”
Where to find this painting
I donated this painting to the art exhibit at the first BlogPaws conference, so the original has been sold. I offer prints of this painting as a highest quality giclee, and archival digital prints and canvases in a wide variety of sizes. Visit the page for “Darling Clementine” to see all the print options.
I also offer it as a wood-mounted print, a tray and various other gift items. Click here to search Portraits of Animals for all items with Darling Clementine.
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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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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