Nothing is so clarifying as brilliant early morning sun, and nothing chases away the chill of a winter morning. Here, Namir was lulled to sleep by the natural warmth and comfort. While the main body of this work is lit by direct sunlight at that beautiful, long angle, the rest of the work is lit by reflected light.
This painting won the Pastel Award in the South Hills Art League’s 2000 Annual Juried Show.
Some of my cats have inspired several paintings, others in the planning stages, others, no paintings yet, sometimes it’s all up to how much time I have to work. But some of my cats have inspired more paintings than others, and Namir was one of them.
Something about his demeanor and deportment, his confident self-possession, made every move seem like a performance and every rest seem like a carefully arranged pose. Although he was gray tabby and white, his profile and features showed he had much of an Oriental influence in his lineage, and these lithe and graceful cats tend to be very self-aware.
The framed original is still available, below, and you can also scroll down and read more about this painting.
More about this painting
Below is a detail of the most interesting area, Namir and the rocker with the brilliant winter sunlight reflected from the tile floor. I love reflected light, it’s a different color from direct light and helps to give a subject a shape, and can also pull just enough detail of an object from a light or dark area that you sense its presence but know it’s not part of the main image. The rocker is defined this way. But Namir is also reflecting light back onto the tile, both in the sunlight area and in the shadows around him from his areas of white fur on chest and shoulders which form all the little pools of light around him.
This painting is in oil pastel, and painted in 2000. I was curious about oil pastel through the years and though my first experiments looked like crayon drawings. I persisted and finally came to find some control in applying it to the paper and blending colors, and using textured paper. Where, with my regular pastels, I layer colors atop one another and blend them as necessary, drawing hard details on top, layering in oil pastel often involved scraping away some or all of a color I’d applied and adding another on top, and blending seemed to best be done by simply running another color repeatedly over top of another, then scraping away an area where a detail needs to appear.
Namir is in that blissful feline “don’t bother me while I’m in my sun puddle” state, which is exactly what I wanted to capture. In order to describe him, I show his reaction, the crouched resting pose, everything tucked in, face resting, ears lowered a bit; he is not asleep, and will not sleep in this position, but is actively enjoying his sun puddle in the way that cats do, just being in that moment with warm sun streaming over him. It’s something we should all practice.
But Namir wasn’t the only inspiration in this painting—in fact, what convinced me to paint it that particular morning was my colorful gardening books on the bottom shelf of the book case and their reflection on the floor as well. It’s full of brown earth tones which alone might be interesting but not exciting. Those bright flower colors are exciting, but still allow the subject attention, and together they make a nice composition.
I not only love reflected light, I love reflections whether they be on water or on a glossy surface, and these reflections look simple but are just as complicated as the ones around Namir.
This painting was technically a “daily sketch”, but I only got a start on it in that moment. It was a Sunday morning and I was full of rest and confidence, and felt I could jump into using oil pastels for a quick sketch, a bold move considering I really didn’t know much yet. I didn’t get too far into it, but took a photo—and that being the days of prints I had to wait for it to come back to finish the painting. But if the inspiration is there it stays with you, and I only needed to reference the photo for color in order to finish.
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