I’ve admired Bernadette Kazmarski’s art for many years. I first introduced you to this supremely talented artist eight years ago, and Bernadette and I have been friends ever since. She designed the covers for two of my books (Purrs of Wisdom and Adventures in Veterinary Medicine) and has been designing my annual Christmas cards for many years. Several years ago, I commissioned a painting of a friend’s cat. Last year, I commissioned a landscape painting of the beautiful view from a friend’s weekend retreat.
Bernadette has a unique ability to not only render the actual animal, or the scene, in a beautiful, almost magical way. She also captures the essence of her subjects in a way that I’ve seen few other artist do. The two paintings I commissioned have become treasured possessions for my friends.
A couple of months ago, I celebrated a milestone birthday. I was looking forward to one of my birthday rituals, lunch at a fancy French restaurant with one of my closest friends. Most of my friends and I have eliminated exchanging birthday gifts several years ago, choosing instead to celebrate with a leisurely meal at a favorite restaurant. I certainly wasn’t prepared for my friend to hand me a giant package after I sat down!
I almost burst into tears when I tore away the gift wrap to reveal Bernadette’s stunning painting. It features all of the cats who have shared and are sharing my life: Feebee, Amber, Buckley, and Allegra and Ruby. And they are pictured in front of my beloved maple tree.
The tree was planted 34 years ago, when I first moved into this house. I’ve watched it grow into a beautiful, mature tree. This tree has been with me through a lot of life – through both joyful and challenging times. Each fall, it’s one of the last trees to turn, and when it does, it turns the most incredibly bright, vibrant red. When the light is just right, my entire bedroom is infused with a red glow from the tree. I consider this tree a member of my family. I explained the significance of the tree in a post I wrote a few years ago.
I hung the painting in my bedroom, next to the window. It felt right to have it right next to the real tree, and this way, it’s the last thing I see when I go to bed, and the first thing I see when I wake up in the morning (well, the second thing, the first is usually Ruby’s face!)
This painting represents so much for me. The gift of friendship. The love of all of the cats in my life, both past and present. My beloved maple tree, who is like a member of the family to me. Bernadette captured all of it – the friendship, the cats, the tree – perfectly. Not only did she capture all of these elements visually, she captured the spiritual essence of it all.
When I look at the painting, I don’t just see the cats, the window and the tree. I actually feel the presence of the cats who have passed on – it’s like they’re sitting by that very window again, as if they had never left. I viscerally sense the peace that my tree always brings me, especially in the fall, when it turns this spectacular red color. I love that my beloved tree now infuses the room with that warm, red glow all year long, not just those few days in the fall when it’s at its peak.
Please visit Bernadette’s website, The Creative Cat, to read more about how this painting (and the surprise) came about, about her process of completing it, and how you can order your own commissioned painting from her!