pet portraits

Great Rescues: a 16-month calendar and gift book

Great Rescues calendar and gift book

I’m a big fan of animal artist and writer Bernadette Kazmarski. Her photographs and cat paintings capture the essence of cats in ways that only a small handful of artists are able to do. Bernadette is a multi-faceted creative spirit:  artist, writer, graphic designer, painter, animal advocate, environmentalist.  From commissioned pet portraits to animal inspired merchandise ranging from prints to textiles to greeting cards, looking around Bernadette’s websites are a feast for the senses. 

Great Rescues is a 16-month desk calendar and gift book featuring 16 portraits of rescued cats Bernadette has been commissioned to paint in the 20 years she has been an animal portrait artist. This sixteen-month calendar and gift book is a labor of love.

“While the portraits are lovely and I’m proud of my body of work, the stories of these cats, and the people who rescued them, were what compelled me to share them,” says Bernadette. “Each of the stories tells of cats from shelters and cats abandoned and saved, cats found inside car engines and cats reluctantly surrendered by people who could no longer care for them, but each one has a happy ending as a cherished companion in a loving home.”

Peaches by animal artist Bernadette Kazmarski

I’m particularly thrilled that “Peaches” made it into the calendar. I commissioned this painting as a Christmas gift for a friend last year. The original was absolutely stunning. It’s always difficult to tell when you have an artist paint someone else’s cat whether they truly captured the animal’s spirit. I think that’s something only the pet’s person can truly judge. My friend burst into tears when she opened her gift – that probably speaks volumes, especially since she’s not someone who cries easily. The painting not only captured Peaches’ spirit, it also brought a tremendous amount of peace to my friend. Peaches, at this writing, is 19 years old, and my friend is well aware that time is short. She says the painting will help her keep a part of Peaches with her forever, in a very tangible way.

This is one of the most beautiful cat calendars I’ve seen. The paintings are stunningly beautiful, and the stories are heart touching.  And it’s so much more than just a calendar. It also includes a comprehensive resource section covering feline wellness, health concerns, household toxins and poisons, fun cat facts, and more. The spiral bound book also contains a generous amount of blank pages (with a beautiful faint cat design in the background) for notes, or journaling.

Great Rescues calendar and gift book Bernadette Kazmarski 

The calendar runs from September 2011 through December 2012. You can order the calendar directly through Benadette’s website for the incredibly low price of $19.99 plus shipping. Even though it’s only July, it’s never to early to order Christmas presents – Great Rescues makes a purrfect gift for the cat lovers on your list.

I’m giving away one personalized, autographed copy to one lucky winner. To enter, leave a comment telling me why you would like to win the calendar. Tweet about this giveaway or share it on Facebook for an extra chance to win. This giveaway ends Friday, August 12.

You can learn more about Bernadette Kazmarski and enjoy samples of her gorgeous art and photographs on her website and on her blog.

You may also enjoy reading:

An interview with animal artist Bernadette Kazmarski

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Connie Bowen paints portraits of love

Connie Bowen doesn’t just paint pet portraits.  She captures the unique spirit of each pet in each painting, turning the finished work into a lasting treasure for the recipient – a portrait of love.

Connie began drawing at an early age and majored in art at Washington State University. She then completed training and worked for 23 years as a freelance court reporter. Since retiring from court reporting in 1997, she has devoted all her time to the loves of her life: her family, her art, and the expression of Truth.

I’m so pleased to introduce you to this wonderful artist today.

When did you first begin painting pets?

I first began painting pets in May of 2003.

Your pet portraits really capture the unique essence of each animal.  What is the creative process for a pet portrait like for you? 

When I first meet the animal, or view their photo via e-mail, I am immediately drawn to the personality of the animal and the expression on their face. The emotion I feel from them is what I portray in their portrait. Animals have the most expressive eyes and that is the place where I start with each portrait. After the animals’ eyes are painted in, I definitely feel their spirit is with me as I paint.

One time I was working on a challenging cat painting because I was working from a photo that wasn’t very clear. Sometimes when an animal has already passed on, I’m working from cherished photos from long ago and the detail can be lost. I simply asked out loud for help from this particular cat. I went on painting and as I swiveled in my chair, the squeak made an unmistakable spine-chilling “Meow” sound! I have lots of stories like that – of animals coming to my aid as I’m painting.

While pets are featured prominently in your artwork, you also paint other subjects.  What is more challenging – capturing pets, or capturing other images?

For me, capturing pets is my pure joy. The other images are painted more impressionistically. I use the background and other images simply to support the star of the painting – the pet. I take more time capturing the essence of the pet, but time seems to stand still as I do so.

To illustrate my point, one afternoon while I was painting, my husband kissed me good-bye as he left to catch a movie. It seemed like it had been only 20 minutes when he returned. I asked him if he had missed the movie. He surprisingly told me that he had not only seen the movie, but it had been at least two hours that he’d been gone!

The only real challenge for me is when I’m asked to add a person into the painting with the pet. This happens quite a bit with horse paintings. It always takes me twice as long to capture the likeness of the person as for any other subject.

Where does your inspiration come from?

From the photos of the animals, themselves. People e-mail me with the most interesting and adorable photos! I remember one photo in particular had two kitties resting on the bed surrounded by their stuffed animals. I couldn’t wait to start on that painting!

Another photo I received was taken with a phone and the whole image had a lovely peachy tone to it. The pet parent and I decided to leave the colors as they were and the whole painting was done in those colors.  I’m always amazed and inspired by my clients and the creativity that emerges from working together.

Tell us about your own pets, and how they inspire your work.

I have a 10-year old Australian shepherd named Jesse and two cats named Brock and Carma. Brock is a large black male with a little bit of white under his chin. Carma is a small-boned little tabby with huge green eyes. I’ve done quite a few paintings of Brock. He is especially inspiring as he has golden eyes and seems very magical in his poses. It’s hard to find Carma quiet and still. She loves to race around the house, up the cat tree and everything she does is filled with energy. When Carma sees me in my office ready to begin painting and hears the lovely music I am playing, she comes in to sleep in her soft kitty bed and keep me company. She sleeps right by my arm. I love to listen to her purring and kiss her softly and let her know I appreciate her company.

I rescued both cats when they were just weaned. They were both very ill and it took quite a lot of antiseptic baths and all kinds of medicine to get them on the road to health.

My pets inspire my work by being a continual source of positive, loving energy. I delight in their presence.

 

You’re also an author of several inspirational books – tell us a little bit more about them.

My most popular book is the children’s affirmation book, I Believe In Me.  It has sold over 51,000 copies, including the Spanish edition. It won the national Athena Award for book-as-mentor in the category of spirituality. A copy has been donated to each Ronald McDonald House nationally.  I wrote this book for my son when he was one year old. It was published when he was three years old. He’s now in college, and the book is still going strong simply by word-of-mouth.

My second book, I Turn To The Light, is a collection of healing affirmations. This book is meant more for adults, but has reached an audience of children and teenagers.

I illustrated The Sunbeam and the Wave, and also two of author Susan Chernak’s books, Heart In The Wild and All My Relations: Living with Animals as Teachers and Healers. I used pen and ink for Susan’s books. All of my other books were done in ink plus colored pencil.

You can find more information about Connie and her art, along with a huge selection of her stunning paintings, on her website.

All images of paintings © Connie Bowen, used by permission.

Pet Photography – an Interview with Megan Lee of Paws and Claws Photography

It is my pleasure to introduce you to Megan Lee of Paws and Claws Photography.  When I wanted to get a professional author photo for Buckley’s Story that also included Amber, I turned to Megan.   I had seen her work on her website, and had also seen her in action at the annual Santa Portraits event at Seneca Hill Animal Hospital Resort and Spa in Great Falls, VA.  I figured if Megan can take amazing photos of dogs and their owners in the chaotic setting of an event that attracts hundreds of dogs, she would be able to take a great photo in which both Amber and I looked at the camera at the same time!

Megan brought a complete photo studio to our living room.  While Amber was not too terribly thrilled at having her space invaded in this way, she was a good sport about it.  For her perspective on the photo shoot, click here.  Megan took a lot of photos of Amber and me in various poses and in front of different backdrops for about an hour, and I was thrilled with the end result.

Megan was kind enough to answer the following questions for us: 

Megan, how did you get started photographing pets?

Megan Lee Before I started my company, I tried to take my pets to a studio to have their photos taken.  Not only did the photos not meet my expectations, the entire experience was stressful for my pets and me.  So I decided to eliminate the inconvenience of transporting pets and the anxiety of introducing them to strange environments by coming to your home.  I find that most pets and their family are more relaxed and photogenic in familiar surroundings.  Plus, I have found a way to bring studio quality lighting and backdrops to virtually any location, resulting in professional portraits without the hassle.
 
What kind of pet photography do you do?

I specialize in unique portraits of pets and their people by coming the location of your choice. 

Is it more challenging to photograph cats than dogs?

Yes because cats won’t sit and stay.

How do you get dogs and cats to look at the camera?

I use a combination of treats, squeaky toys, and verbal requests. 

You have a way to capture the essence of the pet, as well as the relationship between pet and person in your photographs.  How do you do that? 

Photographing in your home or at a location that you and your pet feel comfortable in cuts down on a lot of the anxiety that the animal or human might feel. 

What was your most challenging or funny experience at a photoMegan Lee3 shoot with a cat?

Once while shooting several cats in a client’s home, one of the cats got loose and ran into the master bedroom.  After searching for 30 minutes we finally found him in the box spring of the master bed.  This particular cat was adopted the day before and didn’t come out until after I had left.  So far it’s the only animal that I couldn’t successfully photograph!  

Do you have any tips for our readers on how to take great photos of their cats?

Lots of patience and either no flash or an off the camera flash. 

For more information about Megan and Paws and Claws Photography, and to see more of Megan’s wonderful photos, please visit her website.

Copyright for both photos used in this post:  Megan Lee, Paws and Claws Photography.