I am pretty proud of this portrait, it tested my skills as a cat portrait artist for sure. I had to combine a few photo references and use my imagination to produce it rather than just by seeing what was in front of me in a photo. Read on to find out why.
Meet Buster. A rather handsome ginger tom.
Cat Portrait Artist Reference Photos
I’ve met Buster in the fur and he’s such a character. I met his humans but more importantly him for a cat portrait photo session. He was becoming something of an elderly gent however he had such a great personality and was more like a dog in a cat’s fur coat! I was treated to the most amazing carrot cake whilst lounging on his human’s settee but Buster had to be in the middle of everything.
I thought Buster knew we were there to see him especially but it would seem he greets everyone in the same way. He has to be the centre of attention but he was a wonderful kitty. He was 19 when I met him and 20 now but still ruling the roost. I think my description makes him sound very confident and attention seeking but he wasn’t like that at all, he just wanted to meet and greet everyone because he loves having visitors around! He was also a bit of a poser on the day and he obliged with a stretch out on his favourite decking area in the sun. This was where his owners wanted him portrayed as it was ‘just him’. You can see from the photos below that although the pose was great, the scene was a little bland but Buster’s Mum had an array of flowers on the decking area and wanted a couple of them added to his portrait to create more of scenic portrait, which I just loved!!!
As you can see it was a case of mixing and matching bits from different photos for this cat portrait painting, I had to borrow his tail from yet another image as I managed to cut it off during my attempt at being a professional photographer so I had to paste it back on!
I’ve also added my absolutely hilarious edit above to put all the bits together, now really you can see how it’s just a case of making it up when it’s time for sketching, if I had used my ‘mock up’ I would get nowhere so the mind takes over and you can see how it’s meant to look in your brain even if it’s not like that on the photo edit! Luckily I did have it figured out in my mind but trying to convince a client I know what I’m doing is sometimes a leap of faith on their part!!!
Cat Portraits in Pastel
So it’s all go with the portrait. Buster’s owners decided on a non standard size to show Buster stretched out, if they had opted for a standard size there would be extra background which may have detracted from the star of the portrait or it would have cropped off the end of his tail, in the end they opted for 8×16 inches.
Here you can see how the cat portrait drawing was sketched out onto pastelmat. You can see how I used the ‘edit’ to produce my sketch but had to make up bits and pieces to make it all fit. Some of the decking boards just didn’t marry up at all so that took a little brain work to get them in the right direction so it didn’t look like my failed attempt at DIY decking! I did all of my working out on scrap paper, it got pretty messy but once it was all where I wanted I then sketched it out onto the pastelmat. It’s hard to correct on pastelmat so best not to do any working out directly onto the paper.
I’ve really started to use my panpastels a lot more for underpaintings these days, they are so fast for getting base colours down (when I say fast, for me it’s still ten times slower than most, but normally it would be a hundred times slower so a vast improvement!) plus I got to mix some up to make a fab gingery base. I was able to use pastel pencils on top as the amount of pigment in panpastels is so high, very little is needed to put down colour and so doesn’t fill the nap of the paper, leaving plenty of grip for all those pencils strokes for fur detail.
Oddly I thoroughly enjoyed creating the decking and the flower pots as much as the fur. I was expecting to be a little mind numb with the stripes of the decking but in fact it was a bit of a challenge to make sure they were in the right place! Buster’s fur was very enjoyable to create, I got to use my new caran d’ache pastel pencils (very expensive) as the set is made of colours not found with other brands. Due to creating pastel pencil conversion charts for my tutorials I can see how different brands have very close shades but the caran d’ache have many unique colours not found in the other sets (a great way to convince myself they were worth the money). I found them very creamy to use, my first outing with them wasn’t what I had in mind, I found them very soft and quite difficult to sharpen, they constantly broke but after trying again I found I had been a little too rough with them and now I really do like them.
All in all, Buster’s humans (and they do belong to him) are over the moon with the custom cat painting (phew) and I’ve been having many a chat on the phone with his Mum and we’ve become very chatty which is so nice. I get reports on Buster’s health, he’s a bit of an old man now and on medication to keep everything ticking, it’s great news to hear he’s still plodding on especially in such senior years. This summer he was under the weather but he still managed to sun bathe on his favourite decking, very good as it was the best summer for decades. So as you can see, having a perfect image isn’t always needed, it just needs to be as clear as possible. Backgrounds can be manipulated to create that special scene. Washing baskets, bed clothes etc can all be removed. Favourite settings can be added. People often say why not just hang the photo on the wall, well sometimes that scene just doesn’t exist but with a bit of toing and froing between an owner and myself a special memory or scene can be brought to life.
Isn’t he a handsome chap, he has his humans at his beck and call but he really is a lovely cat!
Here is what his humans say about their portrait
We received the portrait of our beloved 20 year old cat, Buster, yesterday and were staggered by just how talented Karie is. She has captured him perfectly. It’s almost as if she’s waved a magic wand in a Harry Potter style so that he can be lifted up out of the portrait. Pure genius. Thank you Karie. Your artwork reflects your personality – beautiful xxx
I have quite a few more cat paintings booked in shortly so it’s time to get back to the easel!
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