February began with a new portrait project. One I think I’ll have a lot of fun with: a cat portrait in the making.
This isn’t the first cat portrait I’ve done. Late in 2018, I used colored pencils to do a portrait of Bob, one of the orphan kittens I was raising that year. That project was the subject for an email drawing class, but I also wrote a post about drawing short cat fur, which you can read here.
The latest project is not about short cat fur. Quite the contrary, in fact.
I’m drawing Max, our long-haired cat.
A Cat Portrait in the Making
Although I started this portrait in February, it’s been a long time in the making. In fact, it started on a hot July day in 2013.
Max was one of what I think was a litter of four kittens born under our back porch. I say “I think”, because I found three kittens under the porch, but heard what I thought was a kitten in another location. I never did find the fourth.
When I found them on the afternoon of July 26, 2013, one had already died, and one was barely alive. They were less than 24 hours old, and had been abandoned by the mother. One of the kittens was unwashed and still had the umbilical cord attached. It died within a few hours.
The other kitten was Max. He was clean when I found him but not in the nest. He had, in fact, crawled to the opposite side of that space and was crying.
No stranger to hand feeding baby animals (I grew up on a dairy farm), I took care of Max from that moment on.
We had only one other indoor cat at the time.
Thomas was our oldest, well up in his teens and diabetic. I wasn’t sure how he’d get along with a rambunctious kitten. So Max stayed in his “nursery” for as long as possible.
I needn’t have worried. As it turned out, they got along well by pretty much not paying much attention to each other. I don’t remember Max trying to coax Thomas into kitten-ish play, but I also don’t remember many disagreements. They often slept in the same room, but not in the same areas.
Thomas is now gone, but Max is still with us. A big, hairy cat with a mind of his own. He’s definitely my husband’s cat, but he does like a bit of lap time on my lap now and again, too.
As you might guess, I have a lot of photos of Max from the earliest to very recent. He’s grown up into a very regal beast, but it wasn’t until I saw a tightly cropped portrait of an African lion that I began seriously considering a portrait of Max.
I sorted through my photos of him as an adult and settled on this one.
It’s not quite what I was looking for, but I decided to go ahead anyway. Otherwise, I’d have to photograph Max at every opportunity and possibly never do the portrait!
I chose white Pastelmat and my brand new Caran d’Ache Pablo pencils. Pastelmat because it’s quickly becoming my favorite paper, and Pablos because I’ve never used them before.
How is it going?
Slowly, but partly because it’s my practice piece for a client portrait. I’m trying new methods on this one before trying them on the client portrait. (An idea that worked extremely well on the drawing I did for Ann Kullberg’s Painted Pony tutorial*.) It takes longer to finish a portrait this way, but it means there are fewer start-overs.
The portrait has advanced beyond this stage, but it’s currently quite ugly. I tried something yesterday (March 8) that didn’t turn out the way I hoped it would turn out, so the next step is fixing that.
And that’s why I now try things on an “experimental” piece rather than client work!
That’s My Cat Portrait in the Making
And that’s Max’s story in brief.
If this gets finished (and I hope it will, but there’s no guarantee on experimental pieces,) I’ll show it to you. I’m also considering writing a tutorial on it, if it’s completed.
But we’ll see how things go. Right now, it’s a step or two each week as I also work on the client portrait. So we’ll see.
PS: I’ll also share the client portrait when it’s finished and been approved by the client! I can’t tell you much about it, but I can tell you it’s cute! The subject is a Welsh Corgi.
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