Here Kitty, Kitty: How to Paint a Cat Part Three

So first, we drew le chat reduced to its lumpy, adorable snowman-like proportions:


Then I found an image of a really cuuuuute kitty on the internets:


She is of course la Lizzie Cosette of the marmeladegypsy blog.  I drew Lizzie in snowman-esq style, just to rough out her shape:


I filled in a few shadows, to familiarize  myself with her markings and stuff..


…and then I traced the bare outlines of that sketch onto watercolor paper:


The paints that I’ll be using for most of the color in this kitty portrait are grey (Davy’s Gray in the tube) and my trusty ancient  Grumbacher watercolors:


I will mix these colors right on my brush, getting various shades of brownish-grey, blackish-grey, and rusty-grey as needed, and for the most part I’m going to let the pint and the water do what it wants to do:


I do love the chalky texture of these paints.

I am going to start with the face because if I don’t get the face right I will trash the whole thing and start over. So I will work quickly to get some black markings in on top of wet brownish-grey:




I painted the eyes in and, before the paint got too dry…


…I laid in some black around the eye, but I didn’t let it bleed as much as before because bleeding colors is OK for getting a nice effect for  fur, but this is not fur:


For the inside of Miss Lizzie’s ear, I used a very pale blueish-grey:



I used the same blueish-grey to paint Lizzie’s chin and I let it dry….P1190870

…and then I went back with my paint brush dipped in clear water to “pick up” the paint. I do this because I want a very delicate shading effect here, and subtracting paint is a good way to make an area look outlined, but painterly:




OK, I think I got the face alright, so now I’m going to start painting the fur. Lizzie is a tabby tuxedo, so to give shade to her white bits I use a very watery light blue wash. I just like the look of a very light blue shadow to indicate whiteness:


And, again, I’m going to work wet-in-wet, that is, I’m going to dab some brown and black and grey into the very wet blue wash, to get a nice watercolor effect:




All that, above, is done before any of the paint has a chance to dry. I’m not going to over-do the fur…I’m going to leave the body impressionistic. But I am going to get a lot of detail in the punim because she is soooooo cute:


I’m not painting the whiskers — I don’t have a brush fine enough and also, I like the look of pencil here:


And now I check it against my reference photo. It looks to me that I placed Lizzie at slightly the wrong angle on the paper; she’s leaning too far to the right. To correct that, all I have to do is crop the paper:




That’s better. Also, I notice that I’ve made one ear too pointy, so I go back and add some round-ness:



And I’m going to add a sliver of height to her darling little head between them adorable ears:


And I have to add some white paint over some brownish-grey stuff I painted on her cheek (I erased the penciled-in whiskers on that side before I painted, FYI):


Then I beef up her Cleopatra eye liner:


Add the whiskers back in:





Smooch, smooch, smooch. I love kitties.



19 Comments, RSS

  1. Megan Hyatt

    Oh Vivian, how marvellous. What talent and you captured the moggie perfectly. In Australia there are moggies also. My partner and I are on our once a decade trip to the UK and this time the USA for the first time. We have had very little time here and are visiting my relatives. Yesterday we arrived in Highcliffe on Sea to visit my Aunty and there were two cats, one black one like our Chester and a tuxedo cat sitting behind the pussy porte watching my partner try to get close enough to mr black moggie to pat him. We miss our two boys and they are being boarded for two months. Our Mr Jolly is feeling very sad and unloved as he is a bit or a glutton and the lady boarding him has written, “Mr Jolly is always hopeful…he has developed a plaintiff look if he wants seconds. I have hardened my heart as he gets a generous serve in the first place.” Poor thing! Really enjoy your blog and am lucky to have wifi where we are staying. Keep up the fabulous work.

  2. A wonderful way to start my day. Thank you, Vivian, for giving us a patient, step by step lesson. “the shape” of cats is always the first thing we see. It makes you happy just to look at them.
    Makes me want to get out my paints and give it a try.
    Good idea about accepting pictures of Gardeners’ creations/ideas. It will make a wonderful addition to the book.
    There are many of us who wait for Friday to see what humor/art/history/cats/lessons you have for us.
    Thanks again ( and again and again) How many years now?

  3. Oh, Vivian, I could hardly sleep last night, wondering what Lizzie would look like in your hands — the verdict is in! She looks fabulous, just wonderful! I’m so grateful you chose her as your model!

    I think it will be a long, long time before I can paint Lizzie anywhere close to what you did, even with your great step-by-steps. After all, you’ve been doing this a lot longer than me! But you also give me inspiration to try and to find whatever style will work for me, and that’s what these tutorials are all about!

    Thanks for choosing her and thanks even more for giving us such a great guide. For those of us who both savor your blog and learn from it, this one is a gem! ~jeanie

  4. Maryanne in SC

    Clap* clap* clap* Clap* clap* clap* Clap* clap* clap* Clap* clap* clap* Clap* clap* clap* Clap* clap* clap* Clap* clap* clap* Clap* clap* clap* Clap* clap* clap* Clap* clap* clap* Clap* clap* clap* Clap* clap* clap* Brava! Clap* clap* clap* Clap* clap* clap* Clap* clap* clap* Woooooooooooooo! Clap* clap* clap* Clap* clap* clap* Clap* clap* clap* Clap* clap* clap* Clap* clap* clap*!

    • Vivian

      Ooooo…Monique, I just went to your blog and saw the beautiful photo of the Jardin sign on the window. NICE! I want that for the Damn Garden Book!

  5. patricia

    Again you’ve inspired me … I might actually try a portrait of Shredder, our fat furball. When we get home. Right now we’re in Geyserville, CA, the upper Sonoma valley and all the gardens we see here are vinyards. It will be at least a week before I’m on my home computer and able to access my garden photos. Do you want entrances to our secret garden? (must move all those pots of bulbs hiding on the side stairs) …

    • Vivian

      Thanks, Patricia, for reminding me. I pulled images of Secret Gardens offa the internets and they were all about doorways…which MAY or MAY NOT be the most important part of a Secret Garden.

      I am interested in getting all kinds of points of view about Secret Gardens. This week I’ll be painting my neighbor’s S.G. to give you all an idea of how your illustrated garden might look. And by all means, include cats. Or books, chairs, tables, pergolas, tricycles, etc. Whatver you think is important to ave in a S.G.

      Ahhhh….Sonoma Valley…. a vineyard sounds like my dream of a secret garden.

      P.S. I would especially like to see secret gardens from Seattle, Portland, Victoria — anywhere in the Great Pacific Great Northwest. It’s a curious climate and I know you all have everything from rain forests to arctic tundra. I want to see!

  6. Jeannie

    I have informed the fur-panions that they are to be painted. I have to admit, I am superstitious. About 20 years ago, I was trying to teach myself to draw. I drew Ken Griffey, Jr. (the cat). He disappeared that following spring. Was he so offended by the drawing he couldn’t live here? I stopped drawing cats after that. I will try with a stray that is hanging around and eating my birds. 🙂 I did think, “Is Vivian nuts? The garden looks ragged right now, ready for fall”. Add to that the construction going on in my favorite part of the yard. Perhaps a deconstructed Secret Garden that will be reconstructed this spring? LOL! Thanks for always inspiring me and teaching me so much. Cheers!

  7. SusanA

    Oh, Vivian, I love your cat paintings! Thank you so much for giving us a tutorial. I can’t want to try this for myself. The leaves are beginning to change here in Ohio, so I printed out your fall leaf tutorials to attempt this weekend.

  8. Susie

    So worth the wait, thank you!
    Watching your step-by-step painting bringing Lizzie Cosette to life in watercolor is amazing.
    When you painted her eyes and added the sparkle, that really made her…..real. Alive. Warm and cozy.
    Matter of fact, your painting of her looks more animated than the photograph.
    I had a toad garden a couple of years ago, is that a garden for your book? It was quite small, only about 6 by 6 feet, mostly undergrowth. But I did get pictures…if I can find them.

    Thank you always for a lovely Friday. You could charge admission to your blog, I’d willingly pay.

  9. Carly

    Lizzie, meet Larry. Larry, meet Lizzie. Cute cute cute.

    LOVE the cat portrait. I’ve never seen how a painting cam come to life right before my eyes but voila: seen it now.

  10. Oh what a fun post. Loved seeing you paint the kitty. Wonderful job too. I had a cat you would have loved. Niki, She passed away a few years ago but she was my bits and pieces cat and a bit cantankerous but I loved her. She was a rescue cat. I always wanted a yellow striped cat and so she had one shank like that. Like it belonged to another cat. She had similar markings to the old ones you painted. Will have to see if I can find some pix of her and of my secret garden.

  11. Pippa

    Everything about your work is so honest. That’s why even the lumpy first cats are attractive. They are honest. It’s not like you were painting in a faux-primitive style, such as is popular these days amoung hipster illustrators, you are painting with every effort to offer viewers the very best that you can do. Thank you.

  12. You make it look so easy, but, alas, the only way I can do is if they have the numbers next to the colors you’re supposed to use, like in paint by numbers–back in the 60’s. Your talent still amazes me. Thank you for everything.

  13. Jan

    Vivian, I always look forward to your blog, especially when you’re doing one of your WONDERFUL paintings! Every year I can’t wait to see the champagne o meter in the snow. lol! We don’t get much white stuff here in Texas. I would love love love for you to create a book with your fab paintings. Thanks again for sharing your talent and great sense of humor with us!

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