Custom Cat Portraits : 2 Cute Watercolor Paintings

watercolor cat portraits

Today I’ll tell you all about two cute watercolor cat portraits I painted of two very different cats : Nini and MooMoo’s. While my main body of work is now ceramic animal figurines and porcelain jewelry, I started as an illustrator with a thing for painting animal patterns. So, pet portraits : yes ! Of course !

Two very different cat portraits

My customer, the cat’s mom, asked me for two watercolor cat patterns, one for each kitty. Nini and MooMoo are as different as two cats can be and a very detailed description of their characters helped me define the overall feeling of each painting.

“Nini (8 years old, a girl/princess) – She is one of the most friendly and elegant cats I’ve ever seen. She has a lot of advanced yoga poses….
MooMoo (just turned 1 year old, a girl/my cute devil) – After she turned 4 months old, she started to dominate the entire house. She loves hunting games! She would deliver her prey (toys) to your door or bed or pillow and wake you up at 4 am to make sure you sign the package.”

An excerpt of the cats description by Cici

After we agreed on the technical aspects of this custom cat portrait commission, size, number of cats, price and schedule, I got into studying my two models. One was a calm, dainty princess, yoga master and sweet lady, white the other was a little demon in disguise, ready to jump your heels and probably a martial art teacher. Both painting would sit side by side, so I wanted them to be coherent while showing both cats opposite personalities.

The models, Nini and MooMoo
The models for the cat portraits ♥

Sketching 60 cat portraits at once

At first, there’s always a grid, so you’ll see lines on the sketches up until the painting part. It helps a lot with getting each cat about the same space in the picture. The grid is kind of my security harness here. I sketched all 60 cats in one sitting, and then send them over to my customer. She added a few details, changed one pose and that was it.

The sketch part is the longest because I have to imagine different poses for each cat. I never request 30 pictures of 30 different poses as it would be both tedious to gather and reproduce. Instead, I’ll memorize each individual cat character and imagine how they would move, sit, rest, play…If you ever wondered about all the cute animal videos’ use : they’re quite helpful for me. They provide both serotonin and a great deal of different shapes and poses to draw from.

cat portrait sketch
Calm, loving cat portraits

Each painting has a very different feeling. One is calm while the other’s playful, one is round and the other’s long, one is going to be very soft in white and pinks while the other’s going to have more contrast with a dark grey tudexo coat.

cat portrait sketch
Playful active cat portraits

Inking the cat portraits

When the cat portraits sketches were agreed upon, I began inking the pieces. I use archival waterproof ink. That makes this part the most delicate because I can’t fail or lack focus. I don’t sketch each detail with a great precision, leaving room for some creative inking. I use a pen holder and a nib, if you’d like to know more, I wrote a piece about my watercolor material.

inked cat portraits
Active playful cat portraits, inked

That’s the part where I put on a podcast and make sure I have a lot of free time ahead of me. I always begin from the top left to the bottom right, in order to not swipe the drying ink with my hand.

When I’m done with inking the cat portraits, I usually let the ink dry for a few hours before erasing the pencil. After that, I’ll ink a few more details and let it dry again. The drying time is pretty quick but one can never be too careful ^^

Then I’ll send the inked version to my customer, this is just to inform them I’m done because at this stage, I can’t change anything.

inked cat pattern
Inked cat portraits : Nini the calm princess

Painting the cat portraits

That’s the super fun part and my favorite. I use only handcrafted artisan paints from a great maker in Lyon, France. She’s making the watercolors in very small batches and each color has a name. I just adore her work and the best thing is : some colors are sparkly. The gold and sparkly black are by far my favorite. I can confidently write that I’m never using industrial watercolors again ^^ So these handmade watercolor paintings are truly unique in more than one way.

watercolor cat portrait detail
Nini’s painting, notice the soft purple and pink hues.

Painting a white cat portrait might seem easy, but in fact Nini has a lot of colors on her. I painted her mostly with pink hues for the inside of her ears, toe beans and nose, my rosy cheeks trademark. I also used a mix of blue and purple in order to shade her body and the idea of the ground. This results in very pretty blue to purple gradients up close.

The final touch on Nini’s portrait are the gold paint whiskers, she’s a princess !

cat portrait gold paint
Gold highlights on a princess cat portrait

Painting MooMoo was another kind of challenge, her dark grey marking are very specific around the mouth and she has white socks. I mixed in the sparkly black watercolor, one per line is sparkly, adding variety to the whole portrait pattern. And she also has silver whiskers, to make both painting closer to each other.

The sparkling black paint details, and silver whiskers.

Sending the paintings

Once I finished the paintings, I scanned the watercolors portraits to keep them in my files and later publish them here. They will not be sold as prints or goodies as some of the other collections.

I sent the finished paintings as both pictures and clean scanned watercolor. I always await the answer with a tinge of stress but the outcome is always the best. My customer has validated several steps already so seeing the finished work really made her happy.

Oh My God! I LOVE IT!! I can’t wait to receive them 🙂 I love the coloring and gold and silver accent

Cici
One scanned cat portrait


I then packed my work with the greatest care and sent it over to my customer, hoping she’ll enjoy them as much on her walls as I enjoyed painting both cats !

MooMoo finished cat portrait

The cat portraits in their home

I really love seeing the art pieces in their environments. Cici sent me some pictures of the frame and I was stunned that she framed them together. This is such a great idea ! Her home décor is adorable too, ceramics ♥

Framed cat portraits in their home

Ordering a pet portrait

My pet portraits are in the cute range of the spectrum. While my favorite things to paint are the animal patterns, I also paint solo portraits. All the information about the pet portrait commissions are here.

A beautiful frame ♥ Thank you Cici !