In early March Patricia called again to say she was working on book 23, which was a travel adventure. Family and friends would spend the entire book traveling and, of course, Rags is along for the ride. “As for a cover, I’m thinking about Rags either sitting contentedly in the back of a car looking out the window or sitting amongst luggage on a luggage carousel at the airport. What do you think?” she said.
Then began the task of naming the book, and despite all the good ideas I like to wait for the final title before I start working. The title will sit on top of my illustration and titles are often a little obscure, even cozy cat mysteries. If the illustration works well for the book but doesn’t click with the title it can all be very awkward. Patricia’s book titles all have a cat term or a play on a cat term, purr, mew, cat, feline. We began with “Cat and Caboodle” or something more indicative of family vacation, like “Family VaCATion”, and from thence to “A Travel MEOWmoir”.
I let the titles kind of flow by and decided I liked the back seat/back window idea. We could show show a bit of countryside outside the window to show California. Or that they weren’t in California, but were also traveling to Connecticut and Massachusetts, and since it was Christmas travel there could be snow.
We discussed even more titles and then the vehicle, an SUV, with Rags looking out a side window or the back window, standing and looking out—paws on the window or lying on luggage to see out. Visualizing that I thought it might look a little dull in color with a dark interior, and asked if anything else might be in the back of the car, stuffed toys? One of the characters who was traveling was two-year-old Lily, so stuffed animals would work.
Then we discussed what would be outside the windows and around the car. In the end we decided on a city street instead of a country road since we’d never used that on a book cover before.
After a few more titles came along, there was “Cattywampus Vacation” and “Cattywampus Travels”. I liked “cattywampus” and decided to start my cover with that idea.
The city street would look kind of colorful because it’s right after Christmas. The city buildings would be kind of tall and angled, not too detailed. I photographed the back of my Ford Escape, which is red and would add color to the composition, and culled through my photos of downtown Pittsburgh. I layered buildings on both sides of a street and taller buildings in the background, knowing where the title would fall so I could leave that area with a little less pattern. I placed my car on top of it. Ready for a cat in the back window.
I remembered a photo of Ernie that would work well as the reference cat for the back window and he fit perfectly. Then I added a few vague stuffed toys in pink and blue and yellow and I liked the effect.
When I sent Patricia the draft I added, “Bonus—we can add a vanity plate to the SUV! We’d take off all the identifying things. That’s actually my Ford Escape,” I said.
There had been a few changes to the story: the time was February so it shouldn’t be Christmasy, but the buildings as I’d added them were fine, and the SUV needed to be white. I drew it up on the paper and added the letters to the license plate and we were done.
It’s another cover completed, and I actually finished cover 24 recently and I really can’t wait to share it. You can find Cattywampus Travels on Amazon.com.
About the illustration materials
I don’t use paper for most of these illustrations but chose Ampersand brand Pastelbord, which is a piece of Masonite with a very fine clay and marble-dust coating that has very little texture but holds layers of pastel so I can both do my finger-painting thing with blending softer pastels and sketch with harder pastels and pastel pencils, and it stand up well to multiple changes. I began the painting with soft pastels to cover the major areas with layers of color. I finished up the details and edges with pastel pencils.
But once I began working out the covers with all this Victorian detail like PAWSitively Sinister, I needed a little assistance in keeping the details in order so it didn’t take me until next year to do the painting. I used a self-prepared paper with a very fine surface texture and not entirely opaque so I could put it on my light table and trace the details in place and even draw on the light table with pastel pencils. These illustrations are 8″ x 10″ and the books are 5″ x 8″. Because the illustration is reduced in size it’s easy to lose details so I can’t go too big, and especially when working with patterns it’s important nothing is out of place or it’s immediately noticeable. Getting all the details just right on an illustration like this interior with cats can be tricky when it’s this small. The risk with this paper is that the surface is delicate and actually drawing too hard will remove the roughened texture and I’ll have a hole in my drawing! But it’s great fun to take my Photoshop composite and turn it into a painting.
About these book covers
I’ve illustrated a total of 19 covers for Patricia. You can see them below, but unfortunately you can’t click on the images to go to the article and read more about them. Use these links instead: Catnapped, Cat-Eye Witness, Sleight of Paw, Undercover Cat, The Colony Cat Caper, The Corral Cat Caper, Gallery Cat Caper, Mansion of Meows, Celebrity Cat Caper, Pawtners in Crime, Pawsitively Sinister, The Purrfect Lie, A Picture Purrfect Christmas, Meow for the Money, Claws for a Cause, Cabin FURvor, A MEOWvelous Witness, Cats in Cahoots, The Amazing CATventure, By Crook or By Cat, Merriment, Mayhem and Meows, A Christmas to Purr About and Cattywampus Travels.
CWA Certificate of Excellence for “Illustration: Series”
For two years in a row my illustrations for the Klepto Cat Mysteries have won Certificates of Excellence in the Cat Writers’ Association’s annual communications contest. The covers included in these awards include covers 9 through 20, or Mansion of Meows through By Cat or By Crook.
All books are available in electronic format and most for print on Amazon.com as well as find the print versions on Patricia’s website. Reviews have been good, and a few reviewers have even mentioned the covers! I hope you enjoy these books, and Patricia and I are currently working on the next cover. That woman can write!
When we finished book 12 we also updated the two-sided bookmark that includes all twelve books so far which Patricia can hand out at book signings and book shows.
We’ve also printed two runs of note cards from three of the covers.
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Read more about book covers I’ve designed. Also, click here to read more about the Purrs of Wisdom cover and bookmarks, and also about books I’ve designed on my blog, What’s New?
Are you interested in illustrations or a book cover, or book design? Please contact me, I’ll be happy to discuss your project.
Each week on Wednesday I feature a piece of artwork, sometimes a current or historic portrait, sometimes an illustration or an art project from years ago, usually cat-themed, but sometimes wildlife or even non-animal subjects, and even projects from my commercial art life. Read other Featured Artwork posts.
Custom Commissioned Artwork and Illustrations from Portraits of Animals
From Animal Portraits to Book Covers to Advertisements
In addition to creating commissioned portraits beloved animal companions for the past 25 years I’ve also been a commercial artist since the 1980s both full-time and freelance and created many illustrations, book covers, advertisements, display signs and more. Visit my Commissioned Artwork pages to read more. They are not quite complete at the moment but there is still quite a bit to look at.
All images and text used on this site are copyrighted to Bernadette E. Kazmarski unless otherwise noted and may not be used without my written permission, although links to your site are more than welcome and are shared. Please ask if you are interested in using and image or story in a print or internet publication. If you are interested in purchasing a print of an image or a product including it, check my animal and nature website Portraits of Animals to see if I have it available already. If you don’t find it there, visit Ordering Custom Artwork for more information on a custom greeting card, print or other item.
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Tuesday: Rescue Stories
Thursday: New Merchandise
And sometimes, I just throw my hands in the air and have fun!