It’s a good thing my neighbors’ azaleas were blooming this past April when I needed a colorful shrub for the cover of Patricia Fry’s Klepto Cat mystery number 18, Cats in Cahoots. Patricia loves her colorful covers and the last few have been darker, so it’s time to get back to sunshine and bright colors. The story also included a long-haired ginger tabby colony cat, so I could include one of my fosters, and since the cats are two little thieves I could also include other little favorite things.
Patricia described what she had in mind.
Would you be thinking about a cover design for book 18? I’m calling it “The Cagey Cat Caper”. This one involves Rags, of course, and a yellow tabby with the TNR ear clip. They are in cahoots (ooooh, that would be a good word to use in the title) Cats in Cahoots? What do you think? Anyway, they’re sneaking around the neighborhood taking things and they stash it all together under a bush. So we could have them bringing something to that spot. We could show either both of one of them with something in their mouth and maybe show other items. Included would be a flip-flop, red kids’ baseball cap–for a Cardinals Little League team, a few small pieces of jewelry (you know how Rags likes jewelry), a baby shoe, dog toy, kids’ toy–maybe one of those balsa wood rubberband airplanes… As for background–the Iveys’ small orchard (the trees are just leafing out), shrubs, flowers…whatever.
I’m open to ideas.
Oh, here’s what I’m picturing: Rags under the bush next to a pile of sparkly colorful stuff, and the yellow tabby headed underneath with something in his mouth. We’ll probably have to focus on them under the bush and not show too much of the background so people can see the stash well enough, so let’s make it an interesting bush—do you have rhododendrons out there? That would add a splash of deep pink. Any other ideas about flowering bushes? And I have just the ear-tipped kitty—another of my fosters, Bert, long-haired orange tabby with orange eyes!
I like Cats in Cahoots better too!
Patricia responded that though the kitty in the story, Sunbeam, was a girl, a boy model would work. And a rhododendron, or a nice pink azalea or camellia would work because the story took place in northern California where it’s cooler and rainer than southern California where Patricia lives.
I knew the photo of Bert (now Simon) would work, I just wouldn’t ever let him know he had modeled for a girl.
Nearly every yard in my neighborhood had a pink azalea in full bloom, so I had my choice of shrubs to tuck the kitties and their stash underneath.
So after all the notes and conversations I found all the parts of the illustration. I used a photo of a jade necklace I’d photographed for a customer’s shop for one of the trinkets they’d stolen, and used an old battered balsa wood plane I had and a red St Louis baseball cap sketched by eye.
Obviously I had to fill in the rest of Bert’s torso as I’d visualized, butt in the air, and filled in the grass at the bottom of the illustration, even adding a few spring dandelions as they were all over in the grass at that time. All in all, a pretty fun illustration.
So there we are, another cover completed. As I said, the variety in subject matter is very exciting each time Patricia calls for a new cover. And I’ll have to double up on posting about these because I am already three covers ahead of this one. You can find Cats in Cahoots 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, amd A MEOWvelous Witness.
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.
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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.
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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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Weekly schedule of features:
Sunday: Essays, Pet Loss, Poetry, The Artist’s Life
Monday: Adoptable Cats, TNR & Shelters
Tuesday: Rescue Stories
Wednesday: Commissioned Portrait or Featured Artwork
Thursday: New Merchandise
Friday: Book Review, Health and Welfare, Advocacy
Saturday: Your Backyard Wildlife Habitat, Living Green With Pets, Creating With Cats
And sometimes, I just throw my hands in the air and have fun!