At the beginning of July I finished another cover for the “Klepto Cats” series of books by author Patricia Fry, The Purrfect Lie. That makes 12 books in the series!
Many of these stories take place in a restored old Victorian farmhouse or otherwise Victorian homes full of antiques and treasures, and these have been fun to illustrate using photos of my friend Judi’s Victorian house—full of antiques and treasures, and free for the photographing! So like Pawsitively Sinister I could use one of my photos from the interior. As Patricia described the scene she’d like on the cover:
“Let’s have Rags sitting on a side table–or coffee table with a vase of flowers, perhaps. An envelope (old and dusty, if possible) lays on the table at his feet. Then there’s a black and white adult cat–it can have more white on it than Rags does. He is standing on the floor on his hind feet very interested in the envelope at Rags’s feet. The black and white cat’s front paws are on the table, reaching for the envelope. Both cats can be looking at it. There could even be a very tiny locket or just a fine chain dangling from the envelope. We don’t want it to be too prominent–and it is for a baby, so very small. They are at Aunt Margaret’s house, so it isn’t large, but you can add something interesting in the background if you want…or not.”
I knew just the photo I’d want to use as the basis of the illustration! I remembered one of the photos I’d taken in Judi’s house years ago of a little corner desk that I adored, with books and a lamp and art and properly Victorian.
And as for that black and white cat, named Jack in the story, he was to have a little more white than Rags, and I happen to know that Patricia is fond of long-haired cats. Plus, Jack was a rescue living in Aunt Margaret’s shelter. You know how I love to include my cats, my fosters and cats I know in my art. Who else but Ernie would do for this assignment?
This was the basic photo I used for Ernie’s face and paw, and then I used lots of little bits and pieces of photos of him for the rest of him. It was his slightly shy expression that I loved so much, the little tilt of his head and sideways glance. I initially had a perfect photo of Ernie standing up and reaching onto the cabinet in the bathroom, but as I’ll explain below we made a few changes to suit other details.
So what happened to the tuxedo cat standing on the floor, and the dusty envelope, and both cats looking at it? Illustrations evolve as we work them out, and everything is subject to change to get the point across. In this case, having Jack standing on the floor and Rags on the table pulled the viewer farther from the scene, which made the envelope and the locket too small to have any significance. That detail was too important to the story, so I moved Jack up onto the chair. Then the envelope obscured their paws—both were white, and seeing the positions of their paws with the locket was too important a clue to have their white paws blend into the white envelope, and no other color really worked well. That also meant the locket needed to be “found” somehow, so I pulled the drawer open just a tiny bit and let the locket slip out. Both cats’ paws are pointing to it. And both faces looking down at the locket was cute but just didn’t draw attention.
When their faces were looking down I decided to reduce a few of the details in the background so their profiles were clearly visible, so I removed the books in the background. They would have worked fine once I turned their faces toward the front, but since the background was already done I decided just to leave it.
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 12 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 and The Purrfect Lie (you’re here already!).
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!
Earlier this year 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.
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All images used on this site are copyrighted to Bernadette E. Kazmarski unless otherwise noted and may not be used without my written permission. Please ask if you are interested in using one in a print or internet publication. If you are interested in purchasing a print of this image or a product including this image, check my Etsy shop or Fine Art America profile 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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Wednesday: Commissioned Portrait or Featured Artwork
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