Featured Artwork: “Undercover Cat” Book Cover

book cover design with cats and quilt undercover cat patricia fry
The final cover design.

Author Patricia Fry published her fourth novel in the mystery series “Klepto Cats”, this one titled Undercover Cat. I began visualizing immediately!

Since Patricia and I have worked together on three other covers I have a feel for the type of cover illustration and design Patricia preferred, and as she tells me the covers have been popular and received compliments I guess we’re doing it right. Patricia always begins by suggesting an idea which usually migrates from that original idea as we find certain elements don’t work well or need to be enhanced, or it turns out there is a better scene to choose from the book.

This one was to initially include Rags the cat holding a black glove which is a clue in the story, and an antique quilt. We had Rags, and I had just the quilt! I sent a photo of Peaches napping on the quilt to show Patricia the antique postage stamp quilt I had in mind and did an early sketch of what I had visualized patterned on a series of photos of Namir and Lucy playing around on the bed, seen here.

two cats playing
Namir “finds” Lucy hiding under the covers.
calico cat on quilt
“Peaches Naps on the Quilt” (a someday soon painting).

Below is the original sketch with a few variations. I sketched the cat in pencil, then printed out a few copies and colored in the basic patterns with colored pencils. At one point with the far background under the title I decided to use Photoshop to copy the pattern to save a little time.


pencil sketch of cat under quilt with glove
The very first original pencil sketch.
pencil sketch of cat under quilt with glove
The first color variation with size.
pencil sketch of cat under quilt with glove
The second color variation with size.
pencil sketch of cat under quilt with glove
The third color variation with size.

The quilt was a little too detailed and Patricia decided she wanted to add a kitten of which Rags is quite fond in the story based on her own cat Lily. The light gray tabby kitten is on a rocker being annoying while Rags is underneath, having just about enough of it. The quilt would figure prominently. I hired a few professional models who would work for food and a roof over their heads and set it up in my office. I did have to use lures and moderate intoxicants to get them to pose in the places and positions I needed. Patricia liked the overall look so I chose a photo from that session with Mr. Sunshine on the rocker and Giuseppe underneath to use as the base to my drawing, the last in the series below.


black cat on quilt
My three professional models.
three black cats on quilt.
Mr. Sunshine in a lovely pose.
black cat with quilt
Giuseppe peeks from the quilt, thinking of his Mademoiselle.
two black cats on quilt
Sunshine and Giuseppe modeling the quilt on the rocker.

The quilt is overall pink and blue, but Patricia wanted bright bold colors on the cover, and that’s what has worked for each of the covers so far—Color is always important on a book cover, whether it’s solid black or white or a flash of some color in between. On the Catnapped cover, Rags was holding a pink bra, and on the Cat-Eye Witness cover the suspect was wearing a red polka-dot skirt and red ink spilled across the floor from a vintage inkwell, and Sleight of Paw featured green floor and purple walls—so I changed the pink to bright red and the pastels from the blocks to bright versions of the colors, but with no patterns in the individual quilt pieces. The border and the diamond-shaped quilt squares are also an antique color scheme. I printed out the sketch to size and transferred it to my preferred drawing base (more on that below) and did the first actual rough painting.

gray cats on colorful quit
The first rough version of the new cover.

Patricia’s books had begun as e-books with the first one in this series last June, but last autumn she began publishing them in print as well and now her books are released in both formats. The format influences the size and design of the cover. Electronic book covers can be any size or shape and because they are typically seen as thumbnails in the initial view elements like the title need to be prominent and often the more colorful they are the better they stand out, but a simple, less-detailed design works better. A book in print can be any size or shape as well but standard sizes are most efficient, and the cover is generally seen at full size so the cover can have more detail and design choices are different—in fact, a detailed cover illustration on books like Patricia’s series are traditional. But where I had designed the covers wider in relation to their height, roughly 5″ x 7″, then had to redesign them for the print version, in this case I designed right for the print version, which is 5″ x 8″.

Initially we wanted to see the kitten’s face but ended up having her lean way far over to smack Rags under the rocker, so I made that change and added more detail.

two gray cats on quilt
The second version of the new cover.

At this point we’d found the layout we liked and worked with the cats’ positions and the colors. When we zoomed in closer on the cats the red was too much so I played around with the colors in Photoshop, coming to a shade of pink and pastels that Patricia liked. Below is a slideshow of the variations leading up to the final cover, which I painted to match the Photoshopped version.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I’ve illustrated three other covers for Patricia, Catnapped , Cat-Eye Witness and Sleight of Paw. All books are available in both electronic and print versions on Amazon.com.

About the illustration materials

bookmarks
A two-sided bookmark for the four books in the series so far.

I didn’t use paper for 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.

The original illustration is actually 8″ x 10″ so it fits in my scanner. 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.

You can find these books and more by Patricia Fry on Amazon.com. Reviews have been good, and a few reviewers have even mentioned the covers! I hope you enjoy these books, and Patricia and I are already beginning the cover for the fifth book in this series. That woman can write!

We also designed a two-sided bookmark that includes all four books so far which Patricia can hand out at book signings and book shows.

. . . . . . .

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.


© 2014 | www.TheCreativeCat.net | Published by Bernadette E. Kazmarski

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Bernadette

From health and welfare to rescue and adoption stories, advocacy and art, The Creative Cat offers both visual and verbal education and entertainment about cats for people who love cats.

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7 thoughts on “Featured Artwork: “Undercover Cat” Book Cover

  • April 17, 2014 at 4:23 pm
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    Love how you showed all the steps and the final cover came out great!

    Reply
  • April 16, 2014 at 11:08 pm
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    Well done. The cover alone would definitely attract my attention to the book.

    Reply
    • April 17, 2014 at 11:26 am
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      Janetblue, Illustrating covers for books like these was always a dream of mine!

      Reply
  • April 16, 2014 at 10:22 pm
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    I think I must start reading this series..that little kitten reaching down looks so adorable!!

    Reply
    • April 17, 2014 at 11:25 am
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      Bluemoonalone, they are fun stories and good mysteries–and cats are a big part of each story!

      Reply
    • April 16, 2014 at 6:01 pm
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      Your human’s got to read them to you–you know that Rags is the hero!

      Reply

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