Featured Artwork: Klepto Cat Book 55, “Rags Lends a Helping Paw”
Right from the start, this cover was going to have a bunch of cats on it. And that was going to be fun! The book started out with a different title, then Patricia changed it because I had some trouble relating the original title to the story line she described, and that does get in the way of me visualizing the cover.
There’s a scene where Rags is helping to corral cats that have escaped from a cat cafe–housed in a house. They’re in a backyard with grass. In one scene he holds down a large tangerine cat and is waiting for someone to help him with the cat. … This could be a nice scene because we can show other cats in the background trying to escape capture–like hiding or whatever. We might want to show the back fence instead of the house–with cats hiding behind potted plants and lawn chairs, etc. I mention two black cats among those that have been turned loose. (Do you think you could come up with a photo of a black cat/??) (haha) I also mention a small Siamese, but there are other cats running loose so it doesn’t matter what cats you want to paint.
Oh, my, I was picturing cats peeking out behind everything in a back yard, kind of like the ferals I photograph do—ears in the grass, peeking down from a tree branch like the Cheshire cat, between rails on a porch, you name it. But we like to keep Rags pretty prominent, and all those cats would be pretty scattered about the yard, and it was just difficult to see how the volume of cats would work in a small space like the cover. I did set up one idea but knew it was going to be difficult to work out.
Then a couple of weeks later as I walked home from a visit with my eye doctor I enjoyed dawdling about with my camera in the cold and snowy but sunny afternoon. My neighbor’s long and narrow back steps to the second floor porch caught my eye; they’d painted them and they had more definition, then the bright sun cast shadows creating a mesmerizing pattern. I took a photo straight on, and remember thinking, “I’ll have to send this to Patricia, I could just see cats lined up on those steps on some book cover some time.”
When I got home I downloaded to photos, but the cover wasn’t due for a few weeks and other things were due before that so it was about a week before I got back to that cover. I again tried to picture tiny but cute cats in the background peering out from behind things. It was only then that I realized this was the cover I on which I could use the photo if the steps! I really hadn’t made the connection until then.
What a coincidence seeing the steps when I did. I’d seen the steps before, I’d walked past them all the years I’ve lived here, in all seasons. But it was the clarity of winter without plants and flowers, and the white snow on the ground instead of green grass that isolated the pattern of steps and the shadows on that on particular day that made me notice the image. Why I didn’t make the connection right away I’ll never know, but I’m just glad I did because I can’t picture this cover any other way.
And the cats in the painting:
Here’s the synopsis:
Rags leads the charge against mayhem and crime. In this story Rags helps locate and rehabilitate Detective Craig’s troubled stepson, but not without some missteps and mishaps. The detective, Savannah, and her psychic friend, Rochelle travel to Arizona to find Chris and try to help him. Along the way Rags takes charge in an attempted assault, he saves Rochelle from a cruel magician’s prank, and he rescues vulnerable cats under difficult circumstances. Expect the unexpected in this lively and touching tale.
You can find Rags Lends a Helping Paw on Patricia’s website and on Amazon.com.
About the illustration materials
I use a self-prepared two-ply illustration board with a very fine surface texture to hold the pastel, and also be able to use other media. It’s not entirely opaque so I can put it on my light table and trace the details in place. I start out with a sketch in watercolor and even marker to block in the colors and especially the dark areas. Then I put it on my drafting table and finish it with my pastels, first the soft pastels for coverage, then pastel pencils for details.
Depending on the detail in the illustration, I work them about twice the final size of the cover. Getting all the details just right on an illustration like these book covers can be tricky when they are small. The books are 5″ x 8″, but these illustrations are usually about 10″ x 16″, which helps me to paint in all the details.
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 stands 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. Especially when working with patterns it’s important nothing is out of place or it’s immediately noticeable. I start with a complete composite that I’ve built in Photoshop using all the photos and images and art so that Patricia can see just what it will look like, and I have all the details in place. It’s far more difficult to correct an illustration than a Photoshop composite, which I can adjust infinitely. That way, when I get to my actual painting, all the decisions have been made and I just need to paint.
I use a self-prepared two-ply illustration board with a very fine surface texture to hold the pastel, and also be able to use other media. It’s not entirely opaque so I can put it on my light table and trace the details in place. I start out with a sketch in watercolor and even marker to block in the colors and especially the dark areas. Then I put it on my table and finish it with my pastels, first the soft pastels for coverage, then pastel pencils for details.
Depending on the detail in the illustration, I work them sometimes twice the final size of the cover. Getting all the details just right on an illustration like these book covers can be tricky when they are small. The books are 5″ x 8″, but this illustration was 10″ x 16″, which helped me to paint in all the leaves and details of the bark.
About these book covers
I’ve illustrated over 50 covers for Patricia over two series of cat mysteries. You can see the Klepto Cat covers 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, Cattywampus Travels, Cats in the Belfry, CATalyst for Clues., The Perilous PURRsuit, Secrets, Trickery and Meows, The ImPAWsible Mission, Meowmoirs of a Kleptocat, Revenge at its Felinest, FURever Bound, Cats Don’t Squeal, The Secret Claws, FURever Friends, Wrong Side of the Paw, A Whisker of Truth, Cats and Caboodle, A Very Meowy Christmas, A Purrfectly Perilous Plot, Meow and Forever , Cats of a Feather The Secret in the Whiskers, Whiskerful Thinking, Paws for Trouble, Love at First Purr, Meowing in the Moonlight, A Whisker of Doubt, In PURRsuit of the Unknown, A PAWsome Encounter, Calico Calamities, A Whisker Away, Rags Gets the Upper Paw, Claw and Order.
Klepto Cat Book Covers
CWA 2018 Muse Medallion AND Certificate of Excellence for “Illustration: Series”
Illustration: Series, Klepto Cat Covers 27 through 32
MUSE™ Medallion and Certificate of Excellence
Patricia publishes about six books each year and I’ve entered the covers since 2015. I’ve won a Certificate of Excellence each year, and this year won a MUSE™ Medallion too.
2015, 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019
Click the links above to see the other awards.
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 several runs of note cards from multiple covers, including a Christmas series.
. . . . . . .
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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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!
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3 thoughts on “Featured Artwork: Klepto Cat Book 55, “Rags Lends a Helping Paw””
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B; nicely done !! 🙂
Beautiful cover art. I always love the covers on the Klepto Cat series.