That’s LAST Christmas, mind you! I really need to catch up on sharing these covers.
Patricia described the situation: the Iveys “adopted” a needy family at Christmas, living in an older but not run down house on a working ranch that doesn’t really earn enough for extras. Rags brings them Christmas so the scene could be Rags with gifts, maybe on the front porch, maybe kids looking out the windows. There’s something dark in the story, as you might expect with a cozy cat mystery.
I liked the idea of children looking out the windows so I used a door with windows and I also tried just a window in the background. I used just Rags and the bag of gifts and the windows, but the little faces didn’t work. This is one cover where I still look at it and I want those little faces there, but it looks festive all the same. The door originally had these leaded glass panels so I ended up using them for interest rather than a plain background where the windows would be.
I wanted to figure out a way to get the “darkness” in the cover too, maybe with an actual shadow falling over the steps, or Rags sitting next to the Christmas things and staring intently out into the yard. No luck on that ground either.
For the references I used a photo of a house in my neighborhood that I’ve used a few other times for these covers and other projects.
For the other references, my gray and white cat Namir was the basis of Rags’ figure, but the rest I blocked off with areas of color and kind of sketched in there. I’ve drawn Santa hats and red bags of Christmas gifts and trees and paper loop garlands so many times in other projects that they come easier than finding actual references to use in place.
Here’s the synopsis:
About the materials for the cover illustration
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 initially started out with a sketch in watercolor but I’ve been using my brush markers more often to block in the colors and especially the dark areas; the markers don’t cause as much ripple in the paper and have cleaner edges than watercolors. Then I put it on my easel and finish it with my pastels, a mix soft pastels and pastel pencils especially for details. Depending on textures I need in the art I sometimes similar weight drawing papers with different textures too.
Getting all the details just right on an illustration like these book covers can be tricky when they are small. Depending on the detail in the illustration, I work them almost twice the final size of the cover—the cover is 5″ x 8″ and I work at 9″ x 12″ or larger.
Other illustration materials I’ve used
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.
About these book covers
I’ve illustrated over 70 covers for Patricia over two series of cat mysteries. You can see the Klepto Cat covers below and search “Klepto Cat” to find all the posts.
CWA 2018 Muse Medallion AND Certificate of Excellence for “Illustration: Series”
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 often won a MUSE™ Medallion too.
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.
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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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Weekly schedule of features:
Tuesday: Rescue Stories
Thursday: New Merchandise
And sometimes, I just throw my hands in the air and have fun!