It’s Patricia’s latest book, It’s Meow or Never, and my latest cover! Two cats and two horses and a landscape—what more could I ask for? And I’m really excited about the two horses who belong to a friend.
Patricia described the story and her idea. Rags and Olivia both appear in this book even though Olivia has her own series. Well, we just can’t get enough of a pretty longhaired calico, can we? The two cats are with their humans Parker and Savannah in the mountains looking for cats who are roaming in a particular canyon. The don’t know if the cats are being dumped there, or if someone lives there and lets all the cats roam. And how good is that—throw in a little community cat rescue too! The story includes two horses, ones who Rags and Olivia know well.
Patricia had a number of ideas from scenes in the book, but none of them really suited the closeups of the cats and other animals that Patricia prefers. We’ve also had roaming cats in the wild on other covers, recently too, so we should avoid that if possible. Could the cats be riding the horses? We’ve already had each of them riding horses on covers, Olivia twice, in fact.
“Or they could be looking into a canyon and seeing cats hiding behind bushes and so forth–that seems hard to capture for a cover,” Patricia wrote, but that was the one that immediately gave me this idea, and all I needed was the horses, with a fence, the cats on the fence between their faces, all looking intently over the gate or fence, even with an alarmed expression. I described it to Patricia and she liked that idea.
So all I needed was two horses and a fence, or a gate, or both. I love putting individual photos together to create a scene, but the more I can find in one photo the better for getting proportions correct among all the subjects and even the objects in the illustration. Where would I find those horses? You know I prefer to use animals and places I know, and from my own photo stock as well. I knew I didn’t have the horses, though I had plenty of fences and gates, so where could I look next…? Aha, my friend Lynn who rescues cats and has horses! I loved her photos of her horses, and I’d even thought about visiting her to take photos and maybe sketch or paint them.
So I sent her a message about the situation, asked if she’d mind, and if she had any ideas that would fit or if she minded me looking through her Facebook photos. She didn’t mind at all, and I found my horses in about 15 minutes, in fact I found six different photos that I could use! But this one was the one I chose because all the parts were perfect, though I’d have to add another background, and the two horses were even a good distance apart for two cats to fit between.
How purrfect! You can see I flopped the photo so that Billy, darker, and Meko, lighter, were facing the opposite direction, some guideline about having subjects face off the left edge of an image, especially a book cover, from way back, and once I did it felt right. I pulled in photos of the cats and did my changes to them, especially Rags with his paws on the fencepost, and added in the background, one I had from northern California that I’ve used on other of these book covers.
About Billy and Meko
“Billy, the darker one, was with me for over 20 years,” Lynn wrote. “My trail riding partner. Lost him in November. So excited he’s on here. He was a Polish Arabian. Loved everyone. Such a gentle boy.
“Meko, the lighter guy will be 30 next week,” she continued. “Can’t believe it. Have had him for almost 24 years. Was a trail riding partner years ago. He’s a quarter horse. He’s my mischievous one. Always getting into things. They both would have loved going on adventures with cats.”
Well that’s what books are for! Now they can go on adventures with cats.
I remember Lynn sharing photos of riding Billy and taking care of him and just being with him and I knew how special he was to her. If I had known she lost him only last November I probably wouldn’t have asked her, it would feel too soon; I was in the middle of my own losses and lost track of everyone else so I didn’t know. But I’m really glad I did anyway, because now she gets to share Billy with hundreds more people on the cover of a book. I understand how that feels. Thanks, Lynn, for making this a special project!
Here’s the synopsis:
You can find this book on Patricia’s website and on Amazon.com.
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 and 2022 Muse Medallion AND Certificate of Excellence for “Illustration: Series”
Patricia publishes nearly a dozen books each year and I’ve entered the covers since 2015. I’ve won a Certificate of Excellence each year for either or both the Klepto Cat Mysteries and the Calico Cat Mysteries, 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!