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Featured Artwork: Klepto Cat Book Cover No. 33, “The Secret Claws”

The Secret Claws cover.
The Secret Claws cover.

Book 33 of the Klepto Cat Mysteries is out, and this is the cover. The story involves a vacation place, a little church in the mountains, and a bunch of keys that end up pointing to bad behavior by several people involved. Of course, Rags runs circles around the humans and figures it all out.

The cover would include the church in the mountains, and rags with a key or a few keys. I envisioned both a white clapboard church and a small stone church, each with colorful glass windows, probably at dusk so the light would shine through those windows. A grassy field, maybe some wildflowers, a sunset, but Rags would have to stand out in all that somehow, with a key in his mouth or around his neck.

So I got my photos of small churches together and got some backgrounds, and got started. I had several variations on the church that we ended up using for the cover, which happens to be an older historic church near me that I’ve photographed for years and actually intend to paint some day. The stone and bright red door would work with the idea. I also had one other small community church that is gray with white shutters on the windows, but I’d switch that around. I also pictured a long driveway to get to it, Rags at the end of it so he’d be large enough. And if none of those ideas worked we could have Rags and keys on a front porch that had some sort of a cornerstone or marker.

Patricia had also been thinking of a simple, old-fashioned-looking white wooden church, but since it’s in the mountains it could be made of stone, and the foreboding sky sounded interesting.

So there we are. The first design was the winner, though we made a number of changes to it. Rags got lost against the stone because he’s gray on gray and the covers were printing too dark, so I moved him in front of the door and ended up lightening the facade of the church—after I’d finished the painting. I prefer for the illustrations to be accurate and reflect the final art so I will always choose to change the art, but at that point going into the painting, moving Rags and changing the color and contrast would have been almost more difficult than actually starting over, which I didn’t want to do. Luckily I’m a Photoshop user and am very skilled at modifying images. I actually isolated Rags, moved him, lightened the church facade and replaced all the sections of stone that hadn’t been in the original painting. Then the key just didn’t stand out well so I made it supersized and put Rags’ paw atop the fence post where it was hanging. Finis.

You can find The Secret Claws on

I’ve also painted another cover since this one, and I’m just starting another cover too!

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 19 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, 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, and Meowmoirs of a Kleptocat.

Klepto Cat Book Covers

CWA 2017 Certificate of Excellence for “Illustration: Series”

2015, 2016 & 2017

For three years in a row my illustrations for the Klepto Cat Mysteries have won Certificates of Excellence in the Cat Writers’ Association’s annual communications contest. The covers included in these awards include covers 9 through 20, or Mansion of Meows through By Cat or By Crook.

Bookmarks for Patricia L. Fry's books.
Bookmarks for Patricia L. Fry’s books.

All books are available in electronic format and most for print on 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 two runs of note cards from three of the covers.

. . . . . . .

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.

Featured Artwork

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!





From health and welfare to rescue and adoption stories, advocacy and art, factual articles and fictional stories, "The Creative Cat" offers both visual and verbal education and entertainment about cats for people who love cats, pets and animals of all species.

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