It’s time for some holiday cheer! The cover for book 38 in the Klepto Cat Mystery Series illustrates a simple, heartwarming Christmas in a cabin in the woods, two families with children, homemade gifts, even a Christmas tree that was just a branch from a tree.
Patricia described two or three children, just from the back, and the simple tree, and Rags would be there with them. A raccoon or chipmunk could be looking in the window, but the boys save a fox from a trap so it could be a fox too.
Sounds pretty easy to visualize, but there’s a lot going on there. Rather than starting with a comprehensive background as I often do, I worked with snippets of images for this one, so many images I couldn’t even collect them all for this article, and then I kept just slightly modifying the idea until I finally had the best one.
I first pictured being in the room with them and a window would be on the opposite wall. I had the clildren from the side, their faces lit by the simple tree, and Rags standing beside them on a table, a large window on the opposite wall behind the tree with a fox looking in with snow falling. I had one photo of a few logs on an interior log cabin wall from Birgitta’s house that I copied and pasted to fill. I shoved everything into the cover, and it didn’t work, there was just too much, and Patricia didn’t feel the children were right.
Then I decided to be on the outside looking in. I drew a window like my old casements in black, leaving the panes open to see inside, and black all around. I had a stock photo of a fox from behind, and the phote of Rags looking through a pane of the window from The ImPAWssible Mission and decided they could be looking at each other through one of the bottom panes. I filled the window with the log wall background, added the tree and filled it out here and there for interest. I chose a photo of two of my great kids from behind with appropriate hair color and had them looking at the tree wearing red clothes. I found a good photo of a window with snow on it similar to the simple one I’d drawn in Photoshop and used that to add the snow.
I originally had the fox and Rags and the children and tree on opposite sides from where they are and it just felt wrong, so I switched them and it all came together. The window photo I found also had snow falling which I really loved, but when I did a little experiment it just didn’t work, too busy, and took away from the details that were there. Lastly, we had originally talked about possibly having colored lights around the window to add color and I tried that too but it was distracting with all the other natural stuff around. I made the window frame red instead of black to add color there and the balance was good.
With this book, Patricia had written six books in the series this year, as she usually does. But that’s not all—I painted another illustration right after this one and another book will follow this one before the end of the year!
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 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, 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. and A Very Meowy Christmas.
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
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 two runs of note cards from three of the covers.
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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!