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Featured Artwork: Klepto Cat Book Cover No. 42, “The Secret in the Whiskers”

book cover illustration and design

Back to a nice interior and some antiques, and a painting of cats looking at a painting of cats! It’s a special painting, though, because something is embedded in the paint, and Rags and his mother, Angel, find it.

You might recognize the painting in this painting as the portrait of Buddy, Gus, Boris and Tina I featured last week. Patricia began by explaining that part of the story took place in an antique or vintage shop and they find something, possibly a painting, a piece of furniture or a book, to be very valuable.

“I don’t know yet–but imagine two cats among antiques. I love the concept and thought you would too. Maybe we could use one of your pieces of art–a cat or kittens of course. Rags and Angel can be looking at the painting. One could be on an old period sofa looking from behind the picture and one on the floor looking up at it. That would be fun to have some of your work in the antique shop.”

I sent her a bunch of possible cat paintings to use in the cover design, but she wanted something dark, literally and figuratively, and it was the focus of the story. I knew just the one and sent it.

Buddy, Gus, Boris and Tina, pastel, 9 x 13, 2000 © Bernadette E. Kazmarski

Then she went on to describe the scene. “There is real value in the painting rather than just sentimental value as is first suspected, as there are gems in the whiskers of the cat(s) in the painting. Rags, of course, is the one who finds the gems. They catch him scratching the painting and the gems fall out…we could have Rags and his mother (a Ragdoll) pawing at it or simply looking at it. Maybe it could be just leaned up against the seat in an antique sofa or chair–one cat could be in the seat looking at the painting and the other up on the back of the chair/sofa.” Then we discussed boudoir chairs, and I had my ideas. I could tell the scene was building for her. Below is the setting of antique furniture from my friend Judi’s antique shop that I pulled from to create the chair and the painting.

antique furniture
The furniture and setting I used as a reference.

And then Giuseppe reaching up onto the window screen for a bug for Rags reaching.

black cat reaching
Giuseppe reaching up.

Patricia wanted the ragdoll Angel to seem kind of girly, but ragdolls are fairly large cats. I used the body shape from one cat and the tail from another, then added to markings on top. Then I put the whole thing together and was actually surprised and pleased to see the furniture and the background tones in the portrait coordinated. I made one proof with the wall color a warm creamy color but knowing this was a bedroom/dressing room I also did a pink version, as you see. Patricia liked the pink, and as much as I liked the look of the cream walls, I really liked the pink on pink and thought it coordinated with the story.

Here is the plot of this story:

Rags never tires of offering a helping hand. In this gripping story, Rags is summoned to find a victim, who’s also a witness to a serious crime; he’s asked to locate a trio of missing cyclists; he stumbles across a lost child; and he still manages to keep an inheritance from landing in the wrong hands. This crafty cat has never been so bold and creative while righting the wrongs he encounters.

We are now headed for Book 42.

You can find The Secret in the Whiskers on

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, A Very Meowy Christmas, A Purrfectly Perilous Plot, Meow and Forever , Cats of a Feather and The Secret in the Whiskers.

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 book 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

Click the links above to see the other awards.

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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© 2022 | | Published by Bernadette E. Kazmarski

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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