A nice outdoor scene just in time for warm weather. Patricia suggested a scene very early on and that’s what we stayed with all the way through. However, it’s funny to see how I interpreted her description from the time I read it, then visualized and created the cover, then read her notes once again after I was done. In part, I spent so much time looking for one lone photo from back in the early digital days when I only kept the ones I used for something, and I knew I had a photo of Namir with a feather toy in his mouth and pulling on it that I could use for Rags in that position. Then later I went looking for that house I’d taken a photo of years ago in the middle digital era. By that time I’d almost lost my grasp on the original idea and moved to an entirely new one.
Here is what Patricia sent as her idea:
For this one, I’m thinking about a picture of Rags pulling a broken, tattered, dirty basket along outside–it will be an outdoor view–with an injured cat inside. This cat is a part Maine coon. I’ve attached a photo of the cat I’ve modeled this character after. … I had pictured her in the basket in front, and then him behind either with his paws wrapped over the edge of the basket with him stretched so he looks like he’s pulling, or even with his teeth wrapped around a handle and backing up.
I pretty much envisioned what you see above, but without a background. We’ve done covers with an image like this and no background for a setting, like Meow and Forever and Secrets, Trickery and Meows and a few others. The two cats and the basket is sufficiently interesting and makes a full cover with a color in the background, but sometimes there’s more story to tell. The cats end up on a porch, and we are still working with a big old Victorian house so that would likely be a big wooden porch. I also mentioned that both cats were pretty monochromatic and the porch would be minimal so we needed some color, and she suggested planters.
I did find that photo of Namir pulling on a toy, but it was so blurry that only I could tell what was happening in it. It was, however, just enough for me to build that part of Rags’s face. I used one of the many photos of Smokey from Patricia’s website and Facebook page for the rest of Rags’s face and made up the rest of him, including the big question mark tail.
I had this photo of two of the boys in their favorite basket that I used for the basket in the illustration.
Patricia had provided photos of a long-haired tabby cat named Mollie for the cat in the basket, and you can see I used her face and part of her body.
And then I finally found the exact house I wanted, in part because I knew it only had one step up onto the porch, easy enough for a big strong cat to drag a basket over. Obviously, I cropped it way down and changed the season.
And then those flower planters. I wanted both a pink choice and a red choice, the two flashy colors we try to add to attract attention on covers. I have no shortage of flowers, but my flowers are Pennsylvania flowers and these stories take place in Northern California, where Patricia lives. But I knew just where to find hot-climate flowers in a planter—my niece in Savannah builds plantings in pots and baskets at a wholesale greenhouse supply in Savannah, GA. I found one each on her Facebook page that were samples of planters she’d done. Patricia preferred the red one, as did I.
Here is the plot of this story:
Rags claws his way out of some sticky situations: A family-bonding camping trip soon turns frightful when Rags is accused of wrongdoing, then he’s taken under unusual circumstances. Was this to punish him or Savannah? In this story, the wily klepto cat also rescues a cat friend from certain death, helps recover a missing pooch, and happens across a very special cat who has lost her way. Amid the flurry of action and activity, little did Rags know that his cushy lifestyle was in serious jeopardy when an eccentric character comes forward to claim ownership of him. Even Savannah’s good friend Rochelle, the psychic, believes the perpetrator is pure of heart.
I am now drafting the cover for Book 44.
A note about awards!
The Cat Writers’ Association released the list of Certificate of Excellence winners in this year’s communications contest, and among other certificates, the covers for books 33-40 won a certificate as a series of illustrations. I’ve always won certificates for these entries, and also won three Muse Medallions in the past. I’ll be writing more about my certificates soon.
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 The Secret in the Whiskers and Whiskerful Thinking
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!