This book introduces a special new kitty character: Olivia! She is the kitten Patricia adopted last year after she lost Lily, who had also appeared on a few covers. Olivia is not only beautifully marked, but she has a bold and curious purrsonality, so she has become a part of Rags’ story.
The story takes place at a bed and breakfast in Northern California. The season is winter, but the B&B has a pretty garden where something is always blooming, even in winter. Olivia has been digging in the garden and found things another cat had hidden: some gold earrings, a gaudy necklace, a strand of pearls, and some money that got loose from its money clip. Though Olivia is currently a kitten, in the story she’s an adult, two years old, and stocky.
So I pulled together some reference photos for the two cats, these two being my friend Judi’s cats gray Houdini and calico Holly, and Judi’s garden. I’ve used her garden before for these covers, and this time I decided to use the stone bench I’d always liked, though I had to change the flowers.
I had included the fence behind them as in the photos above, then started replacing the flowers with the northern California winter flowers, marked off where the hole was, got the necklace from a prior cover. I changed Houdini’s solid gray to have Rag’s markings. Then I used three photos of Olivia which Patricia had sent, one for her body, one for her profile looking up at Rags, and one for her glorious tail, and made sure she had dirt on her paws because she likes to get dirty. I replaced the orange zinnias with hellebores and pansies from my photo galleries, decided I’d modify the other flowers on the fly and sent the draft over to Patricia, who liked it and decided we’d go with that.
But it just felt too busy, partly because of Olivia’s calico markings, and I needed something that wasn’t flowers and specifically in a cool color or the two of them would just be lost. I had hardly sent it off before I visualized replacing the fence area with the B&B! And I had just the house—a vintage farmhouse near me that I’ve painted before and gone past all my life, and more recently helped the family with a feral mom and some kittens so I got some good closeups at different angles.
Purrfect! I added some roses and azaleas and painted it up. Yeah, I was cursing myself when it came to the gingerbread on the house and all those rockers, but I have my shortcuts for things that don’t have to be as detailed as the main subjects, and it all worked out fine.
Here’s the synopsis:
Rags meets his match in a pert and sassy calico. The stunning, savvy, and colorful Olivia visits the Iveys and quickly teams up with Rags in some fascinating and gripping catscapades. Together the feline duo paw the unlikely culprit in a troubling theft. They save an injured cat at a rescue shelter, and they expose a well-kept personal family secret. Ultimately, sparks fly and minds are changed when Rags and Olivia show their tough stuff and enlighten a group of misinformed protesters about the reality of intuitive and discerning cats.
Not to give you a spoiler, but the next cover is going to have a whole new look. It’s hard to believe we’ve done 51 covers for this series! Patricia and I started working together in 2013. That’s eight years of books and illustrations and covers. It’s been great fun!
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 46 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, Whiskerful Thinking, Paws for Trouble, Love at First Purr, Meowing in the Moonlight, A Whisker of Doubt and In PURRsuit of the Unknown and A PAWsome Encounter.
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 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!