Featured Artwork: Klepto Cat Book Cover No. 52, “A Whisker Away”

When I first purchased my Pentax K-1000 in 1983, my goal was to learn how to use my first camera, but my subject matter was, even then, reference photos for the art I’d get to someday. I surprised myself with some decent photos too, especially in retrospect. But even as I began intentionally making photos, I still took, and still take, reference photos for someday art.

When Patricia described this cover idea to me, I knew exactly the photos I’d use. Here’s her message:

“In this story, Rags and Savannah and a friend and her cat are kidnapped. The women are held hostage while the kidnapper turns the cats loose. The cats find their way back home (to friend’s house) and the community helps trace the cats’ steps to where the gals are being held. Rags has lots of scenes in this story and I’m having trouble deciding which one to use. The women are being held in the partially above-ground basement in an old house scheduled for demolition. It still has tattered drapes at the windows and so forth. It’s alone–no other houses around. So maybe a scene showing Rags and Blossom (new cat–I’ll describe in a minute). They could be sitting in a shrub or near a piece of farm equipment hovering–you know, kind of frightened and unsure, while looking back at the large farm house–two story.

I knew just the abandoned-farmhouse-with-old-tractor-in-front I’d use from a farm I’d discovered in 2006 that I’d somehow planned to work in to a painting. And now I could!

old farmhouse
Old abandoned farmhouse with rusty old tractor.

And of course I photograph cats constantly since I’ll never know what sort of a cat reference I’ll need or want to use for a painting or an article. Since Blossom was a longhaired gray kitty I knew just the crazy-eyed-slightly-disheveled-kitty photo I’d use of Ophelia, Hamlet’s sister, from 2016.

Ophelia with crazy eyes.

And the vigilant-gray-and-white-cat photo of Namir from 2009.

Watch your own berries, we're busy.
Watch your own berries, we’re busy.

It came together so fast I hardly knew what happened. I sent the house photo to Patricia and she liked the idea, then made up the composite. When I painted it I made the two look a little more rattled and also roughed up their fur so they looked as if they’d just crawled through something messy.

Here’s the synopsis:

Rags leads the charge against a dangerous assailant.

Savannah and Rochelle are abducted and held hostage. The only eye witnesses wear fur and do not have a voice, but Rags finds a way to tell the story and uncover the clues that lead to the women’s rescue. Their nightmare isn’t over yet, however, as the mad man escapes capture, and his craving for vengeance intensifies. As it turns out, he’s no match for Rags, as the wily cat shifts into high gear to save his family and friends in, perhaps, his most daring heroic act yet.

You can find A Whisker Away on Patricia’s website and on Amazon.com.

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, A PAWsome Encounter, Calico Calamities and A Whisker Away.

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 books 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 and 2019

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 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.

. . . . . . .

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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