I could visualize the cover for this one as soon as Patricia described it to me:
I have an idea for a cover design.
At one point in the story, Rags stumbles across a dead body in tall dry grass. I envision (for the cover) him sitting on the opposite side of the body facing front with only the lower legs and boots of the dead guy showing. To add interest maybe a chicken or two could be seen pecking around–sort of partially seen among the grass. Chickens are also a part of the story. This could be a close up, but if you need something in the background, it could be a farm house in the distance or just trees–a mountain maybe–in the far distance.
Oh my goodness, what a scene! I replied. Got plenty of chickens, tall grass and farmhouses in the distance. And then…
Okay, the edge of a field, a body hidden in the weeds, maybe boots protruding, Rags intently looking. Also, chickens. How many fields do I photograph, walk through, paint and sketch? I have a ton of images.
Sure, I thought, but not one of them, even going back to my prints on film, worked for the angle and closeup I wanted, so I was off on a rainy October day, driving around to my most familiar spots where I thought I could get the reference photo I wanted. I ended up walking along the edge of a cemetery, and kneeling and nearly lying down in the wet mown grass to get the best angle at the overgrown area, with trees and a house back there, and space for chickens. But that’s the fun of what I do. I love the challenge. Just so no one calls the police on this person walking erratically and rolling around in wet grass, taking pictures of who knew what.
I can’t share the photo in the cemetery because of the headstones, and I did pull several photos from chickens on Birgitta’s farm and chose the ones that fit the space. The model for Rags is once again Namir in my back yard, pieced together from several photos. And the boots are a really old pair of hiking boots I have, but I made them a little taller than they actually were. I can tell you that once I had the background photo the rest came together very fast.
Here’s the synopsis:
Rags claws his way into and out of trouble.
Five-year-old Lily starts school and Rags becomes obsessed with the classroom and the students—especially one little boy named Eli. Eli’s existence seems to be enshrouded in a deep mystery, and Rags makes it his mission to expose the family’s dark secret. Will this put the boy in danger?
Savannah does her best to keep Rags occupied and away from the school and the boy. She takes Rags on a trail ride and is aghast when he discovers a body. The authorities are stymied as to the cause of death. Leave it to Rags to uncover the shocking truth, which lets one prime suspect off the hook and possibly jeopardizes the freedom of another.
This is a fast-moving story with many surprises along the way and, a heart-warming ending for Eli.
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 over 50 covers for Patricia over two series of cat mysteries. You can see the Klepto Cat covers 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, A Whisker Away and Rags Gets the Upper Paw and Claw and Order.
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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Tuesday: Rescue Stories
Thursday: New Merchandise
And sometimes, I just throw my hands in the air and have fun!