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Featured Artwork: New Life for “Heal Your Heart” CD Illustrations

Heal Your Heart: Coping With the Loss of a Pet
Heal Your Heart: Coping With the Loss of a Pet

In 2009 Karen Litzinger contacted me about illustrating a CD of affirmations and inspirational readings and music she’d compiled to help others with the loss of their pet. We met in person in May that year and just fit well together for this project and are still friends today. I began on the illustrations soon after we met, 14 years ago at this time of year.

At the time I knew that my Namir, who had been diagnosed with congestive heart failure in addition to hypertrophic cardiomyopathy four years before, likely did not have much time left; he’d recently been in emergency for CHF and had taken longer than normal recovering, had been slowly losing weight, and had long outlived his prognosis. I did lose him on July 1, as I worked my way through the illustrations here. Having lost my four oldest cats in 2006-2007, then lost Lucy in 2007, I was primed to visualize art that expressed the loss of an animal companion and the hope for their afterlife, considering Namir’s fate gave me an urgency.

Karen had sold all the copies of the CD and stopped selling it after 10 years. I liked the artwork and elements so much that I adapted it, and will adapt more in the future. Read about the CD, the designs and more below. I posted this as featured artwork in 2017, when I “found” the artwork as I worked on organizing my studio, and before that as the studio went through publication and promotion.

From 2017

I’m so happy that I found this artwork! I created this art and designed this CD in 2009 but I wasn’t as organized for illustration and other artwork then. A few years later the author wanted me to frame the artwork for her and I was shocked to find that I had no idea where it was. With all the paperwork and crowding here I’ve misplaced a few things—I won’t say “lost” because they always seem to show up if I’m patient because I’ve usually tucked things into “a safe place”. Yes, very safe, not even I can find it!

I pulled boxes from the attic and basement, from under my bed and even in my shed looking for this and never found it—until last weekend when I looked into a portfolio where another project was stored. I was so happy to see it!

I illustrated this CD in May and June 2009 and first published about it in November 2009. Below is what I posted about it then in the context of that time, and you’ll see that working on this CD helped move me to create something else that year.

Illustrating Heal Your Heart

After the loss of so many cats it’s healing now to be a part of a loving and sincere effort on the part of someone who is a licensed counselor and has prepared a recording and book of inspirational readings and information and affirmations for those who have also lost a pet. I had the opportunity to illustrate this wonderful recording, and to assist the author in publicizing and promoting it.

Ironically enough, I began the project just as I knew I would soon lose my Namir after four years of working with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM) and congestive heart failure (CHF). I can attest to the CD’s effectiveness. His loss followed the loss of five others a few years before.

That loss, and illustrating this CD, also led me to embark on a new offering in animal-inspired art and products: animal sympathy cards. I used the background art for the back of the CD as the background for one of my cards, and also used a number of my feline photographs.

Creating the cover illustration

This was another project that told me I really needed to practice. When Karen and I discussed this I could visualize these pastel rainbow-colored watercolory backgrounds, but they didn’t come easily. I was so out of practice at that time after a few years of almost no artwork with caring for family members, but I worked it out until I got pretty much what I wanted.

Below is my first iteration of the cover. I wanted a golden path leading off into the distance, and then of course there would be a rainbow coming down to meet it. I wanted the feeling of lush greenery around but not green, so I used mottled colors to mimic a leafy pattern. And I wanted that row of little hearts, each a different color. But the first version didn’t come out so well, too contrasty, not colorful enough, it looked as if it had recently rained, and the hoof and paw and claw tracks in the road didn’t really come across. But it never hurts to practice.

First try.
First try.

Then I sat down again and gave it another try. This is much closer to what I had in mind.

The actual artwork for the CD.
The actual artwork for the CD.

I needed to create some artwork for other areas of the CD too, like the back and the booklet inside. I liked the way the area of the cover illustration on the right came out so much that I wanted to explore it more and paint a whole page of it to use as the background.

Background painting
Background painting

“I still like this quite a bit. Painting it re-awakened me to watercolors, though it was two years before my daily sketches and brushing up on my skills,” I said in 2017. Looking back at this from even the perspective of today, I don’t know how I achieve it. I remember immense patience to get there, to not mix the colors when wet but to blend them in layers. I know I was guided by something, possibly the inner me who knew I could do this if I relaxed and let it happen, and probably some guardian kitties and a guardian angel or two who hovered and guided my brushes, but this one achievement led me just a few years later in my daily sketches to use watercolor freely and with confidence.

Back in 2009 I used it to illustrate one of my sympathy card designs which worked perfectly for a “non-denominational” sympathy card.

They Leaver Their Mark On Us Don't They?
They Leaver Their Mark On Us Don’t They?

You may also recognize this as one of the main elements I use in notecard and garden flag designs and signage promoting my Custom Pet Memorial Votives today.

More pawprints

The book was printed in black and white, but I did the spot illustration of all the paws and hooves in blue. For some reason the bird tracks just didn’t translate for anyone so we left them off.

All the prints.
All the prints.

To dress up the text pages in the booklet just a bit I made a background pattern using a repeat of the cat paws and dog paws that was screened in the background.

Dog paws
Dog paws
Cat paws
Cat paws

About the CD

Heal Your Heart: Coping with the Loss of a Pet by Karen Litzinger, MA, LPC, was a CD and booklet combination which helped to guide the pet owner through the process of grieving their lost pet. The CD includes Karen, a Licensed Professional Counselor and a Certified Bereavement Facilitator, reading comforting messages, pet-focused affirmations, and even a guided meditation along with comforting accompanying harp music. The booklet provides supportive suggestions, information explaining the stages of grief and resources such as books and hotlines to assist the grieving person.

Karen’s CD was unique in pet loss support offerings. Many books had been written on the subject of pet loss, but few were published in audio form. And while other recorded products offered support in the form of affirmations to carry away or a guided meditation for grieving, Heal Your Heart was focused on the loss of a pet, which was unique in materials offering assistance with grief.

And more ideas for the artwork

The watercolory background wasn’t as recognizable as other elements as connected to the whole design, so using that didn’t take away from promoting the CD. Now that it’s out of print and Karen has quit promoting it in any way, I’m going to make a note card of the cover artwork, and I may use the artwork for a garden flag and other items. I’ll be sure to share it here.

About the author, Karen Litzinger

Karen, Pepper and Zep
Karen, Pepper and Zep

Karen wrote all the text for the booklet and the readings and designed the entire concept as part of her grief response from her own loss.

“The CD is dedicated to my beloved dog children, Pepper and Zep,” Karen said.

“My inspiration for the Healing Hearts CD came while driving home from the veterinarian with the cremains of my 15 year old dog, Pepper, who I had had since a puppy from a local rescue league,” Karen explained. “I was further motivated on my journey to create this CD when my 13 year old dog, Zep, died just four months after Pepper.”

She had originally wanted to create something for veterinarians to give grieving clients right after the euthanasia procedure to supplement the personal support and follow-up sympathy card.

“I created a pet loss booklet for veterinarians, but the CD is what I hope will serve grieving pet owners in a more profound way,” she continues. “Just as I found comfort in listening to a special music CD as I grieved for Pepper, I hope that some part of this CD will help in the healing process for you or the person to whom you give the CD.”

Her loss has not only become the gain of others who will find comfort from her CD and booklet, but also her own gain in finding this new professional outlet.

Karen is a Licensed Professional Counselor in Pennsylvania, and although her specialty is career counseling, after her loss and through of the idea of being able to help others she chose to attend a weeklong training through the American Academy of Bereavement to become a Certified Bereavement Facilitator. As part of renewing the certification, she did an internship under the direction of a psychologist through the Association of Pet Loss and Bereavement, an organization that hosts on-line chat rooms about the euthanasia decision and pet loss. For a decade in addition to career counseling, she also offered pet bereavement counseling in the Pittsburgh area.

Currently she’s back to her first love, career counseling, recently publishing an acclaimed book, Help wanted: an A-to-Z guide to cope with the ups and downs of the job search. Just in time for the current changes in jobs and employment!

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.

Gifts featuring cats you know! Visit Portraits of Animals


A Trail of Hearts and Pawprints Animal Sympathy Card

A Trail of Hearts and Pawprints

Text reads: They leave their mark on us, don’t they? This line of 5″ x 7″ sympathy cards for pet loss is printed on 12 pt. card stock and includes a matching envelope. They can be purchased singly or by the dozen. Sympathy cards assort with all other 5″ x 7″ greeting cards (except custom printed cards) for a quantity discount. Cards are blank inside but can be customized with your message for an extra charge. Read more and purchase.


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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