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Featured Artwork: “Sleight of Paw” Book Cover

Cover design for "Sleight of Paw" by Patricia Fry.
The final sketch with color, adding the drill on the left with the cord that winds around through everything..

Author Patricia Fry published her third novel in the mystery series “Klepto Cats”, this one titled Sleight of Paw. I’ve illustrated two other covers for Patricia, Catnapped and Cat-Eye Witness and had the opportunity once again to create a painted book cover illustration with Rags the cat. This book was recently released as an e-book, and I have the final cover and the link below.

Since Patricia and I have worked together on two other covers we had the system ready and I had a feel for the type of cover illustration and design Patricia preferred. Patricia always begins by suggesting an idea, but usually the cover idea migrates from that original idea as we find certain elements don’t work well, or it turns out there is a better scene to choose from the book.

This book was also to be an e-book, and one thing we’d learned with these covers is that, though we love the highly detailed covers on printed books, they don’t always translate well to the size of a thumbnail on the internet, so simpler is better.

Color is always important on a book cover, whether it’s solid black or white or a flash of some color in between. On the Catnapped cover, Rags was holding a pink bra, and on the Cat-Eye Witness cover the suspect was wearing a red polka-dot skirt and red ink spilled across the floor from a vintage inkwell.

In this book, remodeling is done in the Victorian home which Rags’ newly-married people have recently purchased, and when they open one of the walls Rags goes exploring and finds a handwritten note that explains why they seem cursed—they are! Patricia described this moment as the one she wanted on the cover, and also mentioned the other cats in the story and what they look like: a Himalayan-type cat, possibly balancing on a sawhorse, and a small black cat on the floor, and for this cover, we began and ended in just about the same place. I sketched up the scene, adding a few tools and bits of plaster to the floor.

Cover design for "Sleight of Paw" by Patricia Fry.
The initial sketch for the cover.

I liked it, but was concerned the cats might be too small to be easily visible on a thumbnail and revised and cropped it four different ways: moving the black cat directly below Rags, cropped down to just the three cats, down to just Rags and the Himalayan and the sawhorse, and just to Rags and the Himalayan and the hole in the wall. At any point I need to keep in mind the placement of the title, author’s name and any other cover text that might be included.

Cover design for "Sleight of Paw" by Patricia Fry.
Cropped to the main idea–this is the one we finally used.
Cover design for "Sleight of Paw" by Patricia Fry.
Initial sketch cropped a little closer to show just the cats.
Cover design for "Sleight of Paw" by Patricia Fry.
A little closer yet to show just the two cats and the hole in the wall and a little background.
Cover design for "Sleight of Paw" by Patricia Fry.
Cropped right up to just the cats with the hole in the wall.

In the end we used the second of the four above. I printed out the sketch to size and transferred it to my preferred drawing base (more on that below).

I chose a wall color that would befit an older Victorian home and would contrast well with the Himalayan cat in front of it as well as the sawhorse. I had intended a drop cloth on the floor but even with wrinkles it just looked like a blank area at a thumbnail size, so I decided they’d be getting rid of the wall-to-wall to restore the old home’s hardwood floors and chose a green carpet for another strong color.

The sketch went through a few changes as I’d wanted to indicate a stuccoed wall just for some interest in that vast expanse of mauve, and I added a few more pieces of fallen plaster. I added the note to Rags’s mouth, and Patricia had suggested including the wooden jewelry box somehow and we added just a person’s hand holding it on the left but nixed that. The black cat on the floor turned out to be long-haired and I immediately thought of her as Emeraude and gave her Emeraude’s kind of shaggy hair.

Tools are usually kind of gray and black but on this cover they would barely be distinguishable so added red and orange and blue, kind of the signature colors of some tool manufacturers, using the tools I have right here in my studio. As a last detail to tie it all together, I added a drill on the left with a cord that wandered around everything on the floor. Below is a brief slideshow of the metamorphosis of the sketch.

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The final painted sketch is at the top of this article, and here are a few full-size detail images from the illustration. First, Rags in the hole in the wall with the note, and the Himalayan looking at him.

cover of patricia fry's sleight of paw
Rags with the note in the hole in the wall with the Himalayan looking in.

Next, a detail of the black cat on the floor among the tools playing with a tape measure.

cover of patricia fry's sleight of paw
The black cat playing with the tape measure.

Below is the final, finished cover.

cover of patricia fry's sleight of paw
“Sleight of Paw” finished cover design.

About the illustration materials

I didn’t use paper for 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 stand up well to multiple changes.

The original illustration is actually 8″ x 10″ so it fits in my scanner. 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.

You can find these books and more by Patricia Fry on Reviews have been good, and a few reviewers have even mentioned the covers! I hope you enjoy these books, and Patricia and I are already finishing up the cover for the fourth book in this series. That woman can write!

. . . . . . .

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.

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All images used on this site are copyrighted to Bernadette E. Kazmarski unless otherwise noted and may not be used without my written permission. Please ask if you are interested in using one in a print or internet publication. If you are interested in purchasing a print of this image or a product including this image, check my Etsy shop or Fine Art America profile 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.

© 2014 | | Published by Bernadette E. Kazmarski

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Tuesday: Rescue Stories
Wednesday: Commissioned Portrait or Featured Artwork
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Friday: Book Review, Health and Welfare, Advocacy
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