Sunday, June 23, 2024
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Featured Artwork: “The Colony Cat Caper” Book Cover

three cats with gems
The final illustration.

Yes, author Patricia Fry has published her fifth novel in the mystery series “Klepto Cats”, this one titled The Colony Cat Caper.

What are colony cats? Those cats you saw in my post of photos from the clinic this past weekend! The story takes place among cats living in a stray/feral colony, or as Patricia described to me when she sent her email about the story:

Missing/hidden gems are part of the story. I’m thinking about cats playing with gems (diamonds, rubies, emeralds) spilled out of a small white pouch–maybe there are other pouches stacked or strewn nearby. Doesn’t matter what kind of cats–these would be colony cats. Some are pure white–Some of these cats are from a good line of white Angoras–so we would want at least one of them depicted. The colony is under and around an old abandoned building–not the best background. So maybe we could have the cats playing around in some shrubs to add interest to the cover–something green, even with a little color-flowers.

Normally Patricia is very specific about the cats for the cover since the cats are major characters in the story and their color and pattern is often a clue in the story, as you’ve seen from her other covers, but in this case only the Angora cats were elemental, though there were many other cats in the colony, so I could make the cats in any patterns and colors I wanted—within reason, of course. And they’d be living in and around an abandoned building, and of course they’d all be TNR’d and have their left ears tipped. I was thrilled!

And there is often a tie for me to one of my cats in these covers, such as including Emeraude on the cover of Sleight of Paw, though some of those cats didn’t make the final cover. In this case I immediately envisioned my pretty Sally as the model for the Angora cats.

Where we ended was not where we began

As usual, the sketch and illustration migrated from our first thoughts as we found elements and details that didn’t work on a cover this size and shape. I began with a rough pencil sketch of what Patricia ha described above, cats with an open pouch playing with gems at an abandoned building. I pictured concrete steps and a railing so we could have cats at various levels, especially since the book covers are tall and narrow.

pencil sketch of cats on steps for illustration
Initial pencil sketch of cats on steps.

Once we’d discussed that sketch we decided to add a few details of the building and some of the surrounding area, such as an overgrown yard with grass and shrubs and lots of cats around. I scanned the pencil sketch and intended to try out a few variations for adding the background, but only did one since it was a pretty clear visual.

pencil sketch of cats on steps for illustration
A little more detail in the sketch.

That seemed to work okay so it was time for a little color. I decided to use my markers instead of colored pencils because the sketches always look so weak in colored pencil.

marker sketch of cats on steps for illustration
Color added to the sketch…hmmm.

Using the markers may have been a mistake because suddenly neither of us liked the sketch, but I don’t think we would have liked it any better in colored pencil. It was clear the cover was too detailed for its size, and as the building had changed in the sketch it was different enough from the one described in the book that it no longer fit. The grassy yard really didn’t carry the idea of it being overgrown and abandoned—though I did plan on adding dandelions in there to reinforce it—and there wasn’t really enough space to show it overgrown by shrubs. The smaller the image got, the smaller the gems got, and then you couldn’t even tell what they were. As soon as possible when I’m designing I add the title and author’s name so we can see the cover in action, and not even that helped.

marker sketch of cats on steps for illustration
Book cover layout…hmmm.

So we talked over a few other scenes in the book, all of them just as detailed, and decided to just to with Rags, one or two Angora cats, and the pouch with gems. Here is the sketch for that idea.

three cats with gems
A totally new idea.

Then when I was working it out the white pouch didn’t stand out enough with the two white cats so we made it crimson—or ruby—to match the gems spilling out of it onto the floor. Below is the final cover. And if you look closely the left ears of the two Angora cats are tipped in colony cat style, though they have so much hair around their ears it’s hard to tell.

three cats with gems
The final illustration.

I admit I cheated a little bit when I finalized this one. If you look at the arrangement of the gems on the ground, you’ll see they aren’t the same from the illustration to the cover. I had spread them a little too wide on the left, so in Photoshop I took the emerald farthest on the right and moved it over by the white cat on the left, as if she’s sniffing it.

We decided we might like this one best of all, and partly for its simplicity, and because it’s a total focus on the cats.

So that’s the latest! And Patricia tells me she has another on the way. What fun!

I’ve illustrated four other covers for Patricia: Catnapped , Cat-Eye Witness, Sleight of Paw and Undercover Cat. All books are available in both electronic and print versions on

About the illustration materials

A two-sided bookmark for the four books in the series so far.

I don’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 beginning the cover for the fifth book in this series. That woman can write!

We also designed a two-sided bookmark that includes all four books so far which Patricia can hand out at book signings and book shows.

. . . . . . .

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

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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