Patricia is writing so fast that I recently illustrated and designed two covers at almost the same time! “Klepto Cats” books numbers 10 and 11 are PAWtners in Crime and PAWSitiviely Sinister, by author Patricia Fry.
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PAWtners in Crime
Mystery No;. 10 is actually a sequel No. 9, Mansion of Meows. When Savannah and Michael—with the help of Rags, of course—have rescued the heir Arthur Spence from that frightening mansion and invite him to their home, his past and paparazzi follow him and there are threats made to his life. His caretaker Ruthie as well as Savannah and Michael and Rags are in danger as well in a very suspenseful story.
And Rags has found a “pawtner in crime”! Arthur’s Siamese cat KoKo is a willing and capable cohort to Rags’s sleuthing as the two investigate the clues as only cats can.
In this book Patricia wanted to introduce KoKo on the cover, so we have Rags whispering in KoKo’s ear while he holds a money clip under his paw. They are on Savannah and Michael’s farm so you see straw underfoot and a red barn in the background.
For the Siamese cat model who else would I choose but Cranberry? Her sealpoint elegant and bright blue eyes were purr-fect for the part, and I heard she might appear in future books—I have plenty of photos of her and can always take more.
She was really the only reference photo I used for this cover; the straw and the barn were familiar enough that I just drew them in behind and around the two. That was one easy cover.
Except that you’ll notice the cover has a red barn and the illustration has a white barn in shadow so it’s gray. What’s up with that?
After I had put the cover design together, I decided the cover needed a little pick me up. I had made the barn gray instead of white because large white areas in the background tend to fall away and lose detail and look like a blank spot, as this surely would, and the gray would help to make the two cats with their light and dark areas stand out better. I liked the white/gray barn and I liked the illustration, but it just looked dull. All the colors were in the same range, neutral earth tones, but Patricia and I like more colorful covers. Even when the surroundings are neutral, like the jail scene on the cover of Cat-Eye Witness in which we used red ink in the inkwell and the woman wore a red skirt and shoes, we add a color to catch the eye.
I wanted to send the idea to Patricia though we had considered the sketch completed. I didn’t want to add red to my original drawing and I certainly didn’t want to draw it over again, though it was easy enough and there are always things I’d change. And Patricia may not even like it. So I took a convenient shortcut, made a copy of the sketch in Photoshop and added a layer of red to make it look like a red barn, and sent both ideas to Patricia. She considered it overnight and decided on the design with the red barn.
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This cover was a totally different story! The mystery continues as the entire group including Rags and KoKo are at the mansion (from book 9) and they’re having an estate sale. The house is full of interesting pieces of old furniture and accessories. Patricia suggested that the two cats could be sitting together holding pieces of jewelry, a pocket watch played a part in the story, and a Persian carpet would really add to the scene.
Well! Where else would I turn for a house full of antiques but to my friend and customer Judi Stadler of Carnegie Antiques? In 2008 when Judi was phasing out of her full-time job and launching her real estate and estate sale career I took a series of photos of her for publicity and of her large Victorian home to show her skill in and love of collecting vintage items. I knew the photo right away and could hardly flip through folders on my computer fast enough to find it. This was Judi’s living room at the time, used in the background.
Then I photographed a locket I had picked up with other jewelry at a yard sale, though I made it much bigger for the illustration, and used a black and white photo of a pocket watch I’d had from years before for another cover illustration but added the gold tones to the metal.
The cover is tall and narrow, and having the two sitting or standing next to each other looked like a few other book covers in the series so I looked through other photos of Cranberry I’d taken for the illustrated book I’d made of her and from visiting my friend where she lives, and though I’d originally wanted one where she was crouching with her elbows in the air I found the one I used and immediately envisioned Rags sitting behind her.
Because the background was so busy I decided these two positions, from the side, would be best to have them and their bling stand out. Cranberry is wearing the locket and Rags is holding the watch fob in his mouth so both pieces of jewelry dangle and glitter. I used Photoshop to make a composite that I could draw from.
Lots of details but lots of fun! Below is the actual sketch.
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 stand 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 for PAWSitively Sinister, with all that detail, I used a self-prepared paper with a very fine surface texture and not entirely opaque so I could put it on my light table and trace the details in place and even draw on the light table with pastel pencils. These illustrations are 8″ x 10″ and the books are 5″ x 8″. Because the illustration is reduced in size it’s easy to lose details so I can’t go too big, but getting all the details just right on an illustration like this interior with cats can be tricky when it’s this small. The risk with this paper is that the surface is delicate and actually drawing too hard will remove the roughened texture and I’ll have a hole in my drawing! But it’s great fun to take my Photoshop composite and turn it into a painting.
About these book covers
I’ve illustrated eight other covers for Patricia: Catnapped, Cat-Eye Witness, Sleight of Paw, Undercover Cat, The Colony Cat Caper, Celebrity Cat Caper, The Corral Cat Caper, Gallery Cat Caper and Mansion of Meows.
All books are available in electronic format and most for print on Amazon.com.
You can find these books and more by Patricia Fry on Amazon.com. 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.
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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.
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