Something A Little Different, A Book Cover Illustration

Cover illustration and design for "Cabin FURvor".

Cover illustration and design for “Cabin FURvor”.

Along with my fine art, I’ve also been a commercial artist, graphic designer, illustrator and professional writer for my entire career. I am working on the cover for book number 19 for author Patricia Fry, and I regularly feature these covers on The Creative Cat. The most recent one I’m featuring there is cover number 16, Cabin FURvor, so I thought I’d share it here today as well. Eventually I will include my illustrations and some of my commercial artwork here, so here is an introduction.

Patricia has written many books prior to this, about writing itself and other subjects and also about rescuing cats, and she is also a member of the Cat Writers’ Association and has published many articles as well.

Cabin FURvor is one in a series of books called the “Klepto Cat Mysteries”, all of which feature Rags the cat, based on her own cat Smokey, who steals things. Each book also features another cat or cats and characters we’ve met in prior books.

Patricia described what she had in mind for this book.

The story takes place in the woods in a cabin. There’s also some rowboat action. Yes, the four women took Rags and Dolly (the fluffy little tabby pictured on “Undercover Cat”) on a weekend outing to Craig’s cabin. Could we have Rags and Dolly snooping around on a small skiff? They escaped from the cabin, you see, so do not have their harnesses and leashes on. They get on the boat that is still parked at the small dock at the lake and are playing, exploring in the boat. Tall trees in the background. It’s early morning, so a hint of sunlight coming through the trees is okay. Maybe a cabin could be in the background..or the chimney of a cabin with smoke coming from it. …just some ideas. The rest of this story is that a man gets in the boat and rows to the other side of the lake with the cats in it–but they’re hiding under the seats, so he doesn’t know they’re in the boat until he’s half way across the lake.

Oh, my, we’ve gone from Victorian interiors to deep woods landscapes! But I like variety, and I love landscapes too. This cover is such a mashup of modified images and sketching in details that I don’t really even have a reference photo. But I knew of images by a lake that I had on hand, old photos of a cabin I’d seen along a road, a rowboat that wasn’t really the right angle, and, of course, cats. So I did a composite of all the stuff and sketched in what wasn’t there.

Original composite for "Cabin FURvor".

Original composite for “Cabin FURvor”.

So for the back ground I started out with the portrait of Cassie and Tyler, on the shore of Cross Creek Lake in Avella, PA. I remember the lake had a jut of land where the cabin could go, there was sky and interesting trees, and the shore with the boat dock looked a little wilder, as it would in the woods.

pastel portrait of two labs

“Cassie and Tyler”, pastel, 23″ x 15″, 1995 © B.E. Kazmarski

I took the photos at a completely separate time from when I painted the labs’ portrait, and had a stack of them, but I liked what I’d done in the portrait better than the photos I had, so I used that for the background, and painted out the dogs in Photoshop. I added in my really blurry photo tiny of a row boat from an old photo, then took photos of other boats and copied the details from them for the finish and the interior. In the same way, I got the photo of the cabin, tiny and blurry, and added it to the little piece of land, then I copied some details from other cabins I had.

The cats are Mewsette, all puffed up, looking angrily out the front window at a cat on the front porch, and a calico cat I had in my archives from Beaver County Humane Society. Mewsette was a stand-in for Rags, who is gray with white paws and chest, whiskers and a snip on his nose. The calico was a stand-in for Dolly, who is a long-haired silver tabby.

Then I got down to painting. Patricia lives in northern California and mentioned that the trees in the woods in that area are usually pine trees, so I changed up the trees and made them all green, then sketched in everything, adding the white areas to “Rags” and the stripes to “Dolly”.

Sketch for "Cabin FUFvor".

Sketch for “Cabin FURvor”.

So there we are, another cover completed. As I said, the variety in subject matter is very exciting each time Patricia calls for a new cover. And I’ll have to double up on posting about these because I am already three covers ahead of this one. You can find Cabin FURvor on

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 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. 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, and especially when working with patterns it’s important nothing is out of place or it’s immediately noticeable. 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 a total of 19 covers for Patricia. You can see them 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 and Cabin FURvor.

Bookmarks for Patricia L. Fry's books.

Bookmarks for Patricia L. Fry’s books.

All books are available in electronic format and most for print on 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.

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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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© 2016
Published by Bernadette E. Kazmarski

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 to see if I have it available already. If you don’t find it there, visit “purchasing” for availability and terms.

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