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The Land of Ingary PART 1: My Creative Process for Illustrating a Fantasy Map

Updated: Jan 30

My creative process for illustrating a fantasy map of Ingary, from Diana Wynne Jones' Howl's Moving Castle trilogy. In this part 1, I talk about the research that goes into a map.



Have you ever read Howl's Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones? Watched the Studio Ghibli adaption and loved it? This post and the ones that follow will definitely be for you.

Here, I aim to take you through my creative process for illustrating a fantasy map, by using Diana Wynne Jones' trilogy of books, (which begins with Howl's Moving Castle, continues with Castle in the Air and finishes with House of Many Ways) and her clear directions and descriptions, to create a map for her fantasy world: the land of Ingary, where such things as seven league boots and cloaks of invisibility really exist.

Never read or watched either? Take this as your sign to do it. (They're both very different, but to sum up: if you've got a dry humour and you'd like a laugh, try the book, if you're after something a little more artsy, you definitely want the film.)

I re-read the books recently, in order to enter a competition, and was struck by how many clues Diana Wynne Jones gave as to the whereabouts of the towns, cities, ports, mountains, etc. that make up Ingary. Well, it goes to say, that as I'm a map lover, and a mapmaker, an idea began to form: could I possibly create a map of Ingary from the clues in the books?

An ink illustration of Howl's messy bathroom from Howl's moving castle, including all his potions on a shelf above his stained and grotty bath
One of the pen and ink pieces I entered into the Folio Society competition to illustrate Howl's Moving Castle - I really wanted to capture the humour and joy in the novel, this particular scene is the part where lead character, Sophie, discover's Howl's bathroom


The first thing I usually do when creating a map is: go to the original source. For most of my maps, that is the author. I try to understand everything about the world and the map that I can from their point of view. I also try to figure out how the map needs to 'feel' (romantic and whimsical? Futuristic and threatening?).

Unfortunately - and very sadly - Wynne Jones died of cancer at age 76 a number of years ago, so information other than what was in the books would be very hard to come by.

My first stop was to email my old boss, who works in publishing and who knew Wynne Jones, to ask if she knew of anything that would help. She did not, after which I conducted numerous searches online to see if I could locate any evidence of something like this having been done while she was alive. Again, this came up in a dead end.

Illustration showing Howl with a trail of stars coming off him, wearing a cloak with lots of images and symbols from the book in. In front of Him is young Sophie, dressed in grey, and in front of her is old Sophie in the same dress, clutching a stick
The cover I designed for Howl's Moving Castle as part of the same competition. The hair was designed to be spot coloured (to be shiny)


Reading the book is so, so important if you're creating a fantasy map. It'll give you the little details you need to really bring the map to life. For example, in David Hair's map, I drew the spirits that help mages channel magic.

With that in mind, I re-read the books for the third time, making notes of absolutely everything that would help.

I learned that Kingsbury was south of Market Chipping, that the Waste was South East, that the House of Many Ways sat in High Norland, beyond the mountains north of Ingary, and that Montalbino lay between.


With this map, I also had to use some inference. As the map was not a complete picture, I had to have a guess at where things were based on clues Wynne Jones had given.

For example, she writes that Sophie has never seen the sea, so I assumed that there were not many coastlines in Ingary and that she would live far away from them if there were.

I also thought that Strangia would be fairly large, and nearby, as they are warring with Ingary.


I also read several interviews with Diana Wynne Jones on the books to try to build up a more complete picture.

There's even an interview with her at the end of the book, where she says that a couple of places in the UK inspired the book, some towns in Essex and the Downs, so I'll be using those too as I move ahead.

Notes to help me build a map of Diana Wynne Jones' Ingary
The notes I took (also some on the back!) While going through Howl's Moving Castle, Castle in the Air and House of Many Ways


There are many ways you can start to build a fantasy map. If you're an illustrator, like me, always start with the research, and consider every way in which you can find information. Observe the small but important details, that can really help to bring your map to life.

EDIT: I am writing this on 16.1.24. I did finish the map, and you can see the rest of the journey on my blog:


Prints of the finished map are also currently available for sale on my website, here.

As always, thanks for reading,


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