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The Land of Ingary PART 2: My Creative Process for Illustrating A Fantasy Map

Updated: Jan 30

Follow my artistic journey creating an illustrated map for Diana Wynne Jones' Howl's Moving Castle trilogy.



It's high time I let you in on how the map of Ingary is going. Having posted Part I of this particular creative process way back when, on January 27th 2019, the pencil rough of the fantasy map then languished in my portfolio, waiting to be brought out until I finally had some free time.

2019 turned out to be pretty busy, but we all know how 2020 went . . . and when I received an email from a Howl's Moving Castle fan requesting to see how the map was going (Happy Birthday for yesterday Sophie, by the way), I finally kicked myself into gear.

Faced with lockdown, endless uncertainty, and with a studio photoshoot coming up, I got my map of Ingary out again and began painting the base coat.

A photo of me painting the Ingary map
Photo of me painting the Ingary map, shot by the very lovely and very talented Elle @ellenarbrook


This process was unusual for me, because when I'm illustrating a fantasy map now, I work digitally, but at the time, I had such a vivid image of this in my head as a painting, that I really wanted to bring it to life.

I started with a rough pencil drawing, outlining the main things I wanted, but I hardly ever draw in the detail at this stage, I usually paint it in freehand later, as I'm too impatient and usually just want to get going.

I always paint with gouache, because I love its chalky matte texture and how opaque it is. I love that you can get a real 'vintage' feel out of it, and I love that you can layer it up to get the effects you want.

The only difficulty with traditional gouache is that it can be re-wet, so when you paint on top of another colour with it, it can make the layer beneath wet again, and it kind of mixes in (you can see this in Sophie's hair below). Working in acrylic gouache will solve this problem.

A close up on the colour of the map, showing the edge of Ingary and some of the border detail, where I have painted Sophie with her red hair streaming out behind her
A close up on the colour and detail, showing Sophie's red hair streaming out behind her


When I begin a map, I paint the base coat first. That means that the map is, at present, very flat and very low-detail, as all the of the detail will gradually get built up.

All of the colours will gradually get more and more solid too, and as I have a tendency to change my mind as I'm working quite a lot, some of them may even change completely. (I should really work all this out before I start, but I'm always impatient to get going, so I'm not sure if I'll ever be disciplined enough to make that happen).


I want this map to be both fun and magical, like the book, so I'll be bringing in a lot of detail to make that happen. Take a look at Howl's cloak in the picture below, and note the moon phases beginning to appear on the border.

I know for sure that I want to make sure the borders look like really elaborate picture frames, because I think that'll suit both the time frame that encompasses the land of Ingary (pre-industrial) and the magical nature of the novel. I'll make sure I use lots of bright, complimentary colours too, because I think the novel is so much fun, that's what any illustration for it needs: a little bit of joy.

A close up shot of the details from the map. This is the corner featuring an image of Howl, with his guitar and a scarecrow
Details of the corner featuring an image of Howl


Once the base coat is on, I start to build up the other details.

Below you can see Mrs Fairfax's house in Upper Folding, just north of where Sophie lives in Market Chipping, and beyond the hills, which will also start making an appearance soon.

I also start to introduce light and shadow, to make the 3d elements pop.

A close up of my illustrated map. This close up shows a painting of a cottage with flowers around it.
A close up of Mrs Fairfax's house, which changed considerably over the course of the map


Here's how the whole map looks at the moment.

An unfinished, half painted map of Ingary
My map of Ingary as it looked at this stage in the process

EDIT: I'm writing this on 30th Jan 2024 to let you know that yes, I finished the map :)

You can see it in my shop, by clicking here.

You can also read the other blogs telling the story of this map here:

As always, thanks for reading!


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