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The Land of Ingary PART 3: My creative process for illustrating a fantasy map

My last post looking behind the scenes at my creative process while working on an illustrated map of Ingary (the magical land of Diana Wynne Jones' books Howl's Moving Castle, House of Many Ways and Castle in the Air).



I began this map way back in January 2019, and also began to describe the creative process for illustrating a fantasy map. Since then, I've lived through a pandemic, having a baby, the rise and fall of my business, and a hell of a lot of DIY. I've previously written about creating this map in two parts: one that addresses doing the research, and another that addresses painting the map and how I wanted it to feel. This instalment will focus on creating the detail.

I think it's about time I finished this journey now, don't you?

A close up of my map of Ingary while it was in progress. It shows a half finished Kingsbury
Details of my illustrated map of Ingary (in progress)

Filling in the details! Featuring Kingsbury and the two monsters (Howl and the Witch of the Waste) who do battle over Porthaven


I specifically wanted lots of little tiny, fun details in this map, showcasing that wonderful playfulness and humour that Wynne Jones has in all her writing.

So, the next step was deciding how I wanted those details to look.

In the photo above you can see that I've made a start on the waves with a watercolour pencil, which enabled me to get the really fine lines I was after. I drew inspiration for the waves from another much older map called the Carta Marina, which I have a reproduction of on my wall and absolutely love.

I always have a bit of a battle with myself over how I want the trees to look: do I want to give them a little shadow? (This makes them pop), do I want to put a pattern on the trees? (I actually ended up plumping for a folk-inspired leaf pattern), how do I want the trunk to look? (with roots or without?). Eventually I'd like to settle on a tree-drawing style, but until that happens, I just do what looks best with each map.

However, I do finally think I've nailed the mountains and hills, and this is where the finer details from the books really come into their own.

EDIT 30.1.2024: I usually draw inspiration from both antique and modern mapmakers to define my style, and now have a particular way of drawing trees, mountains and waves that I didn't have when I created this map. However, this map was the start of finding my style, and I've carried the waves in particular through to all my modern work.

Another thing I love to do in my maps, regardless of subject, is add in little monsters.

Mankind actually used to believe many of these monsters existed, which is why they made it into so many maps, but now they're just a bit of fun I like to add in.

I wanted to get a really 'vintage' effect with the monsters I included on this map, so I used an extra fine fineliner to get that really fine look, and dotwork to give it a traditional feel.

Shows a reproduction of an antique map with lots of sea creatures and tiny details
A reproduction of the Carta Marina


I've said before that I like to dig down in the book to come up with really personal details that bring the map to life. In this particular book, there are so many things I wanted to include that it was hard to include them all! Some of the little details I decided to add were:

  • The chattering skull Sophie sees when she first walks into Howl's castle, which became the compass rose

  • The monster forms of Howl and the Witch of the Waste fighting over Porthaven (One is described as long, low and scaly, the other is part cat, part sea lion with long claws.)

  • The mandrake root that Sophie accidentally grows

  • The seven league boots

  • Sophie's hat and staff

  • Howl's guitar

  • The creepy scarecrow that follows them about

  • Howl's potions and lotions that Sophie sees in his bathroom

  • Calcifer, of course

  • A red setter

  • The first line of Howl's Moving Castle

This close up of my hand painted map shows market chippings and a tent by a river
A close up of my illustrated map of Ingary


When creating a fantasy map, I like to get the towns as accurate to the descriptions I have been provided with as possible. I think I could have made a map of Market Chipping alone with how descriptive Wynne Jones is! Here's some of the buildings I included:

  • Market Chipping with Cesari's, Sophie's hat shop, and the farrier's yard, all mentioned in the books (see the photo above for a close up shot)

  • Howl and Sophie's mansion near Vale End, (which is a wreck for most of the book until Howl gets his hands on it)

  • The field by the river and before the hills where the summer fair is held

  • Howl's castle, which is described as 'large and black, like it's made of coal, with four tall turrets and black smoke billowing out of each'),

  • The 'purple' hills over the town (I suspect this colour is due to the heather Wynne Jones describes, but I went literal because I thought the colours would balance nicely) where Howl's castle first appears

  • The hills Martha has to travel over to reach Annabel Fairfax's house.

To create the buildings, I source reference images online and kind of smoosh them together in my head.



When it came to finishing the countries other than Ingary, Strangia was a bit of a problem. It is never described, but does play a big part in the books, as Ingary goes to war with them. So I filled in little bits and bobs here and there, without getting too specific.

Likewise, Alberia and Transmontain were difficult, because they aren't described at all, apart from a passing mention in House of Many Ways that describes the mountains separating High Norland from the other faraway lands such as Alberia.

So, I filled in these mountains and a few little trees, then left them fairly clear, because I wanted the focus to remain on the other places.

The last little place that is mentioned is Catterack, as the Count of Catterack runs away with Jane in her mushroom-coloured bonnet. I had no idea what Catterack was, so there's a little nod to it on the right hand side, with an arrow pointing to 'Catterack', which leaves it open to interpretation.


And there we are at the end. This is one of those projects I could keep working on forever, adding little details to here and there, but unfortunately, real life must get in the way, so I'm stopping here and enjoying having finished. I hope you enjoy it too:

The full and final map of Ingary, hand painted in gouache
My final illustrated map of Ingary from Diana Wynne Jones' Howl's Moving Castle trilogy

If you're interested in more of this story, check out:

And if you'd like to buy a limited edition copy of my illustrated map of Ingary, head to my shop here, where you can purchase your own giclee print of the map.

As always, thanks for reading!


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