Gorgeous wintry wonderlands to explore - and the book that made me fall in love with them

Published on: 05 December 2018 Author: Lucy Letherland

While she was working on the illustrations for Ben Handicott's Atlas of Adventures: Wonders of the World, Lucy Letherland fell for two wintry wonderlands - so grab a mug of hot cocoa and let her tell you all about them...

Lucy Letherland's illustration of a whale from Atlas of Adventures: Wonders of the World by Ben Handicott

As winter takes hold and darkness closes in early, I catch myself daydreaming out of my studio window, transporting myself away from the city to some other faraway, frosty land.

That certainly happend a lot last year, when I spent the winter months illustrating my latest picture book Atlas of Adventures: Wonders of the World. Working closely on capturing the world's most amazing sights, I particularly fell in love with two snowy wonders I've yet to explore in person.

The first of these was also my favourite one to draw: the Aurora Borealis. Looking from the crisp white landscapes of Norway up to a sky of swirling blue and green lights seems simply magical!

I think about how exciting it would be to wrap up warm - the northerly winds biting at my nose - and take a boat tour through the fjords, dodging ice floes and various sea life along the way, all the while being lit by an array of breathtaking colours above. If you look closely at my illustration you might even be able to spot a mini-Lucy out there on the deck, peering up in wonder at the night sky!

Lucy Letherland's illustration of tourists enjoying the Aurora Borealis in Atlas of Adventures: Wonders of the World

As you can see, humour is a big influence on my work, and my illustrations tend to have a playful, graphic quality. However, I try to use this humour subtly, serving as an underlying theme rather than the main focus of the image.

The grinning humpback whale in the background peering up to wave at tourists or the arctic tern preparing to dive into the chilly waters are just two examples of fun, extra details that children and parents alike can enjoy.

The second wintry wonder high on my list of places to visit is the majestic Mount Everest! Intimidatingly tall, it stands towering over the Himalayas, inviting explorers from all over the world to try and conquer its snowy peaks. Disappearing far up into the clouds, there's an air of mystery surrounding Everest that I can't help but be intrigued by.

Lucy Letherland's illustration of Mount Everest from Atlas of Adventures: Wonders of the World

Much as the mountain itself is a challenge to climb, the tricky task for me when illustrating this spread was trying to create an image varied enough to sustain the reader's interest.

On top of the muted white and grey Himalayan backdrop I added splashes of brightly coloured prayer flags, tents and snow jackets - helping forge a snaking path through the scene, up to the top of Everest's highest peak. Placing a few yaks in the scene was also a fun little detail, with one waving cheekily at the aeroplane passengers flying above.

As this spread shows, I'm increasingly drawn to the small details of a subject, building up layers to create crowded scenes packed full of information. Making hundreds of tiny adjustments as I go means that more often than not, I'm left at the end with a different illustration to the one I first imagined; this for me is always the most exciting part of what I do. I like the idea that what I create can be revisited by readers, who can discover something new to look at every time.

Lucy Letherland's illustration of Mount Everest from Atlas of Adventures: Wonders of the World

Looking back at these scenes never fails to fill me with excitement for the wider world, and hopefully I'll get to explore these wonders in real life one day soon. For now, though, with my book open on my lap and a mug of tea in hand, I'll just have to be content with the comfort of armchair travel. Like me, I hope these pictures inspire you to set off on your own wonderful wintery adventures.

Atlas of Adventures: Wonders of the World by Ben Handicott, illustrated by Lucy Letherland, is published by Wide Eyed Editions. All images by Lucy Letherland.

Read our review of Atlas of Adventures: Wonders of the World

Five super snowy stories to make you feel cosy


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