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Lucy Letherland is an illustrator based in London. She graduated from Manchester School of Art in 2011 with a First Class BA (Hons) in Illustration with Animation. Lucy’s work is strongly led by humour and narrative, creating a playful graphic quality. She uses a mix of hand-drawn and digital techniques to produce lively illustrations filled with detail. Follow her on Instagram here.
In 2014 Lucy’s first picture book for children, Atlas of Adventures, was published by Wide Eyed Editions. It went on to win the UK Educational Writer’s Award 2015, and was also shortlisted for the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize, The English Association’s 4-11 Picture Book Awards, and the UKLA Book Award 2016. Her next book, Atlas of Animal Adventures won the National Book Tokens Children’s Travel Book of the Year 2016 in the Edward Stanford Travel Writing Awards.
Other titles in the series include Atlas of Dinosaur Adventures, the Atlas of Adventures Activity Book and the pocket-sized Atlas of Miniature Adventures. Lucy’s most recent book, Atlas of Adventures: Wonders of the World was published in October 2018.
A Q&A with Lucy Letherland :-
Which adventure from ‘Atlas of Adventures: Wonders of the World’ would you most like to go on? I have always wanted to visit Norway and see The Aurora Borealis! I think they’d be a very magical sight. It was fascinating researching this adventure and looking at all the beautiful shapes the lights make. I’d love to wrap up warm 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 swirling 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!
Which adventure did you find the hardest to draw?
Although visually this has ended up being one of my favourite spreads from the book, I found The Colosseum very hard to draw! Buildings can be tricky things to illustrate - particularly when there’s so much detail and ancient history in include. The perspective was also quite difficult to get right, being an aerial view. Piecing together such an iconic building took me a long time to perfect (along with the surrounding city of Rome), until finally I was satisfied that the scene would be instantly recognisable to the reader.
What was the starting point on your page for each adventure?
My starting point for every page was always the background. I’d begin by researching each adventure very quickly and intensely – looking at lots of reference images and building up a picture of the place in my mind. Once I had all that information stored in my head I’d piece together a backdrop.
By starting with the background first, it made it easier to decide where I wanted things to be; I could then set about filling in the rest of the scene with lots of buildings, characters and other points of interest. It also helped me to establish where the main action should taking place at the forefront of the scene, and what things could be hidden at the back for readers to discover later on.
How do you draw your illustrations?
I try and get my initial ideas down very quickly and roughly, so my illustrations often start life as just tiny pencil scribbles on a page. From there, I’ll re-work my drawings until they begin to look more life-like and whole.
I rarely work in sketchbooks as I find that I get too precious about them, so instead I draw straight on to loose sheets of paper that I can scan in easily. Once my initial sketches are complete, I transfer them on to watercolour paper and colour them in by hand with ink. Each small element is drawn separately, and then pieced together at the end on my computer. Working digitally is really helpful at this stage – I can experiment easily with the size, positioning and layout of everything until the final illustration is formed.
When did you decide you wanted to be illustrator?
The seed was sown on my Art Foundation course. During this time my work became increasingly narrative based, and I began to concentrate more fully on drawing. Computers used to scare me a lot, so when it came to specialising I quickly chose illustration over graphics. I also had a great tutor who introduced me to the work of different picture book illustrators and encouraged me to pursue the subject.
It was only in the last year of my degree course that I began to think seriously about a career as an illustrator. Once I’d got a stronger grip on my style and how I liked to work, my confidence grew. It was then that I decided I wanted to work towards forging a path in the industry.
Could you describe your typical day?
I like to be up early with a strong cup of tea in hand. After a short cycle down to my studio, I’ll sit down at my desk and make a list of the day’s tasks. If I’m at the start of a book project, I’ll spend the morning focusing on coming up with ideas and doodling on loose sheets of paper. I’ll then work these rough images up on my light box until I’m happy, and later colour them in with ink.
Once I have finished all my drawings for a particular spread, I scan everything in to my computer. I’ll then spend the rest of the day editing and playing around with layout until the whole image has been pieced together. I also find I work well in the evenings when late night inspiration hits. It’s nice to work when the pressure of the day has ebbed away and everyone around you is sleeping!
What’s the best thing about being an illustrator?
Drawing stuff for a living and getting away with it. An idea falling into place. Unlimited tea breaks. Nice feedback from strangers. Getting a laugh. Making books. Doing what I love.
What’s the worst thing about being an illustrator?
Being your own worst critic. A pallid complexion. Days where I can’t draw a thing. Ink stains. Bad posture.
Who is your favourite children’s author?
Roald Dahl. Undeniably one of the greats!
Who is your favourite book character?
‘Madeline’, from the series of books by Ludwig Bemelmans.
Who is your favourite children’s illustrator?
There are so many! Richard Scarry, Quentin Blake, Laura Carlin, Miroslav Sasek, Laurent Moreau, Christian Robinson and Carson Ellis to name just a few.
What was the first book you read?
‘Worms Wiggle’ by David Pelham & Michael Foreman.
A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month November 2020 | Nature is full of record-breaking adventures which are brought to life in the detailed and dramatic illustrations that fill every inch of the large scale book. Global in its reach, it is a gold mine of information as it takes readers on a world tour of astonishing achievements. There’s the fastest land animal – the cheetah from Botswana, the hottest place on Earth – Ethiopia, The Longest-erupting Volcano – Italy and many more. Across thirty gloriously bold spreads readers will discover wonderful and surprising facts about all kinds of aspects of the planet.
A Collection of Natural Wonders, Marine Marvels and Undersea Antics from Across the Globe | The 5th title in the best-selling Atlas of Adventures series, that has now been translated into 31 languages, is a highly topical guided tour of marine wonders from each of the world’s five oceans, taking the reader from the depths of the Marianas Trench to colourful reefs, kelp forests, tropical beaches and to seabird’s rocky nesting sites. Each featured animal (and often these are often the fascinatingly less familiar examples) is given a double-page spread with a full-colour backdrop illustrating the habitat with illuminating snippets of text invitingly laid out, including useful maps that show the locations of the animals. A stand-out feature of this series is the humorous writing which instantly engages young readers and makes the books accessible to a wide age group. The beautiful illustrations include some fun oddities too- an octopus playing the violin or a penguin with a bucket and spade, and these are listed at the back for readers to search for throughout the book. A recurrent theme is the the dangers of floating plastic and other pollution which comes together at the end in a spread titled “Oceans in Danger.” With an excellent index this is another great example from this team of an invaluable information resource that is an entertaining and absorbing book which can be dipped in and out of and read with great pleasure. A recommended addition to any school library.
A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month November 2018 | Stunning, large scale illustrations capture some of the most thrilling places to visit in the world. Broad in its vision and range, this incredible Atlas includes both natural and man made places. The juxtaposition of the two is an excellent way of celebrating both. Readers can be amazed by Pantanal, the astonishing tropical Brazilian wetland with its vibrant and original wildlife. And they can be equally impressed by the Great Wall of China or Machu Picchu, two man made structures that have survived over hundreds of years. Examples of Wonders of the World are taken from all around the world making this an exceptional journey of exploration and adventure in a visual format that makes it fun to visit and re-visit looking for cleverly illustrated details on every spread.
A world of prehistoric wonders awaits young readers in this excellent information book. Divided by continent it features maps of each followed by scenes depicting the area’s different dinosaur species in their natural habitats. There are notes on each dinosaur represented with detailed information on 30, from the really familiar – T Rex – to more recent discoveries such as the Gigantoraptor. The information is filled with memorable comparisons such as ‘steak-knife teeth’ and quirky visual jokes too: many of the big predators have got napkins round their necks and one is holding a knife and fork. Lucy Lethbridge’s illustrations capture the essence of the dinosaurs in bold, unfussy but arresting images and this will spark real and lasting interest in its subject. ~ Andrea Reece
This atlas may be pocket sized, but it still packs in all seven continents and provides close-ups on some of the smallest of world’s marvels, from the tiniest animals and insects, to some of Europe’s miniature works of art. There’s a huge amount too in each picture for children to spot, and fascinating snippets of information likely to whet their appetite for exploration and discovery. Lucy Letherland’s illustrations are full of life and humour too, and will inspire many hours of contented browsing – in face, slip this into a Christmas stocking and it might even win you some extra snoozing time on Christmas morning. ~ Andrea Reece
The National Book Tokens Children’s Travel Book of the Year 2017 From the creators of the much-praised Atlas of Adventures comes this sumptuous and inspiring new atlas and it cleverly and stylishly introduces some of the world’s most adventurous animals, continent by continent. The section on Africa for example asks children to imagine running with the wildebeest in Kenya as they migrate from the Serengeti to the lush landscapes of the Masai Mara; or to go swimming with sardines in the Great Sardine Run along the southern coast. Each spread is bright and colourful, packed with detail and information on animal behaviour and habitats. There’s so much to see and learn, and it is simply gorgeous to look at too. An imagination-stretching reference book with huge appeal. ~ Andrea Reece
Set your spirit of adventure free with this lavishly illustrated trip around the world. Explore seven continent maps, packed with hundred of activities and challenges to inspire armchair travellers of any age. Whether you're visiting the penguins of Antarctica, joining the Carnival in Brazil or a canoe safari down the Zambezi River, this book brings together epic adventures from the remotest corners of the globe and discoveries to made on your own doorstep. Follow one boy and one girl as they travel to over 30 destinations and discover hundreds of things to spot and facts to learn on every page.
From the team behind the bestselling Atlas of Adventures, this journey of discovery takes you in large format through 31 of nature's most unmissable animal events from between the two poles, including epic migrations, extraordinary behaviours and Herculean habits. There are hundreds of things to spot and facts to learn. Celebrate the incredible ways in which animals survive in the wild: with every turn of the page, you'll meet another of nature's most adventurous creatures, learning about their amazing behaviours and habitats. Each section begins with an infographic map of the region it explores, followed by richly detailed two-page spreads featuring its most fascinating creatures. You'll get to run with the wildebeest in Kenya, nest with the puffins in Iceland, parade with the peacocks in India, hit the dance floor with the birds of paradise in New Guinea and go north with the narwhals of Canada, among many other adventures. The quirky illustrations make the animals' lives relatable to our own with humorous surprises: look out for a drone bee delivering a bunch of flowers to his queen, polar bears using binoculars to watch for seals, and cold-blooded iguanas basking in the sun on beach blankets. Interesting facts and figures pepper the scenes. Did you know that a Zambian fruit bat can gobble up to twice its body weight in fruit each night? Or that elephants have longer pregnancies than any other land animal - about 22 months!? Or that, at only one day old, a caribou calf can outrun a human? A 'Can you find?' page at the back challenges you to explore the pages even deeper by locating the pictured animals and objects. Children and adults alike will find inspiration in the extraordinary feats of these wonderful creatures.