Inspiring magical childhood journeys with caring stories and handcrafted toys

How I created the illustrations for our new book

How I created the illustrations for our new book

I thought you might be interested in finding out how I created the illustrations for the book that I wrote with play therapist Lenka de Villiers-van Zyl. The illustrations are very special and have been created in a unique way!

Combining photos and illustrations in a new way

For the illustrations of our first book, I combined layers of illustrations and photos in Photoshop to create images that blur the lines between fantasy and reality.

I really enjoyed playing with this layering process. I started off created illustrations on paper of Kiki and the worry monsters. Then I combined them with photographs of Violet. Violet is a real-life fabric doll that I created by having my illustrations printed on fabric. So you can see that the levels of layering actually go very deep!

For the backgrounds of the illustrations, I took photos in a botanical garden nearby. I waited until I had already written and finalised the story. Then it was a matter of looking for places that suited my story. I looked for spaces where I could visualise my characters in the scene already!

I collected all of the elements that would make up the illustrations - photos of the backgrounds, characters and other elements, and illustrations of Kiki. Then I set about combining them all in Photoshop. This was where the real magic happened. I needed to change the lighting where necessary, adding shadows and blurring some parts of the backgrounds for the scene I was creating.

Lastly, I also cut out sections of the background to create white spaces. This was where I could add the story text on the pages of the book.

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Blurring the lines between fantasy and reality

As an artist, this is really what fascinates me. The possibility of creating a fantasy world where the only limit is your imagination and where anything seems possible.

By combining illustrations and photos, I aimed to create illustrations that seem almost real, to encourage children to use their imaginations to see the magic in their own lives.

In my illustrations, I hope to share my way of seeing the world. I literally see fairies and little animal creatures everywhere. I think my world is a little more magical because of my imagination - and I love to help children to see the world in this way too!

Would you like to see more of the illustrations I created for our book?

Do visit our shop where you can see some sample pages from inside the book.


  1. Margie Wilson on September 14, 2018 at 7:32 pm

    What you omitted was the enormous talent you have to develop all this into this magical product – most of us can only dream of such ‘wealth’. Your work is truly remarkable. I am a great fan.

    • Liesl van der Hoven on September 17, 2018 at 11:35 am

      Dearest Margie,

      You are so kind, thank you! I could never have done it without the encouragement of fans such as yourself. Especially because at times it has felt that what I was trying to do was a bit odd or even crazy!

      Thank you so much for “getting it” and for being a kindred spirit!

      Lots of love,

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