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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.


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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