Illustrated Adventure Heroes

I thought it might be fun to introduce a few of my heroes – all of them have an illustraion connection and can inspire me when I’m stuck.

Keri Smith


I first became aware of Keri Smith many years ago, she blogged about her journey to become an illustrator – I was hooked. Since then she has created many amazing interactive creativity books including ‘Wreck This Journal’, ‘This is Not a Book’, and, most relevant to this blog ‘How to be an Explorer of the World -the Portable Life/Art Museum’.

What I love most about Keri’s books is the have a go attitude. She recognises that doing something, taking a DIY approach and seeing what happens can be a much more rewarding experience than agonising over trying to create something perfect.

Chris Riddell

When I first left uni, I had a lovely job selecting books for school libraries, encouraging pupils to read and shadowing the Carnegie & Greenaway Awards. This is where I first discovered Chris Riddell’s work and then actually got to meet him for the first time at an event we organised. He drew live, right there and then, on a flip chart with a brush pen he whipped out of his jacket pocket. Amazing!

I’m now hooked on his Tumblr account where he shares pages from his sketchbook. Some show him on his adventures, some are people and scenes around him and some are characters. Chris’s love of drawing and the prolific amount of illustration he creates is awe-inspiring. Plus, he’s currently the UK Children’s Laureate.

b goods

The b goods are a husband and wife team, Ben and Fi O’Brien. They create homewares and gifts with a strong emphasis on stories – themes they explore are nature and travel, life and living, communities, colour, friendships and freedom. How lovely is that?

Every design has its own story, as does their shop:

 “There’s fun to be had” said the forest to the cabin. “Let’s go and play” said the cabin to the forest. Together, they climbed up the mountain, stopping where the hikers would stop to take in the view. They sat and planned their next adventures, seeing how far they could go. “I can see forever!” said the cabin to the forest…


I recommend checking them out, I think it’s a lovely approach to design. If you could all combine our work with our values what a different place the world could be.

Helen Dardikcapture

Helen Dardik is an illustrator who is on the lookout for all things fun, fresh and beautiful! Her work is a fantastic blend of pattern, line and colour with characters and plants.

I love following her Instagram, she seems to be designing every day and often shares video where you see the work being created. I feel that her work is so unique, I think because she obviously invests so much time to her craft that drawing is as personal and fluid as handwriting for her. If you ever need a bit of visual escapism, check out her work.

Marta Altes

I met Marta when I did a summer school at Cambridge School of Arts, she used to be a graphic designer in Barcelona until she decided to pursue her interest in Children’s Book Illustration. She did an MA at the Cambridge School of Art. and after finishing the course, she has gone on to publish many gorgeous books.


I love her free style and her characters are so engaging! She often shares sketches based on her day or how she’s feeling. I love how by illustrating something it starts to take on its own story.

Heroes are great for inspiration. It has never been so easy to follow illustrators adventures.

Stratford Butterfly Farm – Illustrated Adventure No.1

Illustrated adventure number one

For my first illustrated adventure, I thought I should go somewhere exotic, like a rainforest or a jungle, but I only had one day and my chosen method of transport was my little red Mini. I googled for options. The Stratford-upon-Avon Butterfly Farm was less than an hour away and promised to be a place I could discover the world’s most spectacular butterflies as well as an exotic mix of tropical plants, waterfalls, and minibeasts:

Discover the link that Stratford Butterfly Farm has to the Rainforests of Belize and the ancient Maya civilisation.

Perfect, or what? I packed the essential adventuring illustrator kit and set off.

Photos from the adventure

It was awesome, everything they promised! It was tropical, visually jam-packed and a complete escape from my everyday environment. I :

  • took lots of photos
  • stood still and let butterflies land on me
  • saw Iguanas up high (they were camera shy)
  • watched minibeasts – the worker ants were fab (marching around on ropes)
  • witnessed a butterfly emerge from its chrysalis (looks like hard work)
  • explored
  • relaxed
  • drew

Snippets from my sketchbook

I got out my sketchbook and drew some quick observations. It is definitely tricky to draw butterflies in the air, they really don’t hold still, so I was drawing only what I thought I saw. I had more success with ones that landed to rest or feed, I could get more detail down and really look at them properly. I hoped one would land on the sketchbook, but sadly not.

The butterflies regularly landed on people too, who would proudly show off to their friends, and there was a mirror for you to check your back for hitchhikers before you left. Kids were mesmerised by the butterflies and would stare wide-eyed, or shout and point at them, especially any with large wings and the ones that looked like leaves.

There was almost too much to take in, details and discoveries everywhere. The air was so humid that my sketchbook started to get damp, so I just got down what I could to take back to the studio. When I looked at it all that evening, I had lots of great inspiration – photos, sketches, and fresh memories. It really does prove that getting out to explore pays off.

The Illustrations inspired by the Butterfly Farm

I wanted to create some pieces that did more than the photos captured, combining my personal impressions with ideas that came to me while I was there. Illustrations showing some of the wonder, beauty, and patterns that I found on my adventure.

Adventure number one was a great success. I loved every second and came away so inspired and buzzing with new ideas. I can’t wait till the next one, to get outside, do something new and explore.

I post as I create on Instagram. If you have a suggestion as to where you think I should adventure to next, or you want me to come to your attraction, let me know :

Illustrated Adventure Logo Design


How to have an Illustrated Adventure?

All adventures are different, this is my approach to having an illustrated adventure, it is not set in stone, anything goes and it evolves each time.

Here is what you need to have an illustrated adventure:

(in no particular order)

illustrated adventure observationEyes – look around, notice things that are around you. Look up, look down, look under, inside, and through. There is so much to see and observe. I recommend people watching, finding patterns, looking at the shapes clouds make and the things other people are walking past without noticing. The magic comes from making your own discoveries and drawing those.illustrator adventure tools


Tools – you don’t need anything fancy or expensive, but paper and something for making marks will do as start. I like drawing with a biro if I’m travelling light. In my standard adventure kit I have a hardback sketchbook (so I can lean on it), pencils, pens – including 2 brush pens (one with ink and one with water), and a tiny set of watercolours.

travelling illustrator

Transport – choose your favourite method of getting places and go. I find my red Dr Martens make an excellent pair of adventure boots, they can take me almost anywhere! My Mini is also great for whizzing about finding new places and discovering things to draw. (I do not recommend trying to draw whilst driving, you will probably get in a mess, in more ways than one)

start your adventureA starting point – Any where, your chair, your bed, your window, the front door, a trainstation, airport, park, ancient monument, lost tribe, forgotten kingdom… Start anywhere, the important bit is not the location but the action. You will go on great adventures, small adventures, and unusal adventures. You will discover amazing things, not important but there anyway things and things that just make you smile. However, you will only do it by deciding to start somewhere.

illustrator daydreamAnd don’t forget – be curious, use your imagination, daydream, invent, add details that aren’t there that you think are funny, missing or decorative. (This is my absolute favourite thing about an illustrated adventure). You can combine the real world with the one in your head to create a new visual piece that only comes from YOUR adventure. Add your style to the world, say what you want and create graphic explorations that bring it all to life.

Follow my adventures on Instagram and Twitter