Find Your Local Unicorn

Once upon a time in the kingdom of Scotland, a young prince lost his smile.

No one could help Prince Donald find his smile until his friend Hana, the magician’s granddaughter, had an idea. Using her grandfather’s magic, she created a majestic creature with the body of a horse and the horn of a gazelle, and called him a ‘unicorn’.

When the prince became a wise king, with a clever magician by his side, he asked the castle stonemason to carve ninety-nine unicorn statues. King Donald placed the stone unicorns all over his kingdom, so that people would never forget how the prince found his smile.

And many of them are still there to this day, as you can see in the map below!

Do you have a local unicorn? If you do, we would love to hear about it! Send us your unicorn photos, drawings and stories by email, Twitter or Facebook (make sure to tag @DiscoverKelpies!), and we’ll add our favourites to the map!

The Legend of the First Unicorn

Once upon a time, in the kingdom of Scotland, a young prince lost his smile.

No one could help Prince Donald find his smile until his friend Hana, the magician’s granddaughter, had an idea. Using her grandfather’s magic, she created a majestic creature with the body of a horse and the horn of a gazelle, and called him ‘a unicorn’.

As Hana and Donald play and chase the unicorn through the forest, it seems that this magical animal might hold the key to the prince’s smile. But what is that fierce beast lurking in the trees?

The unicorn, magical and strong, is Scotland’s national animal and heraldic symbol. Inspired by local folklore, renowned author Lari Don weaves an enchanting origin tale of the first unicorn, which is brought to life by Natasa Ilincic’s rich illustrations.

Guest Post: Imagining Unicorns by Nataša Ilinčić

In today’s guest post, illustrator Nataša Ilinčić takes us through the process of creating her latest picture book, The Legend of the First Unicorn.


Imagination

There is no better way for me to start a picture book than to let my imagination run free as I’m reading the story. I like to immerse myself in it and visualise the characters and environments. After I’ve done this a couple of times, I read through the illustration brief carefully, and note down all the important details and visual elements that will feature in each illustration.

Then it’s time to get paper and a pencil and start sketching!

Before starting on the illustrations themselves, I create some preliminary concept sketches of the characters. These are generally very rough, but they plant the seed from which the characters will eventually grow.

Research

At this stage research is very important. I gather information and reference material for the characters’ clothing and features, as well as the environment and settings, particularly if it’s historical. I love creating books that are rich in detail, so that the reader can find something new hiding in the pages every time they read the story.

Flatplan

Once this is done, I start working on small thumbnail sketches that will give me a good overview of how the illustrations will work throughout the book, and help me ensure that the story has strong visual pacing. The design team will also be thinking about how the text of the story might fit alongside my artwork at this stage; it’s important that the words and pictures work together to bring the story to life!

Roughs

The thumbnails are followed by rough sketches, and then more polished ones. During these stages I’m working closely with Leah, the Art & Production Director at Kelpies HQ, taking her feedback on board to gradually refine the sketches until I obtain the final line art. This is transferred onto hot pressed watercolour paper, ready to be painted!

Colour

The illustrations are painted in watercolour and gouache, and given a slight digital polishing at the end. In this final stage I can correct any imperfections and calibrate the values and contrast to ensure the artwork looks as good as it can.

Once all the illustrations have been completed and approved, the final files are sent to the publishing house, where the production team finalises everything and prepares the book for printing.


The Legend of the First Unicorn

Once upon a time, in the kingdom of Scotland, a young prince lost his smile.

No one could help Prince Donald find his smile until his friend Hana, the magician’s granddaughter, had an idea. Using her grandfather’s magic, she created a majestic creature with the body of a horse and the horn of a gazelle, and called him ‘a unicorn’.

As Hana and Donald play and chase the unicorn through the forest, it seems that this magical animal might hold the key to the prince’s smile. But what is that fierce beast lurking in the trees?

The unicorn, magical and strong, is Scotland’s national animal and heraldic symbol. Inspired by local folklore, renowned author Lari Don weaves an enchanting origin tale of the first unicorn, which is brought to life by Nataša Ilinčić‘s rich illustrations.

Guest Post: Searching for Unicorns by Lari Don

Have you ever been surprised by a unicorn? In today’s guest blog, Lari Don explains why Scotland has so many of these mythical creatures…


Unicorn statue in Falcon Square, InvernessSurprised by Unicorns

I am often surprised by unicorns. Not by unicorns on T-shirts or cuddly toy unicorns (though I see lots of those at my author events!) but by unicorns out in the real world.

Once I was walking through Inverness, on my way to an event about ‘why we love monsters’, when I looked up and saw a unicorn above my head. Not flying above my head (most story-fans with unicorn T-shirts could tell you that a flying unicorn is actually an alicorn.) No, it was a bronze unicorn on a plinth. Looking as if it could happily tackle a monster itself…

I’ve also been surprised by stone unicorns and golden unicorns and tapestry unicorns, I’ve been surprised by unicorns in the Scottish Parliament and in castles and as I’m walking along high streets in small Scottish towns…

So I started to wonder:

Why does Scotland have so many unicorns?

And I found an answer. Actually, I found two answers. The historical answer, and the story answer.

Unicorn statue at the Palace of Holyroodhouse

The historical reason for all those unicorns in market towns and royal palaces is that the unicorn is Scotland’s national animal. Hundreds of years ago, Scottish kings wanted to be associated with this strong, powerful, magical beast. At that time, people believed that unicorns were real, but that they lived a long way away, like lions and elephants.

The story reason can be found inside a wonderful book called The Coming of the Unicorn by Duncan Williamson: a Travellers’ tale which starts with magicians trying to cheer up a sad king by inventing an new animal, using aspects of a horse, a boar and a lion.

Now, inspired by that traditional tale, I’ve written The Legend of the First Unicorn, a picture book which explores the invention of the unicorn and explains all those unicorn statues. It’s illustrated by the wonderful and magical Nataša Ilinčić.

Illustration from The Legend of the First Unicorn by Natasa Ilincic

Do you have a local unicorn?

Perhaps carved on a heraldic shield, or standing on a stone plinth, or decorating an old wall? Once you start looking, you might discover a whole herd of unicorns scattered around Scotland.

Tell us about your unicorns on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram! You could even write your own story, about how a unicorn ended up as your neighbour… Don’t forget to tag @DiscoverKelpies and @LariDonWriter!


The Legend of the First Unicorn

Once upon a time, in the kingdom of Scotland, a young prince lost his smile.

No one could help Prince Donald find his smile until his friend Hana, the magician’s granddaughter, had an idea. Using her grandfather’s magic, she created a majestic creature with the body of a horse and the horn of a gazelle, and called him ‘a unicorn’.

As Hana and Donald play and chase the unicorn through the forest, it seems that this magical animal might hold the key to the prince’s smile. But what is that fierce beast lurking in the trees?

The unicorn, magical and strong, is Scotland’s national animal and heraldic symbol. Inspired by local folklore, renowned author Lari Don weaves an enchanting origin tale of the first unicorn, which is brought to life by Nataša Ilinčić‘s rich illustrations.

What are your local monsters?

Today on the Discover Kelpies blog we’re delighted to be hosting Lari Don as she makes her first big splash on The Treasure of the Loch Ness Monster blog tour. Lari Don will also be visiting BookBairn (Tuesday 8th May), Story Snug (Wednesday 9th May), Playing by the Book (Thursday 10th May), Acorn Books (Friday 11th May), Get Kids Into Books (Saturday 12th May) and Delightful Book Reviews (Sunday 13th May). So dive right in to meet Lari Don and find out how you can help us to build a map of Scotland’s mythical monsters by entering our Map My Monster competition.

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When I was growing up I had a local ghost, a local giant, a local kelpie, and not that far away was the Grey Man of Ben Macdui, and only a little bit further way than that was NESSIE!

I love writing about monsters from all over Scotland and I love hearing from young readers and writers about their local monsters.

So to celebrate the publication of The Treasure of the Loch Ness Monster, Kelpies HQ are running a competition to find out about everyone’s local monsters.

Map My Monster - mythical monstersYou might have a dragon or a kelpie or a nuckelavee or a ghost or a black dog or a wyrm or a child-stealing fairy queen. You might have heard their story at home or at school or at the local library or museum. Indeed, you might wonder if you have caught a glimpse of them out of the corner of your eye, or you might be absolutely sure they that don’t really exist. You might like to tell stories about them, or hide under the duvet when they are mentioned. Or you might make up stories about monsters and magical beasts yourself.

Whatever your local monster is, and wherever you found it – in an old tale or in your shiny new imagination – we want to hear about it. Everyone knows where Nessie is on the map, but now my publishers want to map Scotland’s other monsters too.

It doesn’t have to be a horrible monster, it could be a friendly one, a magical one, a mysterious one. And it doesn’t have to be real either (very few monsters are real, honestly…) If you don’t know any old stories from your area, or if there aren’t any about monsters or beasties or magical beings, then just do what writers and artists do: MAKE ONE UP!

I was really lucky, I didn’t have to make up the monster in my most recent book, and you were really lucky too, because I didn’t have to draw her! The wonderful Nataša Ilinčić drew the most amazing Loch Ness Monster for this picture book…

I will be fascinated to meet all of your local monsters, because I always love hearing about local monsters. On my visits to schools all over Scotland, I have been told about dragons and wyrms, ghosts and kelpies, fairies in the woods and creatures rising from the sea… I wonder what new monsters and magical beasts I will discover when I see entries to #MapMyMonster?

If you want to join in, here are the details. You have until the end of June to enter, so there’s plenty of time to track down or invent a monster!

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The Treasure of the Loch Ness Monster - mythical monstersAbout the Book

Renowned author and storyteller Lari Don’s traditional tale sidesteps the modern Nessie, creating a new myth inspired by local folklore. A timeless tale of Scotland’s most famous creature, atmospherically brought to life by Nataša Ilinčić’’s stunning illustrations.

 About the Author

Lari Don has worked in politics and broadcasting, but is now a full-time writer and storyteller. She grew up in the north-east of Scotland, and lives in Edinburgh. She is the author more than 20 books for children of all ages.

The Treasure of the Loch Ness Monster is the latest Traditional Scottish Tale by Lari Don. The Secret of the Kelpie and The Tale of Tam Linn by Lari are also available.

#FlorisDesign meets Nataša Ilinčić

There have been enough stories, claimed sightings and tall tales about the Loch Ness Monster to fill the famous loch itself. But as an illustrator how do you even begin to attempt to capture the many and various images of Scotland’s most iconic monster that exist in the public imagination? In our latest #FlorisDesign interview we spoke to Nataša Ilinčić, about the joys and challenges of illustrating her debut picture book, The Treasure of the Loch Ness Monster.

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Hi Nataša, thanks for talking to us today. Congratulations on illustrating your first picture book! How does it feel?

Thank you for having me! It feels exciting, like all new things! I’ve often worked on book covers and interior illustrations, but I’ve never illustrated a full story from beginning to end.  It’s a very different approach to illustration – one that I’m growing to love more and more.

Could you tell us a bit about yourself and your career so far?

I grew up in a small town at the foot of the Italian Alps, and spent all my summers on the Croatian coast, where my family is from. You could say I never really had roots in only one place, they always travelled with me! After finishing my studies in Archaeology and Cultural Anthropology in Venice, with a thesis in traditional Croatian tattooing, I decided to move to Scotland. I’ve been working as a freelance illustrator ever since.

I’ve worked on books, role playing games, posters (some of which you might have seen around Beltane Fire Festival) and I’m currently working on my first big personal project: an illustrated book about witches from various parts of the world and from different historical settings.

#FlorisDesign meets Nataša Ilinčić

Is that a tail we spy?

What made you decide to become an illustrator?

There was never a ‘decision’ as such, it happened naturally, almost organically. I’ve painted since I was a little girl. Around the age of 20, I decided that my illustrations didn’t have to stay locked in a drawer, so I started posting them online. The intention was simply to share them with others, but not long later clients started contacting me. So I started working casually as an illustrator between archaeological digs. After finishing my studies I decided to start illustrating full time. I finally had the chance to invest all my time in improving my skills and doing what I love the most!

Is working as a picture book illustrator what you expected?

I approached the project with a very open mind, so I can’t say I had set expectations for it. A thing that pleasantly surprised me was the fundamental role of teamwork – having a talented storyteller like Lari Don writing the text, a brilliant editor, and an art director with a sharp eye made all the difference, and really elevated the quality of the book.

#FlorisDesign meets Nataša Ilinčić

There be treasure!

Can you tell us a bit about your illustration process and methods?

My illustration process always starts from the basics: pencil and paper. I sketch a lot and let my ideas flow free on the paper. As much as it is a mental process, it’s also a very physical one – sometimes your hand, your instinct, seems to be one step ahead of your mind.

When I isolate a good idea and settle on a composition, I procede by painting with watercolour and gouache, or sometimes waterproof ink. Towards the end I usually add some digital touches to the piece whilst trying to maintain the raw textures that the pigments created on the paper.

Watercolour is a very independent medium – it likes to create it’s own paths. That’s something that I really enjoy about it. Sometimes you control it, other times you let it flow freely, but mostly you just learn to guide it.

What did you enjoy most about working on The Treasure of the Loch Ness Monster?

Creating characters with strong personalities – which is often one of the most difficult but also most rewarding parts! Conveying Ishbel’s enterprise and curiosity, Kenneth’s caution and perkiness, and Nessie’s tenderness and maternal fierceness.

I also really enojoyed working on the historical aspects of the story, delving into Scottish history in order to convey the setting well (and maybe hide an Easter egg here and there…!).

Have you ever visited Loch Ness before?

Is it embarassing that I still haven’t? I spent countless hours studying its shores and the ruins of Urquhart Castle online to convey the setting of the story as accurately as I could, but I still haven’t found the time to explore that area of the Highlands. My partner and I are currently planning our summer trekking itineraries, so hopefully we’ll manage to fit Loch Ness in!

#FlorisDesign meets Nataša Ilinčić

At the foot of Urquhart Castle.

What are your favourite things to illustrate?

I love illustrating pieces that evoke a sense of awe and mystery, that open a door and invite you in to help imagine the story behind it. Nature is omnipresent in my works, as well as European folklore and mythology. One thing I love most is using art and symbolism to explore the spiritual relationship between people and the wilderness.

Where do you get your inspiration? Do you have any favourite illustrators or designers?

Inspiration can be found anywhere! You can stumble upon it whilst reading a book; it can suddenly hit you whilst you’re walking in the woods, lost in your thoughts; or surprise you in the shower.

My latest piece Boundary Walker was inspired by an encounter I had with the fox that lives in our neighbourhood. I saw it in the evening, wandering around from one garden to the next – and when I woke up the next morning I knew exactly what I wanted to paint.

Aside from the evergreen Art Nouveau and Pre-Raphaelite painters, and masters of the Golden Age, there are also countless contemporary artists that inspire my work, such as P.J. Lynch, Tony DiTerlizzi, Brian Froud and Alan Lee.

#FlorisDesign meets Nataša Ilinčić

‘Boundary Walker’ by Nataša Ilinčić

Do you have any tricks in your bag for when you get stuck on a brief?

There are a great deal of things that can help. I usually brainstorm ideas, letting the story play in my head various times, from different angles and points of view.

Never underestimate your brain’s ability to keep ideas running in the background. It’s a bit like trying to remember something – sometimes you just have to let the idea come to you instead of persistently chasing it. Go for a walk, chill, do something manual and tangible, actions that let your mind breathe a bit. It could be baking, tidying up, repotting that plant in the corner that keeps growing bigger and bigger…

What are your tips for budding illustrators?

In the age of social media, it’s easy to see only the success of others. What you often don’t see are the failures, the sleepless nights, the hard work. So when feeling low or experiencing doubt, try to be gentle with yourself and persist in what you believe in.

Remember that creativity doesn’t follow the rules of mass production. Don’t expect to be productive 24/7 or you’ll burn out. Creativity is very much like nature: between one spring and the other you need a period of dormancy to rest, gather your energies, recalibrate your ideas.

#FlorisDesign meets Nataša Ilinčić

The Loch Ness Monster with Ishbel and Kenneth.

 

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About the Book

This traditional tale from renowned Scottish children’s author and storyteller Lari Don sidesteps the modern Nessie to create a new myth inspired by local folklore. A timeless tale of Scotland’s most famous creature, atmospherically brought to life by Nataša Ilinčić’’s stunning illustrations.

The Treasure of the Loch Ness Monster is the latest Traditional Scottish Tale by Lari Don. The Secret of the Kelpie and The Tale of Tam Linn are available now.

About the Illustrator

Nataša Ilinčić is a designer and illustrator originally from Bosnia and Herzegovina and now living and working in Edinburgh. She is particularly inspired by magic and folklore. The Treasure of the Loch Ness Monster is her first picture book. She was Highly Commended for the Kelpies Design and Illustration Prize 2017,

The Treasure of the Loch Ness Monster: Cover Reveal!

Apparently 2017 was a record year for Loch Ness Monster sightings. We predict 2018 will be even better…

We’re so excited to reveal the cover for The Treasure of the Loch Ness Monster. Our latest Traditional Scottish Tale brings together Lari Don‘s unique storytelling with stunning illustrations from Natasa Ilincic. This is the first ever Nessie picture book based on real folklore from Loch Ness. You can #TreasureNessie with us from March 2018.

“Don’t you remember the old story? About two doors hidden in the rock? Behind one door there’s a room full of poison, behind the other there’s a room full of treasure!”

“That’s just a story. It’s not real. It’s no more real than the big green monster our great-grandpa claimed he saw in the loch when he was wee.”

The Treasure of the Loch Ness Monster cover

What do you think of our cover? Let us know on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram. Remember to tag your post with #TreasureNessie!


More about The Treasure of the Loch Ness Monster

Legends of the Loch Ness Monster abound, but this new tale from renowned Scottish children’s author and storyteller Lari Don sidesteps the modern Nessie to create a new myth inspired by local folklore. This timeless tale of Scotland’s most famous creature is atmospherically brought to life by Natašsa Ilincic’’s stunning illustrations.

The Treasure of the Loch Ness Monster is the latest Traditional Scottish Tale by Lari Don. The Secret of the Kelpie and The Tale of Tam Linn are available now.