Illustrator turns childhod tale into
children's book

A childhood tale about a visit to the Highlands of Scotland has been turned into a heartwarming children’s book by a University for the Creative Arts (UCA) Illustration and Animation graduate.

10 Jan 2024

Mara of the Loch is written and illustrated by Hannah Maclennan, and is about a girl called Isla who, with her mother, visits her grandparents and adventures ensue. It’s inspired by a tale her mother used to tell her when she was young, about a creature who lived in the loch behind her grandparents’ house.

“My family come from the western isles of Scotland and we would visit on special occasions and holidays and my grandparents told me old stories from their childhood and old legends from the island,” she said.

Hannah Maclennan

Hannah was originally enrolled on an illustration course in Scotland but switched to UCA Canterbury part-way through.

“I always knew I wanted to pursue something in art, but it wasn’t until I came to UCA that I figured out what,” she said. “The course shaped my artistic journey and equipped me with the skills to thrive in the field.”

As well as giving her a strong foundation in both traditional and digital illustration, her Illustration and Animation degree taught her how to structure stories, develop characters, and the importance of experimenting – all tools she’s used to create her children’s book.

©Hannah Maclennan

Hannah’s illustration style draws inspiration from traditional storybooks but with a modern twist using digital techniques, and it wasn’t until her final year of university, during lockdown, that she honed her skills through constant drawing.

“I love how illustrations come in different styles, each beautiful and capable of triggering warm, nostalgic feelings,” she said. “The use of colours, lines, and shapes always catches my eye.”

She got her book published after working on a few collaborative projects with Comics Youth, a non-profit supporting youth to make comics and zines. They offered Hannah a one-book deal with their sister company, Marginal Publishing.

Hannah Maclennan

Hannah is hoping her book will be the first of many and is actively seeking representation from an agent while pursuing various freelance projects and holding down a part-time job at a nursery – the perfect audience for her stories.

She also had this advice for students graduating this summer and looking to get into publishing: “Start by connecting, shaping your style, sharing your work, and sending emails. Don’t be discouraged by rejections – you never know what might come your way.”

You can order a copy of Mara of the Loch from the Marginal Publishing website.

To learn more about studying animation or illustration at UCA, visit our course pages.