Isadora Moon in 3D illustration

Bringing Isadora’s world to life through 3D illustration

One of the best things about my job is being able to create and give life to magical worlds. I love the power of stories and illustrations to transport us to a fantastical new place. It’s even more exciting when you can actually see and touch a part of those magical worlds. That is why I have always loved miniatures and 3D illustration – and why I have spent the last few days putting together a 3D scene of Isadora Moon’s kitchen to take on tour with me.

Isadora Moon 3D illustration by Harriet Muncaster
This 3D illustration scene of Isadora Moon’s kitchen is coming on tour with me.

At my last school visit I took in a couple of 3D sets I had made for I am a Witch’s Cat. The children were fascinated, which gave me the idea of making one for Isadora Moon. As I’m still having physio from straining my hand, I was a bit worried about getting it finished in time for Bath Children’s Literature Festival. However, I have filled our attic with 3D illustration sets from past projects, including the Glitterbelle series. I was able to repurpose some of those models, and I enlisted Henry to do some cutting out, which meant I was able to finish after all.

Isadora Moon in her 3D illustration kitchen by Harriet Muncaster
The characters are paper cut-outs of my illustrations stuck onto card
The background of Isadora Moon's 3D illsutration kitchen by Harriet Muncaster
Countess Cordelia Moon loves to bake, so there are always lots of nice cakes in the Moon kitchen
Making my 3D illustration

In case you’re wondering, the set is mainly made out of cardboard, paper and glitter. I used mount-board for the walls and floor.  These were stuck together using a glue gun. The cakes are made out of Fimo, while some of the bowls are painted dolls house accessories. 

3D illustration of Isadora Moon's kitchen by Harriet Muncaster
I painted these dolls house bowls in an Isadora Moon style

For the characters, I printed out illustrations I had already done from the books, stuck them onto card and cut them out. Some of them are supported by wire on the back, and Count Bartholomew is held in place with a wooden skewer.

Details in the 3D illustration of Isadora Moon's kitchen
I figured with two children in the house, non-kitchen things like Isadora’s painting set would sometime be left lying around
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There is another gallery of the finished kitchen at the end of the post.

The good and bad of 3D illustration

3D illustration is not commonly used, but I love it. I suspect there are three reasons you don’t see the technique very often:

  1. You need a lot of materials – paints, paper and card is just the start. For some of my sets, I’ve had to specially buy dolls house lighting to get the atmosphere just right.
  2. It gets very messy – my studio looks like a glitter and paper bomb has gone off every time I make one.
  3. The finished sets take up a lot of space – did I mention our attic is full of them?

Despite this, I absolutely love the effect 3D illustration creates. Everything seems so tactile and real. It’s the same reason I love stop-motion animation. I find there are few books which feature 3D illustration, but I wish there were more. I did a post on my other blog about the 3D illustrated books I had discovered back in 2011.

My first experiments with 3D illustration

The first time I came across the idea of 3D illustration was during my undergraduate degree. We were set a project called ‘Illustration City’. The idea was that each student created a 3D-illustrated model of an apartment that a character would live in, decorated in that character’s style. I remember getting really into the idea and working solidly for a whole evening to get it all together. The next day my tutor was surprised I had gotten so much into it, when other people had spent far less time on theirs as it was only meant to be a fun end-of-term exercise.

Harriet Muncaster university project Ice Queen apartment 1
My first foray into 3D illustration while at uni
Harriet Muncaster university project Ice Queen apartment 2
This was the bedroom of a snow queen character
Returning to 3D illustration

I didn’t think about or use 3D illustration again for quite a while. A couple of years later, in 2010, I started thinking about ways to experiment with my illustration. I kept thinking about the apartment model I had made, and decided to remake it for a new story idea. Below is version 2. Looking back, it’s far too busy and I’m not that pleased with the character design.

Harriet Muncaster 3D illustration experiment - Paper Queen 2
I was able to spend more time on this set, so I added more details
Harriet Muncaster 3D illustration experiment - Paper Queen 1
I love the way you can play with lighting in 3D sets

It was in November 2010 I made that second 3D illustration, then I left the technique again until the following spring. If you read last week’s post about how to draw children, you’ll be familiar with Casper and Jasper. I spent a lot of time developing the character designs for that and finding a visual style that worked. Seeing me struggle to settle on a design, one of my MA tutors suggested I try it in 3D. This was the result:

The 3D illustrated kitchen in 'Casper and Jasper' by Harriet Muncaster
You may notice a theme in my 3D illustrations – I seem to end up making a lot of kitchens…
Casper and Jasper final image by Harriet Muncaster
…and bedrooms!

I was pleased enough with the result to enter the project for the Macmillan PrizeCasper and Jasper ended up being highly commended, which was very encouraging, so I stuck with the style for my next project…

Getting published with 3D illustration

For my final project of my MA degree, I started developing a story about a little girl who wears a catsuit and thinks her mum is a witch. After struggling with drawing children for what seemed like ages, I had finally created a child character that I thought was pretty cute. This got me excited about the project.

I am a Witch's Cat - kitchen by Harriet Muncaster
Look: another kitchen! I love the warm autumn lighting in this picture too.

I’ll probably do a more detailed post at some point about my route to getting published. In brief though, our MA tutors took the class’ work to Bologna Children’s Book Fair, and I am a Witch’s Cat got picked up by Harper Collins US. 

I am a witch's cat cover by Harriet Muncaster
Here is Witch’s Cat playing in the pumpkin patch for the front cover. I used some models and some cardboard cutouts of pumpkins to add depth. There’s even a real munchkin pumpkin in this shot which I used for a model and then glittered up!
Developing my 3D illustration for publication

My contract with Harper Collins US was a two-book deal, so they wanted a sequel to I am a Witch’s Cat. This was Happy Halloween Witch’s Cat. The story this time is that Halloween is coming, but Witch’s Cat doesn’t know what to wear. (Never mind the fact that she’s already wearing a cat costume, and tries on different costumes over the top of it…) 

The costume shop from Happy Halloween Witch's Cat by Harriet Muncaster
Stocking a whole miniature shop was a lot of work!

I think you can really see a difference between the first and second Witch’s Cat books in terms of the neatness of my set design. By that point I’d had a lot of practice cutting out and sticking together tiny paper props!

Kitchen scene from HAPPY HALLOWEEN WITCH'S CAT by Harriet Muncaster
Witch’s cat is back in the kitchen with her mum for the sequel – Happy Halloween, Witch’s Cat
3D illustration with Parragon

A UK-based publisher, Parragon, had seen my Witch’s Cat books and liked the 3D style. They asked if I would illustrate a range of princess story and activity books about a character they were developing called Glitterbelle. She was billed as “the sparkliest princess ever”, so how could I say no?

Here’s Glitterbelle in – where else would she be? – her kitchen:

Glitterbelle - the sparkliest princess in the world - illustrated by Harriet Muncaster
If you look closely, you’ll see that I actually repainted some of the objects from this set for Isadora Moon’s kitchen. Do those cupboards, mixer, toaster and sink look familiar?
Glitterbelle's bathroom by Harriet Muncaster
After the very normal rooms of Witch’s Cat’s house, it was fun to go to town with the sparkle in a princess’ bathroom!

It’s difficult to appreciate the scale of the ballroom below, but it ended up being the biggest set I have made so far. Well, it’s a ballroom, so it had to be. Roughly estimating, it’s about 70 x 70 x 70 cm.

Glitterbelle's ballroom by Harriet Muncaster
This ballroom is the biggest set I’ve ever made!

It seems pretty ambitious looking back. The floor is actually made of real strips of wood I hand cut! Back when I made it, Henry and I were living at my parents’ house. Our bedroom was also my studio, so it’s a wonder could actually squeeze in there to sleep.  Fortunately, Parragon were doing the photography, so I was able to ship it off to their office soon after it was finished.

The last time I did published 3D illustration was also with Parragon. It was for the classic poem The Night Before Christmas. I started this in late 2014, before we bought our house, and finished in March 2015, a couple of months after we moved in. 

The Night Before Christmas with 3D illustration by Harriet Muncaster
I didn’t make a kitchen scene for this book, so here’s the living room.
3D illustration and me now
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And that brings us up to now with my 3D illustration of Isadora Moon’s kitchen. I do love the style, and would return to it one day, but it does take at least two or three times longer than 2D, so… we’ll have to wait and see what the future brings. 

In the meantime, you can buy all my published 3D-illustrated works on Amazon:

And you can see the Isadora Moon kitchen scene in real life at any of my upcoming events:

  • Bath Children’s Literature Festival – 8th October
  • Hereford Waterstones – 14th October
  • Cheltenham Children’s Literature Festival – 15th October
  • Porstmouth Waterstones – 21st October
  • Waddesdon Manor’s Horrible Halloween (Aylesbury) – 25th October
  • Hitchin Children’s Literature Festival – 28th October
  • Richmond Children’s Literature Festival – 4th November 
  • Truro Waterstones – 11th November
  • Norwich Waterstones – 25th November

For further details of the above, check out my events page.

Finally, if you haven’t already, please consider subscribing to my newsletter:

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I send out Isadora Moon news, competitions and activities every so often.

1 Comment

  1. Isadora Moon at Bath Children's Literature Festival - Harriet Muncaster

    October 15, 2017 at 11:30 am

    […] I wasn’t making my 3D illustration of Isadora Moon’s kitchen, I was putting together my costume. I couldn’t find the exact sort of glittery stars I wanted […]

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