Lonely Planet Writer

In the studio with Ross Murray, illustrator for Epic Hikes of the World

Ross at work in the studio © Bruce Barnard

Ross Murray, illustrator of our latest title Epic Hikes of the World, gives us a glimpse into his studio and talks us through how he illustrated walking locations featured in the book. They're so epic you'll want to down tools and stretch your legs along one of these spectacular routes.

Tell us about the brief

Epic Hikes of the World is the third Lonely Planet book I’ve illustrated. The brief for this one was very similar to the brief for Epic Drives of the World and Epic Bike Rides of the World, which are in the same series. I was asked to create a wrap-around front cover and five illustrated double-page spreads. We’d chosen five locations for the spreads; the African Savannah, The Grand Canyon, The Himalayas, Manarola on the coast of Italy and finally, the Routeburn Track in New Zealand. I decided that the Routeburn Track was the most epic so it deserved a to feature on the cover.

How did you make a start?

I began with photo research, getting a feel for each location. Once I’d decided on a suitably epic perspective and compositional approach for each location, I began sketching in Photoshop on my Wacom Cintiq tablet. Colour is an important part of these illustrations’ identities — I find Photoshop the easiest software to use for experimenting with different palettes.

Were there any challenges?

Nothing too dramatic! Using stylised geometric forms to describe these locations while ensuring they’re geographically recognisable takes some tinkering. However, they were lovely images to create and each of the concepts was approved immediately.

What’s the one item in your studio you can’t live without?

Aside from my computer gear (Mac + Cintiq), I’d say it’s probably my kids’ artwork that’s plastered all over the walls. It’s colourful and strange and always lifts the spirits!

How did you get into illustrating books?

I’ve been drawing pictures since forever and have always loved books so it just seemed inevitable! The Epic series has been a continuing collaboration with the Art Director, Dan, who I've worked with for a number of years on various other projects. I also write and illustrate my own picture books and comics which is fun!

Ross' illustrations:

Rough sketch of Manarola in Northern Italy
Final version of Manarola, Northern Italy
Rough sketch of African Savannah
Final version of African Savannah
Final version of the Routeburn Track in New Zealand
Final version of the Himalayas
Cover illustration sketch
Cover illustration final version
Final version of The Grand Canyon