From a Greek Word to a World of Puzzling Fantasy
A note before we start. This post is about the Arctic Life puzzle. So, if by the end of your reading, you decide to buy one, you should hurry; there are very few in stock and there won’t be a new batch.
Living the Arctic Life
Arktikos; that’s Greek for “near the Bear.” This makes sense since that’s what most of us think of when we think about the Arctic; polar bears. It’s either that or the operation and distribution center of the greatest package delivery service in human history. No, it’s not Amazon; it’s Santa’s shop.
The Arctic region is pretty amazing as it is. But what if we could envision something a little more magical and colorful?
Bear with us (pun intended), as we take you for a ride on our imaginary sleigh through a new illustrated dimension of the far north. One that was born out of the creative mind of the artist Soon Cho to become a beautiful modern art puzzle.
Building a New Puzzle Dimension: A Short Tale
I know, I know, you can’t find penguins in the northern hemisphere like in the image above. Don’t worry about it. Calm your obsession with geographical accuracy; these penguins are different. They live in a parallel dimension discovered by an adventurous little girl called Niña, which means “little girl” in Spanish. Can’t be more straightforward than that.
Niña is a sensible kid. She thinks we move too fast through life and it’s important for us to slow down and learn to be happier with ourselves. But how? She needed answers, so she went out to find them in the place where they usually are, in nature.
The first stop in the journey was the cold lands of the Arctic. Upon arrival, Niña found the place to be gorgeous, but also a little empty, wide and white, like an unpainted canvas. So she decided to try to narrow her attention by meditating. Sat on a rock that looked comfortable, as much as a rock can be at least, closed her eyes, and started breathing slowly.
“Oh my god!” Shouted Niña, almost falling off her relatively comfortable rock. She had opened her eyes again, only to find a big ol’ white owl covering her entire eyesight with its wings. “Thank you, I really needed to come out of my meditation screaming in panic,” said Niña to the owl. Then she remembered the plan was to observe nature and decided to forget the incident and follow the bird.
Snowy, as Niña called the stranger owl she already considered her friend, led her into a cave. It didn’t look pretty safe, but it’s clear the girl is quick to trust people. Even when the people are actually wild animals.
Inside the cave, a glimmering light coming out of a stone mound structure caught Niña’s attention. The surface was rectangular and bright; like one of those glass tables artists use for drawing. Snowy was on the floor next to the mound, flapping its wings and holding in its beak a little rock with a strange shape. “Wait, is that a puzzle piece?” She said, and the bird started jumping like a child expressing uncontainable joy.
Niña had played enough adventure video games to know that the light board and the rock piece were connected. So she went ahead and did what you’re thinking. She placed it on the board. Immediately, everything went completely dark.
“Oh man, finally, it’s been too long!” said a mysterious male voice. Nervously, Niña responded, “Who’s there? Stay back, I have a pepper Spray.” She didn’t. But it was fine because the light came back and there was no dangerous person lurking in the cave. It was just Snowy. “Vincent, actually, but you can keep calling me Snowy if you like. You have gained my trust by unlocking the first portal to the magical dimension of Arctic Life.” said the owl.
Niña managed to stay conscious somehow, while Vincent, or Snowy, explained the whole thing. “It’s been hundreds of years since this sub-dimension of the Arctic was last built. Tectonic movement below the ground had made the pieces fall out of place, and then the wind scattered them along the land. The first one you set unlocked our ability to talk and will create a portal for the Argentinian penguins to come up here… Oh no! They already arrived. Hurry Niña! Find all the pieces; they won’t stop coming until we complete the puzzle.”
Rushing out of the cave, Niña went with her new task. In the distance, she could hear Snowy saying, “Hola Gastón, María Paz, Guido, Florencia, Diego…” At that moment, she understood the gravity of the situation. She needed to find those pieces quickly; the delicate magical ecosystem was at risk of being overpopulated by soccer fans.
Niña went on her scavenger hunt while the penguins made themselves comfortable. Some were taking pictures, and others were ice skating, reading books, or watching TV. One of them even decided it was a good idea to set up a coffee shop. He was right; the polar bears were hooked on the hot beverage and stayed up all day eating cookies, fishing, and skiing.
The search was going well. Niña had found the pieces to unlock the portal for cats, but the whole operation was taking too long and she was getting frustrated.
“Girl, you ain’t goin’ nowhere with them short legs; come on, let me give you a ride.” Said a reindeer that was passing by. Niña ignored the double negative and the remark about her physique since she really needed the speed boost. And sure enough, a short while later, she found the rest of the pieces, except for one.
“We did it! The Arctic Life is almost complete," shouted Snowy as he descended on the reindeer’s antlers. But then, he lowered his voice and with reduced excitement said, “Niña, here’s the last piece, take it; this one will create a portal to your house. It seems our time together has come to an end. You can leave the Arctic Life now.”
There was silence; goodbyes are always tough, but adventures have to end, right? Niña walked up to the board, placed the last piece, and the portal to her house appeared. She looked back at her new friends, smiled, and crossed dimensions running as fast as her short legs allowed.
“What’s up with her?” Said Snowy. They couldn’t see Niña, but they could hear a rattling sound coming closer. And then, as the portal began to blink out of existence, she came stumbling through it with a cardboard box. “The adventure is not over yet,” said the girl while trying to catch her breath.
The next few days were filled with joy. Niña built snowmen with the owls, went skiing with the cats, shared a coffee with the bears, and took a walk with the penguins. And then, after completing all kinds of fun activities, she finally got the answer she was seeking.
To slow down the rhythm of life and gain a new appreciation for it, you don't need to stop. But you can try and focus your energy on something that challenges you to be patient and active.
Like building a beautiful jigsaw puzzle with the power to create a parallel dimension using the help of talking animals. Although building a regular puzzle works well too.
Oh, and the cardboard box Niña brought; that was just her Christmas decorations and puzzle collection. She wanted to give the place a little touch to make it look more like what she now thinks the Arctic Life is, her home.
Arctic Life is one of those unique puzzles that extend the building experience. Through its art, it adds layers of a narrative that, even when it’s set in a winter world, feels friendly and warm. These kinds of puzzles are special because they provide a limitless platform for countless stories.
And now, for a change in perspective, let us go behind the scenes to examine a little, the creative mind of an artist. More specifically, the one owned by Soon Cho, the founder of Soonness Puzzles and creator of Arctic Life.
Photo above: Illustration process shot by Soon Cho
First Soon Then Niña
Our tale centers on Niña’s journey to find the key to reducing the stress of modern life. In the real world, she’s the result of a different, yet similar, journey made by her creator.
Like a lot of us these days. At some point in her life, Soon felt kidnaped by her own screen devices. She needed an escape, and that’s something art is very good at providing. So she turned her weekends into a wonderful botanical world formed by plants she painted to her heart’s desire. There, Soon imagined herself resting upon the leaves of her creation, like a little girl hanging around a garden of giant flowers. And then, like artists often do, she translated that feeling of calm and joy into something we can appreciate with our senses.
“I drew a little human in my flower paintings and my friends started calling her Niña.” (Soon Cho, January 2023)
That’s how the feeling materialized; it became a hidden character in Soon’s paintings. And because at the time she was living in Spain, her friends gave the tiny illustrated woman the name Niña, which means “little girl” in Spanish.
And like that, Niña, the hidden cheerleader, was born. She is just a little girl with long black hair that wants to relax and remind you that everything’s alright. She doesn’t want to monopolize your vision, but if you want to, you can look for her. She’ll be waiting to give you a smile.
Photo above: Niña Character / Artist Soon Cho drawing flower forest in Barcelona, Spain
A Warm Winter
Soon’s illustrations of Niña definitely feel optimistic and warm, like a hug, because that’s what she wanted to communicate and reflect upon herself. After all, honesty is an important part of any artistic expression. Soon provides an example of this, by leaving breadcrumbs of her personality in the making of Arctic Life.
“I am fascinated by all kinds of creatures on Earth.” (Soon Cho, January 2023)
Her love for nature is always a source of inspiration for the illustrator turned puzzle entrepreneur. Animals, in particular, produce the strongest enchantment; she thinks they’re very much like us only cuter.
No doubt the cuteness of the Arctic fauna is well represented under Soon’s pencil. But the human activities she picked were not selected at random. She assigned every animal to something she would enjoy doing in the winter. Like the bear eating a bunch of snacks while mindlessly watching stuff on its phone. Soon has been that bear; we all have.
The Arctic Life puzzle is such a playful interpretation of a majestic place; even though its creator is not a big fan of the cold. Maybe that’s why it feels so warm.
Get to know the Author: Creative Ruth & Leon Bernard
Ruth is a graphic designer/puzzler. Leon is a writer/musician. Together, they make content for puzzle lovers in English and Spanish under her brand name, Creative Ruth. She builds the puzzles, and he assists her with writing and creative production. In their small apartment; Ruth, Leon, and Michelle (their cat) live a "creatively dynamic life." Meaning their living room is also a music studio, a puzzle building room, and a cat playground at the same time.