Hello Planetary Pals,
Drawing and painting is one of my many hobbies. I mainly enjoy drawing maps, though I sometimes do create other subjects. I’ve drawn historical maps, fantasy maps (both of established fantasy franchises and imaginary maps of my own design), and geologic maps. I had never really considered myself artistic initially and only started drawing and painting around the time I entered university. Since then, my ability and skill has been slowly increasing, though with each painting I somehow always find a way to nitpick. While most of my initial maps were just copies of existing maps, I have been developing a more creative approach and have been making my own style. In this weeks blog post, I’ll walk through the process through which I create my maps.
Step 1: Grid Drawing
To start with, I use a method called grid drawing. It s a very simple technique that allows the proportions of a map to be preserved in a drawing. I create a grid over a simple base map, and create a grid on my paper. For each box in the basemap I draw the scene in the corresponding box on the paper. Once the basemap is complete, I will need to go back detail the coastlines/borders. To do this, I open a satellite image and retouch the areas on my map that lacked details like small islands, jagged areas of coastline, or lagoons.
Step 2: Borders and Cities
Next, I add in borders and cities, still working in pencil. I search through google image results of maps. I can usually find many maps of different years, so I choose the one that seems most interesting or most detailed. For instance, here are some of the possible configurations I might use for this map:
Also, I add in rivers and lakes at this point.
(You will have to excuse the subsequent images in this post, I didn’t think ahead in the blog post and started making this map too late to finish it. The subsequent images are a mix of past maps I’ve made)
Step 3: Research and Flourishes
Next, I draw in insets, titles, compasses, and flourishes. In this map, I add in a box on the bottom for the title and a compass. The compass features the design of a serpentine knot, which I based on a knot from an authentic 8th century Anglo-Saxon brooch found in.
The flourishes on this map of Iceland are based on the four Landvættir that are said to guard the four corners of Iceland. The dragon, giant, bull, and eagle are common symbols in Icelandic culture and are featured on the Icelandic coat of arms and Icelandic coinage.
As seen in the above image, I sometimes will draw each city with it’s notable or famous architecture. I also may choose to include mountains, hills, animals, etc. I do not add these to every map, as sometimes it will become too crowded, but on the ones I do add these flourishes to, it makes it fun to research local fauna, architecture, and natural wonders.
In both the maps of modern countries and maps of historical states, I prefer to write the features and labels in the language of the region. While this is rather easy to do for maps of modern counties, like my maps of Iceland and France, this is a bit tougher when working with historical states. Nonetheless, it is oddly kind of fun to research.
In the 8th century British Islands map, I researched the names of the states in Old English. I pored over a manuscript written in Old English known as the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle which included the names of these states. Using wikipedia as a baseline of what to look for and search, I looked up the proper spellings of each kingdom from the manuscript. I accessed the manuscript at this website, which has the Chronicle in Old English: http://asc.jebbo.co.uk/intro.html. The title of the map is written in the same font as these medieval manuscripts, known as insular minuscule. I also included part of the title in Anglo-Saxon runes, which were still in use at the time for secular works.
In my 11th century Rus’ map, I used Old East Slavic as the language and alphabet. I accessed the proper toponyms using the Laurentian Codex accessed here: http://expositions.nlr.ru/LaurentianCodex/eng/index.php. Luckily, I can read (modern) Cyrillic, so it was not challenging to find the appropriate spellings of each princedom and city. I also included the proper Norse names for important Varangian cities. Once again, the title was written in the appropriate manuscript font for the era. Below that is the year written in Cyrillic numerals used at the time.
Step 4: Make it Permanant
Once I am done researching and writing in pencil, I will go over every feature with art markers. I have a set of markers with different line thicknesses that are used for different parts of the drawing. Thick lines are used for coastlines while thinner lines are used for borders and names. I can then erase the gridline and any other stray pencil marks.
Step 5: Paint
The final step is to paint the map. I prefer the aesthetics of turn of the century muted colors to achieve a vintage look to the map. Each state is painted in a flat wash, which is watercolor slang for a uniform, consistent coloring, as opposed to more artistic renditions using a variegated/graded wash.
With the painting done, the map is ready to hang up on the wall. Depending on the size of the map, and the depth to which I need to research, usually it takes me about a week or two to finish a map. It’s a fun hobby, and fills up my room with cool art, and I highly recommend giving it a try.