• On The Map - Interviews with Cartographers 12

    Continuing our series of interviews with cartographers, this month we're talking to Tim Paul.
    Known for his many maps for novels as well as his non-map illustration.
    We asked him 7 questions, as we will in each interview.

    1) Tell us a little bit about yourself and your background...
    I'm a professional illustrator, working in kid lit, young adult, and lifestyle editorial. I work for books, magazines and websites. I love animation, mostly what you see on Adult Swim, and movies. I probably watch more cartoons than live action shows. I feel we are seeing an amazing influx of animation in the last decade, and some really innovative styles and story telling.

    Besides drawing, I also love biking, I will bike on average 25-28 miles 5 days a week in good weather going to and from my home and work studio. I live in Manhattan and share a studio in Brooklyn.

    As an artist, my biggest influence would be Little Golden Books, Cartoon Modern style, Alice and Martin Provence, and Mary Blair.

    Another area of interest is cooking. Me and the husband are great cooks, and have regular dinner parties. We've become known for our pies and homemade ice cream. Every year in June we have a big pie and ice cream social where we make all kinds of pies and ice cream, and anyone we know are welcome to come and have pie and ice cream. We've had 3 so far, and each year more people come. It's a lot of fun.

    2) How did you get into mapping?
    I've always drawn maps. I've been playing Dungeons and Dragons since I was 14, and loved drawing maps of dungeons and worlds I would create. But I've also always loved any kind of map. In the days before smart phones, I'd love looking up where places are in atlases and city maps. I've got a large collection of books on maps and an extra large color atlas of the world.

    3) Do you create maps professionally, or for fun? If you've sold your work, how did you get started? Any fun/horror stories to share about commissioned work?
    Both, but time is spent more doing professional maps. Even though I had been a professional illustrator for years, I hadn't put any thought into doing maps for books. Most books would have decently drawn maps, showing the basics.

    My first map came to me when a friend was asked if he would do a map for a novel. He didn't want to do it, so he suggested me. They liked it, and that lead to a few more maps before the company got bought.

    Then at an event at the Society of Illustrators, the Creative Director for Orbit Books overheard I had done some maps, and asked me to send samples. I did the next day, and by the end of the day I had my first job with them. That's lead to a long relationship with Orbit Books.

    No real horror stories. Because of my experience as an professional illustrator, I've learned how to layout the terms of the work I would do, which includes how many rounds of revisions and when the client gets to have input.

    But I once got hired by a liquor company in UK to do an old world style map for an online ad campaign. We negotiated back and forth. Originally they wanted to pay me 1,000 pounds plus a crate of liquor of my choice, which would have been 12 bottles. The liquor is top quality and each bottle sells for about 60-150 pounds each. As nice as that sounds, I would have had to pay taxes on it.

    I explained how I couldn't pay rent and bills with liquor, as much as I'd like to, and they agreed to my price. It took about 9 months to complete, even though it wasn't that complex. They just took a long time to give feedback.

    In the end, once it was finished, they paid me, but had decided to go in another direction and never used the map. At least I got paid.

    4) What kind of computer setup/equipment/software do you have? Any advice or tips for learners?
    I have a Dell with a 22HD Cintiq touch monitor. It's a pretty powerful Dell to handle large complex files without lag. The exact info I can't remember. I mainly use Photoshop and Illustrator for maps. Sometimes I'll use some Painter as well. Since I'm a professional, the cost is all a tax write off.

    I do check out other software because you never know. But I'm spoiled with how good Adobe products are. I know some people will disagree. I've never had any serious issues with them. For those learning, I'll tell you this. Get a book, read it, practice what they talk about, and learn everything you can. And experiment. The more you know, the less you will rely on things like filters and such.

    The idea is to hide your digital footprint. The filters in Photoshop are so recognizable. I can always tell when someone is just relying on filters and effects. They might be a start, but they definitely shouldn't be the end.

    Publishers and bigger clients don't want to hire someone that is just running stuff through filters. They want something that looks unique and created just for them.

    5) What are your favourite kind of maps or favourite map makers from history?
    I don't know if I have any favorite historical map makers. I'm friends with several current map makers, who I admire their work, like Jonathan Roberts who did those amazing Game of Thrones poster maps set. We used to play DnD together at the Tor books office with several Tor peeps. Mike Schley is another friend. I love his isometric perspective maps. The work he did for the Sorcery! app games are just great. I loved the book versions and his maps really added to the app games.

    Honestly I like all kinds of maps. As long as the map fits the needs for the project, crude, fancy, detailed, or whatever, I'll like it. I think to favor one style over another limits where you can draw inspiration from. Sure, I have some maps I just can spend all the time looking at. Who here hasn't looked at the maps in the Tolkien books over and over?

    6) What do you consider your best piece of work? How about your favourite, if different?
    My favorite map so far is the one I did for Walk of Vultures, and alternate Earth western, and it's sequel, Conspiracy of Crows. It's my favorite because it's the first time I really got to do what is the guiding principal behind maps, make it fit the world, make it seem like a item that could exist in the world.

    I read the manuscript and had the idea that the map could be a page ripped out of an atlas, and someone had been making notes on it, like where various monsters lived, and the route of the main character. I was also able to sneak in several inside jokes and people's names. Including my own. The author, who I became friends with, loved that so much, she made me a character in the sequel that gets mentioned. I'm totally honored that happened.

    It means we really connected and I really got her work and that really allowed me to deliver a top notch illustration and concept for her book.

    7) Where can we find you on the web?
    You can find my work at my website, timpaulillustration.com, and specifically maps here.