• On The Map - Interviews with Cartographers 17

    Continuing our series of interviews with cartographers... but this month we're doing something a little different!

    Recently, the Guild staged the first ever
    Atlas Awards, and we thought it'd be interesting to learn a little more about our winning maps and their creators. We contacted each cartographer to ask three questions...
    1) Was your winning map a commission, and if so, can you say a little about the project? Or, if it was a personal work, what was the inspiration or idea behind it?

    2) Can you tell us a little about how you came to develop it? Is there any aspect of the map that you're particularly pleased with? How about a not-so-favourite part?

    3) How does it feel to win an Atlas Award?

    Their answers are given below.


    Atlas Award winner:
    Th'Mhenic, joint winner of Best City, Town, or Dungeon Map

    Atlas Award nominations:
    Kyuden Gotei City, nominated for Best Media-Ready map
    La Vallee des Lucioles - Legend of the Five Rings, nominated for Best Hand-Drawn or Traditional Map
    Map of Otosan Uchi for Legend of Five Rings, nominated for Best City, Town, or Dungeon Map
    Weaver District - Shadows of Esteren, nominated for Best City, Town, or Dungeon Map

    1) It was a commission, indeed. Originally, it was a old map that I reused in 2016 to update it and notably color it. It was a commission for the pen&paper RPG Alkemy, edited by les XII Singes (a RPG version of the action figures game Alkemy, edited by Kraken back in the days). The goal was to represent a major city of the universe. Th'Ménic was a city with arabic influences. Alkemy is a medieval fantasy universe. At first, the setting was adapted to the D&D 4th edition system.

    2) I had been given short descriptions of the the districts, upon which I relied, along with a quick sketch showing the basic shaping of the city and its districts. I also had to create illustrations, each depicting a view of a district, and I consequently had to make the map match those illustrations. I decided to go with a 3D plan to represent the building views. If I remember well, it was the first time I used this process for a map. There was some back and forth work until its validation by the leaders of the project and the authors, Sébastien Célerin and Franck Plasse. It was actually a necessity that the map matches what everyone had in mind. The basis of the map was done by hand with pencil, then inked at A4 size and scanned for further work on computer. I did various tests for this first step to get the right orientation, the right view, etc. Then I placed the shadows and the textures with Photoshop. I used textures I personally made (parchment imitation made by traditional painting, then scanned, etc.). This first black & white map was published in 2010. Finally, I reused this map to color it in 2016 with the intent to update it. The coloring has been done by computer, once again with Photoshop. I chose to keep simple tints. Indeed, a new edition of the Alkemy RPG was released last year and I wanted - in case it became a need - that we could dispose of a map with a more recent look which could go along with the other maps (using the same colors) made for the game (notably a map by Maxime Plasse).

    The work has been very pleasant. I experimented and discovered. All in all, it was a great adventure. The best moment for me is to see the final inkwork drawing itself. The most difficult part, considering the size of the work. The part I confess I appreciate the least is the labelling. I always have troubles finding the font that really works and I always find it annoying to have to hide zones under the labels...

    3) It was really magic. At first, I did not noticed that the CLs had set up the Awards and so, when I'd been told that I got several nominations, it was already incredible and great to me! Winning a category was fantastic. It made me even more happy since I'm fairly new on the forums (even if I browse the numerous formidable galleries of the guild for a long time). Objectively, almost every nominated map deserved an award, and the fact that the community organizes, nominates and votes, from start to finish, makes the prize even nicer. In short, a great thanks to all the Cartographers of the Guild, it's a truly welcoming and dynamic community, full of talented artists!


    Atlas Award winner:
    'The Shire', winning Best Hand-Drawn or Traditional Map
    'World of Yr and the 12 Moons', winning Best Space Map

    Atlas Award nomination:
    'Angelou', nominated for Best Space Map
    'The Shire', nominated for Best Regional Map
    'Middle Earth - Lord of the Rings', nominated for Best Regional Map
    'World of Yr and the 12 Moons', nominated for Best World Map.

    1) "The World of Yr" and "The Shire" were commissions and they both represented a challenge for me in different ways.
    The first one is a space map and I have never drawn a space map before, even if I have always wanted to.
    The second one is a classic map already done by many great artists so I felt a lot of pressure while working on it.

    2) It took me 3-4 weeks to complete "The world of Yr" if I remember correctly. It took me 4 weeks for "The Shire" because I have written all the text by hand.
    All my maps are made with traditional media. I usually start with a lot of research followed by a pencil sketch. Once the concept is clear in my mind I proceed with a more accurate drawing.
    At this point I fix any issue I see based on the client's feedback and my personal judgment. Then I go on with ink (waterproof indian black or pewter brown ink, Tachikawa and Leonardt nib with Brause penholder) and watercolour.
    I apply many layers of watercolour in order to obtain the right stains in the right places, often making a mess on my working table
    I always have fun drawing and painting maps. It reminds me of when I was at school and spent a lot of time sketching dungeons and labyrinths on my diary. Drawing maps gives me a sense of peace.
    I'm quite happy of how these maps in particular turned out. I'm especially proud of the colour balance.
    Every time a draw a new map I try to improve my technique so I would probably give more importance to the overall composition than the details if I were doing it again.

    3) It really was unexpected. It's been just a year since I've started to know the Guild.
    I have a profound respect of all the amazing artists that are part of this community and I feel honoured to have received from them such an important award!


    Atlas Award winner:

    'Ersïa', winning Best World Map

    Atlas Award nomination:
    'The seven worlds of Egishirgal', nominated for Most Creative Map
    'Fairy Lutece', nominated for Best City, Town or Dungeon Map

    1) I had mainly two things in mind. First, I wanted to do and maybe (if possible), improve the style I previously developped for my Elzevir Geopolitics map. I actually
    think I improved it and did a lot of things quite differently. So, I learnt a lot of it, once again, thanks to the guild support during the WIP.
    Second, I wanted to do a plausible alternate earth for a possible setting I have in mind. I've putted it aside right now, but I developped a bit of its alternate technologies.

    2) I needed about month in the WIP thread to do it, so, maybe 40-50 hours (quite fast for me). I used my good old Paint Shop Pro 7 for this one. I'm quite glad of some ideas I had for the flags and of the globes render. I think the layout is probably too conventionnal and
    that I could have done something more creative and interesting.

    3) It feels great! The guild is such a creative and supportive community. Its certainly pushing me forward to do more tests and to keep trying to improve myself.


    Atlas Award winner:
    Skenara (Land Beyond the Sea), winning Best Regional Map
    The City of Haerlech, joint winner of Best City, Town, or Dungeon Map
    Skenara (Land Beyond the Sea), winning Best Overall Map

    Atlas Award nomination:
    The Lands of Trolnarm, nominated for Most Creative Map
    Skenara (Land Beyond the Sea), nominated for Most Creative Map
    Castle of the warrior priests, nominated for Best Structure Map
    Umi No Toride, nominated for Best Structure Map
    The Lands of Trolnarm, nominated for Best Hand-Drawn or Traditional Map
    Haldeshar, nominated for Best Hand-Drawn or Traditional Map
    Thendrais, nominated for Best Regional Map
    Castle of the warrior priests, nominated for Best Strategic, Encounter or Boardgame Map
    Thurian Age, nominated for Best World Map
    City of Bladewater, nominated for Best Overall Map
    The City of Haerlech, nominated for Best Overall Map

    1) Ironically, neither winning map was a commission. Both were personal maps from two different fantasy worlds. Skenara is from the world of Nhyn and Haerlech is from the world of Luma. Haerlech started life as a monthly challenge that I was unable to complete in time. It is the longest time I have spent on a single map so far. When I started the map, I knew I wanted to create a city map that was a lot larger in scale than Bourmout and other little town maps I had made at that time.

    Skenara was just a map I did for a new story concept I had been working on through the latter part of 2016. It started life as just a quick sketch, as I was doing some island sketches one day. Just an simple coastal outline.

    2) Haerlech was a long and wonderful learning process; almost a whole year off and on to complete. The wip process was one of the best mapping experiences I have had. I got loads of great suggestions and advice. I tried tons of new things with that map and it was just a great experience.

    Skenara was definitely fun to work on as well. It took only 4 days to complete. There was no wip thread, but I tried a bunch of things with it that were new and different. I used a very limited palette which was fun and interesting. It was the first time doing the line work with Manga Studio, which was a pleasure to work with. Manga Studio has some really nice tools and some great pencil brushes. It was also my first map with medieval type sea creatures and that was really fun to do.

    3) I was really proud to win. Especially considering all of the wonderful and really well done maps in the running. I had several maps in the running and some lost but that is ok because there were so many fine maps on show.

    I want to thank the CLs involved for all their hard work in putting the awards together. And I want to congratulate all the other winners and the other nominees - the maps here at the Guild are really top notch and I'm proud to be a part of our community.


    Atlas Award winner:
    'Cape Horne, South America and Antarctica', winning Most Creative Map
    'Cape Horne, South America and Antarctica', winning Best Media Ready map

    1) This map was commissioned by Cape Horn, an outdoor clothing brand from Italy, to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the discovery of Cape Horn. They asked for a Richard Edes Harrison-style map, featuring South America and part of Antarctica, with a top-down view of Isla Hornos and several detail illustrations inspired by landmarks, culture and ecology of the area.

    2) My primary concern was to come up with a solid layout that would show all the elements, without cramming the map and at the same time make it easy to read and pleasing to the eye.
    After having the client approve the sketch layout I could focus on rendering all the elements in pencil. The "globe perspective" was particularly tricky, so I screen-grabbed, printed and traced the desired view using Google Earth, which proved invaluable help.
    I then scanned all the separate elements, combined them and colored the map digitally using Photoshop.

    I estimate it took roughly 100 hours to complete the work.

    I am pretty happy with how the map turned out. I was really trying to capture the same feeling I always get when admiring the beautifully illustrated infographics of National Geographic Magazine, and I am satisfied with the result.
    It was also my first attempt at such a complex map, so I learned a lot in the process.

    If I were to do anything differently, I would try to improve the rendering of the Andes region. I'm not entirely happy with how it turned out.

    3) It came as a complete surprise, and I am absolutely humbled and overjoyed! The Guild is a small but extremely competent community, with some of the best fantasy cartographers out there among its ranks. It feels extremely rewarding that so many skilled and passionate map-lovers chose my map among so many terrific works!
    I would also like to take the chance and thank the Community Leaders at the Guild for organizing, and my fellow cartographers for making this community so vibrant.


    Atlas Award winner:
    'The Silk Road Map', winning Best Strategic, Encounter or Board Game map

    Atlas Award nomination:
    'Nubian Kings', nominated for Most Creative map

    The Silk Road Board Game was a personal project based on my study of the Silk Road Trade Routes - I wanted to do a long routed map and thought this would work well as a ribbon map - based on John Ogilby’s England Road Map. However, someone else on the guild was doing a ribbon map at the same time, so I changed it the direction to an overland map, knowing I needed to practice that style more.

    As I was developing the artwork and doing research, I thought about making this a TRADING GAME. I did find a few other SILK ROAD Trader games and thought that maybe this wasn’t all that original and put that on the back burner. After a month or so and looking into the other games I decided I might as well try my hand at it. I did an outline of the game with rules, game play and components and left it at that . . . until the Awards.

    I never expected to be nominated in this category, my map wasn’t a finished game map, but I was happy to be included and it did fit the category. But I was more surprised that I won (and honored to be included with all these other great maps.)

    For this map I was happy with the coloring and handling of the desert areas. Also the title panel was more illustrative than I’ve previously done and I hope to add more illustrative elements to my maps in the future.

    Since being nominated I actually took the GAME DESIGN up again and will be presenting the game play rules and game board for review and help here at the guild soon. Hopefully a couple guild members would be willing to give me some input on it as I continue to develop it.

    It would be my first, so I’m not expecting too much out of it, more for learning and a really nice portfolio piece with map/cards/tokens as a set.

    Again thanks all for the votes and the encouragement thoughout the year. Happy to be here.

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    Comments 4 Comments
    1. Mouse's Avatar
      Mouse -
      Totally fascinating

      I often wonder what goes on when other people make a map - why they do it and how they feel about it while they are working on it! Thank you very very much for sharing so many explanations - and all your thoughts and feelings. and of course, once again - congratulations!
    1. ChickPea's Avatar
      ChickPea -
      Thanks again to everyone who took part in the interviews! It was enjoyable and enlightening to read your comments.
    1. Vorticanian's Avatar
      Vorticanian -
      I love these maps! I wish I knew how to make some of these styles.
    1. sandrostudio's Avatar
      sandrostudio -
      the link to the drawing process is dead