• On The Map - Interviews with Cartographers 21

    Continuing our series of interviews with cartographers, this month we're talking to Gillis BjŲrk, known to many as Lingon. Lingon is known for beautifully crafted traditional maps.
    We asked him 7 questions, as we will in each interview.

    1) Tell us a little bit about yourself and your background...
    Hi! My name is Gillis (which is pronounced with a J instead of the G and yes, is a manís name), Iím 22 and live in Gothenburg, Sweden. I work as a technician at a recycling company, which isnít a dream come true but quite all right, and in my spare time I make things. Usually involving paint, words, or lately, wood. I donít have any education or interesting past jobs so it doesnít really feel like I have a background yet. Iím working on it.

    2) How did you get into mapping?
    Treasure maps of course! I think it may have been the movie Animal Treasure Island that got me hooked. Coincidentally also my first encounter with my favorite director, Hayao Miazaki, who was an animator on that one. Like most Guild members (right?) Iíve always stared at the map in fantasy books for almost as long as the actual writing, and wondered what lay beyond the edges. I think thatís the appeal of maps, to me: what they donít show, but leave to the imagination.

    I joined the Guild a bit by accident. Was writing some fiction and doodling maps just to visualize the geography, not really intending to make the map a finished piece of artwork, but found Torstanís tutorials and applied them to pen and watercolours, and I think it was also his blog that led me to the Guild. The wonderful feedback on the first thing I posted got me staying

    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?
    For a while, I went all in for commission work. I started by replying to posts in the Requests forum, then I set up a Deviantart page and a website and somehow kept myself pretty busy, though it wasnít any high paying jobs. I did my last commission this winter, hopefully the last I ever do. It wasnít particularly bad, I donít really have any horror stories at all, but the whole thing just wore me out completely, turned the art into a chore and killed the passion. Thatís why I havenít been active here in a while.

    Iím often doodling little ballpoint pen continents during my lunch breaks at work, and I had a great time making invitation cards with a map design for a friendís wedding this spring, but havenít felt like taking the paints out and really sitting down to make something fleshed out for a long time. Iím sure Iíll find my way back into the hobby but when I do, itíll be only for myself and as gifts.

    4) What kind of computer setup/equipment/software do you have? Any advice or tips for learners?
    My computer is a pretty old laptop that just barely can run Photoshop, which is what I use for labeling and editing. I donít need a lot of power there though, as most of the work is done with traditional media first. Pens, brush-applied ink, and watercolors generally. Any flat surface not currently covered in books, tools, wood shavings, art supplies or dirty tea cups, including the floor, is my work space. I often draw/paint the natural features first, and then do icons and decorations separately, and paste things together in PS, sometimes with heavy color tweaks and clone stamp editing. Iím not a digital artist because I canít actually draw anything on the computer, only edit, and Iím not a traditional artist because I donít have any complete, physical paintings to show... Itís an all-over-the-place setup but thatís how I like life.

    As for advice, I kind of donít want to be specific because art is about finding your own way, so Iíd say something awfully generic like this: try everything, even if youíre told itís incorrect. There seems to be a lot of preconceptions, unwritten rules and old accepted ĒtruthsĒ in all forms of art, but itís all subjective, because while we are in most boats together, art is a thing we do for ourselves and those we love. The only way to please that crowd is to find whatís true for you.

    5) What are your favourite kind of maps or favourite map makers from history?
    I can stare at pretty much any map for ages, but one style does come to mind as my favourite. Shaded relief maps have been made with many different techniques but for just a short period, after World War 2 and before the digital era, some painted them by hand with airbrush, and it gave a totally unique look that blows my mind. I always wanted to learn it and make something new with it, but pushed it up because all my clients wanted the fantasy styles, but when I get back into mapping, this is what I want to do.

    6) What do you consider your best piece of work? How about your favourite, if different?
    My best piece technically, is probably The Island Realm of Torgaren, where I feel like I reached what I always wanted to reach with my pseudo-isometric high fantasy style. Maybe thatís why I also think itís a bitÖ boring? Like... lifeless. My favourite is the one I made for the collaborative Guild World, AlÔnoha. Itís pretty rough and messy but it speaks to me in a deeper way than anything else Iíve made.

    7) Where can we find you on the web?
    I have a website for my maps, like a portfolio, gillisbjork.com. Right now not much is happening there though. When I get back into it, The Guild is where Iíll post first. If woodworking sounds like a decent substitute in the meantime, I have recently started a Gillis BjŲrk youtube channel. I show my build processes for small furniture, decorative boxes etc. with traditional techniques there.

    Comments 5 Comments
    1. vorropohaiah's Avatar
      vorropohaiah -
      great stuff! theres some really nice work here. The Central Sea map has always been one of my favourites here. well done
    1. Ilanthar's Avatar
      Ilanthar -
      Interesting interview . I must say that I also like your Central Sea map a lot. AlÔnoha is a delight too, so original. Take your time, but I do hope to see some you new maps from you one day !
    1. Diamond's Avatar
      Diamond -
      Lingon, you've created some of the best maps (or at least some of my favorite maps) on the Guild! Nice learning a bit about you.
    1. sandrostudio's Avatar
      sandrostudio -
      Nice "advice", very much true.
    1. Rathaven's Avatar
      Rathaven -
      Another amazing artist love the maps great advice. Thank you for sharing.