View Full Version : North America, a long time ago

04-22-2013, 04:03 PM
I got a rather random map idea, and couldn't stop thinking about it, so I began working on it today. It will depict the North American continent as it looked some 90 million years ago, during the late Cretaceous period. I found (well, followed a link on Wikipedia) this amazing site with maps tracking Earth through 600 million years:
Global Paleogeography (http://cpgeosystems.com/globaltext2.html)

I have no idea how accurate they are, or if some kind of accuracy even is possible for these huge spans of time or if they are just speculative, but I decided to trust dr. Ron Blakey and his impressive 20 years of research, and use his reconstruction of the Cretaceous continents as my starting point. I ran it through G.Projector to get an Azimuthal Equidistant version, and since I'll be painting this map by hand I drew what I saw on screen:

That's in A4 size, the finished will be twice as big. I just wanted to get a reference that doesn't require my computer to be on while I paint.

Then I began with the paper effect. Just slapped watercolor randomly on some heavy A3 paper, but I'm quite happy with it.

Feel free to use it if you like it. I have a bigger sized scan, about 10000x7000 pixels, if someone wants it.

Next I'll copy the longitudes and latitudes and landmasses from the sketch, and then comes the fun part ;)

04-22-2013, 05:39 PM
This should be cool; looking forward to updates!

04-24-2013, 12:51 PM

Yesterday I drew the graticules and landmasses onto the parchment-y paper, and today I began painting the coast lines. I decided that inking them would look to stark, so I went to the watercolors right away and mixed a nice dark grey-brown from Lamp Black, Burnt Umber and Yellow Ochre. The coasts of the western of the three main parts is pretty much done:

04-24-2013, 11:48 PM
Holy crap, somehow I didn't get before that you're PAINTING this. Wow! Props, man.

04-25-2013, 10:12 AM
Haha, thanks! I wish I could do digital painting like most of you guys, but I'm to impatient to learn advanced programs, so I'm stuck with my brushes and paints :lol:

I wasn't satisfied with the color transition between coast and open sea, it looked to gray to me, so I worked some more on that with pure Burnt Umber. Then I painted the other landmasses' coasts the same way.

If you notice that the colors change slightly, it's because my scanner doesn't quite capture the real colors so I have to tweak them afterwards (pretty much all image editing I can do!). I think the previous WIP, the one with only the western island/mini-continent outlined, is closest to the real colors.

04-27-2013, 07:19 AM
Drew in mountains, rivers and forests:

Trying to decide wether to draw some dinosaurs there as well before I color the new elements. Kinda like the sea monsters on old maps, but the actual animals of this time period. I'd like something more than just the landscape, to make the map more interesting, but I'm worried that putting T-Rexes in the forests would look like something you'd find in a children's book rather than an old-style map. What do you think?

Also, if anyone wants mountains, here are some practice mountains I drew before placing them on the map. I have no idea how you guys use elements like this, but if you need a higher resolution or a different file type I can fix that.

04-28-2013, 05:21 AM
I got a commission job so here is the last update on this map before a break. Colored the forests and rivers, and shaded the mountains.


I've also made up my mind about monster icons, I think a single pterosaur flying over the southeast part of the ocean will make the setting clear without being too much.

04-28-2013, 06:24 AM
great idea and really cool seeing a hand-drawn map

04-30-2013, 09:18 AM
Thanks, Vorropohaiah! It may not show much in this map, but your work is a huge inspiration to me. Just wanted to say that :)

04-30-2013, 11:15 AM
I look forward to seeing where this goes. Very nice job, Lingon!

05-04-2013, 05:28 PM
Thanks, Chashio!

I've been researching pterosaurs a little, they are pretty hilarious. It'll almost be hard to paint one without making it look like a caricature. But I've done some sketches of that, and flowers for a literal compass rose – which is even harder for someone who's never painted a flower… I'll put them up here once I reach something I'm not ashamed of :P

05-05-2013, 10:30 AM
A couple of attempts:

The little birdie is supposed to be a Quetzalcoatlus (who came up with that name?), which lived roughly in the area I'm depicting, roughly during the time period I chose. The flowers are… well, I don't remember them all, but a few are roses as that seemed appropriate for a compass rose. Though I couldn't find any info about whether they existed 90 million years ago or not. Probably not. I think I'll use one anyway, mostly because the thorns* make such good arrows. Also, my surfing history is now filled with flowers.

*I learned today that they are not really thorns, but prickles. And the Quetzal was of course no bird. The T-Rex was a bird, though.

05-05-2013, 11:06 AM
Quetzalcoatlus (who came up with that name?]

the Mayans/Aztecs :) makes a nice change seeing a quetzocatlus flying and not looking like a giraffe...

05-06-2013, 01:54 PM
realize this comment might be a little late, but if your looking for dinosaurs, on the map why not go from the theme of sea monsters, and place a pleseasaur i know i spelled that wrong but its the loch ness monster
in the water some where?

05-08-2013, 09:59 AM
@Vorro (can I call you Vorro?)
Yeah, I know it's a god in one of the native american cultures, but then someone thought it was a good idea to put that name on one of the most badass/hilarious creatures that lived, one that you'll obviously want to talk about a lot, but because of the name, people just go "what…?" when I bring it up. It should be called something more catchy!

I was thinking of that, actually. But I decided a pterosaur would be more unique.

I other news (if it can be considered news), I'm almost finished with the commission so this map will be picking up pace again soon.

05-10-2013, 11:36 AM
Well, I got some time over, and drew the rose, Quetzal and title scroll onto the map. Just the faint pencil lines so far, but I think they are visible enough:

I think the scroll will say something like "NORTH AMERICA", and then in smaller letters below, "cretaceous period", but I'm not sure. I might end up writing it in Swedish instead, my first language, that would make more sense if I'm gonna keep the map, but I'm considering putting it up on Ebay and see if there's some interest there, and then it'd have to be in English. I'll procrastinate the decision for a bit ;)

05-10-2013, 12:08 PM
I like your compass rose. It is a very unique take on an iconic cartographic feature.

Of course, as I look at it more, the points N,W,E together with the rose look something like the Klingon crest.

05-11-2013, 11:23 AM
Thanks! I actually had to google the Klingon crest, but yeah, it's rather similar!

I'm waiting for a reply from my client to be able to proceed with the commission map, so I sat down and colored the icons on this one today. Also inked the graticule and wrote the title, which I decided to do in Swedish. I don't think it'd have fetched enough on Ebay to be worth it anyway. The text says North America, Cretaceous period, Turonian, approximately 90 million years ago.

And then… I guess this is finished. There's surely something ugly I've glanced over, I tend to get a bit blind when I paint and filter out the mistakes from what I see, but I'm overall not happy with this map anyway, it didn't work out style-wise, so I don't think I'll fiddle with it any more. I'll just view it as an experiment :)

05-11-2013, 01:26 PM
The Dinosour and the rose fits well in the overall colorsheme. I only wonder about Forests so far north :D

05-11-2013, 01:26 PM
Next time maybe paint the graticule more lightly, use a more limited palette or use more colors to shade each item of the map to make it more lively and balanced (color-wise) from one edge to the other... and make use of a border so it looks more contained and you can get some empty space around the edges without the graticule overlapping it. And make the dino bigger, or line the bottom edge of the map with a landscape scene incorporating a few dinos :) That's likely what I would experiment with next if I'd made this one. It's been great watching it progress and I love your choice of locale and time period, and the medium! Out of curiosity, where is Maine/New England located on this map?

05-11-2013, 03:36 PM
Visually, spectacular, but there are a couple of things in terms of geography.

You've centred the projection at the pole, which is at the top of the map. Ideally you should be trying to put the centre of the projection at the centre of the map so as to minimize the overall distortion. As it is you've got quite a bit of distortion at the bottom of the map that you could have avoided. Of course drawing an azimuthal graticule centred at a pole is a lot easier, but it does make for a less effective map.

The compass rose doesn't make sense as the map does not preserve bearings. Also although it's very pretty, it doesn't actually work as a compass rose very well. Ideally you want a clear centre point where in this case the centre is somewhere under one of the petals of the flower, and the centre of the flower is close enough to provide a distraction making it harder to eye-ball a bearing off of the rose. Very pretty, but functionally problematic.

05-12-2013, 07:45 AM
Thank you! I'm not sure about the forests either, but the planet was a lot hotter during this time period, so I think it's plausible actually. Antarctica was covered in jungle at some point, though I think that was even earlier.

Thanks for the ideas! I really should have made the graticule lighter, and your point about color is exactly what was bothering me, only I couldn't put it in words! I love the landscape idea too, I'll have to do that sometime. I'm not sure where Maine will be, but I think somewhere in the north end of the eastern mountain range?

Thanks! I was aware of the projection problem actually, I chose to do it this way because there is a relatively small amount of land in the south, and as you said, an oblique aspect would be extremely difficult to do by hand. Plus, I just really like the way a pole-centered azimuthal looks for some reason. The compass things I didn't know of though (still new to mapping, this was my third completed) so thanks for pointing that out! If there's a post/tutorial/anything somewhere that goes through which projections can have compass roses I'd love a link :)

05-13-2013, 02:00 PM
Thanks! I was aware of the projection problem actually, I chose to do it this way because there is a relatively small amount of land in the south, and as you said, an oblique aspect would be extremely difficult to do by hand. Plus, I just really like the way a pole-centered azimuthal looks for some reason. The compass things I didn't know of though (still new to mapping, this was my third completed) so thanks for pointing that out! If there's a post/tutorial/anything somewhere that goes through which projections can have compass roses I'd love a link :)

On spherical worlds, Normal Mercator can have a compass rose at any scale. Otherwise a map should be a fairly large scale (zoomed in) in an appropriate projection for the extent.

On flat worlds (Because that is an issue around here) there's the problem of what 'north' even means. If you take bearings against a fixed point on the world, then you are pretty much in the same situation as on a sphere and can only make bearing preserving maps of small areas that aren't too close to the reference point. If you have some sort of consistent, universal indicator of direction across the whole flat word, then a simple flat map of it will be bearing preserving. If the flat world were rotating relative to the fixed stars such that there were a clear celestial north parallel to the ground, that would work, as would a magic compass that works like compasses tend to do in video games.

As a rule of thumb, consider different points on the map. If Northeast is the same direction at all the points on the map, or really close to being so, you can probably use a compass rose. If North is roughly the same direction across the map you can use a north arrow. Be wary that it is possible for some directions to be consistent while others aren't, don't just look at the cardinal directions.

05-14-2013, 10:44 AM
That sounds easy enough to remember! Thanks!