I love maps
I have always loved maps. It began with car rides as a kid and I was obsessed with having an area map on hand of where we were going so I could follow along and see what was on the map and how it related to what I could see during the car ride. I love travel maps but especially topographical maps that really show the elevations and trees and all that. Id often make maps of my neighborhood, of surrounding area ( I grew up in rural upstate NY), buildings, fields, train tracks, etc. And always these places had many names: The fallen towers ( a pair of giant oil drums that were dumped in a field near my house), the quicksand marsh ( the cattail marsh), the City of Doom ( the old Motts factory buildings we would play around in), etc.
Later on as I got into D&D, maps became a new obsession. I began to draw up dungeons galore, not unlike most people who got into the game around my time. When Greyhawk came out, I just LOVED this map and from there my map making world expanded from the dungeon to the world at large. I began to draw large scale hex world maps larger than the Greyhawk map, coloring and labeling each map.
I would continue to draw maps of worlds ( and for many write lengthy discussions about those worlds setting, gods, currency, geographical features, etc) for many many years. I was inspired heavily by the maps put out by various game distributors: Harn, Rolemasters Middle Earth maps, Greyhawk, Forgotten Realms, Jorune, etc.
I was so obsessed with maps and map making, that I would never read a fantasy novel unless it contained a map ( which is why David Eddings, Belgariad and Mallorian are my favorites- lots and lots of maps). For me, if it didn't contain a map in the book, it wasn't worth reading- lol.
So I thought Id post some maps here that Ive made over the years. Keep in mind some of them were done when I was 12 so they are very simple in design ( as I would scour fantasy novels for cool names to use for all the things I wanted to label). Many of them you may notice who I was being influenced by at the time. Unfortunately, a share of some good maps were lost 12 yrs ago during my move out to the west coast. I never knew where they went or how they got misplaced, but they are gone. Too bad, there were some really really good detailed ones in there.
Anyway, here are a bunch. I literally have hundreds of maps, and many world maps have dozens of variations each as I played with how I wanted it to look. I mixed in some drawing as well. Here are the majority of them:
Yawning Portal: I LOVE MAPS
Ah, such an insanely delicious collection of hand-drawn maps. One of their crowing glories? Their individual imperfection, contrasted against their collective magnificence.
The ability to draw a map by hand is on open display in this collection. Surely, this is the envy of all mankind.
It's a lot like looking at a thick menu, when one is very hungry and ready to eat. There's a smorgasbord of interest scattered across this cartographic collection. The fact that some of them stretch back across time, to years of less experience, warrants special commendation. It is good to see how your skill sets in individual areas have progressed over a span of time. Mountains, for instance, your skill has grown considerably. It's not just that your skill in drawing individual mountains has improved noticeably, but rather, your skill in how you place mountains overshadows your later maps.
Some of the maps evidence an appreciation for color. That part of it is the dessert on this menu, for me. It's not the bulk of the menu, but where color rears its head, it's fairly well subdued. It tempts me, though it but a picture be. I want to see more of your use of color, though I know that to do so would be a fattening experience, indeed. You use color, not as the primary vehicle for representing your cartographic vision, but instead, it lies calmly and quietly in the background, even when it is in the foreground and on full display.
Take the following two examples from your collection, for the purpose of considering how you use color.
The first example is a quintessential example of how people typically approach the task of coloring a map. The trees/forests are green and the water is blue. Lacking any semblance of actual artistic talent, that is the approach that I would likely use, if I were to try to sit down, tomorrow, and create a map. Mine just wouldn't look as good as yours.
The second example demonstrates how color, more effectively used, can make a map more beautiful, more aesthetically pleasing. It's there. There's lots of it on the map - yet, its true beauty is a subtle one. Color doesn't have to be used to shout at the observer of the map. It doesn't have to be vivid and in your face, in order to accomplish much more. In the hands of a trained or self-trained master, color is a force multiplier. It multiplies the impact of the end result.
You take time to create actual mountain ranges. How much greater the world is, when entire mountain ranges thrust up across a vast space. Your skill with mountains are the lifeblood of your cartographic talent. They command the viewer's attention. They are there, and they shall be seen.
The vivid dark tips of the mountain tops in the following map are not your finest moment on the mountain top:
That particular map is a better demonstration of your growing skill with color, than of your mastery with mountain engineering. Those vivid dark tips strike my eye like thorns - too much emphasis in too localized an area repeated ad infinitum across the map. You went to all that trouble to painstakingly draw all of those beautiful mountains, and then you simply couldn't lie content to let those mountains and their ranges speak to their own grandeur. In your bid to top them off, you tore them down, in a visual sense. Granted, everyone has their own opinion on such things, but that is mine.
Here, in the map below, you demonstrate some of that same affinity for vivid touches on the mountains:
But, here, the technique has more visual appeal, but I am still left with the feeling that you are over-using it. It is, after all, a form of both color and emphasis. If you were to use it more sparingly, though not abandon it altogether, I think that the end reward would be greater for one and all.
One of my personal favorites of your maps, as it pertains to your skill with mountains, is the following image:
Not because the individual mountains in it are your best hand-drawn efforts, when it comes to mountains, but rather, because you imbue your map with cartographic life between ranges of mountains. Where the mountains are, they are vast and ranging creatures. Even still, they are not solid masses of nothing but mountains. Again, it's a good example of where less mountains equal more impact for you on the subject of mountains within a given map.
The map below is unfinished:
The vast forest on the left is a collection of trees, a mob, more than it is a forest. That forest doesn't beckon unto me. It's just a blotch of trees massed upon the cartographic field of battle, one where the various terrain features contest for the attention of the map's beholder.
The mountains on it, though, that's another story. The mountain range grabs the eye, and trounces the forest. Just below the approximate middle of the mountain range, two taller spires stand out. Those spires have individual identity. They look noticeably different. They command my attention, no matter how small a relative percentage of the overall number of mountains are on view on this map, simultaneously. My attention is disproportionately drawn to them. The shaded/shadow mountains in the bottom half look visually more attractive than the mere outline mountains in the top half of the map.
Anyway, just a few thoughts on your map collection and your cartographic skills off the top of my head.
Nice stuff, welcome aboard.
Welcome to the Guild Yawningportal. I really enjoyed browsing through your collection, it brought me back to my own middle-school and early high-school days. Lovely work BTW, I hope you will continue to contribute more of your work here at the Guild. Enjoy some rep.
WOW Thanks for the feedback Ive never really had anyone critique my mapwork before. I agree with many of your assessments. Much of my work was trial and error, exploring different ways of drawing maps based on maps from RPG systems I owned and was enamored with at the time. You can see my maps influenced by the Harn world/setting maps and the ICE Middle Earth maps for example. Earlier maps were drawn on "old school" style as used in the Basic/Expert D&D set and Greyhawk. Ive only actually campaigned in a few of them but many of them have pages and pages of detailed information about them which only served as a way to get my thoughts on paper and not necessarily because I ever did anything with them. I have always thought about exploring computer based software but being an Apple user exclusively and not that computer savy to boot, I never found the task very easy ( most programs are only for PCs and are difficult for me to set up). I suppose I could find something these days to help out- but I think my work might lack the artistic experience I like when I sit down with pencil, coloring pencils, paper and start working something out.
Don't be a fool! You know how to draw. Why downgrade from your own creativity and artistic skill?
Originally Posted by Yawningportal
Well, I too am somebody with some artistic skill and though I am also a graphic designer and have access to all kinds of software to create all kinds of maps, the maps that give me the most work (I am commissioned regularly to produce maps for publishers) is my hand-drawn stuff. So if you've got the talent, why waste it trying to learn how to use software to compete with what you can do by hand.
I notice your maps are drawn to Hex paper, I prefer a blank sheet of paper, no grid lines. My personal style is to create hand-drawn maps B/W, digitally scan them, import to software and using the software to produce 3D-ish beveled shapes, shadows and water color palattes to finish them, instead of using colored pencil. When I'm complete I use software to place grid lines. Since you use other RPG systems than hex based ones, I can place any kind of grid, even multiple grids to be used on the same map designed for different systems.
I created about 30 or so commissioned maps for companies like Iron Crown Enterprises, Paizo Publishing, Rite Publishing, Mythic Games, Dog House Rulez and many others. I mostly create maps and illustrations for my own published Pathfinder setting, called Kaidan (Japanese horror) setting. I create world, regional, encounter scale maps all the time for my project.
I agree you have a very good foundation, now all you need to do is work on your style and go outside your comfort zone and try some new techniques you may like, use software if you wish, etc enjoy the journey