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Thread: Tarvall's Land (an experiment with fountain pen and watercolor)

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  1. #1

    Default Tarvall's Land (an experiment with fountain pen and watercolor)

    So I've been mocking up this circa-17th century fantasy world for a campaign I want to run in the indefinite future. The players will be on a mission to explore, map and investigate a rocky, windy continent to the far north, which as far as the Thurian (= latitude-flipped European) nations know is poor and uninhabited. Basically, it's Chilean Patagonia - an empty, forested land, beaten by wind, populated with strange almost-familiar plants and animals. There is one colony in the region, and it's underfunded and old, a fifty-year-old outpost of an aging imperial power, founded in the unfulfilled hope of finding mineral riches. There have only been a couple naval expeditions to the further shores of the continent. The players are working off of a copy of the maps made by those first explorers.

    I'm trying to make that map myself by hand. I started with a pencil sketch of the area. This is the "master sketch" that includes all the information about the continent, not just the features visible from the sea; it's for my use as I plan the campaign.

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    Then I attempted to make a rendition entirely using watercolors. That didn't work out too well...

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    So I went and bought a fountain pen, some ink, and a set of nibs, and made a hybrid watercolor-and-ink map. I'm almost done with it, just need to put in the legend and compass rose, and maybe one of those dudes blowing wind and a boat or something.

    Click image for larger version. 

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    I'm not too satisfied with the way some of it turned out - the pen was being fussy especially for the mountains, and I don't like the choice I made for some of the lettering, so I'm probably going to make a fourth final version. But it's no problem, I've been having a great time with this.

    Any comments or suggestions are welcome.
    Last edited by Turnpikelad; 08-07-2010 at 05:52 AM.

  2. #2
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    I like the first and third ones, the second, wellllllll, needs a lil work The dudes blowing wind are the gods of the wind, one for each cardinal direction, and Aeolus is the only one I remember - north, I think. I could be wrong about this one but I think Zephyr is another one - east, I think. Keep up the hard (hand) work, man.
    If the radiance of a thousand suns was to burst at once into the sky, that would be like the splendor of the Mighty One...I am become Death, the Shatterer of worlds.
    -J. Robert Oppenheimer (father of the atom bomb) alluding to The Bhagavad Gita (Chapter 11, Verse 32)

    My Maps ~ My Brushes ~ My Tutorials ~ My Challenge Maps

  3. #3


    Yeah, I'm refining my methods... I think the most current version is pretty close to what I envision as the final product. I just wish I was better at lettering and hatching.

    Here's a historical map of the kind I'm trying to emulate:

  4. #4


    Boreus is the North Wind, and Zephyros is the West Wind. The others are Notos (South) and Euros (East). Aeolus is a more general god of the winds, and the one who gave Oddyseus a bag of wind to blow him back home.

    That third attempt is quite lovely. The horizontal hatching looks terrific—there's nothing at all to complain about there. As for lettering, reference and practice are the ways to get better at it. Right now your hand is very technical and clear; that's not a bad thing, and given how clean this map is I think it works. If you want to get a bit more decorative it's going to take some practice. I was never more than an indifferent calligrapher, myself, but with enough patience I can make some nice looking letters. All it takes is time and experimentation. I had pages and pages full of practice back when I had aspirations to being a calligrapher.

    I really like the blotted color of the sample map you posted. I think you should try some experiments to see if you can incorporate that look into your next attempt.
    Bryan Ray, visual effects artist

  5. #5


    If you can drive yourself to practice enough to get the techniques right by hand, I'm sure you will reap great rewards with it in the future. I can't hatch to save my life, at least not to the extent where I can get the lines remotely evenly spaced and with the same line weight. Part of the problem is that I just don't write by hand anymore. Keep going, and best of luck!

  6. #6


    I touched up the map, added a few decorations, and gave it some weathering. Here's what I have now.

    This might be the final form of this particular map - it kind of feels right for me now, a hastily made, rather uninformative map given to some adventurers at the start of their journey. I will continue to make maps from this setting, though.
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