This is going to be my first post on the Cartographer's Guild forum - I hope I don't break any rules in the process. The text below comes right off my personal blog. I hope you like it!
Imagine you're standing in front of the bathroom mirror on a sunny sunday morning, razor in hand, daydreaming away. Birds are chirping lovingly and you wonder, just wonder what would happen if the tufts of shaving foam in the sink would be islands in a vast sea, or better still: continents in a steaming ocean.
I'm sure you're not the kind of guy that has these fantasies. I'm sure you dream of that party you went to last night, or that game you're saving your pocket money for, or perhaps that beautiful girl you saw on the bus the other day. Yep, busted, I knew you were!
But if you happen to dream about islands and continents in a sink full of shaving foam, then I have news for you: you're suffering from a bad case of carthocacoethes. Yes, you're seeing maps in random patterns. I'm afraid it can't be cured, but with a bit of work you'll be able to live with it. Sort of anyway.
So I'm standing there, staring dreamingly into the sink, which looks like this:
But what I'm really seeing is this:
Well, not exactly that, not yet. The image above is actually the result of a fairly basic edge detection, bump map and gradient map in GIMP. But even with the razor still in my hand I find myself wondering how life would be like on the shores of that lump of foam on the bottom left. Or what the people would look like on that archipelago on the upper left. And I notice I don't like it there. It should be more to the south. I don't like the fact that the northernmost continent is stuck to that wall in the north. And only then I remember I'm still staring into a sink, with half a beard on my cheeks. A bit like a madman, actually.
So I run for my camera and take a picture of the sink, still with foam on my face, and continue shaving. I'm going to process that image, of that I'm sure, but not today. Not while the birds are chirping and the sun is shining as if its life depended on it (which is does, but that's another story).
A few days later the sun has burned itself out again, and has been replaced by a carpet of fat, low hanging, ominous clouds. The perfect weather for some cartography fun. So I start messing around with the picture. The first result I get is the one you've already seen above, but I don't really like it, there's too many messy bits. Plus, I want it to incorporate my story map, which looks like this:
So I start messing around with the image. I decide to reduce the image to the essentials: a coastline. The rest will be filled in by yours truly. And when that's done, I start hustling them together. I insert the coastline of the map above. Apart from that I keep the main continent. The smaller ones that used to be stuck to the sink wall get a coastline of their own, carefully harvested from already existing lines so as not to change the style of the would-be map. After a few hours' work I end up with this:
(notice the northwestern part of the continent, where I plugged in my story map)
Still not satisfied with the result, I start moving the resulting continents around, mixing and mirroring them as I go. When I'm finally content with the lay-out of the map, it's time to start filling in the details. A very preliminary result:
And then, after many, many more hours of work (done on rainy evenings over the course of some weeks), I end up with this map:
And this one I actually like. The mountains could have been better, but that's a job for another period of bad weather and too much free time. For now I'm pretty content. How about you?