Fantasy Maps: The Art of Exploring Imaginary Worlds | Ira Marcks | Skillshare

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Fantasy Maps: The Art of Exploring Imaginary Worlds

teacher avatar Ira Marcks, Graphic Novelist

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

    • 1.



    • 2.

      Class Overview


    • 3.

      Lesson: Mapping Imagination pt. 1


    • 4.

      Lesson: Mapping Imagination pt. 2


    • 5.

      Lesson: From Glyphs to Grams


    • 6.

      Lesson: The Story of Data


    • 7.

      Lesson: The Invisible Kingdom


    • 8.

      Lesson: The Map Inside


    • 9.

      Lesson: Journey and Destination


    • 10.

      Lesson: Metaphors and Monsters


    • 11.

      Lesson: Searching for Utopia


    • 12.

      Project: Planning a Utopia


    • 13.

      Project: Gathering References


    • 14.

      Project: Boundaries and Borders


    • 15.

      Project: Water and Trees


    • 16.

      Project: Roads and Landscapes


    • 17.

      Project: Structures and Landmarks


    • 18.

      Project: Legend and Color


    • 19.

      Project: Compass and Type


    • 20.

      Project: Frame and Texture


    • 21.

      Wrap It Up


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About This Class

Learn to think and work like a mapper of imaginary places.

The best way to explore an imaginary world is with a map. But a map is capable of so much more than charting geography. It can give an intimate look at an extraordinary time and place. Join me as we take a trip through the famous and obscure map artifacts that help define the art form and then put these new insights to use as we plan and design a personal utopia.

Here are the topics I'll be covering:

  • A history of map symbols and icons.
  • The fundamental elements of map design.
  • How maps represent stories of the fantastic.
  • How maps use metaphor.
  • How to create map landscapes.
  • Creating symbols, icons, and type.
  • Adding 'artifact' color and texture.

This class is access to students working in digital and traditional mediums. I'm working in Clip Studio Paint for visual clarity.

Meet Your Teacher

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Ira Marcks

Graphic Novelist

Top Teacher

Ira Marcks is an award-winning and New York Times recommended cartoonist. His love of strange fiction and scientific research has led to an unlikely list of collaborators including the Hugo Award-winning magazine Weird Tales, European Research Council, and a White House Fellowship Scientist. His online courses have inspired 100,000 students.

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1. Introduction: When we visit a new city, we get out our phones. When we visit an imaginary world, we get out a map. Fantasy maps take us places we could never get to in real life. They give us a chance to wander mythical mountain ranges, swim in enchanted lakes and walk right up to the gates of a legendary kingdom. Hey, I'm illustrator and cartoonist. Ira Marcks. I draw stories about imaginary places. Whenever I sit down to start a new project, I always start with the map design. To me, a map is a lot more than a chart. It's a close-up view of an extraordinary time and place. When I set out to create this class on map design. I needed it to be more than the usual tutorial. I wanted to investigate the stories behind the art and understand what it is about these charts of impossible places that spur our imagination. I've gathered a treasure trove of other worldly maps from the famous to the obscure. And once you get to know them, you'll be itching to draw your own. In my class project, you'll learn to think in work like a fantastic mapmaker. I'll cover all that fun map stuff from conceptual planning to arrangement of geography to symbol design and I'll even give you a few tips on getting that perfect ancient map look. We'll go step-by-step building all those fun little details until we've got a totally immersive map that looks just like it fell out of a wizard's back pocket. Fantasy maps, the art of exploring imaginary places is your passport to infinite realms of enchantment and wonder. Are you ready to start our journey? Okay, great. So you're going to want to take a left at Middle Earth. Hogwarts is going to be on the right hand side. Keep going north though. If you see a sign you've never learned, You've gone a little too far. Get over in the right-hand lane is default colleagues. 2. Class Overview: Welcome to the class. Thanks for joining me. I think you're going to have a lot of fun and also maybe learn a little bit about map design. Before we get started though, I want to give you a little overview of the structure of the class because I think it's a little unique. When it comes to designing a fantasy map, I think it's super helpful to get a sense of what exactly gives fantasy maps their particular look and feel. A lot of that has to do with the accomplishments of other artists and cartographers over time. Like many of my classes, this one is broken into two distinct parts. I call the first half, the lesson. It's a series of chapters exploring the art and stories that have defined the very concept of what we think of when we think of fantasy maps. It's an overview of the creative artifacts and artistic theories that'll teach us what's possible within the boundaries of a good map design. The lesson chapters are designed to be fun stories, insightful, and fundamentally inspirational. Do not be afraid to take notes while I'm talking. The number one rule of art is always be open to inspiration and sometimes a quick note, can make that inspiration stick a little harder. The second half of the class is the project. It's a step-by-step guide through the creation of a fantasy map. The theme of the project will be personal utopia. It's a place that exists in the imagination, but it's also directly bound to influence from our own realities. All my classes, even a map class, is rooted in narrative art, and visual storytelling. I began the project with prompts that are going to get you asking questions and generating a story to inspire your visual design. To give you a jump start on filling out the artwork in your map, I've attached a PDF of all kinds of map iconography and symbol language. From mountain ranges, to plants and vegetation, to iconic landmarks, it's all there for you to use. The project chapters will cover all the cool elements of map design, landscape, building icons, typography, legends, titling, color. I'll finish up with some simple painting and texture techniques to give your map an authentic feel. Once I start drawing my class project, I'm going to be working on this digital tablet here, but I'm not going to really be addressing the tools and shortcuts I use in my software. I want this class to be accessible to digital artists as well as traditional artists. You could have a piece of paper and a pencil to work with, an iPad or the world's fanciest Wacom tablet. This class is for all of those people. My love of fantasy maps goes back as long as I can remember. But of course, the story of fantasy maps does not begin with me. So let's jump back in time to a little English bookstore in the year 1954. 3. Lesson: Mapping Imagination pt. 1: You are reading J. R. R Tolkien epic fantasy novel, The Lord of the Rings in the mid 1950s. You'd have found this fold-out map on the inside cover. It was drawn by his son and trusted archivist, Christopher Tolkien. It goes without saying, "This map is very inspirational to the history of fantasy map design." I guess it looks pretty good. That's got the information right. You can't argue that, but it just doesn't match the epic tone of Tolkien's world-building compared to what fantasy maps can really be. This one's just not enough. What does a great fantasy map look like? Let's jump ahead a few years. I'll show you. By the late 19 sixties, the Lord of the Rings had become an outright cultural phenomenon. Christopher Tolkien's crude cartography was a need of a big overhaul. This is where illustrator Pauline Baynes comes in. In fact, she was the only artist the J.R.R would allow to illustrate his world. Together, Baynes and Tolkien set out to redesign the map of Middle Earth. After countless notes, edits and arguments, the map was complete. It was a total success and perfect match for J.R.R Tolkien's epic fantasy world. For decades, this map would hang over the beds of countless fantasy fans, imprinting itself on their minds. Due to the Maps, ubiquity, Baynes illustrative style and topography became a primary touchstone for all fantasy map design. Now let's break down the image to see what makes it so compelling and immersive. The first step in that process is to identify the key elements evolved basic world maps. Every map starts with a title. The title should be clear. This one, sure is. The creative part of titling a map comes in the framing. Great fantasy maps take any opportunity they have to decorate their information. Decoration adds flavor to the map. Can also evoke the themes of the narrative within. We quickly get a sense of a medieval type of world. The way Baynes presents the maps title in this decorative art. She's also invoking the narrative of the story with this struggle of good and evil, light and dark. A map scale is a big part of the maps' functionality. Often the title frame incorporates the scale marker, as we can see here, most fantasy maps use the scale only as a charming visual aesthetic. But I'm pretty sure Tolkien scale is quite accurate, thanks to the author's notes. Even if it's not accurate, a scale adds an era of legitimacy to a fantasy map. Symbology is the creative voice of the map. This map of Middle Earth communicates with a very basic symbology that doesn't need any special decoding. In other words, you don't need to be an expert to read this map. We can easily recognize mountain ranges, coastlines, rivers, forests. Unlike Tolkien's pros, the map is very descriptive when it comes to the landscape of Middle Earth, veins must have had a very strong sense of Tolkien's writing to create such a perfect visual companion to his words. A map needs to speak with symbols, but there's also an important need for typography and written language. Tolkien was a scholar of language and took immense care in the naming of his geography and the kingdoms within his word choices draw from mythology from around the world. Bayne's typographic choice suits the mythical language motif perfectly. Her type is a clear homage to the ancient illuminated manuscripts, most specifically the Book of Kells. Baynes lettering is so iconic. Someone even designed to font inspired by this maps text. Translation of the contours of a landscape to a flat paper is called a map projection. Baynes map seems to be based on the Mercator cylindrical projection. Though it's hard to tell without any lines of longitude and latitude, which I'm sure Tolkien actually documented, but were removed for aesthetic purposes. When it comes to fantasy worlds, some details just aren't worth representing. Last but not least, a great map needs a compass rose. It's a tool for map orientation. But in the case of a fantasy map, the compass rose is yet another decorative opportunity that can evoke the themes that play across the whole of the map. Baynes uses the dominance of nature in the maps decorations. She gives us cute little vines on the campus. Unlike the title frame, the compass rose is indifferent to the struggles of light and dark, good and evil. But Baynes does recall some of the maps, colors in her design, the red and blue of the important topography. In terms of basic map design, Pauline Baynes checks all the major elements. But there's a secret side to the story of this map. The story that elevates its artistic accomplishment in the realm of fantasy map making. 4. Lesson: Mapping Imagination pt. 2: We know from the correspondence between Tolkien and Baynes that the planning of their map was no simple task. There are countless notes between these two artists revising and perfecting this fantasy world that to Tolkien was a very real place. The commitment to detail and tone of the narrative is the secret to the greatness of this map. But what makes these details so worthy of commitment? The answer is found in a letter Tolkien wrote to Baynes. In it, he says that Hobbiton, the place from which the whole epic adventure begins, is assumed to be the approximate latitude of Oxford, England. Fun fact, the University of Oxford is where Tolkien was a professor of Anglo-Saxon language. Like all world builders, Tolkien was taken from life to expand his fantasy. All across the map of Middle Earth, we can spot other references to the real-world traveled deep into the southern lands of Middle Earth, far from the quietness of the Shire of Hobbiton or England, as we now know. You'll arrive at Minas Tirith, the capital of the realm of grandeur, described by the author as the greatest realm of men in the west. Minas Tirith, is a place, not unlike the Italian city of Ravenna, which was once the capital of the Western Roman Empire. In fact, Ravenna sits at the same distance and latitude from Oxford is Minas Tirith does from Hobbiton, from coastlines to the mountains, from the castles and kingdoms right down to the flora and fauna. The fantastic map of Middle Earth is baked in with Tolkien's reference to the real world. Just like in his written storytelling, each location he describes lowers our imagination with something extraordinary, only to connect us with something very familiar in real. Hobbiton reminds us of the comforts of home. Minas Tirith reminds us what it's like to stand in the daunting presence of ancient Europe. When we travel outside the edges of the map, we can see Pauline Baynes really flexing her illustrative muscles. She understands the epic scale of this story in world and evokes the weight of ancient myth-making with her designs, she's created figures preserved in illustrations reminiscent of the black figure technique of the ancient Greeks. While Christopher Tolkien showed me a rationality in his father's fantasy world, which made it seem real in a way. It was Pauline Baynes imagination that brought it to life. We're going to explore the different ways artists and map makers have brought their make-believe maps to life. But first, let's get a better understanding of the way maps communicate. 5. Lesson: From Glyphs to Grams: Symbolic language of maps is inspired by our need to document the seen and the unseen parts of our existence. As early man set out to explore the Neolithic world, they began scraping symbols into rocks, developing a form of proto-writing called petroglyphs. Petroglyphs were used to represent the terrain, rivers, land forms, edible animals, and other important data needed for basic survival. Petroglyphs are found all over the world and they vary in style.In the same way, dialects can change between neighboring regions of a country. Petroglyphs evolved with the needs of the people. Over time and with repetition, they could be used to mark seasonal hunting grounds. Petroglyphs could document the length of time it took to travel to a water source. They could mark territorial boundaries. It is also pretty likely that certain symbols had spiritual significance. Egyptians, Sumerians, Aztecs, American Indians, every major ancient culture was found to be using petroglyphs, and it is no coincidence that these are the cultures that have a place in history.The glyph literate people of the world were able to build a knowledge base of the world around them, on which they can structure their societies and develop their culture. The people in places of the world found a way to survive through their symbolic language. After the petroglyph, language branches off into all kinds of different forms. But when it comes to map design, there is two notable symbol types, ideograms and pictograms. Pictograms are representational symbols. They are easy to understand because there is a direct connection between the image and it is meaning. A picture of a water drop means rain, a picture of a flame means fire. A picture of a bottle means beverage, a picture of a knife and fork mean restaurant. Pictograms aspire to be trans-cultural, making them well-suited for travel maps. They represent things you can touch, smell, taste, hear, and see. You can also bring illustrate a flair to a pictogram, as long as it is base composition is very clear. They can also represent full scenes or experiences, making them very good storytelling tools. Ideograms are abstract symbols, which makes them hard to read without some cultural context. Ideograms strive to represent complex and often intangible ideas.They can be simple concepts, and arrow means direct your attention this way, a gravestone represents a memorial for the dead, but ideogram meaning escalates pretty quickly. For example, the bio-hazard symbol is an ideogram as well as the yin-yang. Due to their role as cultural data keepers, ideograms need to be adaptable for all kinds of application. They need to be tiny marks on a map or printed on a flag. That's why they are usually simple geometric constructions with unmistakable silhouettes. The pictograms and ideograms that fill a map, speak to its authorial voice. As you look at the maps and the upcoming chapters, consider the way they use their symbolic language and how that affects the meaning behind it. 6. Lesson: The Story of Data: Maps are a tool for connecting points of data. The original intent of Tolkien's Middle Earth map was not to create a thing for his fans to look at, but for his own point of reference. He needed to keep track of his cast of characters and the distance to their destinations. His purpose for doing this was to make the passage of time in his story feel as believable as possible. Maps should always seek to make things Feel real. Now, a quick Google search for the term fantasy map is going to show you a whole bunch of muddy looking artwork, that clearly has no other purpose than to provide various basic geographical data. I'm not really judging it. If your dungeon master for the night in this map is your own reference point, that's fine. It doesn't need to be a work of art. But to the truth about map design is that has amazing potential to connect to all kinds of data. To me, a map is the Most important cultural artifact you could make. Why do I think that? Because a map source of power comes from its ability to represent any relationship of data points from the whole Sociocultural system. This system tells the story of people living in a certain time and place. It builds from the bottom up, the foundation represents the food, wildlife and resources available to a region's people. On this base of knowledge, the people build the infrastructure of their society, the things the society produces and manufacturers are directly related to the resources with some economical footing, the society designs their social and labor structure. This includes the way that people live, work, and govern themselves. From here, it gets more abstract as economic theories and political policies emerge in the culture as well as the arts and the belief system. A great map will take the time to explore connections and conceptual relationships between a variety of the aspects of the Sociocultural system. This is the secret to how a map reveals its world. Just for fun, let's compare to realize sociocultural systems, mapped over a single geographic location. Here's a map that documents the Squamish homeland before the European settlers arrived. We see representation of not just the land but their culture, their transportation, the wildlife they valued, the specific elevations of the landscape, the names of their tribes, and a few of their notable landmarks. Now let's jump ahead in time. The modern people of Vancouver have new cultural priorities that are represented in their map. Tourism, municipalities, restrooms, parking lots, transportation systems are all relevant to the modern version of Vancouver. A map doesn't just describe a landscape, it's design can fundamentally change the way we understand a place. Of course, this part of the job is all up to the mapmaker and how deep they want to dig. Now that we know how to utilize data, let's look at what makes a map worthy of hanging up on the wall.. 7. Lesson: The Invisible Kingdom: A map maker has to find a way to get their rational mind and abstract mind working together. Each side of the brain has a very different job. The rational mind must design a clear and believable network of data points. While the abstract mind must find opportunities within that design to engage the imagination. That can be a tough balance to strike. While modern computing can help us generate amazing looking data rich maps, the fun of fantasy world building is planning and designing within the limitations of a less convenient past. Most fantasy worlds, even one set in the future, exist in eras that reflect the politics and social structure and culture of medieval times. Times before the ubiquity of information. In real world history, these limitations of available data have led map makers to some creative solutions that we can utilize in our map designs. Ancient mapmakers we're always filling gaps in their knowledge with the myths, legends and stories from their culture. Their world was still struggling to wrap their head around modern science. Theirs was a time fraught with superstition and alchemy. So it's only natural that a medieval map contain all kinds of magical elements. But magical elements, just like information, are not universal. Medieval map design strikes us because it's often so beautiful and well-designed. But we also have to understand that these maps are quite insular. This is a famous medieval artifact known as Psalter world map. It comes from around 1260 AD. I call this style of ancient map a kingdom map. To me a kingdom map uses the elements of map design as well as a vast array of social cultural data points to build strong walls around its own legacy. History is filled with kingdom maps and they have a lot to say about a very specific worldview. Let's dig into the story Psalter map has to share. Let's start with a look at the overall composition of the map. The popularity of this specific map was heavily referenced through the next 100 years of the middle ages. The design is heavy on ornamentation and religious iconography. It's painted in brilliant and very likely expensive colors and it uses layers and layers of stylized details created by a very talented cartographer. The map looks extremely valuable and extremely important and that's part of the point. It's very likely that this map design was made to hang in a king's bed chamber. A map like this would serve the king in many ways. It was decorative, entertaining and educational. Its breadth of knowledge is not unlike a really localized encyclopedia. The map contains information on history, politics, scripture and cultural phenomena relevant to the king's realm. Most importantly, the map was a constant reminder that while he was the ruler on earth, they were all living in God's kingdom. So much can be gleaned from the composition of this map. Geographically, it's very Eurocentric with a passing reference to the British Isles here in the bottom left, just some vacation property owned by the king. In the year of 1260 AD, a European ruler would have been really heavily focused on the crusades, which was a religious conflict that revolved around the control of a single city, Jerusalem. Hey, what do you know? There's that city at a literal rotation point in the center of this map. Culturally medieval Europe was heavily indebted to the classical world. You can see tribute to the major cities of the Roman Empire depicted on the map. There's Rome, Carthage and Macedonia. We can also see iconic locations from the New and Old Testament. There is Jesus's birth place, Bethlehem and the Sea of Galilee, where Jesus did a lot of his missionary work and that amazing parting body of water, the Red Sea. Now you might find yourself tilting your head a little to try and orient yourself to this map. That's because East is pointing up. In medieval times, this was a traditional map thing as East represents the location of the Garden of Eden. There's a little pictogram of Adam and Eve. Right above their heads taking up about a third of this actually quite small sheet of parchment is Christ and his angels. Biblical allegory is found throughout Psalter map as well as many medieval maps. It's a fun game of where's Waldo to try to point it out. Hey look, I see Noah's ark. But of course, these maps also had scientific data. This map's scientific data comes from a cornerstone of classical ancient knowledge. Pliny's book of Natural History written about 1200 years before the drawing of this map. Pliny's book includes some questionable zoological facts like this descriptive drawing of the wolf guy Cynocephalus, and this cute little fellow the Monopod that Pliny claims to have seen on a trip to India. If you're looking for some messed up creature design references, Pliny is the guy to study. In fact, there's probably no better source of weird imagination than the mind of an ancient scientist. Pliny's creatures are put to a more metaphorical use here. You can see them stricken from God's Kingdom, left to wander the borderlands, not far from the chaotic dragons stocking the walls of the Kingdom. I believe all maps have a Kingdom at their center, a point of view so essential to the culture. It's invisible to those that are living within it. I'll admit it takes some research and it takes some work. But when you start to discover the kingdoms within these maps, you'll find yourself extending the borders of your own imaginary world. 8. Lesson: The Map Inside: A fantasy map is a form of escapism, a vacation from our ordinary lives. Ready for your word of the day? A fantasy map is simulacrum. Simulacrum is a term popularized by French philosopher Jean Baudrillard in the early 1980s. All simulacrum are visual creations designed to trick the eye by presenting a likeness of something real. Simulacrum are devious little creatures that actually seek to outdo the reality that inspires them. Take Disneyland as a great example of simulacrum. It's basically the ultimate interactive fantasy map with amazing experiences around every corner. It's the result of meticulous design planning inspiring the visitor to explore. You'll notice some familiar strategies of placement for iconic locations, such as the Cinderella Castle right in the center of everything. Baudrillard appreciated the potential of the human imagination. He believed that visual abstraction is the poetry of the map containing a mirror of being and a vision of a creator's reality and concept. A fantasy map shouldn't be conceived as a journey outward but a journey inward. Without getting too cheesy, a fantasy map is at its best when it's charting the stories that enrich our souls. In 1918, British illustrator Bernard Sleigh published the Ancient Mappe of Fairyland, a panoramic view of the fables, legends, nursery rhymes, plays, and poems that enriched the childhoods of all British citizens. You'll notice the familiar aesthetic of the medieval map is all here in the decorative framing, serif-type pictograms, but this map feels more intimate than some of the others we've seen with its soft-colored pencil, and watercolor, and the cartoonish line art of Bernard Sleigh. As we travel across the map, we can see stories from all over the world living side by side. In the West, we have the Realms of Black Magic filled with dragons, witches, and stormy seas. As we approach the bay, we see Rapunzel's Tower and there is Hansel and Gretel out for a little stroll. Not too far away is the home of the Seven Dwarfs. We seem to be walking amongst the timeless tales of European morality, like those of the German Grimm Brothers and the French novelist Gabrielle-Suzanne de Villenueve, the original author of Beauty and the Beast. On the shoreline, we see Oberon's Palace, the home of the original fairy queen, Queen Mab, who as Shakespeare tells us in Romeo and Juliet, is the master of all dreaming. Beyond the Elfin Sound, we see Danish author Hans Christian Andersen's Little Mermaid. To the East is Scottish author James Matthew Barrie's Never Never Land and his Lost Boys. If we turn South to the Elfin Cove, we see the Land of Mother Goose and other notable children's rhymes. There at the edge of the forest, we see Merlin the Magician who has just been caught creeping on The Lady of the Lake. Behind the forest is a mountainside covered in Arthurian legend. There's good old Excalibur still stuck in the stone and here we have brave Sir Lancelot who's following the procession of King Arthur's funeral, RIP King Arthur. At the top of the mountain is the Grail Castle Montsalvat guarded by two archangels. Down the other side of the mountain, we see what must be the road Hercules took to complete his 12 labors. There's that regenerating dragon, the Hydra, and the angry doggy Cerberus, and hanging in the tree is that fashionable Golden Fleece. When we reach the open plains, we pass some nymphs, centaurs, and pegasi, whatever, all grazing in the field. Over there is Perseus fighting off a giant sea serpent while the Argonauts take their sweet time sailing to his rescue. In the bottom right corner, we see the passage back to boring reality, which is watched over by a little dude who at the time would be the most contemporary of all the characters we've seen in this map. The Psammead is a wish-granting fairy from a children's book called Five Children and It written less than 10 years before the creation of this map, by a very popular children's book author named Edith Nesbit. Bernard Sleigh's map is so fun to get lost in, but let's try to get a sense of what it's saying about the realm of fairy. Notice the map opens up in the center, drawing your eye back to the horizon past the Sea of Dreams, we see Valhalla and Asgard, the great hall in house where the Norse gods would bring those who had died heroically in combat. Beyond that in the sky is the Moon Sphere, which as far as I can tell, is a reference to align in the fairy song from Shakespeare's Midsummer Night's Dream. These elements overlook the lands of fairy in the same way Jesus and His angels looked down over the kingdom of the Middle Ages in Psalter's Map. Psalter's map showed us the Garden of Eden, while Bernard Sleigh's map shows us the Sea of Dreams. Both show a border and the guardians who wait to pass judgment on any traveler who approaches them. It's not uncommon to see all kinds of parallels between religious and fantasy allegory. J. R. R. Tolkien described his own work, Lord of the Rings, as a fundamentally religious and Catholic work. He calls the world of fairy a place on the edge of human experience. Here's an awesome quote I found from his essay called On Fairy-Stories. "The realm of fairy story is wide and deep and high and filled with many things. All manner of beasts and birds are found there. Shoreless seas and stars uncounted. Beauty that is an enchantment and an ever present peril, both joy and sorrow, sharp as swords. In that realm, a man may perhaps count himself fortunate to have wandered, but its very richness and strangeness tie the tongue of the traveler who would report them. While he is there, it is dangerous for him to ask too many questions. Lest the gate should be shut and the keys be lost." The imaginary worlds we map must in some way contain the secrets of our beliefs. The locked doors, impassable forests, lost love, tragic endings and unreachable artifacts. These are the things that engage our imaginations as well as our morality. A fantasy map must allow the viewer the freedom to interpret their world. Too much guidance and the mapmaker has robbed the explorer of their own journey. 9. Lesson: Journey and Destination: Exploration is an important part of the Fantasy Map experience, and it comes in all forms, from the physical to the political, to the spiritual. In this chapter, I've picked three unique settings, Treasure Island, Hell, and the River Thames and we're going to take a look at how map makers have used these settings to engage our sense of exploration. This is a map of Treasure Island, the setting for Robert Louis Stevenson's famous story of High Seas Adventure. The book was published in 1883, but it was set around 1750. This map is intended to look and feel like an artifact straight out of the book, and it's time. Stevenson tells us the map was the property of the ill-fated William Bones or Billy Bones. The Word is the map leads to an amazing treasure on a far-off Island. Allowing the reader to have a first-person perspective of the map makes them feel like they themselves could venture out and discover the treasure. The story speaks to the kid and all of us, it's a clear, simple, straightforward story filled with pirate lore and swashbuckling, it's a very physical journey, and it's pretty light on emotional and spiritual stakes. But not all journeys are quite so straightforward. Let's take a little trip underground. Dante's Inferno is a 14th century poem that tells a story of a journey through the nine circles of hell. Unlike Tolkien's Middle-Earth, Dante is text, is rich with detail and allegory and continues to evoke the imagination to this day. The description of Dante's journey through hell creates a pretty unique map design. Unlike a lot of maps that chart a surface world, the 12 distinct levels of Dante's Hell are concentric circles that lead us down to the center of the Earth. The circumference of each circle is proportional to its measure of wickedness. However you measure wickedness depends on the culture you're coming from. But all the classical signs that we're familiar with are represented here. Wantonness and less violence, fraud, malice. It's all there in the circles of hell. The way map makers have visualized the poem, speak to the artistic trends of the time. Antonio Manetti in 1529, focused on the mathematics of Dante's Inferno, the form and measurements of hell. The style of his map is a great example of the classic Renaissance Art. Search for truth and meaning in measured proportion, which is most iconically represented in Da Vinci's Vitruvian Man, polymath was a big thing at the time, and it was a way for artists to study the relationship of man and nature. When we see these details on Manetti's map like this measurement of 87.5 miles across the distance of Limbo, we know that there's probably some deeper meaning to these numbers, what it is, I'm not exactly sure. You can look into that on your own. We're going to move on to a map of how that appeals to the modern eye. Personally, I find more to appreciate in the circles of Sandro Botticelli's Map of Hell. This was created over a span of about 10 years from 1480 to 1490. His stepped funnel shape has become iconic form of Dante's Inferno that most map makers have drawn their visual influence from. This map stands the test of time with its approach to the socio-cultural structure. It really works to turn the symbolism of hell into a grotesque physical world. We can see these terrorists landscapes filled with Botticelli's figures writhing in squirming in their suffering. Like all fantasy worlds, there are convenient staircases built into it. It's a narrative map, and it's dramatic like so much early Renaissance Art. Dante's poem really comes to life in this map for me, as we pass by all these characters, tyrants, robbers, corrupt politicians, forgers, hypocrites, and traders. All these flavorful figures. By the time we're standing before the bat wing devil, It really brings it all together, and reminds us of the concentrated power of the map, the world, his belt, and the allegory he's created. This map of hell is an etching from 1612 by the French artist Jacques Callot. It's a far cry from Manetti's mathematical map. Its balance of image and text, and distortion of time make it more like a comic book than a map. But the composition is certainly following the symbolism of the Medieval Map. The map's perspective has a sense of isometric projection with that spiritual Pinnacle at the top center, like we've seen in other religious maps. I've started to notice the proximity of evil as a common theme in a lot of these great fantasy maps. Again, to compare different fantasy worlds, Frodo's trip into Mordor is no less revealing about the morality of man than Dante's Inferno. An evil presence is a big part of what makes a map so exciting to explore. Don't be afraid to bring darkness into your map. Darkness is a real thing and totally worth exploring in your art. Let's come back to the surface. Now, I think it's always cool to see how a unique modern artistic voice can make a real-world map feel ancient and fantastic. In my research, I came upon this cool art map of the London rivers created by artist Stephen Walters in 2014. Like many of the maps we've seen already, it rides that line between fantasy and reality. A journey is all in the telling, and the art maps of Stephen Walters use a very unique voice to lead us on a very human journey. This map takes us along the shores of the tames, passing through the marshy lands, sewers, seeing the artifacts and folklore that grow out of this landscape. I love the insight and intuition Walter's Map projects. Walter says his maps are, I quote, "All about human residue and traces." Its like a folk song, more than a map. It dissects the city he lives in into little stories of humanity. The design is packed with information in history so rich and deep along such a small strip of land, there's so much flavor in the reading of this map. It's fun too reading some of the phrases out loud. You've got whimsical names like cheese wick along the eastern shore here, and menacing terms like the undertaker of the northern rivers. The map also shows us a little bit of the infrastructure of the city. We've got symbols for subway stations, as well as tracings of tunnels in the veins of the city. The map seems mostly inspired by the role of water in the city and the landscape. It shows us not just the rivers, but the water ring main that leads to countless sinks throughout London. We also see pictograms of ancient wells and springs. The detail in this map is not to guide the casual tourist. It's more like the diary of an old elemental being, who's been watching Humanity build on her land. It's a fantasy world of very real urban development. By giving the real-world of fantasy aesthetic, the map takes us on a really unique and informative Journey, definitely an exceptional map, and one of the ones I'll be using for inspiration in our class project. 10. Lesson: Metaphors and Monsters: Symbolic power of the map artifact itself is undeniable. A maps job is to represent relationships within its data and design, the map itself can pose as a metaphor. Consider the role of the Marauder's map in Harry Potter. It's a magic artifact used by Harry, mostly to watch other characters moved throughout the grounds in the castle at Hogwarts. But thematically, the map means so much more, it represents the mischievous intent of the story's characters. Keep in mind, the story of Harry Potter is designed for kids, so the Marauder's map is a perfect blower for the 10-year old imagination. In fact, it can only be activated by saying the phrase, I solemnly swear that I am up to no good. The Marauder's map is a symbol of the power of friendship, the spirit of exploration, youthful rebellion, and the need to push the boundaries of adult rules. My favorite fantasy maps often give up on the geographic accuracy in search of illustrated symbolism. This is a map inspired by the pitch perfect book of metafantasy, The Princess Bride. The story by William Golding plays with the tropes of the fantasy epic. This beautiful illustration is too heavily detailed to function like a real map, but it gives us an overview of the characters, encounters, and challenges throughout the story. It's an evocative image that sets the tone of iconic fantasy world tropes and almost puts them in the realm of satire, which is a perfect fit for the books, multiple layers of narrative, and reflection on fantasy storytelling. I love the look and feel of this map by modern illustrator Margaret Jones. It shows a whole realm of mythology. The Mabinogion, is the Welsh title given to a collection of 11 medieval stories filled with heroic horses, enchanted woods, ghostly hounds, magic, birds, dragons, maidens. At the bottom of the map, Jones puts a narrative key which lets the map function as an introduction to all of the myths and legends of Wales. Margaret Jones's arts shows the pervasive role of the Mabinogion on Wales and the way it defines the landscape of the country's imagination. Fun fact, Wales also has an awesome flag with a red dragon. This really shows their commitment to the myth-making of the Middle Ages. If we're talking of allegorical creatures in maps, I can not mentioned the sea monster. The sea monster is the perfect example of creative problem-solving in map design. It fills the gaps in ancient geographical knowledge in such a beautiful way. It's a placeholder for the unexplored corners or misinterpreted creatures of the ancient world. Even though real-world maps no longer have a use for this type of allegory, we still use sea monsters when mapping our modern imaginations. Another fun fact, I have a whole class designed around creating a sea monster, so check it out if that's your thing. But next we're going to take a look at a much more villainous map monster. The following examples are categorized as persuasive cartography or cartographic propaganda. These types of maps are most common in times of war and national outrage and they link us to a very real idea of the proximity of evil that I had mentioned in a previous chapter. Here's a map based on the Great European war. It shows the political state of Europe in 1882. Just like in literature, animals on a map can be symbolic shorthand for conflicts within human, social and cultural groups. From the mid 19th century up through the end of World War II, the spread of evil across the globe was a big part of the world's political and cultural mindset. In the late 1870s, an artist named Fred Rose drew a map that showed a giant octopus creeping out from Russia across the Ottoman Empire. It was an image that represented the start of a bloody war between the Turkish nations and the Russian Empire. This motif of a monster's tentacled creature reaching across the world became synonymous with the insidious nature of evil and it's powerful influence. Here's a map from 1914 that shows a war mongering Prussia, designed as the octopus, whose tentacles are reaching across Europe. You can see this striking image of the evil octopus becomes a powerful allegory for the narrative of wartime. Over time, other artists began to remix this motif to show different types of social struggles. Joseph Ferdinand Keppler used the tentacles creature to represent the monopoly of the Standard Oil Company, and its control over the American government in the early 20th century. Here's a map of the streets of London in 1909, the octopus here represents the paralyzing power of landlords over the income of poor and working class citizens. These illustrators are using persuasive cartography to empower their ideas. You can't deny the impact of an illustration that conjures up a map. Countries around the world have used persuasive cartography to visualize political conflicts and relationships across borders. It's a technique I'd love to see more of in fantasy map design, for the sake of the story, a fantasy world should never be truly at peace. 11. Lesson: Searching for Utopia: It's 1516, and philosopher, Thomas More has just published a book with a very peculiar title, Utopia. It's a funny Greek word that basically means no place. More's book starts with a world traveler arriving in the Port of Antwerp, Belgium. He quickly makes a friend with the author himself. Thomas More is traveling as an ambassador for the king. Having no other friends in Antwerp, the two men decide to sit down to a meal and swap stories. The traveler says, he's just been to a place unlike anything else he's ever seen on Earth. A little island called Utopia. It's shaped in a crescent moon with horns that enclose a circular harbor. On the island are 54 equally sized and spaced city-states populated with Utopian people. The Utopians share a common language, customs, and a singular set of laws. They are all free from the shackles of materialism and find wealth seekers vulgar and pathetic. Every young adult is taught a trade that utilizes their interests. The Utopians are productive, but also allow plenty of time for leisure and further education. Mealtime is communal and when the people are called to the table by the brassy sound of a trumpet, they begin to talk of the immortal soul and how to raise politicians and religious leaders that focus on the pursuit of the common good. The traveler says the socio-cultural structure of Utopia is in perfect balance. Their accomplishments encompass all the best aspects of humanity and it's without a doubt that Utopia is paradise on Earth. The traveler urges more to use his role as ambassador and share this knowledge of Utopia with his king. Surely, Henry the VIII could bring the learnings of Utopia to his people. But More fall silent. The hour has grown late and the conversation has worn him down. On his travels, the Ambassador More is all too aware that Europe is still living in the dark half of the Middle Ages. A far cry from the Enlightenment and Renaissance of the time before. The people of his kingdom cower under the rule of Henry the VIII, one of the most reprehensible rulers in all human history. More bids his new friend a good night and leaves the man at the table as he heads off to bed, the traveler sitting alone with his dream of Utopia. The author, Thomas More was a brilliant satirist whose book had many layers. His world-building, while rich with geographic detail, socio-cultural structure, and proto-socialist theory was carefully crafted to sting the reader with an ironic twist. Utopia, by definition, is an unreachable destination. More's traveler is a symbol of those who would pin all their happiness on the promise of a perfect government. But Utopia lives on as the idealistic no place that forms in the vast infinite of our collective imaginations. The Garden of Eden, The Sea of Dreams, Valhalla, The Land of Fairy. Utopia, will always be there at the borders of reality. Exploring that tension between the real-world and the unreal world is exactly what I want to do with our class project, so get out your pencils and paper. It's time to start mapping. 12. Project: Planning a Utopia: I never start any project with sketching. I always need some script or guideline to direct my work and I also like to find some inspiration to get me in the right mindset. I'm going to start us off with this quote from Oscar Wilde that really inspired the point of view I had when I set out to make this map class, "A map of the world that does not include a utopia is one not even worth glancing at." A great quote by a poet and playwright, who was a real spokesperson for honesty and personal representation and a creative project. Let's start by looking at the goal of this project. We want to represent a personal utopia in the form of a map. The early planning steps are always question prompts, the things that get you digging for ideas that are going to make your project unique and focused. Let's start with the big picture, choosing a geographical region. First, you don't want to make the mistake of choosing a dream vacation as your utopia. This isn't an escape from your day to day life, it's about representing your inner creative cells. So your utopia needs to be a kingdom of the imagination. Wherever that may be, you want to represent the things that are familiar to you. I suggest keeping it, "Island like." That means keeping clear, close boundaries around the region you're representing. I'm going with something very familiar and the source of a lot of my creative instincts, the land around my childhood home. I almost said the house and the land and while you could do a map of an interior space, this class has been about exterior landscapes. I recommend choosing something from your childhood. In a lot of ways, the spaces that you explore as a child are that first kingdom of the imagination. They are basically all you know of the world which expands as you get older. So I recommend choosing something manageable from your childhood, something that has a real emotional connection for you. Now let's break down the landscape of this geographical region. We want to look for unique details that set it apart from other similar spaces. We want to evoke an intimate point of view, a real close up and personal taste of what it was like to be in this space. You don't want to show a forest, you want to show a tree. You don't want to show a street, you want to show a doorstep. I'm going to make just a quick bullet-pointed list of the landscape elements that pop into my mind and they each have a descriptor with them. I have the windy hilltop that I grew up on, the dirt road that led up to the house, the old farmland the house was built on, the stone walls that closed off our property, the two big maple trees that are set in the front yard and the shell of frog pond, which in various ways was a constant presence in my youthful explorations. Let's push these notes over to the side and move on to the third step. Notice each step is kind of a circle within the bigger circle, we're zooming in on the details of our world-building. Let's describe some landmarks, they can be natural or artificial but they should be unique features of the location that stand out or even more importantly, are symbolic of certain aspects of your childhood. Again, I'm using some descriptors on these landmarks. I had a very rural upbringing, so let's begin with the scrap wood chicken coop my dad built when I was a kid, the old playing trees swing we had on one of the maple trees in the front yard, the overgrown garden that we gathered our vegetables from, the playhouse that was painted a deep red for some reason, that my dad built us in the backyard. The bird houses that lined our properties, that were attached to these old rusty poles and the old Cadillac, which I will tell you more about later. A landmark could be a hole you dug in the backyard when you were a kid, they can be really specific to a time and place. Now that we really understand the world we're in, let's make a list of just the general happy things that we might want to sprinkle over this design to keep it warm and inviting. These can be items, events, specific interactions, anything that has inspired your creativity since you were a kid. For me, I've always loved summer rain. It's an excuse to stay inside and draw and write and create. On a hot summer day, I love sitting under a tree, so I'm going to say tree shade and even the sound of the tree on a windy day. On the hill I grew up on in northern New York, we really had a great view of these bright sunsets over the lake and it was just a happy resolving moment at the end of the day. I'm going to see if I can maybe work that into my design somehow and then to fit with the summer rain, I like a good thunderstorm. That's also a bit of a Greek myth aspect, which is something that I've loved. Maybe there's a place for that in the design. On the topic of myths, I'm going to say old books is a thing that makes me happy whether I've read them or not, I just love the artifacts of literature, from history to fiction, to fantasy and poetry and whatever and on that track, I love a good stack of comic book, something pulpy, a little more superficial, even though it's metaphorical in its own way. I had lots of stacks of comics growing up. It was a big inspiration on my creativity. I also loved movies. I had a lot of VHS tapes in my room growing up in the mid 90s. Just on the more outdoorsy track, a good walk through the woods is always something that's inspiring to me, so maybe I'll show some of the paths that I would have walked as a kid and I always like to keep my headphones on. As much as I love being outside, I liked to listen to music or audio books or whatever while I was in the outdoors. I guess I always had a problem with being alone with my thoughts. I'm going to pick and choose from this list as I plan out my map and I'll probably even come across some new ideas. Having a firm sense of the world-building before you start drawing, can really get you off on the right foot. Another way to build momentum before we start drawing is to talk about our design goals. Our biggest intent is to create an immersive map, something people want to stare, not just at but into and something that provokes questions. First and foremost, we want to represent our illustrative style. If you have yet to really lock into a style, you're welcome to use inspiration from my process or some of the countless maps we've looked at but just like with any type of creative process, you don't want to get lost in other people's aesthetic. Maps have a very clear aesthetic but the rules are a lot looser than you actually think. So don't get lost in the tropes of map design as you plan your composition. Make sure you're evoking a sense of wonder with your design and the same way a magic trick is presented, you want to show certain things and conceal others to evoke the imagination. Do I say evoke a lot? Yes, it's my favorite word possibly. In the later stages of our design process, as we round out the basics of illustration, we want to work towards creating an artifact. Is our map supposed to represent an ancient scroll lost in history? Or is it more of a futuristic 3_D projection map? Or is it sitting somewhere between? Is it a tourist map? Is it just a big contemporary, illustrative project? I'm leaning more towards the ancient scroll because it suits a lot of the themes that we've looked at in this class already. We've talked a lot about medieval design, so ancient scroll or medieval map is the design style I'll be leaning towards and finding a balance between my contemporary look and that medieval decorative art is going to be part of the fun of this project. Now I'm going to show you some of the references I'll be using to plan my design and inspire my language of symbol and visual aesthetic. 13. Project: Gathering References: I've sorted my references based on the main elements of map design that we discussed way back in Chapter 1. So I'm going to share the images based on the category they fit. Let's look at just the general framing of the map. This is a map by David Rumsey that I really like for its simplicity, I also hatch in a similar way. I don't do the cross hatching as much more just horizontal lines. I like the very simple frame of this design and I liked the way at the bottom, he adds this element of a first-person perspective of what the map is representing. I'm going to be representing a bit of a valley form in my design that's just part of the geography of the landscape around my childhood home. This is going to come in handy as a good point of reference. I've always been drawing to alchemy in the symbol language of early science, a lot of the symbols like elemental, which suits my outdoor study. So I could use them to represent the elements found in the surrounding landscape. Alchemy also includes more mystical symbols, so that I'll give my map a bit of a magical flavor in its language. I wanted to get a little more illustrative too, just like the map of ancient Fairyland we looked at, I really love the way the waters crashed on the shores. In this map design, I have some water sources and different environmental elements that are acting together, so I'm going pull some reference from this, and I like the types of representation this map uses. Symbols drawn from fiction and mythology, metaphorical creatures. I'll be doing a bit of that in my own composition. On a much simpler scales, I found this image of a map to the original Woodstock in upstate New York in 1969. It's cartoons style really appeals to me in terms of amount of visual elements represented in the map. This one's a better fit than the map of ancient Fairyland. That means two only for a class project. We want to keep it simple. In terms of language of the map, I'm looking at the rivers of London map we saw earlier. I want to be descriptive in the items I show. Map design is not a minimalist art form. It can be really fun to be overly decorative into overly wordy and your design. I'm going to be pulling from the voice of this map, as I plan out my descriptive elements in my design. I'm not a giant fan of the traditional compass rose. This compass like design from one of the books of the Lesser Key of Solomon, which is a ancient spell book from the 17th century. My favorite part of Pauline Baynes Middle Earth map is the frame around the title and the way it splits the light and dark themes of the map. I won't be using the exact illustrative elements she's working with, I'm totally going to rip off this framing style. I'm not sure exactly how I'm going to approach the wear and tear of this map that's going to make it feel like an artifact. I do like the way this map seems like it's been secretly hidden on the back of a framed painting. Maybe we'll do a bit of that in our design. It's a cool concept, if we've got the time and it suits the design, maybe I'll use this as a reference. This collection of images is just a set of guidelines to get me on track, but once I'm off and running I'll probably be making a lot of in the moment decisions. I'll always be looking back to the general form and structure of a map because I do want it to feel real and I wanted to speak in the language of map design. Up next, we're going to look at the borders and boundaries of our landscape. 14. Project: Boundaries and Borders: I'm going to start by doing a basic concept sketch of the landscape around my childhood home. The first step of map drawing is establishing the borders between the land and the water. The space needs to feel realistic. Sketching basic forms is important to getting the right look. I'm working in procreate right now for my sketching process, and I'm using a basic wash brush set to a very large size. You could use an acrylic brush or watercolor, whatever gives you the right balance of looseness and control as you try to define the boundaries of the landforms. I jump back and forth between my eraser and brush, planning out my house on the hill. Early on, you have to decide if your map is land heavy, meaning it has lot of detailed mountains, hills, rivers, lakes, and landforms. If the map is water heavy, you're working mostly from islands surrounded by lots of water. Or if your map is balanced 50-50, you're using descriptive coastlines, bays, large spaces of landscaping and mountains. My map is land heavy because that's what the region I've pasted on is like. I'm marking out spaces for the types of trees found on the land as well as the basic road forms that mark the property, and at the bottom of the map, I've got a valley like area with a river running through it and different layers of tree type. Notice I haven't changed color with my brush, but I am going over spots multiple times to build up darker values to distinguish certain elements of the map from one another. Keep it loose and simple. We're just blocking out space at this point. Now, I'm moving on to the second sketch. In other classes, I've discussed what's called the three-stage sketching process. It's just a basic theory that says that it takes three iterations of a drawing to communicate the intent of the design. In the case of map design, I'm using three-stage sketching to define the regions, the placement of elements, and the framing. In the first two stages, you want to avoid heavy details. Otherwise, you'll find yourself committing to parts of the drawing, not because they're right for the project, but because you don't feel like redrawing are moving them around. These first two sketches are all about establishing where things go and how much space is around them, how much emphasis they deserve, and if they even need to be part of the design at all. I'm placing the house in the upper third center of the design and flanking it with the buildings and landmarks of the property. I'm using the [inaudible] row to mark the property boundaries, as well as separate the civilized part of the map from the untamed wilderness of the valley fields below. Elevation descends as we travel down the map. Now, that we've got a basic sense of the composition and the elements we want to include, let's move on to that third and final sketch. 15. Project: Water and Trees: From here, I'll be working in the final project file. I have this file set to 1920 by 1080 at 300 pixels per inch. I'm working in a screen friendly format that's wider than it is tall, just for the sake of this class, but you can use any project dimension you'd like. In fact, odds are you're probably going to want a more vertical design because that's more of the map convention. The third sketch in my three-stage sketching process needs to be more structured than the previous two. I'm turning on my grid. I'm working in the program Clip Studio Paint. It's a drawing program, very similar to Procreate or Adobe Photoshop. Any of the tools or techniques I'll be referencing are basic features of any modern drawing program. Odds are, if you have some experience with digital drawing, you know them already. I have to begin this third sketch by making sure my composition fits the dimensions of the page. I want the map to feel flat, like a map, but I also want to use foreground and background elements like in any illustration project. I'm going to use the background and foreground to frame the information. I love when maps can guide the eye using subtle changes in the landscaping. I'm going to try that using layers of trees in the foreground and background. My map is land heavy, so there isn't much water, just a small pond on the property and narrow streams springing from a giant beaver dam in the lower part of the map. In other illustration projects, I'd plan out all my elements before I start to ink. But I actually think a map design benefits from committing to basic landforms and letting the landmarks and structures squeeze in around them. I'm working with a rough texture pen tool right now. It's not my usual style, but I'm going to give it a shot and see if it's a good fit for this map project. I want my outlines to be clear from a distance, but also, have some up-close details worthy of investigation. You're going to have to excuse me if I'm doing some zooming in and zooming out while I ink. Horizontal hatching is a pretty common way to texture a medieval style map. Horizontal lines are common in general, so it's also a way to represent the environment without being too distracting to the eye. Every map is going to have different types of landscape elements, so don't forget to check out my reference materials for some examples of waterways and landforms that you're not seeing in my composition. Once I've established the boundaries of land and water, I'm going to block out spaces for the roads and more importantly right now, the forests or tree clusters. Using guidelines to plan a forest or tree cluster is super helpful. You'll notice I switched to a smoother brush tool, the rough inking tool wasn't really working for me. Right now, I'm inking each tree type and every other environmental element on a separate layer so it's easy to go back to previous layers and erase guidelines when I start to create overlapping regions. When it comes to tree clusters, you want to use the outer edge of the guideline to create your first row of trees. Then you start to build them up behind that main row. Once I've inked my cluster, I'm going to start to black out certain trees to give more of a sense of depth and to keep the cluster from feeling too busy. Like I said in the planning stage, it's more about trees than it is the forest. Let's talk about the types of trees I'm using. This side of the hill is covered specifically in Sumac trees. A Sumac is a flowering tree common in Upstate New York. They have really shallow roots and on our property, they grew like weeds. Sumacs were constantly encroaching on the edges of our property if we left it unmowed for a couple of weeks. The branches are thin and gangly and their leaves grow in bunches. They have these little fuzzy fruits that sprout in grape-like clusters. Knowing this location as well as I do, you'll see that my tree types help define the parts of the land they grow on. I recommend varying your tree types as you move across your map design as well. Now, let's jump to the other side of the hill and create some evergreens. Spend a minute or two determining the look of your tree type. You'll be drawing a lot of them so every bit of detail you add, exponentially increases your workload. A pine tree is basically three stacked triangles with a bit of vertical hatching to show the pines. Then I just add a bit of shading to distinguish the forums and evoke a sense of depth. The ones in the distance and layered behind can basically just be triangles poking up. Then I erase the hill where the trees overlap it. Again, avoid extensive overlapping in your map, otherwise your design gets too cluttered. The property I grew up on had two giant maple trees, kind of like big sentinels in the front yard, that basically cast that whole yard in shade. These trees had been planted intentionally in these locations long before my family owned the house. They were very separate from the surrounding clusters of small pines and Sumacs. To distinguish them, I'm giving them some personality. They get a little bit more detail and I'm even going to drop in the swing that I mentioned in my planning notes. The rough line art of the waterways doesn't match my tree design, so I'm going to go back and re-ink those with the smoother ink tool I'm using now. You'll notice here that my inking style changes a bit with my tool selection. Don't be afraid to play with different inking tools and see how they inspire your line art. 16. Project: Roads and Landscapes: The land in front of the house leads down into a low valley. This is a marshy area with tall willow-like trees. They're not the droopy willows that you see in Southern American States. But they do have those angled trunks as if they're leaning over the water, and these little half asterix represents swamp land. It's actually my favorite map symbol. Now I want to establish my roadways before I go any further. The house faces west and the main road was a dirt road that goes from north to south, and this is the driveway up to the house. I want the roads to separate the regions of the land, so I'm cheating the reality of the location a bit as I curve them up around the edges of the map. This map design is starting to reveal itself as two halves. There's the hill and the valley separated by the dirt road. So to make the valley more interesting, I need to break up that space with more distinguishing sections of landscape. To the south, there was a pair of tree lines with a tractor road that lead down to the beaver pond, and in one of the lower trees I remember was a hunting stand for deer hunters that always freaked me out a bit. To the west was a similar tree line with a hunting stand. But I never really explored this area, so the details are foggy. Between these two rows of trees was a giant open field of farmland. It was mostly used for grains, if I member, but I'm going to draw it as a freshly plowed field just to distinguish the space from the trees. This field is actually a good opportunity to create a new symbol. I'm going to represent the plow field as a mound in three tiers, or two tiers with a seed at the bottom. I draw a few of the symbols along the horizontal grid, then I start to clone them in rows. When it comes to a pattern like this, I draw it just enough so the cloned rows can look hand-drawn, but you can easily find the pattern within it. The symbol is inspired by the alchemy symbols I was referencing earlier, and it's a simple enough form to be appropriate for an ancient agricultural tradition. Plus, it looks pretty and doesn't distract from the details and the property above and to the sides. I really like the cloud forms in one of my reference maps, and I'm going to use that idea to fill the empty space around my map design. I like fantasy maps that personify the weather, like when you see the little faces blowing gusts of wind or gods standing in the clouds. So this is an opportunity to use the rain clouds and lightening as watchful figures over my little utopia. These trees are smaller maples. They're like the lesser cousins of the two big ones in the front yard. For the tractor road, I'm going to use this sketchy guideline to create a trench-like path. It's basically a road with a more ragged outline and some curved hatch marks along one side to represent the scooped out earth. At this point, I've made all of the crucial decisions about the landscape, and now it's just a matter of filling in the blanks. The best thing about map design is you can make it as simple or as busy as you want. I like to have an opportunity to hide details amongst intricate patterns of landscape in the trees. So I'm filling in all the open spaces with environmental symbols. When I go to create the landmarks later in the next chapter, I'll deal with it like a real life landscaper. I clear out some brush and place them where they need to go. The dirt of the road is a random assortment of small dashes and little gravelly shaped circles. Some of us are good at drawing randomized patterns. But if you're not, here's a little tip. You can sketch out a jagged line first, then place the gravelly details or whatever your main pattern is along that. Then go back and fill in the blanks. This will give you a sense of randomization without having to think too hard about the planning of it. The last part of my landscaping is the detail of the clouds. I'm going to give them some heavy tattoo-like hatching so they feel almost ornamental, more than realistic. You could imagine some gods sitting up amongst these clouds. Now that we've detailed the clouds, the forests, the waterways, and the landscape, we can start adding civilized structures. 17. Project: Structures and Landmarks: Back in one of the early lessons, I talked about map designs. Two favorite branches of language, the ideogram and the pictogram. I want my map to have a balance of both. When creating map symbols and illustrations, I find it easier to generate pictograms, because they're representative so I always start with them. Symbols like the trees and other environmental elements, but as I'm working, I look out for opportunities to abstract a symbol, to create an ideogram. We'll start building structures on the hilltop using some of the domestic elements of my little utopia. I'm going to start by drawing my house. My symbol design is inspired by the flat end, and simple geometries of this kingdom map, where you're only seeing one or at most two sides of a structure. I start with a simple rectangle to represent the main structure of the building, and about a quarter of the way in, I divide the space so I can show two sides of the building, then I continue to divide and add using simple geometric forms. I stop when I've represented the essence of the house. In this case, it's a stone foundation with two gables for windows and a chimney. Any more details would muddy the design. Most of the main structures I'm going to show will have two sides. For example, this well shows the front and the top, and this chicken coop shows the front and the side. I've got plenty of extra space to add more structures and landmarks. A few notable things from my childhood included this teepee stack of dead branches that we kept on the lesser part of our yard. Big rocks lined the road side, and I'm going to add the mailbox. The space in the front yard seems like the perfect spot to fit one of those Adirondack style chairs. I'm going to line the back border of the hillside with the bird houses that I mentioned in my early planning notes. Now, let's get to the Cadillac. This old car was parked in the backyard to my embarrassment, for my whole childhood and all through my teen years. It was like the family's covered wagon. When I was four-years-old, we packed it up with all our belongings and left Florida for the last time, moving to northern New York. Because of what it represents, the Cadillac design gets a little extra attention. We can see three sides of the vehicle, and it gets a special placement here at the top of the hill on the map. Each map symbol has its own design challenge, and I've included a few examples in the reference section. As you find yourself creating your own, make sure you sketch them a few times before committing to the design. I draw a lot of map-like symbols, so the process is built into my brain already, and it comes naturally. With time, you'll find it easier too. Now that I've got the main landmarks of the property, I'm going to move into the more obscure symbols, the things that make the map mysterious and fantastic. It begins with this special gravestone dedicated to my first family cat named Venus. Now, this is supposed to be a fantasy map. This little grave site is the first step towards exploring the other side of this map's reality. We talked a little about fantastic elements of a map, and how they're rooted in point of view. So let's start to flavor these symbols with the imagination of little kid, Ira. From the top of the hill, I could look out of the front window and see a low fog hanging over the marshy land, of this wooded valley below. The area was filled with wildlife, so through the year, I'd see different shapes moving around in the trees, and hear different animals calling out. This whole area had a air of enchantment about it. So instead of a beaver dam blocking the pond, let's make it a medieval beaver castle, and maybe the source of all this lowland fog is from the cauldron of a Shakespearean witch. As a little cute medieval map joke, let's add a sea monster in the stream. Now, I want to evoke some of the magic spirits that I imagined dashing around this stream at night. So I'm going to draw some little ghostly demons. Their heads are actually shaped like the astrological symbol for mercury, to connect them with the night sky mythology, and a little reference to the naming of my cat Venus. I'll draw some silhouettes of antler deer in the field just to connect us with reality. As a little boundary marker to represent the world of this valley, I'm going to use the symbol for Pluto. It's a spiritual symbol for the underworld, and the outer realms of the cycle of life. You don't have to stray too far into the supernatural to create a fantasy world. Above the house, I'll put symbols for the wild coydogs that I used to hear at night. They always seemed a little fantastic. Now, we didn't have any magic castle ruins around our property, but we did have the ruins of old farm houses. Unfortunately, we also had a lot of townsfolk drive through our rural area and throw their trash, so I wouldn't want to leave that off the map. In this little pond I'm going to put the submarine called the Nautilus from 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, which was one of my favorite movies as a kid. Let's add a little bit of Zeus style lightning, a few stray cats and some of the bats that lived in our attic. One of the best parts of exploring these old farmland as a kid, was finding rusty farm equipment scattered around and imagining that it was the skeletons of giant robots. Now that you know a bit of the back story around the symbols, I'm going to zip through and ink all of them on their own layer using purple, just to distinguish them from the black outline of the environment. I'm using silhouettes on most of the animal symbols, to differentiate them from some of the more fantastic and unique items. Now I'm going to go through and erase all the background details that are creating tension or distracting from some of these symbols. Now we've got the makings of a fantasy map. 18. Project: Legend and Color: The frame where you keep the title and other information about the map is called the legend. My legend is inspired by Pauline Baynes design. It doesn't contain a lot of information about the maps, icons, or story, but it does have some fun visual flair that fits the theme and motifs of the map design. I'm going to start by creating the basic shapes of the legend's box and then mark out where I could potentially put some details. Then I start to decide what the theme of my legend is. As a kid, I was never without pencils, pens, and headphones, and I want to include all of those elements in my legend design. Aside from the title, which I'll add after I color my map, I want to represent the map scale. Instead of kilometers or miles, I'm going to use acres. Since the kingdom of my map is represented by the property boundaries of a rural farm based environment, acres seems pretty appropriate. I swapped Miss Baynes thorny, vine motif for the headphone chord and I'm also going to include that all seeing eye, which to me, represents the maps ability to view both the seen and unseen worlds. I don't want to obscure too much of my maps design with the legend. I'm going to put it in the top right corner, sitting amongst the clouds. Now, it's time to move on to color. I want my map to have the textures of the old hand painted maps. I'll start with some basic representative colors seen in most geographical maps, but I also want to bring a mood and illustrate a flair to the design. I really like the way this specific evil octopus map-like illustration uses lighting to give the design a dramatic effect. I'm going to be using some of this shading influence on my map. Plus I want my map to feel fantastic, obviously. That means, I'll need to add more emotive color accents on top of these representative base colors. Now, I'm going to browse some digital brush types. I'm just looking through the basic stock brush sets that come with Clip Studio Paint. They're the same brush types you're going to find in your own paint software. I'm looking for a brush that has a paper like texture to it, but it also allows me to use the pencil pressure to shade my colors, a colored pencil effect. The basic watercolor and acrylic brushes are too smooth around the edges. So I'm going to choose a round oil brush. It's got a simple texture, as well as some potential for those colored pencil-like shading effects, and I'm going to do my whole map with this brush. Let's jump back to the map design. I'm going to first, add a layer behind my artwork and fill it with an off white color. This gets me in the mood for old timey painting. On top of that, I'll add another layer and this will be for my base paint colors. Using my oil brush, I'm going to start blocking out those base colors of the landscape. Simple greens for grasses and trees, blue for water, brown for the field, and red for the road, and also purple for these clouds. Base colors should exist in larger, unbroken shapes and the detailed symbolic color choices will come later once I get into shading and highlights. Color can be used to give special presence to a location on a map. I'm going to use a yellowish glow from the clouds to highlight Venus The Cat's Grave Site. The light source from this scene is somewhere behind the house, which is technically the east. But I'm going to cheat and imagine this is a sunset scene. That's a more evocative time of day. I'm going to add shading around the outer reaches of the hill and valley, keeping the brighter energy centered around the main house. I've always been a fan of purple and I'm going to use it as a symbolic color in my map. The darker purple in the clouds sets the mood, but I'm going to use a lighter purple in my Pluto symbol and my valley fog to give a supernatural sense to this area. I think this map has a nice balance of cool, woodland elements and warm, wood-ish dirt colored accents, and a bit of dark bluish green is really helping these trees fade into the background of the design a little bit. Now, let's start to create some contrast. I'm going to zoom in on the sumac tree and color the bright red sumac berries. To color line art in any drawing program, you just need to turn on alpha lock in your layers. It should be an option in one of those layer menus. If you can't find it, just Google alpha lock in Photoshop, or Procreate, or whatever program you're working in. At this point, coloring is a way to differentiate objects from each other. The red of the berries, the yellow of the Adirondack chair, the coppery orange of the submarine. While I'm usually a fan of limiting a color palette in an illustration project, it can be really fun to cut loose with a map and use the whole color wheel. I've pretty much run out of things to color at this point, but I want to do one last bit of accenting with color. I'm going to switch to my inking tool, the one I used for all my learn art and select a rich bright, red color, and I'm going to go through and accent a few select objects, the circle of the Pluto symbol, the mercurial ghosts of the valley, the eyes of the coydogs, the headlights of the car, the aura of the cats, and the upper bedroom window of the house. Meaningful color patterns are common in all types of ancient maps, and it's often the case that we'll never really know the true meaning of those color choices. This color of red is my little maps secret. Now, that we've created some sense of mystery with our color, let's decide what we want to reveal to the viewer with our typography and lettering. 19. Project: Compass and Type: Let's start this chapter by giving this map of proper title as a tribute to Pauline Baynes lettering and naming convention. I'm going to title my project a map of the hill. I sketch out the letters using clean, simple letter forms just to establish the spacing of the type. I'll add the flare once I have the text in place, I looked at her lettering to find its distinct characteristics. I usually start by picking a vowel, which is easy in this case, because both are titles start with the letter a. The terminals or the endpoints ever letters are a mix of serif and sans serif. Serif just means a letter with a little hook on the end of the terminal and sans serif means a terminal with no hook. Her letters also remind me of sword and blade shapes. As I go through with my inking, I'll keep that in mind and just so I don't make an exact copy of her work, I'm going to slant the stem of some of my letters. This gives it a less formal field than the original type. There we go, it's as simple as that. Let's jump from the lettering to do the compass rose. I don't think a ornate compass rose is going to really be a good fit for this map design. So that's why I'm referencing the symbol language of that famed occultist, Aleister Crowley. His lesser key symbols often have a trident or a pitchfork like element in them, as well as little black triangles. Those are the trademarks of his symbol forms, I'm going to use those as my reference, in my compass rose. A basic compass rose starts with a circle and an inner circle to create a ring. I'm going to mark my ring with the cardinal directions of North, South, East, and West and then I start to divide up the space first by quarters and then into smaller segments. I'm basically building a structure on which to put my final design elements on. I'm not going to use color in my compass, to create contrast, I'm filling in a few of the shapes I've created. There we go and nice simple compass rose and I'm going to find a spot for it on my map. Perfect fit is right next to these lightning bolts on the left. I'm going to set it against a black background and fill it with the off-white color that I used on the maps, original fill layer, and the same color that's the background in my map legend on the other side. Next I'm going to get into the labeling of this map, given that the kingdom of my map is a very personal space, I'm going to use the letter in style and naming devices of Stephen Walters, map of the London river. His wording feels like inside references instead of official terminology, which is a good fit for my design. He talks in folk legend and local terminology. The names on his map feel like they are given to him, probably only known by the people who actually live there in those spaces and the visual style of his lettering has a vague connection to the Gothic topography of the Middle Ages. But clearly it's not a true Gothic type, it's more of a blockish handwritten font created by someone who isn't well-versed in calligraphy. It's basically hand lettering with little serifs and some hard angles. Now I want my lettering to feel a little off the cuff, just like this. Almost like it's snuck its way into the design after the artist completed the map, I'm drawing all my type and lettering on its own layer, and I'm using the same inking tool I did for my lineart, just to create some visual unity. I'm also going to add a backdrop to the text on its own layer, I'm not sure if this is going to stay in the final design, but let's experiment a bit. The names and labels on this map are what fantasy artists would call flavor text. Flavor text is an element of world-building that can be used to bring character to a project and expand the world of the story. Flavor text doesn't really have any crucial impact on the workings of the overall narrative or functionality of a project. It's just the icing or not even the icing, it's the candles on the cake. This approach to labeling is a great way to show off the maps point of view. I'm imagining myself as the little kid growing up in this house, sitting in my room reading fantasy books, watching old adventure movies, listening to music and drawing constantly. So all my labeling and flavor text has a fantasy flare. WoodWall is a direct reference to that popular middle grade book series, Redwall. The series with the mice with the tiny swords. Nemo pond is named after the captain of the Nautilus. Here is played by James Mason in that old Disney film, probably my favorite adaptation of that story. My dad always called our house Vic's. V-I-C'S, which was the name he gave to one of the bats that lived in our attic, so that's a nice little inside reference I can fit into my design and I'll call this unknown region far land. Fantasy stories are always set in far off places. Now let's ditch those little frames behind the text and find a way to integrate the text right into the design of the map. I'm going to clear out some little map elements to give the text a bit of room to breathe and now, let's add a few more labels to the map. California pop-punk album art was a big influence on me growing up. It's a mix of trashy street punk in Saturday morning cartoons. I'm going to name the corner of the map with the cartoony trash bags, trash raw as attribute to that pop hunk influence. Last but not least, I'm going to label my cat's grave site using epitaphs like phrasing. I'm going to zoom out and look at my whole design and the final step here is to make the text fits seamlessly into the map. I'm going to set the alpha lock on my type layer and then I'm going to go through and change the lettering color to match the region, it's setting, I've completed the map itself. Now it's time to summon the simulacrum and make this thing look like a real fantasy world artifact. 20. Project: Frame and Texture: To make a map feel like an artifact, it needs a frame around its border. First, I export my clean map design as a JPEG, or PNG, or whatever format you want. Then I open a new file set to the same dimensions as the original map file, 1920 by 1080 at 300 pixels per inch. I import my map graphic as a new layer, and scale it down just a bit so I have some room to create my border. Now my border is going to have a texture around the outer edge. If I don't give myself this extra space, the edge of the map is going to be too crisp. From here, I create a new layer for my frame. The folksy nature of this map calls for a simple frame design. I'm thinking two parallel lines, with some color in the middle is going to do the trick. To give my frame a bit of texture, I'm going to draw with a pencil tool, set to a width that's about twice the size as the width of the maps line art. You're drawing software will allow you to create straight, horizontal, and vertical lines like this. In Photoshop, you can hold the "Shift key" and drag a straight line. In Procreate you can make a straight line by free-hand drawing a line, and then holding it on the screen until the line snaps into place. For the secondary line I'm going to scale down my line width, and create another straight line with just a little space for the color. Once the four borders are in place, I'm going to merge them all together into a single layer. I want my frame to be black, so I'm going to set the alpha lock, and fill it in black. If I have any gaps in the line, I just fill them in by hand. By touching up the line, especially the corners by hand, I'm already on my way to creating that worn-out paper look. I don't want my map corners to feel balanced and symmetrical. To add color to the frame, I create a new layer below the frame layer and start to paint it in with a color. I'm doing this by hand again, and I'm using a color that matches one of my darker colors from the map design. In this case, it's the deep red from the dirt road. Now I'm going to set the alpha lock to my frame color layer, and darken the corners just to give it a little bit of a design within the color, and make it feel hand painted. Next, I shift my map graphic around until I'm happy with its placement below the frame. The overall goal here is to create an object that appears to be scanned into the computer, not created by it. In my next step, I want to give the surface of this map some texture, and make it look like it's been out in the world. For this class project I've created a very simple formula for map texture and edging. It's simple enough where you can use all these elements, some of them, or create a formula of your own based on it. I'll be making four layers. A layer of white creases, a layer of dark specks, a layer of white specks, and a dirt layer. I'll show the settings on the screen, as we go so you can keep track of what I'm doing in my layer settings. I start with the dirt layer. The goal of this layer is to make the colors of the map look uneven, and burnt, or washed out. I create a new layer on top of the map and below the frame, and I select a soft airbrush, and I grab the map's darkest color. In this case, I'm using the deep red again. I keep the dirt mostly focused around the edges of the map. I cover some of the secondary elements of the design, which in turn highlights the main elements. I try not to obscure any of these main features, such as the house, or the map legend. Once I've finished painting some dirt, I set this layer to about 80 percent, just enough to blend the color into the artwork. Next, I'll do the white crease layer. The goal of this layer is to make the map look used, like it's been stuffed in a drawer for years, or folded up and put in a back pocket. I create a new layer on top of the dirt, and select the color white, and a brush tool with a textured edge and a strong pointy tip for details. I'm just going to use the same oil brush I did with my coloring. Then, I just start playing. All of the effect layers should be subtle enough to disappear into the overall image. Take your time drawing, and experimenting, and then going back and erasing textures that just seem like they're a little too exaggerated. I've changed the layer style of my crease layer from normal, to overlay. This is an option in any digital painting program. Just check your layer settings. I like overlay because it lets the colors below show through the color and painting. I'm finding that I'm getting the best creases by lightly pressing my pen, and dragging it all the way across the image. Then going back with a large soft eraser, and reducing the intensity of the white in certain places. Dark and light speck layers are going to be tricky to see in the video. But at the end, when we compare the two versions of the map, you'll see the difference they make. My speckle brush tool is designed for texture overlays. It's making pixel sized dots across my image with a random scattering. With the speckle brush, I recommend using a color from your map palette to create the dots, don't use black it'll jump out too much. I'm using the deep red again. The lighter dots are going to be the lightest color that appears on the map. In this case, it's the off-white, or possibly the light yellow. Once I have my light and dark specks, I want to blend them with the map art, just like I did the crease layer. I set both speck layers to overlay, and change the opacity to around 35 percent. I want them to feel like texture within the color and paper, not sitting on top. When you compare the clean map to the edged worn-out map, you can see that edging effects really add a nice warmth to the design and give the map some new character. But of course, I still recommend saving the clean version separate of the edged version. You never know when you want to go back to that original design, and do something new with it. Well, it's been a long journey, but we've finally reached the end of my fantasy map class. That means it's time to wrap it up. 21. Wrap It Up: Thanks for sticking with me to the very, very end. I hope you enjoyed this class as much as I enjoyed making it and if you've got an extra second, please take the time to review my class, it helps other students discover it, and if you get inspired to create something, of course, please share it in the class project section. I love stopping by there every day and seeing what students have created and sharing a little feedback and talk and shop if you want to or about inspiration, whatever comes to mind. If you're a fan of narrative art, illustration, and cartooning, please come check out my skill share channel. I've got a great compliment to the map course called Monsters and Imagination. It's a lesson on medieval sea monster design and creating characters with a unique backstory. For more world-building ideas, try my class, Concept Art, drawing imaginary worlds. If you're an illustrator looking to level up your art and style, checkout Illustration by design. A really unique class inspired by the graphic artists of the Art Nouveau movement. I've also got a beginner series on drawing more expressive cartoon characters and developing cartoonish body language. I've got a course on cartoon color theory as well as a whole lot more of their stuff. That's all for now. I hope to see you soon, catch you later.