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Tips for Students: Fantasy Mapping

Highlights from Expert Series

The following article shares highlights and insights from one of our Expert Series events, which are exclusive for Young Scholars and their parents.

Fantasy maps are maps of imaginary worlds. Just as maps of the real-world can display geographies that are both big and small, so too can fantasy maps. For example, you might have a fantasy map of a backyard in a children’s story, or a map that explores an entire galaxy in a video game. Fantasy maps are commonly found in books, movies, television shows, video games, role playing games, board games, and more.

One important function of fantasy maps is that they help an imagined place feel real. Providing a location that can be found on a map creates a tangible quality and imparts context. The reader of the map has a new way to engage with the imagined world when a map is present.

Fantasy maps have been around for a long time. This session explored some definitive examples of the most important maps influencing the genre today. These classic fantasy stories are so inextricably tied to the map that when you think of the story you automatically think of the map, and vice versa.

The session also explained why you should create your own fantasy maps. Fantasy maps are not only fun to draw but drawing them is a great entry point for a budding artist or storyteller. This session demonstrated real-time map illustration. The map drawing process was broken down into easy-to-follow steps that can be used when drawing your own map. These steps will serve as a foundation, supporting you on your map-making journey.

Tips for Fantasy Mapping

  1. The great thing about art is its versatility. All you need is something to make a mark and something to mark on. If you want to draw a fantasy map, use whatever art tool feels best. If you are not sure where to begin, start with a pencil and piece of paper.
  2. When drawing a fantasy map, work in an iterative process. Each step should refine the previous one. World build, then sketch, then ink.
  3. Have fun – how often do you get to create your very own world!

Things Students Can Do To Explore Fantasy Mapping Further

Fantasy maps are at the crossroads of cartography and art; therefore, it is useful to study both disciplines. It is important to examine different types of maps, especially those that are old and historic. Then, find examples of actual fantasy maps and see how these instances borrow from cartography. Next, study art. Look at works that you really admire. If unfamiliar with art, seek out how-to books for drawing and painting. A great fantasy map is a great piece of art. The better you are at both cartography and art, the better your fantasy maps will be.

Finally, read the classic novels which have fantasy maps associated with them. Reviewing books such as The Hobbit and Winnie the Pooh will demonstrate how maps are used to familiarize the reader and immerse them in an unfamiliar world.

Books:

Fantasy Mapping: Drawing Worlds by Wesley Jones

Map Collections Online:

David Rumsey Map Collection: https://www.davidrumsey.com/

Library of Congress: https://www.loc.gov/maps/collections/

Authored by: Wes Jones
Bio: Wes Jones is a professional cartographer who creates maps and mapping related illustrations for a company in Redlands, California.

Before moving to California, Wes studied geography and history at the University of Calgary in his hometown of Calgary, Canada. He later specialized in cartography at the Nova Scotia Community College Centre of Geographic Sciences.

Wes has contributed to several books focused on cartography and geography, including the highly acclaimed, “Cartography.” and “The Locators: Adventure in South America”. His passion for storytelling, drawing, comics, and fantasy maps has led to a weekly on-line comic series as well as the writing and illustration of several children’s books.

Currently, Wes is working on a new children’s book and completing a sequel to his bestselling how-to book, “Fantasy Mapping Drawing Worlds”.

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