Creating map illustrations is not as straightforward as it seems. There are many different things to consider, such as the information that would be featured in the map, the symbols that the cartographer would use, the scale, as well as projections.
Cartographers and other professionals in the area agree that map illustrations are no longer limited to traditional maps used before when people started exploring the world. The very definition of cartography and map making has changed throughout the years as well.
The Art of Map Illustration
In the book The Art of Map Illustration: A Step-by-Step Artistic Exploration of Contemporary Cartography and Mapmaking, they featured four artists who were illustrators first, before anything else. Their maps were neither detailed nor accurate. They were rather more reminiscent of pictorial maps—maps representing areas in a more artistic manner, rather than technical.
The book, despite having only 144 pages, shows vivid illustrations of how the artists developed their maps using their own individual styles. The general idea seems to be to present the place with detailed illustrations of areas of interest through digital manipulation and physical drawings.
The artists have different styles and preferences, and this much is shown in the book. While one artist discussed proper pencil sharpening procedures, another focused on the different menus on Photoshop and how it would be used in mapmaking. It wouldn’t give a casual reader very detailed guides on making the map themselves, but rather, inspire them to make their own, following their own styles.
How’s More Than Why’s
Another interesting thing about it is how the artists focused on the hows of their process rather than the whys. There was no discussion on why a certain artist chose this way of doing it and more of how they did it. Others would say that it is more of a description of the process, rather than a self-reflection of the artists. However, since the focus of the book was on the different ways of making a map, seeing how, more than understanding why, may be a more achievable and understandable goal for a book with less than 150 pages.