BLOG – On maps, and people who are better than me

If you’ve spent much time around this site, two things should be clear. The first is that I like maps. The second is that my level of ability when it comes to drawing them varies wildly from day to day.

I’m not the most artistic of people. I live in constant envy of those who can visualise something and have it appear on the page with seemingly minimal effort. The past year or so has seen me make a conscious effort to draw more often and try to improve – and I am seeing results, although they’re quite slow (the art in Dark Deeds is probably the thing I’m most proud of having created this year).

I thought I’d spend a little time talking about the people whose work in fantasy cartography really inspires me. These are people whose work I am in awe of, and who I aspire to one day be as good as. You should definitely spend some time familiarising yourself with their work if you don’t already know of them. (Click on any of the names that follow to be taken to that artist’s website.)

Dyson’s Dodecahedron

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It’s practically impossible to be interested in map-making for RPGs and to be unaware of Dyson’s work. He created the style that the majority of people drawing maps online – myself included – imitate the most. His maps are beautiful, and I’ve used plenty of them in my games. The most impressive thing about Dyson, though, is his output – this guy has been churning out high quality maps regularly for years now with barely an interruption. One of my goals for my own maps is to move away from imitating Dyson quite so heavily, but developing my own style means becoming much better at this whole art thing – and for now, I’m going to stick with copying the master. If you like Dyson’s work, I highly recommend contributing to his Patreon.

Stephen Joy

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I love Stephen’s work. I get a very strong John Kovalic vibe from his maps, and that’s wonderful. (Some of my fondest D&D-related memories include taking my time reading through Dragon magazine each month as a kid, knowing that there was Dork Tower waiting for me at the back.) He posts daily maps to his site and his Twitter feed, and sells some nice map packs and bundles on his website. I’m particularly fond of the creepy-cute creatures found in many of his maps, and of his colour work (which I’m incredibly envious of).

Kosmic Dungeon

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Kosmic’s maps are heavily inspired by Dyson’s style, but that’s no bad thing. The dungeon layouts are really interesting and unusual, and his modular dungeon layouts are incredible. He aims to post two maps a week, and they’re always great. If you like what you see you can support Kosmic directly at his Tipeee page.

Miska Fredman

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The creator of the Mapvember challenge I’m currently undertaking (though I’m a little late to the game). There are elements of Dyson in these maps, but his style is different (and unique) enough that I always recognise Miska’s maps when they pop up on my feed. The one posted above is a fantastic example of some of the illustrative work that he includes on his maps, which I love. He also does a lot of sci-fi maps, something which I’ve absolutely no experience drawing at all, and I know that if I do try my hand at many I’ll be using a lot of his work as reference.

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