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Finding Your Illustrative Style: 5 Illustrated Maps to look at for inspiration

Five beautiful illustrated maps to help you find your map drawing style.


A black and white map of Deception Island for Momenticon by Andrew Caldecott
Deception Island by Nicola Howell Hawley - inspired by some of the maps below!

One of the things I found most useful when finding my map drawing style, was to look at other maps for inspiration. Most of my drawing style is pulled from historical maps, because I love to add historical elements into my work. However, I also love to combine this with the contemporary, and there are more than a few artists whose work I have drawn from over the years. Here's a list of five maps, which you should definitely look at for inspiration.


One of my favourite historical maps to date, a copy of it hangs over the computer I'm currently typing at. The Carta Marina was drawn in 1539 by Olaus Magnus and is a map of Scandinavia. It is highly detailed, wonderfully inaccurate and absolutely full of crazy mythical beasts. It is beyond cool.

A historical map of Scandinavia depicts fantastic sea creatures, tiny details and a totally inaccurate costline
The Carta Marina, drawn in 1539 by Olaus Magnus


There are so many maps I could show you by Helen Cann, and every one is hand drawn and stunning. But this one, this is the one that first drew me to her work: the map of the London underground. Combining contemporary subjects with traditional techniques, it is the perfect blend of contemporary and vintage.

A map of the London Underground, featuring bright botanica and London landmarks against and indigo background.
The London Underground, a map by Helen Cann


The map for the book Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson was drawn by Stevenson himself and is one of the most iconic examples of fantasy mapmaking. Show me a mapmaker who has not drawn inspiration from this map, and I'll show you a pig flying through snow in August. I love the little dots and dashes marking the beach, the little tree shapes, the hugely ornate scale, and the beautiful looping handwriting. Perfect.

A map of Treasure Island features an ornate scale with two mermaids and fish all around, the island itself with little boats, and Robert Louis Stevensons annotations
Treasure Island Map by Robert Louis Stevenson


I came across Púca Printhouse very recently while searching for mythical maps, and I'm so glad I did. Highly contemporary and graphic, Púca Printhouse specialises in mapping ancient folklore, myth and social history. One of my favourites is this castles of the British Isles map, which is so perfectly balanced it makes me want to re-do every map I've ever made.

A colourful map of the UK which features little detailed drawings of many of the castles in the UK.
A map of the castles of the UK, by Púca Printhouse


MacDonald Gill was born in 1884, and created some of the most stunning, complex, large maps you will ever hope to see. I saw an exhibition of his work in Ditchling, and I could not stop looking. I don't think you'd ever notice every detail he includes, but I highly recommend you try.

An extremely detailed map of London that shows stations and bus routes and hundreds of little buildings. It is bordered in bright yellow, and the border reads 'The heart of Britain's Empire, here is spread out for your view, It shows you many stations and bus routes not a few. You have not the time to admire it all? Why not take a map home, to pin on your wall'
A map of Londons stations and bus routes by MacDonald (Max) Gill

So there we have it: five maps and artists to take a look at when attempting to find your map drawing style: Olaus Magnus, Helen Cann, Robert Louis Stevenson, Púca Printhouse and Max Gill.

If you want to create your own map, why not follow my series detailing how to draw your own? Starting with this introductory blog, here.

As always, thanks for reading!


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