Map process: Amira and Hamza

Photo pinched from Samira Ahmed. Cover illustrated by Kim Ekdahl and designed by Karina Granda

Very soon I will be posting an interview with Samira Ahmed herself, author of (among other things!) Amira & Hamza: The War to Save the Worlds, and with Karina Granda, the wonderful art director. But first: the process behind this slightly unusual map.

You see, this was not a map of a small part of a world, or even just of one world. The adventures of Amira and Hamza take them not only from Chicago to the Himalayas, but then through many, many interconnected tiny worlds (tilisms), joined to each other by somewhat-metaphysical, but physically navigable, coils. And I had to fit this all on the usual double-page space allowed for a more traditional map.

I started by sketching through the book, drawing notes to myself of descriptions, geographies, references, creatures, beings, and dumpsters, and noting key descriptions, and testing out how to create certain effects (e.g. buildings of gold) when the final drawing would be in black lines.

But as I drew, I puzzled about the shape of the world — whether to draw the tilisms floating in space (but then what about Chicago?), or as a chart? Or a board game?

It was interesting to have to think about the purpose of a map like this. Not for traditional navigation, to be sure, but to create a physical representation of something that shouldn’t be possible, and to give a sense not only of the place(s) in which a story happens, and the beings you might meet along the way, but also the feeling of it: busy and ornate, full of life and wonder and danger and good advice. (Some previous thoughts on maps.)

However, as the book begins with a visit to an astronomy exhibition, and involves some significant lunar events, I started digging into beautiful old charts of the stars and planets (here are a few sketches), and that’s where I found the answer.

Down at the bottom is the tiniest drawing of a figure as a game piece — that was for one of the board-game approaches.

I suggested using an astrolabe as the base for the map’s design: the slightly offset rings could represent the different worlds, with clear boundaries between them, and plenty of room for decoration and the potential for movement. And the curving, vine-like overlays of an astrolabe would be a perfect guide for the coils connecting the worlds. (Also, I enjoy industrial fabulism.)

Here’s just one of the examples:

Mamluk-era astrolabe, 1282, Photo: Mustafa-trit20 CC CC BY-SA 4.0

So I sketched the layout accordingly, taking a rectangular slice of a hypothetical astrolabe. This created the rather rare situation of making it pretty clear where on the page just about everything needed to go. I did not have to consider, for example, the likely paths of watercourses, or the change in types of trees over an area, or puzzle out the relative distances alluded to in the novel.

And it was a lot of fun dealing with miniature geographies — both those requiring plausibly-deniable accuracy and those heavily invented (but still guided by existing imagery). I’ve written before about the appeal of miniature groves, and that fascination fed into the map, too.

Once this concept had been approved by all concerned (art director, author, editor), I then drew an arrangement of circles on the computer to use as guidelines.

I make no secret that I don’t do straight lines or accurate geometries in my art. But I’ll sometimes rule lines up to function as a template around which I can work. These usually are softened and obscured by layers of sketches and changes, and I don’t mind if my own drawings are inaccurate, but at least the suggestion of a nod in the direction of plausibility lingers.

Using those lines and the sketch as a a base, I then developed the more detailed pencils for the map. You can just see the greyed-out circle guidelines.

I hand-lettered the place names in my own loopy writing on a separate piece of paper. But this quick placement of lettering makes sure that I (a) allow enough room for the words and (b) don’t put important details in places that will be hidden by labels. (I drew the lettering and scrolls separately so that the publisher can easily move them around / edit text / translate it.)

The grey band down the centre of the page above is to stop me putting important details where they could vanish into the spine.

Then I scan the pencil sketch in again, darken it, print it out, put it under nice drawing paper (Canson illustration 250) on the light box, and start inking.

I used a dip pen and Winsor & Newton black ink.

Once I can trick myself into starting, I love this stage: turning those aspirational little pencil scribbles into final ink drawings, with shadows and movement and personality.

Playing with hatching and texture.

Filling the space between the stars.

Drawing the tiniest dumpsters.

Then I scan and clean the linework, layer in the text, and send it to Karina:

I will post the interviews soon. In the meantime, Amira & Hamza: The War to Save the Worlds has been published and is available through all good bookstores!

A few older map posts:

Note: If you’d like to support art and writing and posts like this about it, I have a Patreon account (patreon.com/tanaudel) and patrons there get behind-the-scenes process and sneak-peeks, starting from US$1, or you could buy me a (virtual) coffee at ko-fi.com/tanaudel (and I get through quite a bit of coffee).And/or check out prints and products available at Redbubble and Spoonflower.

July 2021 calendar — Houses

Note: This calendar is supported by patrons, who get it a little bit early, along with other sneak-peeks and behind-the-scenes art: patreon.com/tanaudel, and also by those very kind people who throw a few dollars towards it via the tip jar: ko-fi.com/tanaudel

I knew I’d be running late on this one (due to some project deadlines), and I also knew this was NOT the fastest design I had in mind, but OH WELL. I’ve been wanting to draw a pattern of houses for ages and it was a very pleasing design to work on. And I was able to put some Queenslander houses into it, and a few hints of stories.

That, for me, is one of the charms of book maps — not “here is the place where this story takes place”, or even “here is this sort of place…”, but “here are the sorts of stories that might happen in a book like this.”

And that applies just as well to a town as to other maps.

It is also up as a print and repeating pattern on Redbubble if you are in need of (for example), prints, phone cases, notebooks or dresses (or a jigsaw puzzle). It’s up in both colour and as a line drawing (if you prefer monochrome, or would like to colour in your own clothes). Edit: And it’s up on Spoonflower as fabric and wallpaper in line and colour

And here (for personal use) are the printable versions — one pre-coloured and one to colour in yourself. If you like them and/or like supporting the arts, you can contribute to the calendar (and get it and other behind-the-scenes things early) at patreon.com/tanaudel (starts at US$1/month!) or by buying me a coffee or two through Ko-Fihttps://ko-fi.com/tanaudel.

Lost in Submissionland?

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In preparation for Nanowrimo, the ebook of The Writer’s Book of Doubt is on sale for US $4.99. If you haven’t got a copy, now’s the time to get one — with illustrations by me! (And if you are at the World Fantasy Convention in LA this weekend, the original map art will be at the art show).

Amazon: The Writer’s Book of Doubt

Books 2 Read: 

Gumroad: 

Note re links: I’m experimenting with affiliate links, which means I might get paid a small commission if someone buys something after clicking a link on my site. This is early days, so I’m really just testing out the program links at this point!

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The Wicked King – map!

MapInBook

Holly Black’s The Wicked King, the follow-up to The Cruel Prince, is now well and truly out. Finally. I’ve been sitting on the plot of this book for a year and am delighted at seeing everyone else’s reactions to it now.

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I did not do the cover — that is by artist Sean Freeman and senior designer Karina Granda, and they have a post about it here: Evolution of a Cover.

I, however, did draw the internal ornaments, and… updated the map.

InternalOrnament

The map begins from the same place as my map for The Cruel Prince, with certain shifts and adjustments for the direction this book takes.

WickedKingForWeb

Below is one of my favourite changed details. Before:

MapBefore

And after:

MapAfter

I’m gradually expanding the published maps category over on my portfolio. Stay tuned!

Map Makers Workshop!

I’m giving a map workshop at Where the Wild Things Are bookstore in Brisbane on 3 October.  This is an illustration workshop (I am not a cartographer!) about making maps of and for stories. Details and tickets are available from the bookstore’s website: Mapmakers Workshop with Kathleen Jennings.

It’s a school holiday workshop for ages 10+, but adults are welcome!

(If you’re a little bit further north, I’m giving Marvellous Bird and Narrative Imagery workshops in Hervey Bay and Maryborough on 22 & 23 September).

The Cruel Prince – ornaments!

Guess what! I’ve ornamented Holly Black’s newest book, The Cruel Prince which comes out next year (and is available for preorder now – if you are in the US and enter your preorder details at http://thenovl.com/cruelprince by 11:59 PM (ET) on 1 January, there are freebies).

I did not do the cover, but I did draw the map, chapter decorations and incidental ornaments.

The picture below links to a short Instagram video of a few pages, including the map.

I’ll post more as the book comes out, but I was so excited to work on this – the map especially.

Book cover: Telling the Map


Telling the Map - cover

I’m delighted to show you my cover for Christopher Rowe‘s collection Telling the Map, now available for pre-order from Small Beer Press. Wonderful strange stories of post-singularity hope and cycling, with one of my favourite gentle story endings. I can’t wait for you all to read it so that I can finally talk about it!

Here are some of the early thumbnail sketches. The art direction was for a map with vignette illustrations inset. Fitting the relevant geography around the necessary images and text was a spatial challenge, as I couldn’t purely invent it but did need to make it serve the design.

Telling the Map - thumbnails

I’d previously illustrated the first story in the collection, “The Contrary Gardener”, for Jonathan Strahan back in 2013(!), and it was such a pleasure to come back to this world.
"The Contrary Gardener"

I’m very much enjoying working on illustrated maps. Stay tuned for another coming up soon! (Or join us on Patreon to see these projects in progress and get early reveals).