Creating New Worlds One Map at A Time
I’m honored to introduce Tad Davis, the creator of the map for the upcoming book Blood Branded. He’s
put up with my incessant questions taken time to allow us a peek into how he works his magic to create beautiful images and maps. So, without further ado:
Alexsoo: When did you get into cartography and what inspired it?
Tad: I drew my first map at age 12 after picking up my copy of the Palladium RPG. But I believe what first grabbed my attention was the world map inside the cover of Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series. For years afterwards I would often find myself browsing the isles of my local book store peeking at the inside cover of fantasy novels. However my own map-making skills were fairly rudimentary until I discovered the Cartographer’s Guild – an online forum for map enthusiasts – in my early thirties. There I was inspired by fellow map makers to refine my craft.
Alexsoo: Was it always something you wanted to do or was it a journey of discovery, or a side project?
I’ve always enjoyed drawing and creating art
but it’s only been in the last few years that I’ve considered pursuing map illustration as a career. Throughout my graduate and post-graduate studies I was crafting maps as a creative outlet for my homebrew RPG setting. One thing led to another and soon I found myself taking on more and more commissions. Once it became clear that professional academics was no longer the career path I wished to pursue, I decided to redirect my efforts to the hobby that I loved.
Alexsoo: You’ve done both digital and hand-drawn styled maps. Do you like doing one over the other or do they both have their pros and cons?
Tad: I enjoy making both sorts of maps, though in the past year I’ve decided to focus more of my attention of hand drawn maps.
Illustration is really where my heart lies.
Alexsoo: Do you have a type of map you’re most excited to work on? (world map, regional map, town/city map or tactical/structure map?)
Tad: I enjoy them all for different reasons. However, I think fantasy regional and world maps are still my favorite sort of project. I really enjoy imagining new worlds and cultures, and it is very rewarding to be able to work with other storytellers to help bring their visions to life.
Alexsoo: Your illustrations are wonderful. What fueled this talent?
Tad: Thank you! I’ve had a lot of artistic inspirations over the years. Childhood inspirations came from educational TV shows such as Bob Ross and Mark Kistler’s the Draw Squad as well as comic book artists such as Jim Lee, Wilce Portacio and Scott Williams. Today I am routinely inspired by countless other map illustrators, among whom are Misty Bee, Tom Parker, John Stevenson, Rafal Zatwarnicki, Shea Manweiler and Daniel Hasenbos to name but a few.
Alexsoo: What are your most favorite things to illustrate?
Tad: Besides maps, I think people are my favorite subject. When I was a child I used to want to be a comic book illustrator and I still enjoy drawing in the human figure in a sort of graphic novel style.
Alexsoo: Who would be your dream company/person to work with if given the chance?
Tad: Hmm, good question. Well, I’m a big fan of Harry Potter and
if J.K. Rowling ever decides to revisit Hogwarts it would be a dream job to be able to work with her on that project.
Alexsoo: Currently working on anything?
Tad: Yes. I’ve been working on few maps and icons for a startup computer game company off and on for about a year now. The game is still in the early stages of development at the moment. I’ve also been working on a series of maps for a startup tabletop RPG company.
Alexsoo: Is it challenging when balancing family life with commissions/work life?
Tad: It can be at times. My kids are still pretty little (2 and 5) and I stay home and watch them during the day. My wife and I have worked out a schedule that allows us time together for a date night and a midweek show or book reading session while also allowing a few nights a week for illustration.
Alexsoo: As a fan of fantasy, what are your favorite fantasy series and/or genre now and/or growing up? (games, books, movies, etc.)
Tad: Oh man, there are so many! Let’s see, as kid I grew up with films like Star Wars, Willow, Legend, the Labyrinth, The Dark Crystal, the Princess Bride and so on, and these have all remained favorites of mine throughout the years. In terms of books, J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis and Robert Jordan were among the first authors I ever read, and Tolkien remains one of my favorites. Today J.K. Rowling, Ursula Le Guin, Peter S. Beagle, Patrick Rothfuss and Neil Gaiman are among my favorite authors. If I had to pick just one series that enjoyed most it likely be Harry Potter, with Le Guin’s Earthsea series being a close second.
Alexsoo: What’s your favorite fantasy creature?
Alexsoo: If you were a D&D character/class what would you be?
Tad: Halfelf Ranger
Alexsoo: Wonderful! Thank you so much for taking the time out for us Tad. I can’t wait to work with you again and see the marvels you create!
You can follow Tad’s work on Instagram or his website Iconicmaps