How to Make Hand-Drawn Maps
by Helen Cann



Chronicle Books, 2018. ISBN 978-1-452-16991-0.
Reviewed by Mary Ann Moore
Posted on 01/23/2019

Nonfiction: Creative Life; Nonfiction: Arts/Crafts

I have a fascination for maps so was excited to read Helen Cann's book: How to Make Hand-Drawn Maps. As Cann says: "Hand-drawn maps are a perfect means of providing directions, remembering your travels, or simply expressing yourself." And she has created some amazing ones!

To become a mapmaker, Cann says, you need to know how to create compass roses, cartouches, and symbols. She begins the book with these basic tools and gives detailed instructions for creating them.

A compass rose helps a map user orient themselves so they can navigate from any point. They show the four cardinal directions of north, south, east and west. Cann provides instructions for drawing a basic compass rose as well as some directions for hand-lettering.

"Cartouches are the often decorative panels that you see on many traditional maps, informing the viewer of the map's location, the name of its creator, and the date it was drawn," Cann says. Her example is a crown used to represent Queens in New York City. There are cartouche templates in the back of the book for readers to create their own.

All of Cann's maps are beautifully illustrated and in full color. There are also guest illustrators included in the book such as Tilly, an illustrator based in Brighton, England. Her map example is of La Paz in Bolivia, in vivid red, yellow and green.

Text maps are a type of map that describe the features of a place using words and symbols and axonometric maps are maps drawn in 3-D. They're useful for showing a broad sweep of a landscape from above, as Cann points out. Paper is included in the templates section of the book for readers to try their hand at an axonometric map. There's also graph paper for drawing an architectural map for the plan of a building.

Ribbon maps "are a way of mapping the path of a journey while leaving out any surrounding areas or extraneous information." Cann's example is of a walk in Paris. "The earliest ribbon maps can be found drawn on the bottom of ancient Egyptian coffins, showing the deceased the way to the afterlife," Cann writes. The history Cann provides of various types of maps is a particularly interesting aspect of the book.

"Maps of Ideas" include phrenology maps, palmistry maps, body maps, and maps of movies and fiction. Cann's example of a movie map is of the plot of The Wizard of Oz. "Each plot point is shown in circles, which are color-coded to symbolize various locations." It's a delight to see "The Journey of Dorothy Gale from Kansas to Oz and Back Again" in this visual form on paper.

For those wanting to create maps to share with others there are wedding maps that can be part of an invitation, Valentine's Day cards that include a map of one's heart, new address cards, and business cards with the location of one's business.

For something different in map folding there are instructions for the "Turkish map fold" also known as the "pop-out."

There are many delights in the book which is visually pleasing, full of the history of various types of maps, with clear directions for creating your own. The possibilities are endless!


Helen Cann is an award-winning illustrator and artist whose current studio is in the seaside town of Brighton in southern England. Her work has been published in more than thirty books and exhibited worldwide. Visit her website.

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