Archive for January, 2012

I’ve been fascinated by fantasy maps for a long time.  As a voracious reader of many novels both science fiction and fantasy, you get used to see maps at the beginning of the novel in your hands.  Often these are big, elaborate affairs, where mountain ranges sprawl for hundreds of miles and towns with strange unpronounceable names dot the landscape.  Finding the locations mentioned in the novel is fun, but it can be even more exciting to read the names of locales that aren’t mentioned, and wonder what’s to be found in that particular town or strange forest.  “Normal” fiction often doesn’t have these maps, and understandably so – it’s less necessary for the reader to have a map of Los Angeles than it is to include a map of Westeros.  Most people are well aware of where Los Angeles can be found in relation to the rest of the United States.  King’s Landing or Hobbiton might be a bit harder to relate to.

The past few days I’ve been working on the map from The Hobbit.   I loved it when I first discovered the book in middle school, and I still love it today.  It’s full of little details, and tells you exactly where Bilbo and Co. traveled in their adventure to the Lonely Mountain.  I’m working on transcribing the map from the paperback novel I’m borrowing from a friend onto a big piece of Bristol paper, measuring 9 inches by 12.  Doing so is giving me a chance to work on regular terrain features like forests and mountains, which are generally pretty abundant on fantasy worlds.  I’ve finished inking the forest of Mirkwood, and the next step is to do the Misty Mountains.  In today’s blog post, I’d like to share a progression of my work, starting with the Lonely Mountain and ending with the finished forest.


The finished forest.

I recently picked up some suede, and have been making it into dice bags. Let me just say that this fabric is incredible, and I love working with it. I have two colors, a smoky gray and a rich sienna. I think the pictures have come out really well – I took them both on the map I’ve been working on, with dice scattered around.

The smoky gray suede bag is perfect for moodier gaming days. The color is reminiscent of a stormy day, the sky flashing thunder and lightning as the dice roll.

The rich sienna suede dice bag is more of a traditional fantasy bag. It’s easy to imagine this bag hanging from the belt of a warrior or a wizard, holding spell components or a handful of coins for that night’s ale at the tavern.

I’ve also been continuing with my 365 Sketch Project. So far I’ve been getting at least one sketch a day done, which you can see at my Tumblr. It’s a mix of Mouse Guard fan art, pin up girls, and random other sketches. I’m really enjoying it so far, and I can’t wait to have 365 full days of sketching done.

I’m a little behind on posting these here, I think.  I’m on 12/365 in my daily 365 Sketch Project.  No failures so far.


You can follow my Tumblr for daily updates – it’s a little easier for me to post the sketches there instead of here. is the address.  Thanks for reading!


For those interested in RPG’s, DriveThruRPG is having a New Year’s sale right now on a number of awesome games, including Mouse Guard! It’s normally $19, but for the next few days you can get it for $12. Totally worth it, because it’s a great game and the book is gorgeous.

Here is the link, for the curious:


Speaking of Mouse Guard, I may be writing some Missions in the coming weeks, and then put them up as a resource for potential Mouse Guard GM’s.  I really like this game, and I’d like to think that that’s contagious, so I’m doing what I can to spread the word.  (Did I mention that the pdf is on sale right now at DriveThruRPG for $12.00??)

I’m working on an interior map of Copperwood right now too, as well as another fantasy map for my Etsy.  Convenient, because James Gurney posted today that he has a 7-page feature on mapmaking in the latest issue of ImagineFX magazine.  I’ve been interested in fantasy cartography for a long time, since fantasy novels generally come with a map of the relevant world at the front of the book.  I’ll have to see if I can find a copy of the magazine somewhere.  The Barnes and Nobles near me don’t seem to be all that awesome at carrying culture-related magazines…

I also joined a Meetup group that focuses on roleplaying and gaming of all sorts, and I may be making my way to one of the meetings at some point.  I’m excited.  🙂

I want to take a few minutes to talk about small businesses today.  As someone who started a shop on Etsy, Greyed Out, a little over a year ago, I want to say that supporting local or person-owned business is important.  When I say “person-owned”, I mean a business that has a proprietor you can reach out to.  The local butcher shop run by the same family for 15 years, for example, or the store that sells handmade pottery and is owned by the lady with all the cats.  I know that everyone shops at a big store; you almost can’t avoid places like Target, Wal-mart, or Home Depot.  You probably won’t find a locally-owned shop that produces toilet paper.

When you shop at a store owned by a corporation, the money you spend often doesn’t stay in the community.  It goes to support that corporation, and therefore, the corporation’s interests.  I think that buying local is important, and supporting local businesses means supporting your community.  It keeps things from getting completely nameless and anonymous.

My wife and I both bought Christmas gifts on Etsy this year, instead of shopping at the local mall.  As an Etsy seller myself, I like helping other shop owners by supporting their business.  I’m always happy to talk to customers or potential customers, and to answer questions about what I do.  for your next birthday gift or holiday, why not head over to Etsy and see if you can find something special that matches your needs?

Mouse Territories of the Northern Reaches

I recently did a map for an upcoming Mouse Guard campaign that I might be running soon, and so I had the idea to post a listing in my shop for custom fantasy maps done in the same style. For those who don’t know, Mouse Guard is a comic set in the middle ages, and it’s all about mice with swords protecting their territories from predators and so on. It’s written and illustrated by David Petersen.

The map I created is inspired by the map that Petersen drew for the Mouse Territories. The original is done on 11×14 Bristol paper, stained with coffee, and colored in using watercolor pencils for the water. The lines are all inked using brushes or a steel nib pen. I know that most maps these are created using Photoshop or some other illustration program on the computer, but I don’t have anything of the sort, so I get resourceful and make things by hand.
What does everyone think? Any advice or suggestions? Thanks for looking!


Fat friar I drew earlier today. This project is going decently, and I’m glad I’ve managed to keep up so far. Though I’m only 6 days in, really.


Day 5 of 365. This is fancy Nancy in his suit and coat. Done in my Moleskine. Lots of cross hatching on this one.
I think I prefer sketching mice with swords. Eventually I feel my drawings will get better. Part of my doing this project is to improve my illustration skills. I want to practice doing different body types as well, and that may be part of tomorrow’s sketch.


Guardsmouse Mikel, performing a Zornhau.  I have a huge interest in German medieval swordsmanship.  Johannes Liechtenauer was a swordmaster in the 1500’s who pretty much started the tradition, or at least wrote most of it down in code.

The Zornhau is the “strike of wrath”.  If you are holding your sword in the “Vom Tag” position, basically at your shoulder, the Zornhau is performed by taking a step forward with your leading foot as you swing the sword in a downward arc at your opponent.  You’d block this blow with the “Ochs” position, and bind your opponent’s blade.


…I also learned that mice are hard to draw like this, because their knees are ambiguously placed somewhere in fur.  No worries.  David Petersen’s Mouse Guard is still awesome.


This is illustration 4 of 365 in my 365 Drawing Project.  Thanks for reading.

I need to do these earlier in the day.


Nordic-themed mice with swords continue.  I’m having fun with the weapons and the runes.  I had a name for this guy, and then I was so in the moment with the sketching that I forgot it.