I draw maps of fantastical places. My tools are typically a pencil, pen, ink, and watercolor pencils, though I sometimes branch out into markers and Photoshop.

Examples and detail images appear in my Google Photos album, as well as in albums on the Cartographers' Guild: Pen-and-Ink Maps, Digital Maps, and Sketchbook Maps.

I am available for commissions and some of the original pieces may be available for sale.
For inquiries, please email me at


Digital, 3300x2550 pixels.

A series of three maps of Mondvert, a human colony established on a new world around a distant star, 315 years after the first human arrival in the system. Over this time, the people of Mondvert explored, settled, fought, reconciled, and advanced.

This set of maps probably represents my best effort at digital work, and is the product of behind-the-scenes population models and some imagined history. There is some obvious inspiration from the US National Park Service map style.

The Riverlands

8x5.5" Ink on marker paper, colored digitally.

The Riverlands map is an attempt to depict a small area with a highly detailed pictorial style that effectively covers the page in pen textures. Wooded areas are inspired by the Mary Jane ski area at Winter Park.

Look for the krummholz, smoke, and transluscent waterfalls.

Rekhan's Workshop

Map approx. 12.5x8" Ink, water, and watercolor pencil on marker paper; photo collage with book, gears, pens, quartz, glass, and wind tunnel sting mount.

Rekhan is a reclusive inventor who lives and works out of the building on the upper promontory of the map. A cart track gives him easy access to other parts of the island, including a fertile lagoon, storage caverns inside the island's central hill, and the domed optical devices that form part of his mysterious experiments.

A close runner-up in a Cartographers' Guild challenge to create 2 maps showing the same place in different seasons, Rekhan's Workshop is heavily inspired by the Myst series of games. In addition, I drew inspiration for some of the physical features from Roxborough State Park near my home in Colorado. The most exciting thing for me about this map was depicting the winter scene, with sea ice, footprints, and windblown snow drifts.

The Maucland Confederacy

12x9" Ink, water, and watercolor pencil on bristol.

The Maucland Confederacy is my contribution to the Cartographers' Guild 10th anniversary project, a collaborative world in which each participant mapped a country in a style of their choosing. Maucland is a New-England-inspired island nation consisting of four independent states. The names around the border are neighboring countries, with divisions representing the directions to those countries from the highest point in the center of Maucland.

I used the opportunity to experiment a bit with map features I haven't used much before, like the border, legend, and bearing lines to my neighbors. Roads are new to my maps, as are state borders. As usual, I went for very vibrant colors.

The composite map, including all Guild participants' countries, is here. I consider myself fortunate to have placed a map in the same world as many of these Guilders!

The People of Gliese 581g

17x14" Ink, water, and watercolor pencil on bristol.

Following up my original map of Zarmina, this piece depicts regions of a habitable exoplanet in a fantasy map style, with places labeled according to their native names. There are four distinct constructed languages represented on this map.

The map depicts the state of the planet with cultures roughly equivalent to those on Earth in 1300-1600 CE. For many more details on the world, its nations, and their peoples, I have supplied some background here.

This piece probaly has some of my best color effects so far!

You can purchase prints of Gliese 581g on Imagekind!


17x14" Ink, water, and coffee on bristol.

People associate events, histories, and mythology with places. So, this is a map with no place names. Instead, it marks locations with historical events or local legends.

The legends and histories mix together, capturing many aspects of the local cultures: science, art, medicine, military campaigns, celebrities, religion, and journeys. Some of the labels chronicle series of events, while others are isolated.

The map of Legends contains minute details as icons. They are some of the smallest features I've attempted so far - all inked by hand, with a superfine dip pen. When I finished with the ink, I wanted to give this map the impression of long use. So I soaked it, stained it, and folded it.

You can purchase prints of Legends on Imagekind!


14x8.5" Ink and water on bristol.

I drew this map as a commission for a fantasy story. It is my first all black-and-white map; I used the opportunity to try out some new styles for forests and indicating different terrain types with ink washes. I'm quite pleased with the results. The mountains, in particular, I think came out very well. There are a few more images on Google Photos.

The map contains my most diverse - and smallest! - forests to date. There are palm trees near the tropics, deciduous trees in temperate areas, and conifers in colder regions. An individual tree might measure only 2-3 mm.

Map of the Bay

14x8.5" Ink, water, and watercolor pencil on bristol.

A map is a practical object. It conveys crucial information in a ready reference format.

In some applications, water and water features are more important than land and land features. Nautical maps are one such application: depth markers, navigational aids, and traffic lanes become the focus. Markings on land indicate objects and regions with importance only as seen from the water.

This map also marks my return to New England, in fitting style.


17x14" Ink and watercolor pencil on bristol.

Sometimes, very little divides land from ocean. In the symbolic realm of a map, that division may be only a thin, black line. A beach, a shoreline, a wave or surf - beyond that, open ocean awaits.

My maps demarkate the land/water boundary as much by color as they do by symbol. I believe the thick black coastline adds a perceptual boundary, which covers some of my artistic mistakes. It's not too hard to see errors in precision in my maps, where color has spilled over, if you look closely - yet, viewed in total, it can seem almost like the boundaries are perfect.

In the Archipelago, many colors typically associated with the ocean appear on land (cobalt green, indigo, cerulean blue) and many "land" colors (green, orange, red) appear in the water. In some places, the color of the water and the land are not very different. It is the texture - and that thin, black line - that creates the division.

You can purchase prints of Archipelago on Imagekind!


14x8.5" Ink and water on bristol.

What needs to go on a map? The most minimal shapes and signs are sufficient.

This little map consists entirely of ink and ink washes. A small amount of brick-red ink provides contrast, with labels in a fictionalized language. The labels themselves are both sparse and minimal; quick jots of the pen.

I consider this map one of my best artistic accomplishments so far. You can purchase prints of Inkwash on Imagekind!


17x14" Ink and watercolor pencil on bristol.

What might an alien world look like, really? The answer to this question may be surprising, even without straying too far from science to science fiction.

Zarmina is a name purportedly given to the exoplanet Gliese 581g, a world located in an orbit that can sustain liquid surface water. And yet, Gliese 581g is decidely un-Earthlike: the star is a red dwarf, the planet is tidally locked to its sun, and potentially the only climate in which liquid oceans could be present is one that would limit the oceans to a circular area directly underneath the red sun.

This is a map of that circular world, with massive volcanoes and deep rift fissures driving its surface processes. To create the map, I determined a short list of geologic processes which could plausibly be active on Zarmina, then simulated those processes over two epochs. As a result, I was somewhat "hands-off" for the creative process. I think the result is both fantastical - and potentially realizable. This world might exist.

Read my full write-up about the map of Zarmina here. You can purchase prints of Zarmina here!

Untitled #1

17x14" Ink and water on bristol.

Brightly colored, this map contains some of my early experiments with precision in shading and carefully constructed ink/watercolor interfaces. The forests and mountains are classic fantasy map features. Verdant mesas add variety to the terrain. The labels are invented glyphs.


24x18" Ink and water on sketch paper.

I drew this map, on request, to depict an invented fantasy continent. It includes my first real attempts at labeling and lettering by hand.

The dom Gurand Map

24x18" Ink and water on sketch paper with digital postprocessing.

This is the map that started it all: the first time I approached drawing a map as a full-size artistic exercise after having taken art classes, instead of as a doodle. It's a map illustrating the setting of a set of stories I have sketched out, including detailed histories, cultures, and species.

After inking and coloring the map, I processed it digitally to give it a faded look and add the extensive labels. Since then, I've kept to doing as much as possible by hand.

There is a full description of the history and cartography of this world here.

Content of this site copyright Joseph Shoer unless otherwise noted.
This is the personal web space of Joseph Shoer and any opinions or conclusions presented here are his alone.