Recently a friend brought a very cool map to my attention (above - "Singapore, Malay and Indonesia Archipelago Map inspired by Tolkien") by Joshua Tabti, a talented cartographer and artist. I reached out to him to ask a few question, so I could share with you as well.

What was your introduction to Tolkien and when?

Like many children I’m sure, I was introduced to the world of Middle-earth through choreographed sword fighting in the playground. Wielding sticks, my childhood friend Tom would direct me to play characters I hadn't heard of before, and gradually I became aware these names belonged to a world from The Lord of the Rings. I eventually watched the films which with imagination paralleled my countryside adventures in Buckinghamshire. Only when studying art at university did I fall in love with the books reading the three books each year, a welcome escape from academia in bustling London.

What drew you to Tolkien's map style as an art form?

Drawing maps began 'accidentally'. A few summers ago, while cycling to work, I was unfortunately knocked off my bicycle, breaking my right collarbone. Restless after a week of sofa-sitting in front of the telly, I felt like drawing something.

A couple years before that point, I was working as a glacier guide in Skaftafell, Iceland. The zig-zagging of glacial crevasses reminded me of the ridges and peaks of The Misty Mountains in Tolkien's maps, the ones you find in the back pages of the books. I liked the emphasis on physical geography in his maps and the simple calligraphy. Separately, some friends and I were designing a photobook of our time in Iceland, and I realised a map would be a good addition to the publication.

So there I sat on the sofa, with my whole drawing arm in a sling, moving only my wrist to draw tiny sections of a large folded map of Iceland on my lap.

How do you choose what places to make maps for?

Since then I’ve gone from drawing maps in my spare time to recently becoming a full-time cartographer. I’ve taken on privately commissioned map requests such as Wales and The Malay Archipelago, others, places near to my heart or from travels - a bit like Bilbo eh! I generally try and draw maps with plenty of forests and mountains.

What other art styles or forms do you like working with? Any future projects you are working on that you'd like to share?

I'm currently in between sketching a map of Aberedw in Wales and working on a map of The Alps (see below), both have been very satisfying to both research and draw. Otherwise, I also love to sketch classical and jazz concerts and I'm learning to use watercolours for botanical illustrations, you can see some examples on my website.


Be sure to check out Joshua's Esty store below, where you can add prints of his maps to your collection.