This is a continuation of a conversation with Robert Altbauer, a cartographer who lives in Salzburg. He was kind enough to take on a commission to draw two maps for me: a world map and an invisible fortress map. The fortress map is a place where the main character visits at one point in the story. The first part of our conversation is here.
If someone wanted to become a cartographer, what tools would they need? Do you use tablets or certain software? What tips do you give in general?
While traditional materials like a sheet of paper and pencils (and some talent) are a good way to start, I think that a tablet is a necessary tool nowadays. Combined with graphic programs like Photoshop or Illustrator, or GIMP and Inkscape – very good, free alternatives to the both aforementioned programs – tablets provide a powerful possibility to make good maps. They combine the ability to draw with your hand with modern and versatile technology.
Generally, mapping follows – like many other things – the philosophy of learning by doing. The more maps you do the better you get. If I look at the maps I do now and the ones I have made two years ago then I can see the progress I’ve made.
What is your most favorite map (that you didn’t draw)?
Well, that’s a difficult question. I can’t point to a certain map because there are so many excellent and different maps.
What is your most favorite map that you have drawn? (You don’t have to say it’s mine, it’s ok!)
I made a rather huge world map called ‘World of Maargard’, which I think is one of my best.
What is the oddest or funniest map that you have had to draw?
I sometimes make personalized maps which can be quite funny. I use the affections and aversions of a person to draw a map – mountains of chocolate, sea of cocktails, plain of spider, pit of the mother-in-law etc. with appropriate illustrations.
How should people contact you if they want commissions?
The easiest way is to write me an email to email@example.com. It should contain the preferred style (description, link or image attached), the size and the average level of detail – how many labels, is a lot of decoration necessary etc. If there already is a sketch this would be helpful, too. The deadline and usage rights are also important information on which I give then a cost estimate.
I have never been to Salzburg or the Alps. So lastly, tell me a little bit about your country and anything interesting I should do if I can ever afford to visit you?
Austria is in general a nice little country, but often too old-fashioned and too slow to catch up with modern developments.
Salzburg is a very beautiful place, but don’t make the mistake to reduce it to Mozart or Sound of Music. We have a very good cuisine and excellent beers and wines, so you should visit either a restaurant with Austrian food or a Heuriger or Buschenschank – Austrian taverns where you usually get wine and simple but very good dishes.
You have been a great part in bringing my book vision to life and I wish you the best of luck!
Thank you, Jean. Good luck with your book!