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  • Writer's pictureMadeleine Allcock

Sketching from photographs for map illustration

Updated: Jun 28, 2021

Today I’m looking at Oxford landmarks for a new map via Google streetview - I don’t feel safe travelling just yet.

There are challenges to drawing with photos, especially when I haven’t taken them myself. I want to draw everything fairly flat and face-on, and often it’s not possible to find an image to draw from that angle. Also, streets in Oxford are fairly small and buildings are tall, so until drone photography catches on more, it’s always going to be limited.

The other challenge is to make sure I don’t copy a photographer’s work. I get around both issues by looking at multiple references, not using anything with an original or unusual composition, and using my imagination to deconstruct and rebuild things.

I use a healthy amount of artistic license, changing things like statues and greenhouses to better convey an idea I’m going for, and draw fairly small, with a medium size pen, to make sure I’m not adding unnecessary detail. If it looks too busy or cramped, I redraw the image. I add logos, animals and objects if the building isn’t particularly interesting, or just to break it up a bit. When drawing a logo, I aim to go for a compromise between recognisability and creativity, again the key is not to copy anything but to draw it in my style.

At this point, I’m just collecting reference, inspiration, and building a catalog of sketches I can use later. I’ll keep going until I have lots to choose from, before working out the composition of the map.

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