29 Nov 2021

Making maps with Anton Thomas

From Afternoons, 2:30 pm on 29 November 2021

Artist and cartographer Anton Thomas hand-draws beautiful maps of countries, continents and the world.

He joined Jesse to talk about the history of maps and the work that goes in to creating them.

He says his maps are unconventional compared with what cartographers normally do these days.

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Photo: Supplied

“I draw them by hand and bring them to life with art and illustration so they’re full of landscapes and cities and animals especially. It’s just trying to capture and evoke a sense of place from everywhere that I’m drawing.”

Thomas says maps are more than just an illustration of geography. We also have maps of the internet, the human body, where to take shots from on a basketball court.

“Most show geography and symbolise characteristics of place. The word place is really important because maps are often about places and places matter a great deal to all of us. We’re all from somewhere, we all are somewhere and maps help in understanding who we are because of that.”

To be a cartographer, Thomas says one needs a good sense of space and the world, but also a sense of wonderment about it.

“People often say, hasn’t everywhere already been mapped, why would hand drawn mapping still be a thing, but I think they’re more relevant than ever. It depends on what you’re using it for, you wouldn’t go hand drawn for use in emergency rescue or landing a plane.”

He says Google Maps has revitalised interest in cartography because people aren’t engaging as much anymore.

“You just put the address in your phone and press go but, back in the day, you’d be trawling over road maps. It doesn’t really happen anymore so that’s where we come in.”

He’s been interested in maps and geography since he was a kid growing up in Wellington but it was when he went to the United States in his 20s that it took off.

“That’s when it took a professional turn because, wow, continental geography was pretty mind blowing for a Kiwi seeing it for the first time.”

He never studied map making or art, it began as a hobby he just really loved doing.

“I wouldn’t be the best person to ask what’s involved apart from following your heart and following what you love.”

Thomas says his maps have a wide appeal but it tracks very closely with the places he’s drawing. His enormous North America map, for instance, was widely purchased by Americans while he’s New Zealand and Australian maps are brought by Kiwis and Australians.

“It kind of makes sense. If you’re an Aussie you’re more likely to buy and Australia map than a USA map.”