Interview with Map Maker Gillis Björk

A map of the Hundish Realm, the geographic setting for the first Grauwelt series. Map by Gillis Björk.

In an interview with map maker Gillis Björk, conducted by Lindsey Donaldson of the Grauwelt team, Gillis tells us about his background in map-making and aspirations for the future.

Among his many great pieces, Gillis designed the map of the Hundish Realm (shown right), the geographic setting for the first Grauwelt series. His work can be viewed on his website,

We were very fortunate in being able to steal away just a bit of his valuable time to bring this interview for your enjoyment.


When and how did you get into making maps?

About a year ago, when I drew one for a novel I was writing. I posted it on a forum I found, the Cartographers’ Guild, and got some great feedback and encouragement, so I kept at it.


Do you have any other artistic pursuits?

Writing novels is what I really want to do, and I spend a lot of time on that. I also like to draw or paint any random things that come to mind, just for relaxation.


We know you use a mix of traditional and digital media, do you have a preference for one over the other?

I don’t have a preference, no. They are useful for different things. It often feels like traditional and digital media are treated as opposites, but I think they are complementary; just like many watercolor painters sometimes use masking fluid or gouache to get a certain effect that the watercolors alone can’t achieve, digital techniques can enhance a traditional painting, and vice versa. I generally feel more comfortable with traditional media, though, because that’s what I’m most used to.

Was there a favorite project of yours that you particularly enjoyed or are proud of?

Well… There’s The Tri-StateWasteland, which was commissioned by a game company called World’s End Publishing about half a year ago, and that map is still my favorite among my own works. I had a lot of fun making a globe, but I’m not very satisfied with the result anymore and I’ll probably redo it sometime. I’m also happy I made Exculta Mundi, a personal piece where I developed a style many of my clients request. I don’t think I’ve ever worked on a map that I didn’t enjoy, though, so they are winners by a slim margin!


Where do you receive most of your commissions (business or personal request?) Is there a certain region of the world where most of your customers reside?

So far it’s been mostly personal requests, but I’m hoping to get more business clients as I improve. The majority of my clients have been in the US.


What sort of projects are your commissions usually used for (video games, books, movies, personal use, etc.)?

A lot of role-playing. Also some novels.


Do you have any schooling or training for cartography or art?

No, no formal. Cartography training would probably be incredibly useful, but I don’t have enough patience. I prefer to learn things on my own, a little bit at a time, when I need them, rather than the total dedication needed when taking schooling. And I don’t believe in art education, that’s just something you have to learn yourself in my opinion, with feedback of course but not with instructions. But I don’t really consider my maps art, so I that’s an irrelevant statement I guess… Moving on!


Do you work freehand or use references?

Most clients provide me with sketches to work from. When I draw my own worlds, it’s freehand, though I often look at historical maps for ideas. If I’m mapping a real location, I like to print a public domain map and trace it to get coasts and rivers in the right places.


What inspires you? Any certain music, food, drink, literature?

I can get inspired by anything, I think… Almost anything can give associations and ideas. But the most inspirational thing for me is to just sit down and draw (or write, or whatever I’m doing) and immerse myself in it.


What is your dream project?

Oh, difficult question. I don’t know, to be honest. Something that lets me expose my work to a lot of people, maybe. In a way that matters to them. Or something made for just one. I’m very vague now, I know… But yeah, I just don’t know the answer to this yet.


What do you like to do in your free time?

So far, I haven’t published any of my writing, so I have to count that as free time. And then that takes almost all of it. I also read a lot, and sometimes I treat myself to a video game.


What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?

Another difficult one! But this time because I’ve been given so many great pieces of advice. I don’t think I can point out a single one that was best, actually. Maybe “Don’t forget the stove plate on.” No, but I treasure every piece of advice I get, so if anyone ever told me to listen to advice (I can’t remember, but someone probably did, at some point), that would be the best one.


If someone wanted to request a map or view your portfolio where would you direct them?

My website,!


The makers of Grauwelt would like to again thank Gillis for his outstanding work. We wish you well on all your future endeavors!


Share your thoughts in the comments:


Bookmark the permalink.