My Edinburgh Old Town map is now on sale!

The medieval streets and wynds of Scotland’s capital city crammed into a sheet of A2 with a splash of watercolour and some swirly bits. How do I squash tenements, towers, bridges, bars, gardens, galleries – and a whacking great castle – into one illustration? Well…

I start by walking the area – repeatedly. Edinburgh is my home town so I’m familiar with the eclectic architecture of the old quarter, from the gothic spires of St Giles Cathedral and the Tollbooth Kirk to the clean lines of the Scottish Parliament. But there are hidden gems and a wealth of quirky details to discover.

I take scores of reference shots and then Google away until I have an extensive list of the things I’d like to include.

Everything is carefully plotted before pen hits paper. I trace an initial pencil rough from existing maps, then mark out key structures, trace the map again and start to fill the spaces between. The shape of the underlying map changes subtly as sparser areas contract and busy ones expand to accommodate Must Sees. There’s never enough space for all the good bits so I repeat the process, editing as I go. And then do it again. Several times.

When everything slots together nicely I trace the outlines onto clean cartridge paper and get down to the fun bit – drawing in ink. I’ve used Rotring Radiograph pens in various widths since I was a college. (Not telling you when. Suffice to say it was a while back.) They gum up, blob and frequently make me shout, but the result is worth it – lovely clean, dense, inky lines. At this point I let loose and add details and decorative swirls.

If I was left to my own devices I’d scribble on ceaselessly. But at some stage I HAVE TO STOP and scan the beast in. At this stage I redraw any glaring mistakes and layer them over the scanned image. And then spend a few days Photoshopping rough edges and teeny errors. And my monochrome map is complete.

But there’s a colour version too! I splash watercolour onto textured paper and let it form subtle edges and patterns in the rough shape of the map. I scan the colour and position it under the inked map in Photoshop, cutting round various shapes until there are several layers (Slate, Trees, Pan tiles, Stone…). I adjust the hue of each layer, preserving the variations in the original watercolour.

I send digital files to the brilliant Kevin at Curving Clearly and he works his Giclee printing magic. He’s also a very talented painter and gets the colours spot on every time. The prints arrive to much excitement on gorgeous, fine-art, cotton paper. And then I sign them. And package them up with a key to all the elements. And start to think of the next map. Glasgow..?