Dan Bell of Middle Earth Maps - Artist feature

Written by
Alex Foster

We had the chance to talk to Lake District based illustrator Dan Bell and ask him a few questions to find out a little bit more about how he works and what inspires him.

Dan illustrates many of the UK's national parks, as well as other countries in his Tolkien-like mapping style.

Mapsy Dan Bell Journal - Australia

What makes you choose the places to map and do you have a favourite?

I try to pick areas which have lots of trees, mountains, and lakes. I feel such places make great candidates for the style of map I draw. My favourite map is of the Lake District as I think it has it all (although I am slightly biased in this choice). 

Mapsy Dan Bell Journal - Lake District

What is it you love about Tolkien's maps?

I like the fact that they are simple maps, drawn to complement a story that is so complex and vast. When I look at the maps I can't help but be drawn into the story. 

(Dan informs us of an interesting detail: J.R.R. Tolkien drew the original maps for the Hobbit, whereas his son Christopher drew the final map for The Lord of the Rings - some LOTR editions feature maps drawn by Pauline Baynes) 

What artists are you into at the moment?

As a lover of animals and nature, I really like Ben Rothery's illustrations. They are so detailed and intricate. I also enjoy Owen Delaney's endeavour to map his runs for an entire year, it's a great idea! 

What are you reading and do you have a favourite Tolkein book?

At the moment I am reading 'Guns, Germs, and Steel' by Jared Diamond, a book which outlines a short history of everybody for the last 13,000 years. I would highly recommend it. My favourite Tolkien book is definitely the Hobbit - I am always hooked in by the opening lines. 

Do you visit the places and camp / explore etc? Do you have outdoor hobbies that tie in?

I try and get out as much as I can, specifically in the Lake District which is where I am from. Many of the places I draw are thousands of miles away but I do get very envious when I do some of my map research (the American national parks look incredible - I would love to visit).

Mapsy Dan Bell Journal - Yosemite

I am an avid hill walker/mountain climber. At the moment I am trying to 'Walk the Wainwrights' - a challenge in the Lake District to summit all 214 of [Alfred] Wainwright's peaks. I'm also really into map reading, which of course helps a lot. 

What are some of your challenges as an illustrator?

For me the biggest challenge it is often deciding what to include in my maps and what to leave out, especially when I don't know the area I'm drawing. It is also quite challenging making sure that everything I spelled correctly. Lots of patience and diligence is required on my part.


You can see Dan's work at his website, follow him on Instagram and see his print selection here on Mapsy.

Thanks Dan!

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