Illustrator Thibaud Herem on how he draws detailed, puzzling mazes and labyrinths

Why are mazes so popular right now? And what's it like to illustrate them? Thibaud discusses his work on Laurence King's upcoming book celebrating real and imagined mazes across the world.

A few years ago colouring books for adults were the craze, acting as a new form of 'mindfulness' and relaxation. Last year, we saw etch books creep back in circulation. This year, are mazes the new thing?

French illustrator Thibaud Herem is known for his finely detailed, symmetrical pencil drawings of buildings and architecture following the success of his first book Know Your Rodent. Now based in London, he's embellished this style further for book covers and editorial publications, illustrating iconic European landmarks such as London’s Marble Arch and the Grand Budapest Hotel.

But his latest project transfers his impeccable hand-drawings to the art of mazes and labyrinths. It's for Laurence King’s upcoming book, The Maze: A Labyrinthine Compendium, written by Kendra Wilson, which taps into the rising popularity of mazes in landscape gardening – with more being built now more than ever before.

We speak to Thibaud on the intricacies of illustrating a maze or labyrinth, and why the 4,000-year-old life-size puzzles are making a comeback.

Pre-order The Maze: A Labyrinthine Compendium for £24.99 from Amazon.

The book features specially commissioned illustrations by Thibaud of 60 real and imagined mazes from around the world, with a bird’s eye view of each one so readers can make their own journey through the maze. You can see some of them in this feature. For the book, each one is accompanied by a witty short history by Kendra.

"The idea of the maze taps into so many subconscious notions: the game, the quest, the spiritual journey," writes Laurence King. "Perhaps this is the key to their enduring appeal."

Thiabud normally describes his style as portraits of trees and buildings, but for this specific project, he would say "portraits of mazes and labyrinths".

"My fascination [for mazes] started with the book. I didn't know much about them before starting and it grew with the work on the book," he says.

Thibaud Herem

"Laurence King, author Kendra Wilson and designer Angus Hyland approached me with the idea and I accepted straight away; it was an incredible opportunity to work with these people and the subject was very interesting and unique."

To draw the 60 individual mazes, Thibaud first had to understand not only the path through the maze, but the design, the materials used, and the aim of each one – essentially understanding the design process of the person who created each maze.

"I would draw the path with pencil, to make sure that it makes sense, with no mistakes, and then I worked on the texture, trying my best to recreate the feeling of the real maze," he says.

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Thibaud Herem

Using pencil and technical pen, Thibaud decided to draw the mazes as detailed as possible, using different texture and lines to represent the different materials the mazes were built in, such as stones or mosaics.

Illustrating in bird's eye view is the biggest difference between illustrating a maze and a building.

"I had to change my own perception," says Thibaud. "I normally draw from a human point of view and these are drawn from above, a total change for me."

Thibaud Herem

He says the work behind creating a maze "is absolutely phenomenal" – something many of us couldn't do. A lot of it is linked to mathematics, time and nature, yet, mazes are more in demand than ever.

Thibaud reckons it's because people's interest in gardening is increasing – "at the moment it’s everywhere," he says. It's linked to the idea that people want to have a closer relationship with nature and quality of food, he explains. Interest in history and design is also popular at the moment, and mazes and labyrinths are essentially a mix of all three.

Thibaud Herem

"Why people are interested about that at the moment, I don’t really know, but I would guess that it’s linked to wishing for better living – mazes seems to be the ultimate garden in some way," he says.

"I also think an interest in long-term projects is coming back, maybe in opposition to the crazy and speedy life in cities."

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Thibaud Herem

Thibaud is currently working on an eclectic mix of applications. He's also preparing for a new show in Bangkok, working on a ceramic project in South Korea and a new design for a collection of clothing.