Off the Map

Highland Fling: Another Map on Paper

March 30th 2012

Last September, Duncan and I hiked Scotland’s famous West Highland Way with our hiking pal Sydney and with Duncan’s sister Margaret: seven days, 95 miles, heather, mist, driving rain  (but just one day), sheep, Highland cattle, Loch Lomond, gorgeous and often wild landscapes, B & B’s, 18th century inns, salmon, scotch, scones, sticky toffee pudding, and wonderful camaraderie–among ourselves, and with other hikers. (We did this, by the way, through the Scottish travel outfitter Macs Adventure–they provided great maps,  arranged our lodgings, and conveyed our bags from point to point). The perfect occasion for a little commemorative map and as souvenirs for our beloved fellow travelers: I had copies scanned for Sydney and Margaret. Note that the route is long and vertical, but that didn’t stop me from popping it into a circle. I can’t help myself! The circle actually provided me with the “dead space” I needed for the title cartouche, designed to look like a bit of drapery; a written explanation of our week; a little key; and, on the left of the mapped route, a compass thistle (instead of a rose). I fashioned a border, but it’s as simple as can be. Like my Daily Rounds map, this is a 10″ circle within a 12″ square; unlike that map, this one isn’t a circumpunct–in other words, the map doesn’t radiate from a central point. Next up: maps by some of my workshop attendees.

Daily Rounds: A Little Map on Paper

March 25th 2012

I’ve made a practice, lately, of creating little round maps, spending an hour each day as a break from commissions. There’s a practical reason: I want to provide good, simple models for my workshop attendees (one–the subject of my last post–late next month at the C Gallery in the Santa Barbara wine country, and a couple of autumn workshops in my Connecticut studio). Beyond this  initial reason, however, I’ve really enjoyed these projects–it’s rejuvenating to try new stuff! I’m reminded of  my first (unpaid, of course) cartographic efforts, years ago, when everything was new and I was screwing up right and left. I’d forgotten the carefree fun of making mistakes, then learning from them–in my professional work, of course, I wisely avoid mistakes. All my commissioned maps are painted on big canvases (like 3 x 4′), but these little experiments are drawn in ink on beautiful colored Canson art paper, a 10″ circle within a 12″ square, perfect for popping into an inexpensive, ready-made 12″ frame.  I love this tobacco shade, but others await me–violet, chamois, amber, terracotta. You know how much I love round maps, and especially radial maps built around a central point. The central point here is our house, a 19th century school building my architect husband, Duncan Milne, recycled for us to live in. We moved here because we loved the house, the historic nature of the town, and the prospect of walking to local destinations. Note our town seal, which I’ve used instead of a compass rose–here’s to you, Durham, CT, and your agricultural heritage!

Map Workshop in the Santa Barbara Wine Country!

March 8th 2012

Wouldn’t you like to spend a weekend of April 27-29th at a workshop retreat making a beautiful little map under my tutelage? Here’s the hook: the setting is the gorgeous wine country outside of Santa Barbara, California–if you haven’t seen it with your own eyes, you’ve seen it on the screen in the movie Sideways. Our host is gallery owner Connie Rohde of the C Gallery in Los Alamosand here’s what she’s arranged: you’ll stay in at a secluded vineyard estate, taste wines, sample local (fabulous) cuisine, and visit the magnificent Rancho San Lorenzo for Sunday morning’s final session. For details, see Connie Rohde’s website description.

THE WORKSHOP ITSELF: You’ll create a round map showing a special place in your life, your daily life, a special event, a journey (real or spiritual), or a memory map of your childhood home. Or maybe you’d like to make a birthday map for somebody you love–maps make wonderful gifts. The circle, symbol of the world, infinity, Mother Earth, and sacred space, is the perfect shape for a personal, hand-executed map. Furthermore, the round map–especially one with a central, important location–easily lends itself to composition, a help for beginners. Working in pen or colored pencil on white or colored watercolor paper, you’ll make  a 10″ circular map within a 12″ square, perfect for popping into a ready made 12″ square frame.  I’ll give you all the techniques you need to finish this map and start new maps when you go home. You’ll get hooked!

Here’s a round map I made a couple of years ago as a gift for my son Andrew and his fiancee Andrea–they used it as the cover of their wedding invitation. The circle’s central point is WeatherLea Farm in northern Virginia, where the wedding took place (great place for a celebration: check it out). Because Andrew and Andrea live in DC, DC became the outer point of the radius, thus dictating the breadth of the map’s geography. With arrows pointing towards the farm, I indicated where family members were traveling from. There’s also an arrow indicating the direction from Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, where the A’s met as Peace Corps volunteers. A simple map, but charged with meaning, and executed with love by this mapmaker.  As for the sheep, I couldn’t resist them–they positively bleated for artistic rendering!  

Happy 500th Birthday, Gerard Mercator

March 5th 2012

Mercator is aging well, or at least his maps are. He was a most remarkable and famous map and globe maker, known for his world atlases (in fact, he coined the word “atlas”), his piety, and his global projection–hey, Google uses it, so Mercator’s still the man! If you want background information, visit everybody’s go-to site or read Nicholas Crane’s great biography, Mercator: The Man Who Mapped the Planet (NY: Henry Holt, 2003).

Or, if you’re in the NYC vicinity, attend some birthday parties. The first is the New York Map Society’s monthly lecture (FREE!), this coming Saturday, March 11, at 2:30 pm, 6th floor of the Mid-Manhattan Library.  Our speaker is renowned map scholar Mark Monmonier, talking about the problems inherent in map projections, starting with Mercator’s. (In case you don’t know, here’s the problem: the earth is round, maps are flat). After the meeting, we’ll cross 5th Ave. to the Schwartzman Building,  the main library with the lions in front, where Geospatial Librarian Matt Knutzen will show us original Mercator atlases. Aside from his importance as a mapmaker, Mercator’s maps are incredibly beautiful–beautiful digitally, but more beautiful in person.

BUT THAT’S NOT ALL! There will also be an exhibit of Mercator maps and globes in Room 117–the splendid map room–from March 13th to September 29th. FREE! Libraries are FREE!