I bought a piece of 22x30 inch watercolor paper and sat down to work on a “map poem” of my neighborhood and honestly, I found it quite daunting.
Innisfree had mentioned using velum and pens and that sounded like a better place to start. I happened to have a pad of 11x14 inch velum paper that has been sitting around my studio but never used. So, I took out a piece of velum and traced a map of a few blocks around my house. Then, I drew in some of the places that are important to me. But, the drawing was super small and even with my .05 micron pen, I couldn’t really write much on the map.
So, I decided to draw a slightly larger map of the same slice of my neighborhood, but this time without the grid and only by memory (not tracing anything). I wound up with a simplified map with only the streets and landmarks that are important to me:
I wrote a few personal thoughts on the second map, but it still didn’t seem “poetic” enough - it seemed too literal. Then, I realized that since my first two neighborhood maps were drawn on velum, I could layer them on top of one of my “inscape-maps” to see how they would interact. The result was something much closer to what I envisioned a “map-poem” to be:
These maps are just a beginning. I look forward to continuing work on this neighborhood map-poem project; exploring the intersection of the geographical map of my neighborhood and a more internal map of my thoughts and memories. I would also like to add text about the geography of my neighborhood and the development of the area. The land I live on was once a heavily wooded area with old growth forest, inhabited by the Duwamish tribe for thousands of years. Then, it was cleared for farming before becoming the residential neighborhood it is today.
If time permits this week, I’d like to sit back down with my 22x30 inch watercolor paper and transcribe the small velum maps in some way and add more text and, perhaps, color.
This week, I have been somewhat distracted with midterms and Halloween celebrations, but Karey and I had a productive/interesting conversation.
I have been continuing to struggle with the idea of abstract art and abstraction in general. But after Karey and I talked, I started feeling more comfortable. I spend so much time with my students encouraging them to be clear in their communications, to think about what they are representing. However, any cartographer is balancing simplification and representation.
So this week I’m pushing simplification. This week I mentioned the work of Kevin Lynch, urban planner on the perceptual form of urban environment. Lynch wrote a lot about how we perceive our living environments. His books are filled with diagrammatic maps, which are unlabeled and often focus on the basic shapes that make up a landscape.
Looking at Lynch’s drawings makes me more comfortable that drawings containing uncertainty can also be useful in communicating what a place is about.
This week I have also been distracted getting involved in the #30DayMapChallenge on Twitter. The idea is to create a new map during each day of November, each with its own theme. I spent too much time this week trying out new digital mapping techniques. At the same time, I have been attempting to simplifying and consider the basic forms involved.
Tonight, I attempted to combine the map challenge and the map poem exercise that Karey and I are working on. Day 4 of the map challenge involves creating a map using hexagons. In digital mapping, grouping densities using hexagons is a way to simplify the map and make sure that it draws quickly when presented over the internet. It is an abstraction, so I decided to attempt creating a hex map using hand tools. Below is my rough draft of my daily life, drawn with Prismacolor pen on vellum. I like the messiness of it. One thing I really appreciate about Karey’s work is the messiness communicates something about life that is usually missing from traditional maps. At the same time, I still want to create multiple value (light to dark) so the hexes can communicate time spent at each location.
I recommend following the #30DayMapChallenge hashtag on twitter. Folks are coming up with all sorts of interesting maps and visualizations.