I spent time this week continuing work on “map-poems” of my neighborhood. I played around with the velum maps, adding things like “magnificent old growth,” “glacial geology,” and “a sea of everyday distractions.”
The 22x30 inch watercolor paper still seemed too big to work on — so, I tore it in half. Then, I traced one of my velum maps onto the watercolor paper using graphite transfer paper. I never used graphite transfer paper before and was surprised to find out, after adding permanent pen, that I couldn’t erase the graphite lines (at least not on the watercolor paper I used or with the eraser I had). So, there are a few double words and lines that I can’t get rid of.
When I made the velum drawings, I thought about separating the walking marks from the driving marks by making small dotted lines for walking and arrows for driving. But, after working on the maps, I realized that I also put small dotted lines around thoughts and abstract ideas — so, in the end, I did not create a particularly clear distinction of marks.
Then, when I started adding watercolor to the map, I wasn’t sure how strict I wanted to be about making particular colors represent specific places or ideas. I created a key but decided not to label the key because the colors, although partially separated by meaning, are not as distinct as they would be on most maps. The darker green represents places where there once was wilderness (but that really was everywhere); the lighter green started out as only soccer fields and tennis courts but slowly became the path of my daily routine. The grey is for buildings, the brown is mostly for soil, earth and geology, and the pink is for thoughts and ideas (although there’s also a blue-ish color that isn’t on the key that is for “flashes of insight” and “a trace of presence”).
So, in the end, both my marks and colors are somewhat ambiguous. They don’t quite mean one specific thing, nor are they bound by tight boundaries and borders. Perhaps that allows for the uncertainty missing in most maps.
When my son looked at this map, he was excited that he could read and understand it —but he was confused why the golf course was labeled “a trace of presence” and the area near my studio was labeled “uncertainty and the unknowable present.” I explained to him that not everything on the map related to the actual location because it’s a “map-poem”, not just a map. Being very literal, he didn’t love that answer.