Today’s Imperative: There Be Maps

About twelve years ago I made a digital map using a fractal as a base, and some clip art and fonts I had purchased with map symbols and topographic elements. Fractals are great for this because in close-up, the edges look like shorelines of land masses, and sometimes a program will add shading reminiscent of cartographic shading of land and islands. I unfortunately lost the graphic in a computer crash, but I enjoyed making it so much I’ve had it in my mind to do more maps.

Curry’s is supposed to be getting in the Stillman and Birn Zeta sketchbooks, and I want one in the large hardbound size, so I can make maps on the heavier paper. They are a week or two overdue and it still isn’t in stock. Waiting…waiting…

I wasn’t quite sure how to go about drawing maps by hand, and the last one I made was in Photoshop. People are quite keen on mapmaking software and a lot of the RPG people do that. I want to do somewhat fantastical maps, but hand drawn. Where to start?

With a book of course! I bought for my birthday Personal Geographies: Explorations in Mixed-Media Mapmaking by Jill K. Berry. She has some good ideas and examples of the ideas of others, but it wasn’t quite enough to give me my leaping off point, or to give me courage. So I consulted her bibliography (a hobby of mine, bibliographies) and I bought two more books with birthday money.


This one is much like my books about other people’s illustrated journals in showing examples and ideas of others for inspiration. The Map as Art: Contemporary Artists Explore Cartography by Katherine Harmon. This one seems to have a wider base of artists and ideas.


The one that really got my attention was one where writing, either yours or the writing of others, including poems, is used as the basis of maps. Maps of the Imagination: The Writer as Cartographer by Peter Turchi is a bit more intellectual and has essays and thoughts on writing. Here is Peter’s own web page with a further explanation of the book.


Now that really lit me up. My original digital map had a theme of a group I belonged to online and group members’ names and nicknames and other relevant things peculiar to the group. I LIKE a theme of words and playing around with words. I also read and write poetry, their own islands of the mind, which would fit very well on a map.

Coincidentally, this week I borrowed a book from the library on a Canadian poet called Journey with No Maps: A Life of P.K. Page by Sandra Djwa which was shortlisted for the Charles Taylor Prize for literary non-fiction. I have an anthology of Page’s poems and quite like her writing, but the “Maps” in the title of this book seems like synchronicity; I’m on the right track.

Djwa_ Journey

It all fits, the journey of exploration begins.


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