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September 2012

July 2012

A Map as a Resource for Suburban Wildlife: Looking Ahead to "The Artful Map"


Map complete
The dominant graphic element of this map is the black icon. Representing different species and various desirable food and water locations, the icons would help animals quickly determine where to go in my yard. It pained me to tip off the raccoons as to the location of my chicken coop, but I had to be the creatures' advocate in this case. For the occasional human map reader, I have included some verbage. Click on the map for a larger view.

We all use maps, but how many of us have ever drawn one? Consider setting aside four days in September to explore the art of mapmaking while being in the embrace of the peaks and lakes of the North Cascades.

 From September 6-9, 2012, I will be teaching the course The Artful Map, A One-Page Journal at the North Cascades Institute Environmental Learning Center (ELC). This will be one of three courses (participants register for just one of the three classes) offered at the annual artists' retreat held in this spectacular location on Diablo Lake, less than 3 hours from Seattle. I taught a shorter version of this course last year, and will return to teach it again with an additional day this year.

When it comes to designing maps, there are no limitations. Just about anything can be mapped, whether it be a geographic location, a voyage taken, or even a series of life events. Up among the massive, stony peaks and forests surrounding the ELC, we will have no shortage of inspirational material to work with for experiential maps that can double as journal pages.

The circular map of Diablo Lake and the ELC area shown here was one I made last year prior to the class.

Circular map small
Click on the map for a larger view.

Today I completed the map above that exemplifies a different approach. Ostensibly designed to help wildlife navigate my yard and find food and water there, I had a good time marking off my property with paces while making notes and sketches on site rather than relying on Google Earth, which I used to assist in rendering the geographical elements on the circular map. For artful maps, exact measurements are not needed. For more abstract approaches to making maps, traditional cartographic features may even be omitted in favor of individuality. When designing your own map, you may employ your imagination to any degree you wish.

 Below are two in-progress images of the map. I started with transferring a basic sketch to hot press watercolor paper (one of the ones we'll use in class) using a light box. Then, I inked in with a Rapidograph 00 all the features and icons, borders, paths and keys. After the ink was dry, I painted the map with watercolor, selecting colors as I went along. Incorporating both warm and cool colors, and keeping them fairly light, I tried to keep the icons strongly visible.

Map sketch
Pencil sketch made while pacing off the property and marking tree locations.
Map icons
On hot press watercolor paper, inking of icons and outlines takes place.

Please contact me with questions you may have about the class or the venue. Visit the informative website for the North Cascades Institute by clicking here. View the work of last year's students here. Register for the class by clicking here. I'd be very happy to see you and work with you up in the mountains, at the edge of turquoise Diablo Lake as the summer draws to a close.

Summertime & Sweet Peas

Sweet Pea pkgOne of the simple pleasures of summer in my garden is the dependable blooming of Lathyrus odoratus, the sweet pea Matucana. On the left is a seed packet I designed to share the Matucana seeds with friends and family members.

Everything about this plant, fabled to have been first cultivated by monks in Italy in 1699, is desirable. The plants volunteer if previous year's seeds are allowed to drop to the soil. Requiring no watering beyond the natural rainfall (granted, this is Seattle), they are hardier than most weeds. The color and the fragrance are exquisite. Blooming early and continuing through July, they are a source of pure summer delight.

Two weeks ago, while on a weekend excursion with friends, I found a small, cut glass pitcher at a garage sale. What could be more perfect for a bouquet of Matacanas? (Click on either image for a large view)

Sweet peas