Project 2: Cartophilia

Some Heavy Influences by Dahlia Elsayed

Some Heavy Influences by Dahlia Elsayed

… maps need not show just continents and oceans: there are maps to heaven and hell; to happiness and despair; maps of moods, matrimony, and mythological places.  There are maps to popular culture, from Gulliver’s Island to Gilligan’s Island; speculative maps of the world before it was known; and maps to secret places known only to the mapmaker.

⎯ — Katherine Harman, You Are Here: Personal Geographies and Other Maps of the Imagination

For this project, make a drawing that maps a dream, desire or memory.

  • Use the conventions of map-making, diagrams and instructional design to visually tell its story .
  • Use mixed (layered) media and collage.
  • Use color, texture, marks, and collage elements to elicit a feeling that suits your subject (do not merely illustrate it, but try and give a sense of it through the choices you make).

Develop your drawing:

  1. Select your dream or memory and write it out in your sketchbook. You also may use an existing text written by someone else — a short story, for example– as the basis for your narrative map. In this case, write out a summary in your own words.
  2. Also in your sketchbook, write a stream-of-consciousness list of words, phrases, images and symbols that come to mind. Don’t censor yourself! Free associate and write down 50 words quickly to see what comes to mind. These may lead you to specific imagery that will help convey your narrative.
  3. Spend some time thinking about how and why we use maps. What are the ways they convey information?
  4. Research and play with the conventions of map-making, diagrams and instructional design. What kinds of format, layout, colors, etc. suit your idea? Contemporary examples or aged/ancient maps or 1950s product instruction? Bring at least three specific examples of maps or diagrams that will inform your composition, color choices, etc., and be prepared to talk about what elements you want to borrow and why.
  5. Gather collage material: old maps, book pages, images and textures from magazines (be careful — these can be hard to effectively incorporate), old letters, diary entries, photographs, fabric, wrapping paper, wall paper.
  6. Think about what kind of images–what style, media–will help you diagram your story. You might choose images drawn from observation or imagination and/or incorporate images from other (old) drawings and paintings, photography, film, video, computer or TV, advertising, text, etc. Or you might work without specific images (mark-making, doodling, text, etc.).
  7. Thumbnail!!! After selecting, thinking and gathering and before you begin your final drawing, do at least 4 sketchbook pages of thumbnails. Try out different compositions: think about relationships of shape, scale, marks (type, variety), color, how/where you will use collage material. Play with media combos in your sketchbook to give yourself options.
  8. If you use text, think about the image quality of the text: will you use bold, authoritative printed text? idiosyncratic handwriting? a transfer from an ancient typewriter? child-like printing? (try writing/drawing with your non-dominant hand), cut-out letters from newspaper headlines (like ransom notes)? elegant, delicate script?  Each of these has a different visual voice and will lend a distinct feeling.  Consider how the text will interact visually with the imagery, your diagrammatic structure and the space of the drawing page.

Dimensions: 22×30″ or larger or a series of 4 or so smaller pieces on good quality paper; media for your final drawing(s) should be determined by what best fits your idea.

Many artists work from maps in many different ways, so there are a lot of ideas out there for you to take off from. Here are some of them:  Guillermo Kuitca, Enrique Chagoya, Mark Bradford, Mark Bennett, Paula Scher, Chris Ware, Adolf Wölfli, Mark Lombardi, Andre Masson, Alberto Giacometti, shirazeh houshiary, Joyce Kozloff, Qin Ga, Eduardo Abaroa, Joshua Dorman, Ingrid Calame, Paul Noble, Aleksandra Mir, Simon Patterson, Tom Phillips, Matthew Ritchie, Nina Katchadourian, Oyvind Fahlstrom, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Knowbotic Research, Kathy Prendergast, Matt Mullican, Zarina Hashmi.

There are also a lot of artists listed in this post about recent (2010-11) map art exhibitions on Making Maps: DIY Cartography. Do some research and widen the way you think about approaching this drawing.


10/17 Homework: research maps, diagrams, info design (3 examples); write up story, word list

10/22 View map research, group exercise, trip to Millar Library Map Collection, 4th floor (“Quiet Floor”), 3:30

10/24 Collage kitchen, media experiments, work session

10/29 In-progress critique

10/31 Work session

11/5 Project Critique

On Exactitude inScience
Jorge Luis Borges, Collected Fictions, translated by Andrew Hurley.

…In that Empire, the Art of Cartography attained such Perfection that the map of a single Province occupied the entirety of a City, and the map of the Empire, the entirety of a Province. In time, those Unconscionable Maps no longer satisfied, and the Cartographers Guilds struck a Map of the Empire whose size was that of the Empire, and which coincided point for point with it. The following Generations, who were not so fond of the Study of Cartography as their Forebears had been, saw that that vast Map was Useless, and not without some Pitilessness was it, that they delivered it up to the Inclemencies of Sun and Winters. In the Deserts of the West, still today, there are Tattered Ruins of that Map, inhabited by Animals and Beggars; in all the Land there is no other Relic of the Disciplines of Geography.

—Suarez Miranda,Viajes de varones prudentes, Libro IV,Cap. XLV, Lerida, 1658

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