Making Maps

I’ve always enjoyed taking on map projects. Constructing a map requires a combination of skills and aptitudes. Involved are patience, craft, graphic design, lettering and often, illustration. So, this is one practice that includes a lot of my favorite things.

An early, commercial map, ca. 1990, announcing opening of American Airlines’ service to Stansted.

Africa, for British Airways, circa mid 1990’s

There is something meditative about methodically applying details to a map design… if you squint hard enough, you can just make out the stippling that pervades this map. Coastline and sea are full of line-work. Back in those days, I had a production camera in my studio, an old agfa. I had a most laborious procedure for producing works in color: a black-and-white image would first be created, then be made into a transparency, usually at 100% of original size. I would also make a standard b&w photostat, same size, with which to transfer the image onto a new, blank illustration board. This board would get the color, usually in watercolors and colored pencils. The transparency would be fitted over the colored art background to form the finished piece. If I could, I would convince the production people to treat these two elements separately, printing the transparency as line art— dizzying even to think about now!! Yet, the final product could be very effective.

In 2008, I was commissioned by Maria Carrella, at Random House, to create a whimsical end-paper map for their new imprint, “Lost on Planet China”. I was pleased with the outcome, though we had to sweat many details for accuracy! Here it is (right page):

apparently, the author got beat up in Ningbo! (Or is that Hangzhou?)

I created this map of Cuba for the Chicago Tribune, in 2004. Verdant coloring, with a nautical compass rose— very “Yaaah”.

Another b&w map from the vault, for a cruise line, early ’90’s…

You can tell I was enjoying the lettering work whilst producing this map…

Next up was also for American Airlines, circa 1991. Something of a world route map. It was a real BEAR! The original was oversized, maybe 24″ wide. It had a drop-dead due date, and I not only stayed up all night finishing it, but had to drive it to the airport for counter-to-counter delivery the following morning. I had given up caffeine at the time, and found myself starting to fall asleep behind the wheel on the drive back from the drop. I thought it prudent to pull over for a cup of Joe, and, dear reader, I haven’t turned back since! (I now indulge in a Doppio every morning… that seems enough.) The story may be more interesting than the map!:

One day, a total stranger called me on the phone, asking me to do a full-blown, color illustration of an illustrated map with an iguana incorporated into the image, all for $500. Now, I’m not being uppity, but it seemed to me kind of a paltry sum. Then, the kicker: “$500. plus 50 t-shirts” (with my image imprinted on the back) “Money and Prizes, Kevin!”, intoned the voice on the line. So How could I refuse? This illustrated map was produced for a company called “Our World”, and became part of a collection of Tee-shirts that were marketed in schools to raise money for environmental causes… maybe someday I’ll auction some of those T’s for charity:

…another one from the cruise ship line

… I think I’m getting wanderlust at this point.

I long for the days when booking a flight was a matter of walking into a travel agent’s office, sitting in a comfortable chair, and being advised by the lovely person behind the console. Well, well: the days of personal responsibility are upon us.

2 thoughts on “Making Maps

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *