2014 Map Workshops: Sign up Time!

Posted by Connie on March 18th, 2014 with tags: , ,


Introductory Mapmaking Workshop, 10/13

2013 workshop attendees making their maps

In October 2013, I ran a three-day map workshop (Friday, Saturday, Sunday) here in my Connecticut studio for ten students. They came from various places: California, Illinois, New Jersey, New York City, and Connecticut.  A couple of them are seasoned artists,  and one curates a major university map collection, but none of them had much map-making experience before the workshop. By the time they left on Sunday afternoon, everyone had either finished or nearly finished a map. That doesn’t begin to describe the experience, however. As the instructor, I had prepared diligently for the workshop; furthermore, I’d drafted the help of  my studio colleague John Darnell and my husband Duncan Milne, who is an artist and an architect and a great mapmaker himself. Our efforts paid off, I think. But there was another, truly magical, reason the workshop was so successful–namely, the camaraderie that arose among everyone.  Together, we laughed, encouraged one another, wined and dined, shared our interests. In this atmosphere, everyone felt inspired and comfortable. Our attendees were ten great people, but I’m bold and optimistic enough to think that any ten people bound by this cartographic goal will create this same atmosphere.

In the next couple of posts, I’ll share student comments and some of their maps.

Meanwhile, on to my 2014 workshops. This autumn, I’m holding two:  an introductory workshop from Friday, September 12th through Sunday, September 14th, and an advanced workshop from Friday, October 3rd through Sunday, October 3rd.  Here ‘s basic info.

Three-day Introductory Mapmaking Workshop, Friday, September 12 through Sunday, September 14: If you want to master the art of manuscript mapmaking (maps made by hand, that is), come to this workshop, held in my Durham, CT studio, and learn all my deep cartographic secrets. At the same time, experience an autumn weekend in the beautiful Connecticut River Valley, establish camaraderie with fellow attendees, and enjoy country fare: breakfast, lunch and day’s-end wine and cheese.  Limited to ten students.  Last year’s workshop filled quickly—act now! Workshop fee: $600 (includes art/cartography supplies), $550 if you book by April 1st. To reserve a place or ask questions, e-mail or call me: connie@redstonestudios.com; 860 575 4640.

Three-day Advanced Mapmaking Workshop: Friday, Oct 3 through Sunday, October 5:  Advanced three-day manuscript map workshop in my studio, open to veterans of last year’s introductory workshop, and to experienced mapmakers as well. No set curriculum for this workshop: choose your own cartographic adventure! Also featured: autumn in Connecticut, fortifying fare, and camaraderie. Workshop fee: $600 (includes art/cartography supplies, in this case geared to individual goals), $550 if you book by April 1st. To reserve a place or ask questions, e-mail or call me: connie@redstonestudios.com; 860 575 4640.


maryann (Small)





Anatomy of a Map, Part Five: The Happy Surprise

Posted by Connie on May 12th, 2013 with tags: , , , , ,


As I said in my first Anatomy of a Map post, each commission carries with it a happy surprise.  Here’s the happy surprise in this project:  my client Anne Armfield turns out to be an amazing nature photographer.  Clients often take photos on their trips–we all do, right?  Especially now that digital cameras and phones allow us to take lots of pictures. And most clients take good photos, good enough for me to use as the basis for map illustrations. Anne’s photos, however, took my breath away: they’re extraordinarily beautiful. I mean, look at these zebras!  I marveled at the 190 shots she sent, wondering how we were going to choose just a few candidates for the map.


We managed, Anne and I, to make choices–after that, however, I was on my own, pretty anxious about my ability to do these images justice. Above are my painted zebras–pretty decent, less splendid than their models.  It was an honor and a challenge to work with this gifted artist. I’ve kept Anne’s photos on my computer: sometimes when I need a break and a shot of inspiration, I look at them. In the next few posts, I’ll treat you to more examples of her work.





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Anatomy of a Map, Part Four: More lettering

Posted by Connie on April 24th, 2013 with tags: , , , , ,


Raise your hands if you want to make letters like this. Such a  pleasurable pastime, if you like that sort of thing. This is from the title page of Literarum latinarum (1541), a treatise on the Italic hand written by the famous map-and-globe maker Gerard Mercator, and here’s the text, translated from the Latin: “How to write the Latin letters which they call italic or cursive.” Mercator provides page after page of instruction, available to us (well, maybe–it’s out of print) in facsimile with an English translation by A.S. Osley. I happened upon this facsimile volume in a used bookstore in Blue Hill, ME; it’s an excellent and beautiful handbook. Below is Chancery, a modern, more streamlined version of Renaissance italic:


Sometimes I use a combination of Chancery and Mercator’s italic, saving the really fancy Mercator capital letters for water place names. I used both in Anne’s map, but for the Roman upper and lower case lettering and for the numbers, I used–as I mentioned last time–Bell Roman, one of my favorites. Here it is, from Jan Tschichold’s classic Treasury of Alphabets and Lettering:

Scan0011bell roman

Isn’t it beautiful? Look at the numbers, especially that delicious 2.  And the ampersand–oh, all the gorgeous ampersand styles! These are easy to master if you’re hand-lettering: just make plain letters and add the thicknesses & serifs & flourishes that characterize the style. Practice a little, and you’ll get the hang of it. Mercator’s italic, Chancery, and Bell Roman are just three, the three I happened to use for this project. There’s a whole world of historic and contemporary lettering styles and fonts, each with its own history.

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Anatomy of a Map, Part Three: More Geography (and some lettering):

Posted by Connie on April 18th, 2013 with tags: , , , , ,


Here’s a detail from the commercial map of East Africa which Anne annotated for me: the circled numbers refer to a list of locations she compiled. You can see that the numbers are heavily concentrated; if I wrote the corresponding place names right on the canvas, they might render the map a “nomenclatural gray” (I borrow this term from Denis Wood and John Fels’ excellent book The Natures of Maps, published in 2008 by the University of Chicago Press). Instead, I decide to follow Anne’s example by providing a key:


I’ve “superimposed” this list on a part of the map that bears no significance to Anne’s purpose–in fact, I enlarged the scope of the map’s field to include elements like this list. Of course there is no actual map underneath the list of names: this is a bit of mild trompe l’oeil.I like the faux parchment look–having seen it in antique maps, I frequently appropriate it for my purposes. Looking at the map, you’ll see that aside from the red numbers (every map needs a touch of red!), I’ve only included enough general place names to provide context. I have one purpose here, and that is to show my client’s East Africa. There is no Board of Map Correctness hovering over me.

Now look at the lettering styles, both on the map and in the list of place names. For every project, I ponder which lettering styles would work best. Lettering casts a particular spell and contributes greatly (though quietly) to the look and mood of the map. Obviously, the names and numbers have to be legible.  But they have to be graceful and consistent with the design style I’ve chosen for the map. Here I’ve used Bell, a slightly old fashioned Roman lettering, along with Bell’s distinctive numbers (each lettering style, in fact, comes with its own numbers). For the country headings in the faux parchment list, I’ve used Chancery, an updated version of a 16th century lettering style. And I’ve busted out elaborate Renaissance lettering for the Indian Ocean. Obviously I’m a big ole map design nerd, but I bet you, too, would enjoy forming these letters and numbers. We’re the species that invented writing (and alphabets): it’s in our blood.



Anatomy of a Map, Part Two: The Geography

Posted by Connie on April 14th, 2013 with tags: , , , ,


I’m a mapmaker, right? So first things first: let’s think about how we arrange the pertinent geography. Cartographically, Anne had two aims: (1) to focus on 36 place names in Uganda, Kenya, and Tanzania; and (2) to show the continent of Africa, highlighting all the countries she and her husband have visited. If I give full tribute to her East African place names within the frame of a map of the African continent, I’m making an impossibly big map. Solution: zoom in, zoom out. The main map, with its concentration of place names, is East Africa: zoom in. I’ll relegate the continent to an inset map: zoom out. Anne has very kindly provided me with a map of East Africa–she’s annotated it with all the locations they’ve visited, keyed by number to a typed list. She wants me to get it right, so she’s put a lot of time and thought into the information she provides me. You see how it’s total collaboration, the client/mapmaker relationship. Here’s the inset map: the countries Anne and her husband have visited are deeper in hue than the others. By the way, do you remember that Anne asked me to  include a porcupine quill on the canvas? Here it is, holding up the scale of miles.


Anatomy of a Map, Part One: The Wish List

Posted by Connie on April 11th, 2013 with tags: , , , ,


July 2010. Anne Armfield came to me, as my clients do, with a wish list looking worthy of an exotic scavenger hunt: a porcupine quill; Masai beading; exotic animal skins; a hot-air balloon, a Hemingway quote, a map of Uganda, Kenya, and Tanzania with 56 place names circled; and, finally, masses of gorgeous animals to depict–leopards, rhinos, ostriches, lions, giraffes, cheetahs, Cape buffaloes, elephants, an array of beautiful/amusing birds. My mission: to combine–with as much beauty and  clarity as I can muster–these elements on canvas as a birthday present from Anne to her husband, with whom she has sojourned in East Africa. I knew it was a great project from the get-go, and I was exciting about starting.

After nearly twenty years of making maps for people, I’ve established a routine for the design phase. I begin to apply a formula, but with every new job, there’s something new to figure out. Louis Kahn famously said that all “problems” are actually challenges, and I agree: the challenges keep me interested, keep me in the game.

By the same token, each commission carries with it a happy surprise. And sometimes the challenge ends up being the happy surprise. Stay tuned for this series, in which I profile every stage of Anne’s project, including the challenges and blessings.


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Photo shoot: hey,it isn’t all about me!

Posted by Connie on March 29th, 2013 with tags: , ,

Connie BrownPhoto shoots always bring up a deep primal fear: not that the camera is going to steal my soul, but that I’m going to look like a fool. Gripped by this fear, I greeted Brad Trent one morning last autumn when he came to photograph me (all day!) in my studio for a Wall Street Journal article. Brad’s a great photographer (look at his website and all the luminaries he’s shot); he’s also a mellow, amusing, talkative fellow adept at putting nervous subjects at ease. It worked: I (almost) forgot why he was there. Between shots, he and his assistant dickered with lighting issues–for me, a welcome break from smiling and holding poses, but for him, the chief challenge of the day. Recently Brad wrote an entry about this photo shoot, “Making Sun Where There was None,” in his blog, Damn Ugly Photography. Take a look!

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Three day map-making workshop, Oct 4-6, 2013

Posted by Connie on January 16th, 2013 with tags: ,

If you want to learn the art of manuscript map-making (maps made by hand, that is), come to this workshop, held in my Durham, CT studio. By Sunday afternoon, you’ll have finished a map and learned all my deep cartographic secrets. What more could you ask for? An autumn weekend in the beautiful Connecticut River Valley, that’s what! And that’s not all:  camaraderie with fellow attendees, and food: breakfast, lunch, and day’s-end wine and cheese. Mapmakers work up a powerful appetite! Act now: workshop limited to 10 students.

Workshop Details (PDF)

Email me (connie@redstonestudios.com) for more information.



Posted by Connie on May 8th, 2012 with tags: , , ,

The mystery of the Marco Polo maps! Interested? Dr. Benjamin Olshin, Renaissance scholar extraordinare, offers his expertise this coming Saturday, May 12th, 2:30 pm at the Mid-Manhattan Library, 455 Fifth Ave at 40th St (across the street from the main library), on the 6th Floor. Olshin’s lecture, free of charge, is sponsored by the New York Map Society: see their website for details.

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Maphead out in paperback TODAY!

Posted by Connie on April 17th, 2012 with tags: , , ,

When Jeopardy! champ Ken Jennings was seven years old, he bought an atlas: it was his passion during the day, and at night it was his teddy bear, tucked under his pillow. He says he was a weird kid. I identify with that–I was kind of a weird kid myself, now I’m a huge map nerd. That’s where we intersect, me and Ken.  Where we hugely diverge is that he’s a best-selling writer/famous polymath, and I’m a gnome-like manuscript map-and-globe maker.  No grudges, though:  in fact I urge you all–map nerds and generalists alike–to read his wonderful & amusing book Maphead, now available in paperback. For a little preview, listen to a 9/21/2011 interview with Jennings on NPR’s Fresh Air, or read his blog, Ken Jennings: Confessions of a Trivial Mind.

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