In my line o’ work (forgive me, I’m getting all Scottish here) I’m challenged not only cartographically but also artistically: my clients ask me to illustrate all kinds of things. For Gary Clarke, zoologist and zoo director, I depicted the dung of various African animals, based upon black and white photocopies he sent me–I colorized them, Ted Turner-like. I’d like to point out that Google images, my source for oh so many illustrations, fell short on the subject of dung. For another recent client, I depicted the cover of Bruce Springsteen’s Greetings from Asbury Park. Do you know that album cover? Not so easy. But, you see, my client is from New Jersey, not from London–or he’d have chosen, maybe, The White Album. For my current project, I depicted a gathered swath of McIntosh tartan. Google offers a flat square of McIntosh, but not a nicely draped sample. For that, I had to dash into a Scottish shop in Alexandria, VA to buy a McIntosh scarf. I’m absurdly proud of my McIntosh rendering: I challenge anyone to paint a better version. Now that’s just sad. But here’s the point: my clients ask me to illustrate these oddities in order to bring life to their maps. It’s an old approach, formerly called “chorography,” in which the mapmaker fleshes out geography with pictures that bring life to the place. I’m actually happy to continue the tradition, and I look forward to the next odd job.
Off the Map
I’m giving a talk at the New York Public Library (the main building at 42nd and 5th, in the lower auditorium) with Roger Panetta, with whom I share the same views of history and the value of original documents (well, maps, of course) in education. Please come–no registration necessary, and no entrance fee. The lecture is sponsored by the New York Map Society.Although we’re targeting educators, Roger and I think our observations will interest anyone intrigued by maps.
Saturday, April 10th, 2010 at 2:30 pm
Breaking Borders: The New Map Scene
and what it means to Education
Connie Brown: “Mining Maps”
Mapmaker and owner of Redstone Studios, Ms. Brown will discuss the convergence of satellite mapping and the internet, and how the rise of cultural cartography creates a map explosion providing resources, creative inspiration, and tools for critical thinking. She will present new ways to read maps, explore the exuberant proliferation of serious and playful maps on the internet, the use of map imagery in fine arts, and the redemptive value of making maps by hand.
Roger Panetta: “Panoramic Maps and Reading the Landscape”
Fordham University Visiting Professor of History, Dr. Panetta will discuss the ways in which Wade & Croome’s 1846 Hudson River Panorama provided an engaging way to view the Hudson River landscape and became a rich tool for classroom instruction. For about one dollar—a bit more for a colored version—mid-nineteenth century Hudson River steamboat passengers could buy this small fold-out map to guide them along their river journey.
Some of my maps hit the road, see the country. For example, a print of The Hudson River and its Watershed, commissioned for the Beacon Institute in 2007, is part of the New York Public Library’s current map exhibit, “Mapping New York’s Shoreline, 1609-2009” curated by Alice Hudson, retired chief of the library’s impressive map collection. See a review in Talking Science. The exhibit, in the Gottesman Exhibit Hall of the Stephen A. Schwartzman Building (the main library at 42nd Street and 5th Avenue), will be up until June 26th. The 6 x 8’ original is on loan to the Albany Institute, a museum of history and culture, as part of its exhibit entitled “Hudson River Panorama: 400 Years of History, Art, and Culture.”
Check it out: Mapmaker, Mapmaker, Draw Me My Life. Shown here is one of the featured images, a map showing the French cycling routes of Charlie Owen, an intrepid athelete whose wife commissioned this work as a surprise birthday present. I’m happy to be associated with The National Geographic, granddaddy of American global curiosity. I’m equally happy to work again with Jenna Schnuer, a clever journalist and haiku diarist. Jenna first wrote about Redstone Studios for Lexus Magazine in Winter 2006.