I am an artist-cartographer based in Melbourne, Australia. Born and raised in New Zealand, I hand-draw detailed illustrated maps with coloured pencil and pen. Along with mapmaking, I'm passionate about animals, hiking, the outdoors, playing guitar, and songwriting.
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Origins of the map
Born in October 1989 in Blenheim, New Zealand, I have been in love with maps since I was little. Growing up in the landscapes of Aotearoa you are never short on geographic inspiration, and I started drawing maps very young. Most of my childhood was spent in Nelson, then Wellington during my teenage years.
As a kid I would obsessively draw coastlines, create pictorial maps for my own worlds, and cover my walls with maps. But it wasn’t until I left New Zealand at 21 that this passion started to become more than a hobby.
It was 2011, and I was trying to decide what to do with my life. At this point it revolved around playing guitar and songwriting, while I cooked to pay the bills. I hadn't drawn a map in years. Caught between going to university or travelling, I chose to leave the country and head overseas.
A move to North America
A good friend was living it up in the Sierra Nevada, and I wanted to see the world beyond New Zealand. Saving all I could on kitchen wages, I flew one-way to the United States. As a 21 year-old geography-obsessed Kiwi, California was fairly mind-blowing. Exploring a continent for the first time, I was astonished by the scale and variety. From deserts to Redwoods, towering mountains to metropolises, a new frontier of reality burst open.
And this was just one state! I set off across the country, getting lost in the great expanse of the USA, having many crazy adventures. Once my savings ran out, I moved to Canada for a working holiday visa. The journey continued as a line cook in Vancouver, and then Montréal.
During these travels, my childhood map passion had a resurgence. I’d long imagined a huge pictorial map with immense detail, and this idea obsessed me as I experienced the continent. I dreamed about it. I sketched maps in whatever free time I had. Then, in late 2012 in Montréal, I began sketching it out…
...on a fridge.
Cartography takes over
I’m not sure why I chose the old fridge in our apartment. We’d found it kerbside and it wasn't in great shape. It was also in constant use, next to a sink, cooking happening around it every day. But my housemate Douglas asked me to decorate it, and after a coat of white paint it looked ready to be mapified.
For weeks I sat in front of the fridge with a pen, free-handing North America. And the western spine of South America. And an inset map of New Zealand… because, why not? I loved doing it, and swore I’d do something bigger when I had the chance.
That opportunity came the next year in Perth, Western Australia. I had left Canada and a new continent was home. A new ocean crashed into a new shore. I wanted to map that. Still working in kitchens, I set up in my bedroom and began work on a map. No refrigerator this time – it was paper, pen and coloured pencil.
This new project, South Asia & Australasia, quickly became an odyssey unlike any I’d undertaken. Turns out a huge pictorial map that includes India, China, Indonesia and Australia is not a simple job. For six months, all my free time was consumed by this map. I don't tend to sell prints of it now, as I feel it's amateurish in comparison to my later work, but you can explore it here, and email me for print requests.
The North America map begins
South Asia & Australasia was an opportunity to truly devote myself to something, and I found the work deeply compelling. I finished that map with far more experience, and all I could think was… what's next?
I moved to Melbourne after that, where I’ve been based ever since. It was mid-2014, and I began preparing the next project. Now I had some coloured pencil experience, I felt ready to take on North America again.
Using a projector, I traced out its coastlines and borders and began drawing. It was big: 1.5 x 1.2 metres (5 x 4 feet). I used a slightly modified perspective projection, just Google Earth zoomed out. Predicting it'd take six months again, I got a part-time job at a local school and tackled the map in my spare time.
It progressed reasonably fast at first. But my skills kept improving, as did my mind for geography. I learned that no place could be rushed. Drawing real places comes with a responsibility you must take seriously. These aren’t just abstract pretty pictures, nor do I want them to be cartoony. I'm making art out of people’s homes! Places are complicated, and place is integral to who we are. It's hard to define right or wrong with map art, but you must proceed with care and patience.
The map grows
The map took over my life in an unprecedented way. I’d been immersed in things before, but nothing like this. I never dreamed a project could be so intensive. Thousands of hours were poured in as I drew from the Arctic to the tropics. All my free time had to go into the map. Sometimes I felt I was going mad, just stalking around in my own mind. All else became a distraction, a nuisance. There was only this giant map that would never end.
In early 2017, I completed all the land. Three years in, it should’ve been time to start the ocean. But I’d logged thousands of hours of practice on that one sheet of paper, which rendered much of the earlier drawing obsolete in style and substance.
I had to return to the west coast – where I began – and redraw it completely. For over a year I did this, scratching off hundreds of pen-outlined cities with a knife, until I had redrawn the western half of the USA and much of western Canada.
It's worth noting that North America: Portrait of a Continent took so long because I had a day job back then. I worked at the school until early 2018, when I was finally ready to go full-time. So it was drawn in evenings, weekends, and holidays.
Around the same time, I began visiting North America again. It started by attending NACIS 2016 in Colorado, after which I started giving frequent talks about the works. Since 2017, I have presented countless times, from elementary schools to Stanford University, National Geographic, The Washington Post, The New York Times, the map societies of Chicago, NYC and Boston, as well as conferences such as NACIS, GNSI, and the Tokyo ICC. Various videos of my presentations can be found here.
I was lucky to have found a wonderfully welcoming professional community, after years of map hermitdom. The cartography world has so many talented and passionate people.
North America in print
Finally, in February of 2019, I finished the North America map. In an emotional final session I signed it off and slumped back in my chair, dumbfounded. Never did I imagine a single map would take almost five years. Sure, my day job and the redrawing made it drag. But it reshaped my life, and I loved drawing it despite the enormity.
A year later, after many steep learning curves in the pursuit of a print solution, I was ready to launch the map. Just as the pre-sales began, so did the pandemic, making for an extremely intense release. Processing so many orders while locked down alone in my apartment, it was a blur. Thankfully, the launch went well and thousands of copies of the map are now living around the world. Prints are available here.
Yet, despite finally moving past this colossus of a map... the pull of the blank canvas was powerful.
Wild World begins
After five years on the last map, it might've been a good time to take a breather. But, the pull of the blank canvas never ceases. And so in mid-2020, I rolled out another large sheet of paper and began sketching a map I'd dreamed of since childhood. A world map of nature.
As before, my initial expectations were wildly wrong. I'd hoped it would take six months, but instead it took 3 years. An intensely detailed physical world map, over 1,600 animals can be found across its vast reaches. This map is my favourite piece I've made in my life so far.
While it wasn't my intention to be immersed in another multi-year odyssey, I loved it. Completing it in July 2023 was a beautiful experience. There wasn't much time to celebrate though, it's been straight into printing!!! And I'm thrilled to share that prints of Wild World are now available to order.
Learn much more about Wild World here, and be sure to follow along on social media: